FAA had me totally freaked out that we hadn't bought our 17 pound child her own seat with car seat in tow. Yes, I lap-babied her and after reading the FAA website, I was having visions of major turbulence, the Squirrel flying across the plane and having permanent damage due to our cheapness, urgh, I mean thriftiness. But I couldn't quite convince the Mr. that we needed to shell out an extra $500 when lap-babying was free.
But after all of the concern put forth on our behalf, I must say she flew phenomenally. Now keep in mind that I have done this a total of ONE times, so therefore, I am an expert. Here's what worked for us:
- We booked flights that took off right around the morning nap. As you can see, someone was a little glassy-eyed while we were boarding but, sure enough, she managed to sleep at least a small portion of each flight.
- One piece of advice I heard over and over was to make sure she had something to suck on, whether it was a bottle or a pacifier, during take off and landing to help relieve any pressure in her ears. It worked! Unfortunately, Harps was self-weaning off the pacifier. After having her paci constantly shoved in her mouth for an entire flight by her enabler, I think I've caused a relapse.
- Now I know not everyone can have this luxury but if you can manage it, book at least one seat in first class. No, we did not shell out the big bucks for a first class ticket but since the hubs travels so much for a living, he benefits from the perks of being a status flyer - in other words, he almost always gets the free upgrade. So since I was the designated lap parent, the Squirrel and I sat comfortably up front with our friendly air flight attendant at our beck and call and plenty of leg room to boot. Now, you will get very dirty looks from the other first classers. As one man said to me, "Well, it's not often you see a baby in first class." And no, there was no smile, sympathy or joking around when this smug statement came out of his mouth. Little did he know he was seated next to Miss Congeniality and before we got off the plane, he turned to me and said, "Well, she is just so well mannered, isn't she?" Thanks alot numbskull - I hope you enjoyed your nap and glass of chardonnay (at 10:30am) while I was busy shoving this pacifier down her throat so you could get a little shut eye.
Taking it all in
- Take along an extra large Pashmina or blanket. I had my Pashmina on the flights going to Pittsburgh. It works great as a sunlight cover when the friendly passenger next to you refuses to pull down the sun shade for your sleeping child. It also worked as a burp cloth, blanket and fashion accessory!
Modeling her sunshade
On the way home, we had a layover in Chicago and managed to land during torrential storms. This resulted in a 4 hour delay in a crowded airport. Can you picture Jared's blood pressure rising each time our take-off time got pushed back? I, stupidly, didn't have my handy Pashmina with me on the flights home since we checked our luggage so I purchased a $15 Travel Blanket (or overly-priced flimsy piece of fabric) and we popped-a-squat right in the middle of the airport. We spread out toys, had a little picnic and got some pent up energy out of the girl's system between flights.
- This same travel blanket came in handy when it was nap time which brings me to travel tips #5 and #6. We brought our lightweight, Peg Perego (purchased at the Concordia MOPS Consignment Sale) and checked it at the gate on each flight. It was so nice to be able to stick the girl in her stroller while we cruised the terminal. When it was nap time and we were delayed in Chicago, we stuck the girl in her stroller, threw the blanket over the stroller to make it nice and dark and threw my iPhone in. iPhone? you ask. Yes, iPhone with the WhiteNoise app (Tip #6) on to drowned out the sounds of the airport. The Squirrel thought she was all snug in her room back in San Antonio!
- We brought along a mix of toys - old, trusty favorites and some new, cheap, Target dollar bin toys to keep her interested. Throughout the flights and waiting in the airport, we would bring out one toy at a time. She was excited to see an old favorite but so interested in checking out the new toys. And during the last 30 minutes of our very last flight (and a 12 hour travel day), she had tired of the toys so out came the creative genius in me and she found a plastic water bottle extremely entertaining. And I can't really take credit for the creative genius thing. I was drinking my water bottle and those little hands snatched it away. So it became an instant toy!
Yes, Weebles do wobble but they don't fall down - even in flight
- I'm so happy I brought along extra food or we would have been in some serious trouble. I brought enough for 3 meals and 3 bottles each way and, after the delay, I will continue this practice in the future...well, at least until she's on full table food.
Throw eco-consciousness out the window and line the changing table with as many paper towels as possible.
I can't promise that, pre-Harper, I wasn't one of those people that rolled their eyes when someone with a baby stepped on my flight. I'm sure I cussed under my breath and might have even given a dirty look or two but I have a whole new respect for the "art" of flying with children. Nothing feels better in that sea of dirty looks than a smile from someone that reads, "Bless your heart, I've been there and you can do this!"