Written by Nicole Johnson, Wife to Elliot Johnson
When people find out that I'm married to a baseball player, I'm often asked if I get to travel with him. My reply is yes and no. Yes, I can go to the city he's playing in, and stay in the hotel with him. No, I don't get to actually take part in the traveling (flying) part with him. For the most part.
Our team is lucky, because they actually do allow wives on the flight a couple times a year, and on the way back from all the trips. I have gotten to take a couple trips with Elliot on the team plane. However, children aren't allowed on the flights. I don't blame them, really. I wouldn't want kids on the flight either if I wasn't talking about my own kid. :)
The majority of the year, I fly with my now 3 year old son by myself. That's right folks, I fly with a pint sized terror all by my lonesome.
I know, I know, hold your applause. I'll accept my mommy award after my speech.
How, you ask? My own husband isn't even quite sure how I do it. And to be honest, after my 3rd season of traveling on planes by myself with the little guy, I'm not even sure I can explain it all since it just flows through me like second nature, but I'm going to try to give you my best tips. So, if you're ready to master the art of flying without the hubs and with a little kiddo, I'm here to help.
1. Realize that, like all other things, this will get easier with practice. When you're new to something, it seems so scary, but I promise you, a few trips in, you're going to find your flow and you're going to know what you're doing.
2. Book flights at sleepy times. Nap time and bed time are the best times to fly with a little one. Period.
3. Give yourself lots of time. I have been made fun of several times for being the girl that leaves the hotel 3 hours before my flight. I am an anxious flyer and like to reduce my anxiety any way I can. I have never missed a flight. Not even by a mile. I believe in leaving early and giving yourself extra time so you don't freak out with things don't go as planned. Sometimes, you're going to hit traffic (I sat in an hour's worth of traffic in Oakland, CA just last year), sometimes they are going to pull you aside to inspect your luggage. And look at it this way, if you're still super early getting to the gate, you can reward yourself with a snack from a restaurant nearby or you and the little one can pick out a treat from the hudson news.
4. Packing. Pack as much as you can in the luggage you check. You do not want to be lugging anything extra around with you. Trust me. Those little bundles of joy require a lot of stuff, you're already going to be carrying a ton. Check your carseat if you're traveling with it (I'll touch on that more in a minute). I recommend using a GoGo Kidz Travel Mate to attach to your carseat for ease in transporting it. What to bring with you through security?
-At least one change of clothes for the little one, and if your child is still a baby, a change for yourself as well. Trust me. I've been thrown up on mid-flight. It's not fun. And it's even worse if you don't have new clothes to change into.
-Sippies/bottles, and extras, because they are probably going to throw at least one on the bathroom floor. Happens all the time. Be prepared. Same goes for pacifiers. The more the better.
-Extra formula/milk. If you're bottle feeding a baby, you can bring some of it through security. Tell the TSA agent you have it and what it is, they'll run a wand over it or dip a paper strip in it, and you'll be on your way (this may add into the "extra time" rule, so remember things take longer)
-A Stroller. Check your stroller at the gate, not at the kiosks. I have lost one very nice stroller to the baggage handlers that didn't take care of it when throwing it underneath.
-Entertainment for the little one for the flight. I'll touch more on that later.
5. Getting there. I have found that most often, reserving a town car isn't much more expensive than getting a taxi. And you can have them wait for you inside and help you with your luggage for $10-$20 more. And you can even have them have a car seat in their car for you. This isn't always the case everywhere, but for the most part, by the time I pay a skycap to help me with my things, I come out about even, because between my son and I, on an eight game road trip, we need two pieces of luggage, his car seat, his stroller, and anything else I've carried onto the plane. It's hard to do with a kid. I've done it, but I honestly recommend you take advantage of the help that's out there. If you take a ride to the airport, you can have them drop you off right at curbside check in. Curbside check in is a dream come true for me. Bring cash, and be ready to tip those that help you.
6. Security. Ok, you've gotten this far. I haven't scared you off yet. Security isn't so bad. Most airports actually have a family line now, so they let you take your stroller through that one, and often the wait is less. When you get up there, keep your kiddo in his or her stroller with his or her sippy or bottle until last. Sort out all your stuff, and send it through. Kids don't need to take off shoes anymore. Finally take your child out of the stroller, and either fold it down on your own, or ask a TSA agent to help you. Last- take that sippy, put it in the bin, and get through that metal detector ASAP before your child starts screaming bloody murder. Let him or her know that the sippy will be on the other side. :) TSA will probably pull you aside to check some things out. If you forgot to take the applesauce out of little one's backpack, they will have to rescan it. If you declared some milk or formula, they are going to check it. If you took your car seat through (which I don't recommend, but I've done it, so maybe you will too), and it didn't fit through the X-ray machine (been there too), they will check that too.
7. The gate. Pat yourself on the back. You've made it through the toughest part!! Yeah, yeah, I know you think the flight will be the toughest, but trust me mama, you're over the hump. Get to the gate and get a tag for your stroller so you can gate check it. Find out if the airline you're flying lets families board first. Some do, some don't. I prefer the ones that do, but I know others that like to be the last ones on the plane. Go grab a snack- preferably something you can use as bribery.... you can find fruit snacks at about any of those hudson news stores. Suckers are good bribery too. So is candy. Don't judge, I'm a master at this. :) Do the best you can with what you've got. If there is a play place nearby (there often are in airports), take little one over and let him or her use up that extra energy before go time.
8. Boarding time. Board whenever is best. Once you're on the plane, get things situated. If you have a baby, chances are he or she is going on your lap. I started buying Blake a seat at 18 months when he stopped sleeping on me during flights (yep, I'm that mom, my kid likes to sleep when in motion- more on that soon). If little one has a seat, put him or her closer to the window. Remember that candy I told you about? Now is the time to bust it out. "Oh hey, little one, it's time for seat belts. Once I get your seatbelt on, you can have some of this candy." DO NOT get that iPad/iPhone/Kindle/LeapPad/etc out until you've reached cruising altitude! If you do, you will have a screaming mess next to you when you take it away.
9. Takeoff. I recommend feeding all little ones at takeoff... whether it be nursing, formula, milk, candy... it helps their little ears. Even a pacifier will help. This is the part where Blake used to sleep... he would pass out within minutes of the wheels leaving the ground. I know. I was really lucky, and it was amazing. Now that he's older, we bring some of his kiddie books to ready as we take off. His favorites are the "If you give a..." books. Like If you give a mouse a cookie, and so on.
10. Flight time. Bring whatever you can fit in your carry on for entertainment. If your kiddo stays awake, he or she is going to need some entertainment. When we are on long flights, we fill big ziplocs with things... like crayons (get the triangle shaped ones, they don't roll), stickers, coloring books, regular books, and cars. The disney store sells "Cars Figurines" that are like the cars from the movies, but their wheels don't move. They are golden for flights, trust me. We lost several cars during takeoff before I found these gems.
11. Landing. Same rules apply as takeoff. Milk, formula, candy, pacifiers. Little one's ears will be screaming if you don't, which, in turn, will make them scream. No fun. And you're going to need some of that candy to bribe little one back into the seatbelt and to get the iPad out of his or her hand.
12. Getting off the plane. Check the pockets in the back of the seats in front of you for anything you may have forgotten. We've been known to leave books, cars, and one more expensive thing that I'd rather not mention. Don't forget that you checked your stroller at the gate. As soon as you walk off the plane, you'll have to wait right there for your stroller to come back up. Don't forget it either.
13. Connecting Flights. I recommend flying direct and non-stop whenever possible. Blake tends to lose patience with me into the second flight. If you have to connect, I recommend taking the longer flight first whenever possible. If little one is testy and a little more uncontrollable, it's not as bad on a one hour flight as it is on a four hour flight. Plus more than one flight offers the chance for more than one delay. I understand, though, some places can't be reached in just one flight. Learn what works best for your little one. Some need extra time in between flights. My son needs as little time between flights as possible. I tend to try to get us flights that land and takeoff within an hour to hour and a half of each other. Bribery works well for layovers, too (so stock up on that candy)!
14. Baggage. If someone is waiting to help you (a friend, family member, driver), locate them and take them with you to the luggage carousel. It's hard to get all your luggage and hold onto little one. If you don't have help, and need it, there are usually skycaps available that you can have help you, and you tip them once you're at your car or your taxi. There are usually luggage carts nearby that you can rent, too. I've used these before too.
15. Taxi! If you didn't reserve a car, you will see the signs for the taxi. Make sure you know how to get that car seat into a car before you take the trip, and do it once you've got your car. Take your time. Don't let people make you feel rushed. Once you're in the cab, you're on your way to your destination, and you've made it! You have traveled on your own with a little one, and you deserve a mommy award too!
I know this is a lot of information, and I would love to see comments with additional tips to add to these. This is basically the way it works for me, but I know everyone is different, and you're going to find your own ways.
Have patience with your little one. He or she is learning the ropes of this too. My son is a pro at this stuff now. I have had to chase him through airports, and bribe him to stay in his stroller, and now he walks with me and knows what's going on. Just like with any routine, you and your child will get used to this.
Additionally, don't apologize for having a kid with you. Airplanes are for everyone, not just business travelers. You're going to run into people that don't want kids on their flights, I even had a lady move on a southwest flight once when I sat next to her. Those people aren't worth your time.