Traveling with a baby is hard. We took Audrey on her first plan when she was 3 weeks old. Since then she’s probably been on 100 airplanes. I would like to say that we are experts at traveling with a baby, but I can’t. It changes every month because babies grow and develop so quickly. As an infant Audrey spent most of the flight nursing and sleeping. When she was awake she was very hard to entertain. I had to keep toys in my purse and I would pace the aisle bouncing her. The rules on each flight seem to change depending on who was enforcing them. Some flight attendants are really helpful and understanding and others seem to TRY to make it harder. I’ve been on flights where I had the freedom to walk around the plane with Audrey, but then on the next flight I was told we needed to be seated the entire time with the baby sitting a certain way on the lap. I honestly don’t know how these flight attendants are trained but there is obviously some communication error here because every one of them has different “rules”. I don’t have anything against the flight attendants at all, I have an issue with whoever creates the rules and training programs.
Flights started to become a bit easier once Audrey started eating solids. I could pack a bag of food and that would keep her busy. I noticed that I had to rotate my entertainment every 10-15 minutes because she became bored quickly. I wouldn’t give her any food until the plane took off, or at least I would try to entertain her for as long as she’d tolerate it. I’d start with crackers and by the end of the flight we’d be busting out the cookies. Chocolate was our last resort snack. I liked using chocolate chips and m&m’s. A lot of kids will nap on airplane rides, but Audrey was hit or miss.
Once Audrey learned to crawl at 6 months flying became a little harder. She wasn’t satisfied sitting on my lap anymore. She became very independent and she wanted to crawl. I would lay a blanket on the ground by my feet and let her hang out down there. Most of the time the flight attendants let her crawl around (not with the seatbelt sign on), but every once in a while a flight attendant would tell me I had to carry her. She was also drinking from a bottle by this age which helped a lot. I relied on snacks and bottles to get through flights at this age.
Flights became nearly unbearable at about a year old because she learned to walk. It was hard at 12 months because she wanted more freedom but her attention span wasn’t long enough to watch something on the ipad. Playing with toys wasn’t exciting enough, but she wasn’t interested in shows yet so the only thing she wanted to do was walk. There was a lot of screaming and we just suffered through it. Naps didn’t happen too often on airplanes at this age so she was extra cranky if she was sleep deprived.
Flying started to get easier again at about 15 months. At this age she was more interested in watching Yo Gabba Gabba on the ipad which helped a lot. She was interested in interacting more and playing games like peek a boo. Every month something changes so you have to adapt quickly and be creative with your mommy arsenal.
The closer she got to 2 the worse she was flying. Between 20-24 months being on a plane with Audrey was torture. She was uncomfortable on my lap, and I was uncomfortable too. On long flights my legs would start to go numb because she was getting a lot heavier. We spend a lot of time walking when the flight attendants let us. Audrey also liked to watch shows on the ipad and eat snacks, but only in short intervals. I always start with a snack like crackers or chips and I end the flight with something unhealthy out of desperation. At this age there was nothing that could make her happy a lot of the time so she spent some flights crying non-stop. You deal with the A-holes muttering under their breath glaring at you, but who cares.
Once the child reached the age of 2, they are no longer lap babies. This was bitter sweet because we were so ready for her to have her own seat, but we weren’t excited to pay for another ticket. This seemed to fix a lot of the problems we were having though. Once she got her own seat she started flying a lot better. I think we were all a lot more comfortable. On our most recent flight to Phoenix she did really well. She even fell asleep for about an hour. I pack her DVD player with movies, ipad, snacks, sippy cup, coloring books, and her blankie. I usually bring two sippy cups with milk. I fill them with ice to keep them cold until she wants them. A lot of the time I will get her juice as her “special airplane treat”. This kid didn’t like chocolate milk or juice until she turned 2 though!
I wish I could give better advice for people traveling with kids but I can’t. Every kid is different at every age so it’s really hard to stay on top of it. Bring a carry on and load it with all kinds of things. Just because a child flew great for the first few months doesn’t mean that will continue so be prepared. I’ve been the parent with the best baby on the plane and the worst so I know both ends. Take a deep breath, try not to get stressed out about it and roll with the punches. Most of the passengers on a plane have been in your shoes so they are empathetic. There is the occasional A-hole, but just ignore them. Haters gonna hate.