Three flights, an ocean crossing, one toddler, and me -- it was a terrifying scenario that crippled my psyche for the better part of a week. "What if ... ," I asked my husband at least a dozen times.
"What if what?"
"What if? Gosh, I don't know ... " My litany of worst-case imaginings generally included a plane crash, toddler flip-out, toddler flipping the emergency exit lever. Standard stuff that anxiety-prone people like myself worry about.
The afternoon after reaching my transatlantic destination, I am happy to report that nothing catastrophic happened. Although ... British Airways did manage to lose my stroller.
That brings me to my first mommy & me travel tip.
- Never Assume Anything About Your Airline This one is pretty major. Under normal circumstances, when you travel with a stroller, someone from the airline takes it from you at the gate and returns it to you at the gate when you get off the plane. Why? Because people need their strollers. Such was the case for the first leg of my journey to Madrid. When I arrived on the tarmac in London, however, I was told that it was "most likely" on the luggage carousel. Most likely? Never mind that thanks to heavy air traffic, I had an hour to catch a connecting flight in one of biggest and busiest airports in the world. And, oh yes, a very heavy and active toddler on my hip (plus my carry-on). When I saw the passport control line and realized that such a jaunt to the luggage carousel would make me at least an hour late for my final flight of the day, I had a choice to make. My stroller or a night in London, one of the most expensive pain-in-the-ass metropolises in the world? I raced to the gate and made it with a minute to spare.Where is my stroller now, you might wonder. I don't know and neither do they. Thank goodness we didn't buy the Bugaboo ...
- Always Carry a Backup ... and thank goodness for my Ergo. Even if your stroller is handled competently by your airline, strapping your tot in a baby carrier is the most efficient way to maneuver gates and terminal transfers when you're on your own. It gives you options when your hands are full and gives your little guy or gal a sense of security in unfamiliar territory.
- Play the Damsel Card I cannot emphasize enough the importance of strategic seat saving. Until your child reaches the age of 2, you don't have to buy an additional ticket. Ostensibly, your child's seat will be your lap for the entire flight. This is extraordinarily uncomfortable and if you're on your own, a nightmare. Your options are to encourage your child to act as obnoxious as possible to encourage your aisle mates to seek refuge elsewhere or play the damsel card. I did that yesterday to great effect, gaining an entire bulkhead middle aisle for our 8-hour sojourn. The stroller upset played no small part, I'm sure.
- Pace Your Trinkets
I'm a big fan of project-oriented food like apples and pears. Doling a couple of these out along the way bought me 20 minutes of quality zone-out time. For an added cost of 15 Euros in the Madrid duty-free shop, two Matchbox cars (strategically gifted throughout the flight) reaped an amazing hour of sky gazing. An hour and 10 minutes if you include the time he spent tearing up the box.
- Join the Mile High Club for Moms
When things started to get squirmy, my tactic was to take him to the bathroom for 5- to 10-minute intervals of water faucet fun. Standing on the changing table was also endlessly entertaining.
- Breastfeed -- and Often
I'm still nursing my toddler, and when it comes to air travel, I'm happy that I do. He blissfully nursed through take-off, landing, and those boring bits in between.
- Make It Fun
Flying through the air in a big plane is pretty darn cool. Remind him of that as you soar above the clouds and marvel at all the new sights and sounds he's experiencing along the way.
Image via woodleywonderworks/Flickr