Boarding and Take Off
They will usually invite families traveling with young children to board the plane first. Use your best judgment on this one. If you have a content little baby and think you’ll need some extra time to jockey you and your belongings into position, then go ahead and board early. But beware. If you have a crawler or a toddler who doesn’t like to sit still for more than two micro-seconds, stay in the comfort–and space–of the airport for as long as possible before boarding the plane.
If you are lucky enough to be bringing your car seat onto the plane with you, try to set it up in the window seat so you’re not blocked in. If you’re bringing baby on your lap, most airlines will allow you to keep him strapped into an infant carrier during the flight (with the exception of takeoff and landing times).
During takeoff, try to have your baby sucking or chewing on something. This will help their tiny ears adjust to the air pressure changes. You can nurse your baby, give baby a bottle or a pacifier, or have your toddler chomp on chewy snacks. An added benefit to nursing during takeoff: baby may actually fall asleep. Hello, peaceful flight!
If your little one still gets plugged ears during the flight, try the “cups method” for popping their ears:
-Get two plastic cups (one for each ear), some boiling water and a few paper towels. Just ask your flight attendant for these supplies–they’ll hook you up!
-Dampen the paper towels in the boiling water and place one inside each cup
-Hold the cups containing the dampened towels over the ears for a few minutes.
The steam from the boiling water will generate a small pressure vacuum that will unblock the ears and help relieve pain.
During The Flight
Your baby’s age and mobility-level will determine a lot of what will make your flight time go smoothly. If you have an infant (under 5 months old) who can’t really move yet, your flight should be pretty easy. He’ll probably fall asleep during takeoff or at some point early in your flight with all of that lovely white noise that goes on in an airplane.
If you have a baby who is able to roll over and/or sit (approximately 5-7 months), he’ll probably be content sitting on your lap for a good chunk of time. You can entertain him with songs, books, ripping pages out of those magazines that are in the seatback in front of you. You can nurse him (or give him a bottle) and he may even doze off. If he starts to get fussy, you can bounce with him in the aisles or walk back to the galley with him (usually the flight attendants will take pity on you and let you hang out in their space).
If you have a crawler–or, God forbid, a walker–good luck. That’s all I have to say, because it’s probably going to be a rough flight. Babies who are mobile but have not yet attained an attention span of more than 1 minute are very difficult travel companions. They want to move, and being strapped in to a car seat or a baby carrier for hours on end is not their idea of a happy day. Bring lots of yummy snacks, new books and toys that they haven’t seen before, and a lot of patience. Be prepared to spend a good portion of your flight walking up and down the aisles and/or sitting cross-legged in your seat so your baby can play in the 4 square inches of floor space at your feet. And, if all else fails, just remind yourself that it will all be over soon and you’ll be enjoying that special place that you’re traveling to!
Here are some of my favorite activities to entertain a baby or toddler while on the plane:
- Read books
- Sing songs and lap bounces
- Recite Nursery Rhymes (brush up on these ahead of time)
- Do finger plays with the accompanying hand motions
- Eat special snacks (I’ve heard that a ring pop can entertain a 2 year old for hours)
- Play with window decals on the window (find them on clearance after holidays)
- Color with crayons
- Magna Doodle
- Paint with “Magic Paper” that turns colors when you paint with water (Crayola Color Wonder and Color Magic)
- Play with wiki stix
- Play with clay or play dough
- Play with sticker activity books
- Do a lacing project
- Play with apps on your iPhone or iPad (I hear the “Duck Duck Moose” and “Peekaboo Wild/Farm/Forest” ones are great)
- Watch movies or TV shows on your iPhone or iPad
- Go to the bathroom and make silly faces in the mirror
- Make a shaker out of two plastic cups taped together at the “mouths” and filled with airplane peanuts (your flight attendant will probably have all of the necessary supplies)
- Play with magnet sets
- Sort snacks or toys into piles (based on color, size, shape, type, etc.)
- Let them braid my hair
- Before you leave for your trip, make an “I Spy Bottle” to play with
- Draw pictures for your little one and make up stories to go with them
- Crumple up and tear paper
- Draw letters, shapes, etc. and have your little one trace them
- Play with toy cars and airplanes
- Do a puzzle
- Read the airplane safety pamphlet together and locate all of the exits on your plane, practice buckling seat belts, etc.
- Play with Legos
- Play Peek-A-Boo
- Count things
- Visit with other passengers (only the ones who invite you…some people on planes really don’t appreciate happy visits)
- Play with ice cubes in an empty cup
- Make origami or paper fans with pages from a magazine
- Do seat exercises with your baby
- Use pipe cleaners to create models of shapes, animals, etc.
- Play with a flashlight (yes, there’s an app for that)
- Use your camera (or the camera on your phone) to take silly photos of yourselves
- (Before or after your flight) Visit the captain in the cockpit (you may even get one of those cool “wings” pins)
- Crinkle water bottles
- Play “guess which hand it’s in” (“It” can be a snack–if they guess correctly, they get to eat it)
One other little note here. Most people on the plane will be compassionate to your cause and they’ll be willing to help you out if needed. The flight attendants are usually very helpful and will bring your baby juice or water for her bottle, and some will even stop to play with her or hold her so you can go to the bathroom. So, when your baby starts fussing and you start to stress out, just relax. You’re not the only one who’s ever brought a crying baby on a plane and most of the other people remember the days when THEY were the ones holding the crying baby (or are thanking their stars that they are not yet the one who has to hold a crying baby).
Well, that’s it for my tips on flying. Tomorrow we leave for Ireland with baby J, so hopefully I can take my own advice and have a smooth flight! I’ll do another post after we get back from Ireland to let you know how all of this played out on an international flight. I may be MIA on the blog for the next week or so while we’re traveling, but I’ll be sure to update with lots of photos and fun stories when we return. Until then, Bon Voyage!