Once again, Owen has proved that I worry unnecessarily. And sometimes I don’t give him enough credit. The kid is awesome.
Flying with Owen this weekend was a breeze!
At this point he’s still taking 2 naps. I think we’re on the verge of that schedule changing, as I’ve seen the timing change a bit recently, but for the most part Owen does a long, solid morning nap (usually about 2 hours) and a shorter, less-time-sensitive afternoon nap (usually about 1 hour). So our plan has been to respect the morning nap at all costs, and opt to have the afternoon nap in the car/stroller if needed. At daycare he often refuses the afternoon nap altogether and is totally fine at bedtime, so I’ve learned to not freak out if the afternoon nap on-the-go doesn’t happen as I thought it would. He rolls with it.
So I planned our flights for early afternoon so he could get a nice, long morning nap and then do his afternoon nap on the plane, if that worked out, or skip it and be ready for bed right at 6:15pm. Luckily the flights were very short — a little over an hour each way. Despite an hour or so delay on the outbound flight, the timing worked out great. Both days we woke up and had a normal morning, Owen had a nice, long morning nap, and then we headed for the airport when he woke up, rested and happy. Another bonus of that plan is that I can pack all of our bags and the car while he’s sleeping so we can just get him up and stroll out the door without trying to juggle a baby on the hip and throw suitcases in the trunk at the same time.
The biggest thing I was worried about was not meltdowns from lack of sleep or temper tantrums, though, it was Owen’s incessant need to be running around and climbing on things all the time. And, you know, those little things called seatbelts that are required during takeoff and landing. That part was handled by bringing several key items.
1. FOOD. Thank you, my lovely readers, for your suggestions on my previous posts about what to bring. Almost everyone said “snacks” and having an endless supply of munchies certainly nipped impending whining in the bud. Since we were traveling in the early afternoon, I stretched Owen a little so he could eat lunch on the plane. This not only kept his little mouth quiet and happy, it also meant that he ate a better meal than if I’d tried to feed him while we were running around the airport. I took a little insulated lunchbox with a cold pack through security (it was allowed, I just had to pull it out with my bag of liquids/gels so they could check it out), as well as a ton of little ziplocs with crackers and Pirate’s Booty and freeze-dried fruit. Owen learned a new word (words?) chowing down on the plane, too: green beans. He says “een! bee!” proudly now.
2. AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE WITH PLASTIC STRAWS IN IT. I know this sounds kind of like a strange thing to play with, but Owen is obsessed with putting lids on things and taking them off. He’s also completely engaged with filling up containers and emptying them out. So I brought a bike water bottle filled with plastic straws. He spent longer than you would believe taking the top off and putting it back on, and emptying the straws and putting them back in one by one. Nothing like a little motor development to keep him occupied!
3. THIS NEW TOY. We love Melissa & Doug. This puzzle has 9 little doors that open and close on hinges (opening and closing doors is another one of Owen’s favorite things right now…) to reveal a magnet inside. The magnets are things like a dog, a cow, a teddy bear, etc., so Owen loved holding them up one at a time so I could tell him what they were, and sometimes he would repeat the word. Magnets are key when you are on an airplane and have a kid prone to throwing the whole board upside down to see what is on the back (umm… nothing). It was the PERFECT plane toy because it was so self-contained, yet had so many little parts for Owen to explore (and attempt to ingest). It says “ages 3+”, too, so I bet this will be one that will grow with him.
4. SHAPE SORTER (ours is like this one, but plastic). Benjamin rolled his eyes when I said I wanted to bring this on the plane because it is loud! and plastic! and bulky! But honestly, I have seen Owen concentrate on this toy far more than any other, and I knew it had to come with us. I get a big, fat “I told you so” about this one, because it bought us at least 20 silent minutes on each flight while O concentrated on it while buckled into his seat during takeoff and landing.
5. WATER. That’s right, the free little water bottles they give out once you are in the air. Owen was so excited to get his own little bottle. On our departing flight I made the mistake of letting him try to drink out of it himself (with help), which ended up in a very wet shirt… for both of us. On the way back I chugged his water as soon as they handed out the bottles and let him put the top on and off for the rest of the flight, which made for 1 very happy baby.
And finally, the most important one of all…
6. HIS OWN SEAT. Thankfully our two flights were not full, so we were able to switch our seats around to have an empty window seat for Owen. That was KEY. He was able to bounce around in his seat, climb up and down, roll around in my lap, stick his arms between the seats to grasp at the people sitting behind us (of course shouting “Hi! Hi! Hi!” the whole time) and stare out the window as he pleased. It was glorious. He even liked being buckled in during takeoff and landing and would never have tolerated that long in my lap.
So there you have it. The keys to air travel with a toddler (at least… my toddler). I had an absolute blast hanging with my high school friends and seeing my family. My sister and her two girls (4.5 and 1.5) made an impromptu visit on Sunday as well, so we had an awesome “cousins day” and the kids played on the playground, jumped on the bed together and stole each others’ toys. Oh how I wish we lived closer so we could do it more often!