My husband and I recently took our daughter, just before her second birthday, on her first airplane trip to visit my sister in Ft. Lauderdale. We flew into Miami so it was about a three hour flight. Our daughter is very good natured, so I didn’t have any underlying angst about how she would actually do on the flight. I was more worried about packing things the three of us would need for a week while trying to avoid the ungodly cost of checked baggage fees.
The other getaways we’d taken her on thus far had been road trips to places like Traverse City and Higgins Lake. On those occasions, I packed our car with pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, because who knows what you might need while you’re away from home, right? And by the way, a kitchen sink would come in very handy when camping at the lake! Let’s just say, I’m not really the camping type.
But as far as air travel, a key to packing light and dealing with all of the TSA restrictions (since there are so many things you need when you’re traveling with children) was not to pack certain things we could do without until we got there and hit the local Target on the first day in Ft. Lauderdale. Later, we left things behind at my sister’s house for our next time back or for other visitors to use — like a potty seat, extra Sippy cups and beach toys — so they didn’t take up room in our luggage on our return to Michigan either.
Since our daughter was just shy of two years old, we didn’t have to purchase a seat for her on the plane. She could ride in our lap and we were fine with that to save on the expense of buying a ticket. We were also allowed to bring an umbrella stroller, diaper bag and car seat, which we were able to check in at no extra charge.
Our departing flight was a red eye. Luckily, our plane wasn’t full and a helpful stewardess took the initiative to move the gentleman who was sharing our row to another seat so that we could have an entire row to ourselves, giving our daughter her own seat! This turned out to be a huge blessing when trying to maneuver to set up the DVD player we’d brought along for her to watch a movie on or getting a snack out of my bag.
We also brought along books for reading, as well as some coloring books and crayons to keep my daughter occupied. Our pediatrician had advised against giving her anything to make her groggy on the plane, such as Benadryl. But they did recommend bringing some chewy snacks like raisins to help with ear-popping during take off and landing, as well as having her Sippy cup ready with milk for her to drink. Due to the TSA restrictions on traveling with liquids, we had to bring an empty cup through the security gate and buy milk at one of the cafes on the other side. Thankfully, she didn’t complain about her ears or cry at all.
Even though we had to wake her up to head to the airport at 3:30 a.m. earlier that morning, she did not sleep at all until we had arrived in Miami and were in my sister’s car on the way to her place. Then of course, she was up once we got there and did not get a real nap until much later that afternoon. It took until around the third day for her to get used to being away from home and back to her normal nap schedule. We learned quickly that a couple of hours playing at the beach and a bath immediately following were the perfect recipe for a nice, long nap.
We were really impressed with another couple that was on our flight down that had three little girls that appeared to be about age 4, 3 and 6 months old. They were traveling super light in terms of minimal carry-on items. These were no doubt seasoned travelers as they made traveling with multiple small children appear effortless. Then we heard them announce calmly upon arrival in Miami that they still had to catch the flight to their final destination — Costa Rica. We were just glad to have gotten to Miami so smoothly on a direct flight!
Teamwork with my husband definitely made travel easier. We worked together on everything from the planning and packing, down to getting through security and to our gate on time. I give so much credit to any parent traveling alone with a little one — like the mother we saw with a daughter not much younger than mine. She had to handle the stroller, diaper bag, carry-on, travel documents and whatever else all on her own, besides trying to keep her toddler from running off in the busy airport.
On the return flight, we were admittedly anxious to get home. It’s different on the way back when you don’t have a fun vacation to look forward to. We were fortunate enough again to be able to score a seat for our daughter. She was a little more restless this time around, but we still avoided any major meltdowns. My husband was able to doze off and I got some great snapshots of his hands covered with the princess stickers my daughter had put on them while he slept.
My mother had agreed to pick us up from the airport under the condition that we would stop at her house on the way home to have a nice, home-cooked meal before heading back to our place. Turned out that was just what we needed after a long day of traveling as opposed to coming straight to our house and trying to figure out what to do for dinner. That way, we were able to come home, take care of bath time and relax on the last day of vacation before having to go back to work the next day.