I’ve had some pretty harrowing airplane experiences with my baby. First, there was the 4-hour flight from Chicago to San Francisco, during which my 5-month-old little Apple cried non-stop for at least 2 of the 4 hours. Then, there was the infamous doody change necessitated on the Boston to San Francisco flight, which took place when the little Apple was just 11 months old. That experience was so painful and I was so scarred by it, that I was prompted to write an instructional guide, “How to Change a Poopie Diaper on the Airplane,” entirely in second person.
My daughter is now 22 months old, and already she has flown twice from San Francisco to Chicago, once to Boston, once to Shanghai, once to Beijing (from Shanghai), and most recently, from San Francisco to Buffalo, New York (we went to visit Niagara Falls, Canada). She has gotten steadily easier to handle on the airplane, but this time I was filled with trepidation because this time, we were not flying direct. On the way to Buffalo, we changed planes in Atlanta, and on the way back from Buffalo, we changed planes in Detroit – and had a 3-hour layover there to boot. So I thought, “Is she going to freak out being in an airport and on an airplane so long?”
I busied myself with packing enough snacks and activity books to keep her occupied, knowing that she is not a good sleeper – as my lactation consultant once told me: “Some babies are born knowing how to put themselves to sleep, and others are not.” Mine is decidedly in the “NOT” camp, and has been from birth. I brought along Kashi cereal, Nori Strips (my toddler goes nuts for seaweed), cherries (the ones we picked off the non-organic trees), and organic animal crackers to keep her stomach full and uncomplaining. I also stowed a couple of sticker books (Dora the Explorer, the Alphabet sticker book), which she just LOVES. Give her stickers, and she becomes pliant, like putty in your hands. And finally, I downloaded a couple apps on the iPad to play over and over for her – yup, she likes repetition. She never gets tired interacting with the red balloon in “Juliette and the Shiny Red Balloon” or listening to the audio e-books on SesameBooks (of course, having Elmo’s face on the app always helps!).
And what a difference this all made! While on the flight, we let her put the stickers everywhere – on our foreheads, our noses, our cheeks, the seats (we scraped them all off by the end), and her own face, which is why she is grinning so cherubically in the picture above. She had a grand old time on the airplane: she sang for strangers, waved to the flight attendants who smuggled her ice cream and extra cookies, and NEVER CRIED, on ANY of the flights. Yes, she shouted with glee a few times, and yes, she whined a few times, but no tantrums, no crying, and no angry looks from fellow passengers. That’s what I call…SUCCESS!
Now, I’d love a few tips from my fellow Moms who have traveled with young children in tow: what apps do YOU like the best? What are your strategies for keeping your little ones quiet on those transcontinental flights? What’s in YOUR snack pack? I’m all ears…