Where we went: To Austin, TX, with my husband to visit family. Nora was 18 months old.
What I was worried about: Since Nora gets restless after sitting in a car for two hours, I was anxious about how she’d handle flying. (The trip took five hours total, including driving and a plane change.) If she started to cry or scream, my only hope was that whoever was nearby would be a sympathetic parent.
Planning ahead: When we bought the tickets, we asked for seats as close to the front as possible, to decrease the length of time we had to wait for people in front of us to get off.
Boarding: We checked our stroller at the gate, and my husband took advantage of pre-boarding. He carried the car seat and everything else he could onto the plane, which allowed him to install the car seat and get our bags stored before most of the other passengers arrived.
I stayed with Nora in the terminal until the last boarding call so she wouldn’t have to sit on the plane any longer than necessary.
Takeoff: We tried to time it so the flights would be at lunch- and snacktime. To ease ear popping during takeoff, I gave Nora crackers and sliced grapes (foods we knew she’d eat even if she wasn’t hungry). I also asked her to yawn every few minutes — she thought it was a game — and since I was worried that she might be afraid of the jet’s noise, I prepared her by saying it would sound like a vacuum cleaner. She didn’t seem bothered by her ears or the noise.
During the flight: I had bought a lot of books and small toys from the dollar shop beforehand in case Nora got antsy: plastic farm animals, a mini-Magna Doodle, Matchbox cars, etc. But she kept herself occupied by watching other people on the plane, especially toddlers!
The smartest thing I did: Buying Nora her own seat, even though we weren’t required to since she was under 2. (Most airlines offer a 50 percent discount for children under 2.) I saw other kids bouncing on their parents’ laps the whole time, and I was so happy Nora wasn’t.
Diaper changes: She hates to be put on a changing table or the floor in a public place, so my husband changed her diaper on my lap. Our seats took up a row, so we didn’t worry too much about disturbing others, but I was prepared to safety-pin a blanket between the seats to spare any neighbors the experience.
The hardest part: Running through two airports (we changed planes) with a toddler, a car seat, and a 35-pound bag of baby stuff!
What I’d do differently: We ended up not needing all those toys and books, so next time I’ll bring the bare minimum. You can improvise when you need to — toddlers are so entertained by things like crinkly pretzel bags.
Words of wisdom: If you travel often, get a backpack for the car seat — it’s a worthwhile investment. Carrying a car seat around by hand is really awkward.