We recently decided to go to Orlando and decided to take Gracia with us. Leading up to our trip as we shared with people that we were taking her on her first flight, the angst on everyone's face was quite palpable. I mean let's face it - prior to being parents, we were definitely among those group of persons who can not stand crying babies on airplanes and had zero understanding or empathy for the parents that could not keep their babies happy for the short flight.
Grant it, you never know how your child is going to act until you get on the plane. You do not know if the engine noise will be an irritant or if their ears will pop like adults' do and cause them to become fussy. You never know if they won't be so distracted that they are unable to nap during their normal times (if thats around the time you have your flight booked for) and therefore, extra cranky.
You kind of prepare yourself for how you will react to the sucking of the teeth and glares that ensue when the slight hint of baby cries ring out on a plane. Part of you wants to hang your head down in embarrassment and shame because you are the parents that can't quiet a child who can't verbalize what is wrong. The other part of you is exhausted from not going to sleep the night before the flight so that you would not miss your flight and now your child who barely got a chance to sleep themselves before you ran them through the airport is now... crying?! and wants to yell "DEAL WITH IT PEOPLE!" as you ignore the cries that you can not soothe.
Needless to say, we braced ourselves for all of the above and in between.
I can honestly say, as with every other outing that we have taken Gracie on she did exceptionally well. Our flight out was a dry run and needless to say - I thought we would simply be defeated by all the things that we "had" to take on the flight.
When we got to the airport, Amos dropped me off and I took Gracie along with her carseat, stroller, baby bag and carry on, along with my luggage to the check in gate while he went to go park the car. We picked the first flight out in the AM hoping that it would be less crowded and therefore would make us less anxious as we figured out this traveling with an infant thing. I get to the ticket counter and encounter my first "I am clearly a new mom" hiccup. The guy checking my I.D. , looked at Gracie and then asked for my obviously UNDER TWO YEAR OLD child's birth certificate!
I had the most confused look on my face and through my eyes was trying to convey to him, "can't you tell that I JUST had her, she is clearly a lap child!" Nonetheless he was just doing his job and gave me some speech about Federal Regulations require me to have documentation proving the age of my child. I asked him if I would not be allowed to fly because I had yet had the chance to go get my daughter's birth certificate (and I left the cute one the hospital gives you AT the hospital when I had her - I know! I am still sad about it)? He called his supervisor over to make the determination. He looked at my daughter and said "just make sure the closer she gets to two years old that you have a birth certificate for her. No worries. I am sure I can get that done within the next two years.
We get to the security line. Apparently, the airport thinks that not too many people fly that early in the morning and decides to only have ONE security lane open. Needless to say, as we are breaking down and disassembling the travel system, taking off our shoes, belt and the like - passing the baby back and forth so we can get it done rather quickly.. we had people asking could they pass us. I let one guy go before us and then he was sent back and had the nerve to have a bag that had to be re-run.. sir! now you are holding ME up.
Then as we turned the corner headed towards our gate, they are calling our names over the loud speaker because we are one of the last to board! HUH?! How is that so? That stupid slow security line! So we are rushing even moreso to SHOVE the stroller and car seat into its airplane travel bags, which by the way have NO room for error so that it could be gate checked. Basically we looked like bumbling fools because it was the first time we had even used such bags.
Now... we have to find seats on the plane. We flew Southwest Airlines so I already knew that being last we would have slim pickings. We headed to the back of the plane and got to a point where I was just tired of the glares that screamed "please don't sit here, you have a baby!". Finally, I saw a guy seated alone and decided, that's it, I am sitting here. Would you believe that he would not move! I said to him "Are you waiting for someone?" in my "I am tired and have a baby in my arms and want to sit down, but don't want to come across as the angry black woman" tone. First he got up with just enough room for me to slide in and as he looked at my husband in his 6'4 glory - he decided it would be best if he moved his seat completely. He moved so quick he left his carry on under the seat. Whatever sir... it is better for us to have this row alone anyways - thanks for moving.
We get settled, I lay Gracie on my lap - here is where my helpful hints come in:
1. FEED THE BABY ON THE TAKE OFF. The swallowing helps alleviate some of the ear stopping pressure.
She ate - then fell right to sleep.
The little one slept the entire flight! Take that people who were scared to sit next to us. We had to change planes mid trip and didn't have it so hard because we were at the plane on time. We sat down and got her settled. This time people didn't notice we had a baby until we were getting up to leave because she whined as I was lifting her up out of her good sleep. The couple behind us said "I didn't even know there was a baby in the row in front of us." Lady! you have MADE. MY. DAY.
That small compliment had me floating on air with confidence that I was a good mom and was spared embarrassment and attitudes.
Of course I prayed over her that she will remain such a good traveller.
When the toddler in front of us decided she wanted to stand up on her daddy and stare at the baby and no longer wanted to sit down, I felt my old judgmental self creep up... I could not be that person any longer because I truly understand that parent. Anything that makes your child happy on a plane, you just go with it. The little girl yelled, at the top of her lungs, the names of her favorite characters that she saw at Disney until she got sleepy and fell asleep on her dad.
Which leads me to my next tip for traveling with an infant:
2. Take trips to cities where kids are more likely to be on the flight - like Orlando. The Disney trips means a plane full of children and understanding parents.
Our flight back you would've thought we were masters! Forget bringing that stroller and carseat all the way to the gate. Check those bad boys at the door. Carry the baby - and get to the line where Pre Checked people go through so you don't have to take everything off. It made getting through security quicker and it was much faster getting to the gate and subsequently our seats without having to take the time to break everything down.