How to Fly With a Toddler In Your Lap

January 20th, 2013. 11:05 a.m.  San Diego International Airport.

“Well, that was easy,” Beef said, “because we prepared.”

Hmm… shall we back up a wee bit?

Posey’s first flight was over the summer, when we schlepped her all the way to London. At the time, it seemed like the Hardest Thing Any Parent Has Ever Done Ever. Looking back at the circumstances, she was a non-crawling sack of potatoes who slept almost the entire time in a SPECIAL BED ATTACHED TO THE WALL, kind of like those sleep chambers in Aliens:

Piece of crumpet.

Flash forward the moment we decide to take her to California. And not just anywhere! Let’s make it a Grand Tour, shall we? San Diego! Orange County! Santa Monica! Pasadena! Brigadoon!  After all, we did okay on the last trip, right?  The one when we stayed in a gorgeous home with great friends who also had a baby and an extra set of all the stuff that comes with a baby?  That went smashingly!

This trip, we have to pack a car seat.  And a pack and play.  And a stroller.  And her mobile, because there is only one song on the planet earth she will fall asleep to.  And this trip, the Squiggliest Baby On Earth has to sit in “our” laps for four hours and nineteen minutes.

So here’s how “we” did it:

Step 1: Ask your parents to get up at 5 a.m. and come with TWO CARS to fit your luggage and yourselves comfortably.

Step 2: Oversleep and try to get past the fact that you are flying to the land of movie stars with hair that hasn’t been washed in two days.  Two days in a row that you worked out and then didn’t shower, because that’s why the alarm is set for 5:00 a.m. on the phone with no juice left.

Things To Check as Baggage:

  • Car Seat: My pediatrician recommended bringing our own car seat. After all, you don’t know where those rental car ones have been, although my first guess is probably in the back seat of a rental car.  Luckily, they make a special bag for the occasion, which I was able to borrow from a friend during a Big Trip to the Suburbs.  It was a lifesaver.  Car seats can be checked for free on United, so stuff that sucker full. Diapers, wipes, and the things that always takes up too much room in the suitcase so thusly I never bring them on vacation: running shoes.  Maybe I hate this car seat bag.
  • Pack and Play: Perhaps you remember my fondness for Ziploc baggies? They make one big enough to protect an entire foldable crib!!!!!!!

Things To Carry On:

  • Stroller: Get a gate check ticket and ride that thing to the plane door.
  • The Mom Tote: Wait, yours isn’t an oversized pink L.L. Bean customized “Oprah’s Book Club” tote bag circa the East of Eden re-launch, 2003? That’s weird. Mine sat in my closet for a decade– and finally, it was Big Pink Tote’s time to shine.  I spent a week stocking it with the following essentials:
  • Laptop
  • DVDs for laptop (Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street*)
  • Tiny child headphones I went to a special store for
  • Pre-chewed Board book, Posey’s fave
  • Talking Minnie Mouse, Posey’s other fave
  • Little plastic blocks to clackity-clack together, Posey’s other-other fave
  • 3 boxes of Horizon shelf-stable milk**
  • An entire tube of puffs
  • 3 baby food pouches
  • Enough wipes for the entire plane
  • A day’s worth of diapers
  • Baby B’Air toddler vest (Really? Really.)
  • 2 Cliff Bars, Gum & Goldfish***
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bottled water

*I bought this to prepare her for the Sesame-land at Sea World, but instead I got a whole lotta Erykah Badu. I’m pretty sure there’s no Badu World. 

** These don’t count as liquid, so you can bring them through security as long as you consent to a pat down. Got that? Juice box = pat down. 

***So when Beef asks, “What do we have to eat?” there is food. And when he asks, “Do we have gum?” the answer is “yes.”

Dramatic re-enactment. But I was wearing those same jeans.

Dramatic re-enactment. But I was wearing those same jeans.

Our seats are in the very last row.  The kind that don’t recline back. Middle and window. Sweatpants on the aisle looks hungover and ready to nap. Posey starts to freak. I distract her with the board book and Hemisphere Magazine and the barf bag for just long enough until the momentum of take-off catches her fancy, at which point a bottle gets shoved into her maw to protect her ears from popping.  Once we’re up and see two girls go to the bathroom, we ask Sweatpants if we can get out to go change her already twelve-ton diaper. Two Mr. Meanie flight attendants to tell us to sit back down. Sweatpants lets us back in. The fleeciness of his pants makes him agile like a serpent. The seatbelt light dings off.  This time, Mr. Meanie says, “You know there’s no changing table on board this aircraft.” No prob. We change her in our seats and leave a little parting gift on board when we leave.  (For the return trip, I doubled up on diapers.  It worked; she survived.)

Back in our row, the Giant Business Man in front of me reclines his seat into Posey’s face. I don’t stop her from kicking the seat back for hours, because if it bothered him, he is welcome to move into the empty seat next to him that he’s using to keep his coat and newspaper. Strapped into her red vest that somehow makes me feel safer and better about life in general, Posey watches two and a half hours of Mickey Mouse until she falls asleep on my chest for the first time in about a year.  At first, it feels nice.  And then, she feels like a hot lava rock in my lap and I pray that the wet I feel is my sweat and not her pee. Beef enjoys watching Bradley Cooper pay the steepest of steep prices to pay in The Words.

Bad Writer!

Bad Writer!

When it’s time to land, my little traveler gets mad that there’s no Mickey to watch, so talking Minnie will have to do. And she does.

I wrestle with her down the aisle as we wait to de-plane from forty rows back, and I’m relieved to reunite with our stroller, which I’m pleased to say looks like it had a truly excellent time visiting the coal mine.

January 20th, 2013. 11:05 a.m.  San Diego International Airport.

“Well, that was easy,” Beef said, “because we prepared.”

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3 thoughts on “How to Fly With a Toddler In Your Lap

  1. Loved this post!! Made me laugh over brekkie, especially the orange vest, I really thought you made that up! Sounds like it was a great start to holiday.

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