Flying with a toddler – Car seats, sobs and security

IMG_6688This year for our vacation little bear and I flew. By ourselves. My husband and his mother graciously made the long trek by car, to take the majority of the luggage and ensure we had a car on vacation. But it was easier for B and I to be air bound.

To mitigate any toddler-on-a-plane-trip disasters (which my husband and I had just accepted were part of traveling and going to happen), we planned ahead. We figured if we anticipated some of the struggles parents usually have when bringing a toddler on a plane – especially our spirited little guy – we’d be better off. We prepped, we made lists, we packed and we planned accordingly.

Yeah. I know. You can stop laughing now.

What we planned
We packed light, but efficiently. Going through the airport (and on the plane) would be me, B in a baby-carrier, the stroller, the car seat and one diaper bag full of entertaining and engaging things for the toddler. We agreed ahead of time that under no circumstances were we checking B’s car seat, so we located the FAA approved sticker and found links to the guidelines we could print, stating that as a paying passenger my toddler has a right to fly as safely as all the other passengers – and for him that means a car seat. We then came up with a system where we could expertly bungee the car seat to the stroller to help get through the airport.

Wearing B through the airport would be no problem, as we were pretty seasoned at babywearing by now. We figured we’d take some of his go-to comfort items like blankies/teddy bear and then pack some toys we knew he’d love. I even ordered him a travel Magna Doodle that arrived the day before we left, so he’d be super surprised (and hopefully distracted).

What actually happened
First of all, I forgot all of my FAA literature; which had me in a mild panic when the person working the ticket counter insisted she didn’t think I’d be allowed to take the car seat on the place. Luckily, I remembered where the sticker was on the car seat and she let us through.

The second things I forgot was much more problematic. Blankie and teddy bear. Both of them.

In my mad rush to get B situated in the baby carrier and to get us out of the rain that was pouring the day of our departure, I left those items in the car. This turned out to be disastrous because once we stepped up to security B began to cry. Once we got to the terminal the cries turned in to hysterical sobs. And those continued for 74 straight minutes before the plane took off.

I was totally flummoxed. There was nothing I could do to reach him – rocking, singing, patting, giving him space, holding him tighter, offering water/toys/books were lost on him. Those are usually the moments where we hand him his trusty blankie, give him a second to calm his body down, and then we can step in and help address the meltdown. Having left not one, but all three, blankies in the car I was helpless. As every single one of the people in the terminal noticed.

And after all that my sweet, exhausted, over-stimulated toddler fell asleep before we even fully ascended. As the plane taxied down the runway — finding himself in the comfort of his trusted car seat and with mama sitting right to him — he drifted off to sleep. At which point I rested my head back on my seat, took a deep breath, and smiled as I thought of the dozens of other passengers who were probably terrified and annoyed at the prospect of getting on the plane with “that screaming child.”

So that was our first plane ride. The trip home was much less eventful. I remembered the blankies, and B woke up halfway through the flight but was content to play with his stickers and coloring books.

Right now, I’d like to wish good karma and happy dust to some people. Because, sometimes, the kindness and empathy of complete strangers overwhelms me. It’s rare to see, so when it happens, it’s a bright spot.

  • Thanks TSA, for being kind through the security process and sympathetic to the sobbing toddler I was carrying.
  • Thank you to the father at the terminal who gently corrected his son when he loudly asked “What’s wrong with that boy?”, and the nice lady who shook my hand and asked if she could help.
  • Thank you to the mom who helped me assemble my stroller as I lugged both B and the car seat off the plane by myself.
  • And thank you to the stewardess, who passed by our seats with barely a whisper when she saw that B and I were peacefully resting after our rough start.
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