Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Non-Ticketed Lap Child

Traveling is stressful. Traveling with a 16-month-old adds a whole new layer. Make that several new layers. But let me back up.
L.E. has been across the country and back twice in her short little life. When she was barely two months old, we packed her up and took her to Pittsburgh to meet her grandpa G and help him recover from major surgery. She also got to meet my Pap, which made the trip all the more worthwhile. She was an absolute dream to travel with. She slept most of the time on the plane and when she was awake, she was smiley and happy. The flight attendant gave her a special certificate to commemorate her first flight. 
The next trip was last Thanksgiving when we visited her godparents in Portland. She was great then, too. We had to pass her back and forth a bit more often but she was easily distracted with the Sky Mall magazine. (Who knew something like this existed?) 
In April, we went to visit my parents on the east coast and once again she traveled very well. Even with a too-short layover that barely allowed for a diaper change, she was quiet and content to sit with us.
It's been getting increasingly more challenging, however. This past weekend, a dear friend of ours got married in Denver. Some weddings you can afford to miss; this was not one of them. J.D. had finally met his perfect match and we couldn't be more thrilled. I'd contemplated asking my lovely babysitter if she'd be up for an overnight watch but knew J.D. would want to meet L.E. We figured since she'd been so good to travel with before, she'll continue to do so. And she did, the first flight which was thankfully non-stop. She still loves the Sky Mall, especially the pages with dogs on them. She was pretty great the entire trip, except for bedtime but with her that's to be expected. (My kid loves zoos. If there's a zoo where ever we visit, we have to go. She loves animals so much!)
It was the flight home that could have ruined the entire trip. The first half of the 2-hour flight was smooth. We'd downloaded some Sesame Street episodes on which she contentedly zoned out. But then turbulence struck, both literally and metaphorically. L.E. reached the point where she just didn't want to be on the plane anymore. She started kicking the seat in front of her. I've been on the other end of that many times in my traveling life so I didn't feel too badly about it. But when the screaming started, I genuinely felt awful for our fellow passengers. NOTHING could get her to stop. Not water, food, magazines, books, Sesame Street (even the little furry red bastard couldn't save us!), a plastic cup, bag of pita snacks, playing with the tray table, looking out the window... NOTHING.
The plane ride was bumpy but I ignored the "Fasten Seat Belt" signs and took her to the bathroom for a diaper change hoping the change of scenery would do the trick. She didn't stop crying. It was as bad as when she was a new baby and we'd hit that 5:00 "unhappy hour." So I did what anyone would have done in my situation. I lost it. Do you know how hard it is to change a diaper on a plane when you yourself are sobbing hysterically? I felt like hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the flight but the attendants didn't seem too thrilled with us being up and about. We got back to our seats and the screaming became more of a whimper. But L.E. was still at full volume. (Ba-dum ching! I'll be here all week, folks.) Fortunately, we were close to landing. I could tell this not by the overhead announcements; those were drowned out long ago. I could see the majestic view of Pyramid Lake as we flew overhead. It was the most beautiful site I'd ever seen. It meant soon we would be HOME.
L.E. calmed down right as we landed. She fell asleep in the car and T successfully made the transition from car seat to bed. I collapsed on the couch.
So here I present to you my tips for traveling with a toddler:

1. Stay home. Let people come to you. Yeah, who am I kidding?
2. Understand that anytime your child is out of their element, they're going to make sure you know that they don't like it. Do what you can to make them comfortable. Favorite toys, books, blankets, binkies, etc should all be readily available.
3. A porta-crib or hotel rented crib is not a real crib. Kids know this. They will not sleep in them without putting up a fight. No matter how tired-out you try to make them, they still will not go to sleep in them. L.E. went to the zoo, 2 restaurants and a wedding in one day and still refused to sleep in the hotel crib. Just suck it up and put them in bed with you. It's easier to deal with a foot in the face than incessant crying. Even creepier is when the crib is next to your side of the bed and they just stare at you through the slats. She. Stared. For. Hours. I think she stole my soul.
4. Look extra-pathetic. Not one person said anything bad to us on the plane. I think because they could tell I was upset enough. Or they were really sympathetic. The lady sitting next to us said, "It's OK; she's so cute!"
5. Have a sense of humor and low expectations. Your trip is not going to be perfect. It's extra hard if you're not visiting family and staying in a hotel. You don't have the help like if you were going to see the grandparents. If you know going in that you won't have any relaxation time, you won't be disappointed.
6. Have a drink on the plane. Even sober living can't stand up to an airplane toddler tantrum. You get to chug your drink just like you were in college! Sometimes you just need to take the edge off.

So Mom and Dad, if you're reading this...I'm sorry to say we won't be making it home for Christmas this year. Unless you're willing to come out ahead of time and take L.E. back with you.

Wanna hear the worst part about this? We're traveling again next week, to Portland. Only it's just me and L.E. ALONE. 

No comments:

Post a Comment