Last year, I took my 8 month old baby on an 8 hour plane ride to America. The flight out there was during the day, and the return was overnight. Needless to say, we were worried.
I must’ve read 30 different articles titled “Top Tips For Taking Your Baby On A Plane” in preparation for the flight and by the time it rolled around, I felt relatively confident that I could get through the whole ordeal unscathed. Armed with a suitcase full of toys and snacks I boarded American Airlines Flight 1550.
If you were on that flight, you probably remember me as the good-looking, competent, has-her-shit-together mother of the impossibly cute baby.
Hazel made it through the entire flight without so much as a whimper. Sure, it was hard work for us, constantly entertaining her, but it had paid off. We received several (well deserved) compliments on our parenting skills as we deplaned.
“No, this isn’t her first international flight.” We told people with mock-humility “This is the sixth country she’s visited so far.” Never mind that we drove to most of those places.
In the line for customs, my husband and I wore smug smiles and said things to each other like, “See, that just goes to show that if you put the effort in, a plane ride doesn’t have to be such a big deal.”
Once we arrived in North Carolina, we told anyone who would listen about the flight. We proudly repeated the compliments we’d received, sometimes with added embellishments to emphasize how great we were at traveling.
I thought to myself, “I should write a blog post about taking your child on a plane. People could use my help and advice.”
Side note: That post is still saved in my drafts folder. I am too embarrassed to share it because of what comes next, but I can tell you it includes gems like “Pack one new toy for each hour” and “bring your baby carrier, it’s helpful to go for a walk up and down the aisle.”
A few weeks later, we went to the airport with the same toy-filled case ready to brave the flight back. This time though, we weren’t nervous at all. We were great at flying. Our child was a citizen of the world, after all. It was an overnight flight as well, so Hazel would be sleeping most of the way. I even optimistically packed my Kindle.
Things started out ok. We read a few books, Hazel had her dinner and then dozed off to sleep after her bottle. We flashed confident smiles that said, don’t worry-we got this, to the passengers around us.
Then, the cabin crew came crashing through the aisle with dinner trays. Margaret*, a woman I still plan to track down and murder, leaned over my shoulder and shouted, “Chicken or fish?”
That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Hazel did not want chicken or fish, she wanted to sleep. She also wanted to scream. I wanted to die and also throw both the chicken and the fish at Margaret’s face.
The worst came about 45 minutes after the “Chicken or Fish” incident. Like any good parent, I began damage control immediately. I pushed past Margaret to the back of the plane and tried to rock Hazel back to sleep. I thought I might have rescued the situation when Hazels eyes started to drift shut once again.
“It’s how you deal with problems that makes you a great parent”I thought to myself as relief flooded over me. “I’d better include this in my blog.”
However a few minutes later Margaret, who I now believe was against me from the start, snuck up behind me once again and shouted, “MA’M! I am trying to get through service here, and you’re in the way. You need to go back to your seat.”
Cue baby crying.
I stomped back to my seat and began to rant to my husband about Margaret’s incompetence.
At this point, the passengers around us started to look up from their chicken or fish to see what they would be dealing with for the remainder of the flight. The scene wasn’t pretty.
As my child wailed, I screamed obscenities about the uselessness of the cabin crew to my husband-who looked around nervously, told me to take a break and took our child to the back of the plane to try to calm her down.
1 hour later, he returned with our daughter no closer to falling asleep- though her voice had become considerably more raspy from screaming for so long. He informed me that Margaret would not allow him to stand back there any longer because there was a risk of turbulence. We were confined to our seats by the seatbelt sign, which remained on FOR THE REST OF THE FLIGHT (approximately 7 hours).
After another hour of screaming, I got to my breaking point and decided to stand. I would rock Hazel near my seat and sit down if I felt any bumps. I could feel the other passengers urging me on silently. “Do it, if you fall and hit your head, at least it will be quiet.”
I looked defiantly at Margaret, stood, and began to rock my baby to sleep.
But Margaret was no fool, and as she simply could not miss another opportunity to upset my baby, she barged down the aisle and told me to sit down.
Once her back was turned, I loudly remarked on what a colossal bitch Margaret was and informed my fellow passengers that she, not me, was the reason they would have to put up with a screaming baby for the remainder of the flight. I made a point of loudly commenting on Margaret’s involvement in my child’s distress to drive the point home, but this did very little to assuage their anger.
When the flight was over, my husband and I took our now sleeping daughter off the plane with our heads bowed. We avoided eye contact with the angry mob of passengers and pretended not to hear the snide comments from those seated around us.
We both agreed that there is definitely some element of luck when it comes to flying with a child and vowed never to fly American Airlines again, unless it’s the cheapest- in which case we would do it no question- because we’re not rich enough to have principles at this time in our lives.
So, with that episode behind me- I thought I’d write a real list of top tips for flying with a child for those of you with enough dedication to read this far down the page.
Top Tips For Flying With A Small Child
1.Don’t do it
2. If you have to do it, take a lot of snacks and toys. Also, take an iPad. Even if, like me, you’re above that kind of parenting because you read on the Huffington Post that it might destroy their imaginations, bring the iPad. We didn’t bring ours because I assumed our awesome parenting skills would be enough, but instead I found myself jamming Hazel’s head between the seats trying to get her to watch the iPad of the travelers in front of me at one point.
3. Don’t make goody bags with earplugs and candy for the other passengers. When your child is screaming, a bullshit note and a sweet is going to do very little to make them hate you less.
4. Use the money you saved by not making gift bags for the plane to buy a cocktail or 3. Everyone already thinks you’re a bad parent because your child is going insane, so you might as well give up completely.
5. Don’t let Margaret give you any shit. Just kidding you have to do what they say. Thanks Osama.
*Margaret’s name has been changed in case others feel the same rage that I do