Ready for Takeoff


I could feel the laser beam eyes of other passengers burning a hole in my head as my two small children wailed. We were trapped inside a metal tube in the sky with a few hours to go on our cross-country flight to California. I lived in fear of this moment. I prepared for this moment. But nothing could help me now. Except waking up. It wasn’t just a dream but an anxiety-fueled nightmare.

Months later I can say my nightmare was truly a figment of my wild imagination.

It turns out my four-year-old and 18-month-old are terrific travelers. While flying with small children wasn’t a breeze (there’s so much stuff!), it was a smooth day. I almost have to write it to believe it! That’s why I’m here today. Despite my fears, we were ready for takeoff, and your family is too!

The planning for our summer trip to visit my sister and her husband in California started a year ago. As many ideas do, it started with a small seed planted in our minds. We had a three-year-old and a nine-month-old so the idea bordered on crazy. We could barely survive a trip to the grocery store some days. How could we survive a trip across the country? My sister’s persistence and a nephew on the way were the final push to book our tickets on a Southwest flight. I realize some of you have flown with your small children many times (maybe even internationally!) so this may seem like small potatoes. But we finally made the leap, and now it was time to prepare.

I turned to Pinterest as all sane/insane people usually do.

There were countless lists of toys, tricks, activities and more for flying with toddlers. Then I started my real life research. I asked my mom friends. There was endless advice ranging from creative tricks to giving your kids Benadryl before boarding. Along with the advice came a serious feeling of dread. As usual, my anxiety turned to action. I began preparing special busy backpacks with small new toys and a bag of special snacks. I hunted the aisles of the Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target, Aldi and even Mast General Store (that was a gold mine by the way!). In addition to those busy bags, I even wrapped small toys so they could unwrap something every hour or in a moment of desperation. Clearly, I’m not above bribery under special circumstances! 

The day of our flight came and each step felt like an accomplishment.

Drive to the airport. Check! Ride shuttle. Check! Go through security. Check! By boarding time, I felt my anxiety lessen. My kids were even having fun. The junior officer stickers the TSA agents gave them probably helped! My four-year-old stepped up and insisted on carrying her backpack and pushing little brother in his stroller. Meanwhile, my super-star husband muscled the carry-on bag and the car seat. When we got on board I sat with my son, and my husband and daughter sat in front of us. (So, when baby brother started kicking the seat it wasn’t such a big deal!) The flight amazed our four-year-old. She would yell out exciting information like “Mom, we’re flying at 30,000 feet!!” I doubt every passenger appreciated that, but it certainly made me smile. As our flight descended, I was reminded of something a former co-worker told me. She said, “It will be fine! Your oldest will love it and the little one will be fine.” Of all the advice, that proved to be the most true. I was so busy assuming the worst that the “fine” scenario never occurred to me. My daughter only needed to “unwrap” one present when she started to get restless. The other toys I wrapped I tucked away for stocking stuffers and Easter baskets. Of course, we may need them sooner now that we’re talking about flying to see relatives in Texas.

Suddenly the cabin doors are open to more wonderful family adventures. My husband and I now know the sky is literally and figuratively the limit! I hope the fear of flying with your small children doesn’t hold you back. Safe and happy travels to you all! You ARE ready for takeoff!

Have you flown with small children? What was your experience?



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