Oklahoma City family fun sometimes takes us up, up and away.
"I would never fly with a baby. How can you possibly take a baby and a toddler on a six-hour flight?"
I have heard similarly incredulous statements from fellow parents since we had our oldest eight years ago. Since then, we've added more children and flown with them since they were old enough to have a passport. International travel is a given in our family, as my husband's entire family lives in Costa Rica.
We have a home away from home with family anxious to see them; getting there is less comfortable but flying has never discouraged me from taking my children to see their grandparents. If family is the most important relationship we have, then the path to see relatives also has its place, so making the trek is a small price to pay for some awesome memories and stronger ties.
Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport has some features that make flying more comfortable now than ever for families, as do many airports remodeled with families in mind. We went to Costa Rica over Christmas this year and here's what I found helpful for traveling with Sam, 8, Isaac, 3, and Gabriel, 11 months:
- Ask for help at security: Babies and children don't have to remove their shoes to go through security. Let the TSA agent know you're traveling with a child; he or she can usually point you in the direction of the fastest line. Put your baby's milk and any other liquids/gels like hand sanitizer in a quart-size plastic bag that's easy to pull out. You'll have to fold your stroller to send it through the x-ray machine. I haven't had anyone ask me to remove my baby from his wrap carrier yet. If you're struggling with too many items to keep track of as you also balance your baby, ask for a private screening instead.
- Look for the nursing lounge: After you go through security at Will Rogers, go down the main hallway to the left, near the food court where you'll also find Sonic, Salt Lick and Moe's. There's a nice nursing lounge complete with a lounge chair and privacy curtain, a plugin for pumps and a diaper changing area. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the space was clean and easily accessible. I would much rather change my baby in a small space reserved just for parents and little ones where I can also feed him discreetly.
- Pack food and baby wipes: Meals on flights are becoming a thing of the past and there wasn't any food for purchase on the ones I took this holiday season either. Throw some light baby snacks into your carry-on but skip anything that requires a spoon. Also pack baby wipes; I haven't been to an airport yet with any available at the myriad of stores that abound in scarves and aspirin. Once you're in the airport, the beverages purchased on-site can usually be taken on the plane. If you're planning to make up formula, buy bottled water right there rather than struggling with bottles already mixed before passing security. Having a bottled drink for yourself or an older child can also make the wait for the in-flight drink cart seem less eternal.
- Plan for the wait: I'm not a big advocate of screen time but waiting in an airport is one of those occasions when kids get a pass. Whether you're showing up especially early for an international flight or just need to wait it out during a layover, know that it's part of the deal and plan accordingly. Let older children pack their own backpack, complete with puzzle books and novels. My kids' favorite way to pass the time? Riding the tram just to ride the tram, whether we're in Dallas or Atlanta or Miami. We go together and explore other terminals to make the time go faster.
Once you're in the air, everything feels better somehow. Here are three tips for flying with babies:
- Pack plenty of toys: Go for new, interesting and easy to pick up. Keeping your baby entertained is the name of the game and the in-flight movie isn't going to do that for you at all. I collect and store age-appropriate toys from kids' meals throughout the year to pack in our carry-on because it's no big deal if they get lost. Ask for extra spoons, cups or other disposable flatware from the beverage cart. I kept our baby busy for more than an hour with three plastic cups during a bumpy flight and consider that a win.
- Make friends: I usually start out the flight introducing myself and my baby to the people sitting nearby. I always let them know that he usually does great on flights but if they're going to be annoyed, I'll gladly change seats before we start taxiing down the runway. A few people have taken me up on that offer and that's fine with me; I'd rather sit by someone who doesn't mind a baby nearby. It's just more comfortable for everyone. If I have a choice of seating, I try to sit in the last row, on the aisle. Learning the flight attendants' names and being friendly also is worth the effort when your child starts to get restless. They've offered me extra arms, space to play, snacks and toys that might not have appeared without some courtesy.
- Buy a nursing scarf: Hands down, the most useful item I've found for feeding a baby on a plane is a nursing scarf. It doubles as a baby blanket and can also help keep you warm when not in use. The extra large scarf is also less likely to get left behind since wrapping it around your neck as an accessory is part of the design.
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