Every single blog post I read about traveling with toddlers talked about how easy it was if the parents brought the right tricks along with them. I am pretty sure the key word there is "parents." But really, even with two people, I think it still would have been a struggle.
The Flight to Ohio
We started off really well. We got up and out of the house on time (10 minutes late, but I had taken those 10 minutes into account when we were planning what time to leave). Hops dropped us off at the airport at 7:15 for our 9am flight. I strapped her into the umbrella stroller (I'll go into that on Part 2 of this) and we went on to check our bag. I had a bag that I checked, a backpack full of snacks and toys and a diaper bag with diaper things in it.
We were flying Southwest and had a very short layover in BWI with a plane change. I asked the gate attendant about the short layover and what she suggested I do with the stroller. I didn't want to take up precious time waiting at the plane to get the stroller before going to our next gate. She told me that by law they only have to give you 25 minutes to change planes. ....thanks for not answering my question.... I just decided to leave Hopscotch strapped in and to take the stroller with us. One thing I was not expecting, because we weren't asked for it on our trip last year, they asked for her birth certificate. I had it with me and they checked it both ways. I guess once kids get a little older, they need to make sure they're really under 2 when you're booking them as lap children.
That's right, she went as a lap child. I wasn't paying $500 for my child to have her own seat on the flight when she could fly for free.
Getting through security at RDU was a breeze. I had milk in a mini cooler in my backpack so I took that out and put it in a bucket, announcing it to the security agent. I put my backpack and diaper bag on the x-ray machine and then unstrapped H. After I had unstrapped her, I pulled the ergo out from under the stroller and the security agent came over and folded my stroller for me. Super nice guy! He put it up on the x-ray counter and let us go through. Once we were through, the same security guy talked to one of the other guys who came around, picked up my bags and stroller and carried them to a seating area for us. I have NEVER had such great security people before and was very thankful for that.
No pictures, please. Busy eating goldfish.
As we were walking to our gate, I figured I would ask another TSA worker what I should do with our stroller. She told me she could gate check it through to Cleveland. SOLD. I got the stroller tagged and we went to sit down and have some breakfast (snacks, whatever) at our gate.
We had priority boarding on our trip to Cleveland, so we had boarding pass #A2. How did we get A2? We bought our ticket 6 days in advance and paid the for the most expensive flight b/c that was all that was available. I decided to find an aisle seat, somewhere close to the front that wasn't the bulkhead, thinking that would be a good choice. Bad choice. ALWAYS choose bulkhead if you have the option to. Thankfully, even though our flight was full, we had a nice woman sit next to us on the plane, in the middle seat, who didn't mind if H kicked her or tried to steal her glasses or threw milk and goldfish on her. I'm sure the person in the seat in front of us loved having their chair kicked over and over again, though.
On our second flight, I made the decision to grab the bulkhead window seat. That made better sense. No seats to kick and space to stand, if the unruly toddler wants to stand. This flight had two extremely nice and friendly women on it sitting next to me. They put their legs up like gates on the bulkhead wall and let H run back and forth in the bulkhead area under our feet.
One of many moments of frustration.
Graham Crackers. One tip that DID work for us.
The Flight Home
In the airport before the flight? Great! Not as much help from security but we still got through without issue. Lots of smiles, not many scowls from other passengers. Mind you, it is now Monday morning at 8:30am, lots of business travelers headed on their way at this time of day.
Saying hello to .... outside.
She wanted nothing to do with the Ergo or the stroller after security so, she walked all the way to our gate and around...and around...and around our gate for an hour before I finally plopped her in the Ergo for boarding (when she fell asleep).
The flights themselves? Miserable. I packed better this time (more on that in Part 2) but I had one cranky, unruly toddler on my hands all morning. She fell asleep in the airport while we were waiting to get on our flight, in the Ergo.. She woke up 10 minutes into that flight and wanted to move around the entire time. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hushing and a lot of offering snacks and drinks. Sometimes the snacks worked, sometimes they didn't.
The 10 minute flight nap before the tantrums began.
The picture above is the only one I took on our flights back to RDU. Things were no longer amusing me enough to take pictures. The flight wasn't novel anymore.
She wanted nothing to do with toys. She just wanted to run around the plane like a wild banshee, pulling magazines out of the magazine holder and putting them back in. Except, she couldn't get them back in. So, she would get frustrated. When I would try to help, she would have a meltdown. We did have an open middle seat between us and the passenger in the aisle (we got the bulkhead again) but all she wanted to do was climb on the passenger in the aisle seat. She wanted nothing to do with being stuck in an airplane.
I ended up letting her sit and stand in the bulkhead area as much as she wanted - even during take-off and landing (with my hands on her) because I just couldn't keep her still on my lap.
- It wasn't her ears, she was fine on the way up and down.
- She was just a toddler, being a toddler. It was very, very difficult as her parent, trying to help her, but also trying to keep her from bothering other passengers.
- She doesn't like sitting in a dirty diaper and about 20 minutes before we landed, she had one. This caused a major meltdown (understandable) that didn't end until I changed her.
- On that note - I did the thing I never thought I would do. As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, I stood up, plopped her on the seat and changed her diaper. It was the fastest diaper change EVER. I keep plastic bags in my diaper bag for dirty diapers so I got it into that as quickly as possible, to hopefully keep the smell down. At that point, though, most people were getting off so I wasn't too worried about what people thought of us.
I was SO HAPPY when our flight landed in RDU and we could head out to see her Dad who was picking us up.
In Part 2, I'll go into what worked, what didn't work. I'll also talk about what I did differently for the second part of the trip and what we won't do in the future.