Survival guide: Flying With Your Terrible Two!

Yes, we are sort of entering what most parents dread- ‘The Terrible Two’ – or what Dr. Greene calls the First Adolescence. It’s widely believed that most kids are defiant and unruly around the age of two and that travelling with them is a nightmare. Though I’d like to believe my little one is a Terrific Two, I do get a shocker now and then. My recent experience flying alone with my toddler was one of them. There’s not much you can do when your baby decides to throw a tantrum. But there’s a lot you can do to make traveling a do-able affair.

So I’m listing down a few mistakes I made this time at the airport here so that you don’t make them:

1. Check in Online– Most airlines allow an online check-in . Which means you can print your boarding passes, select and confirm your seats and register your baggage with the airline. So all you have to do at the airport is drop your baggage at the counter and head to the gates. I have never made use of this facility. And this one time I really felt I should have.

2. Be Early– Being late with a toddler would be a disaster. We had on our hands more than enough time for him to lie down and offer his Sashtanga Pranams at every counter and corner. But being earlier would have meant getting ahead of the long lines. It was a trying time going through the immigration with a sleepy and therefore cranky baby. Had I been early enough, I could have made use of the airline lounge, or the play area . And that would have been a better place to help the baby sleep if he is tired , rather than trying to stay put in a long queue.

3. Carry on Luggage– The key to travelling with a baby is to keep your hands free at all times. Unless it’s a Trunki, which is a ride- on suitcase for kids (how awesome is that) , your carry-on luggage is going to be exactly what it is – Baggage. I’d rather carry my baby than that!

4. What To Wear– Black is usually considered ideal for flying. But if you are a Mommy, may be black isn’t too great for you. You never know when your baby might decide to spit some milk on you and let’s not even talk about diaper blow outs. Wear camouflaging prints or stripes or chevron. Oh and POCKETS!! – Wear something with deep pockets to stash away your documents, phone and also a candy if needed.

Flying with a baby

5. Keep talking to your Baby– I placed our sleepy-cranky hero on the security counter and went to fish the laptop and phone out of my bag. And by the time I placed everything onto the belt, and came back to collect him, Baby Boo was in a puddle of tears. Devastated that his li’l Teddy bag was gone, taken away from him by the Blue Auntie ( the lady in the blue uniform). He calmed down as soon as he saw it coming from the other side. But I felt that those tears could’ve been easily avoided, by explaining to him what to expect. So that’s a lesson learnt. Keep talking to your baby constantly so that he is well informed about what’s coming next.

I shall also share with you a few smart ideas that worked for us inside the plane so you could borrow them next time:

Usually our champ falls asleep for at least half the journey. But this time he stayed awake throughout the 4 hour flight and did not even whine once. How?

1. Carry the lovey– Is there a cuddle toy your little one is attached to? Make sure you have it! Or else always ask for something on the plane. Most airlines carry some toys for travelling infants and toddlers. Nothing could get better than receiving a new toy from a pretty lady/ handsome uncle.

2. Finger puppet– This was the very first toy gift that he received and it’s always been a hit. Learn a few finger rhymes to go with your puppets. ( Where is Thumbkin and Daddy finger are his favourites)

Flying with a baby

3. A book– If you can get hold of an activity book, that’s best. But any book with pretty pictures would do. The airline magazine served as our ‘search n find’ book for most of the journey. He was eager to find me the Blue Plane, the Air India Maharaja, and the Namaste Aunty.

4. A magnetic writing pad– These small, easy to carry boards, with magic pens can keep them busy during long flights . And the best part? No ink stains , no messy hands. You could also carry crayons and pencils. But I prefer the magic board. At this age my baby is a bit clumsy when it comes to handling too many pencils and it rolls off easily. And fetching the pencils every time in a plane might not be very pleasant.

5. A bunch of stickers– Life saving ! An empty bottle and these stickers and he drifts off into a world of his own. I even dozed off for a while this time in the flight as he played with them.

6. Snacks– Carry your kid’s favourite snacks. Raisins or candied berries ( you can also buy them at the airport) are perfect. Since its chewy, they finish real slow in their mouth and it’s sweet. It might also help with airplane ears. And if you get the raisins in a small Tupperware container, it will also serve as a toy when the snack is done.

Although none of the above is going to guarantee that you will have a peaceful flying experience; you can always come prepared. I have always believed that much of it depends on your own attitude. So when none of your tricks work, that is when you: 

1. Switch on the Gandhi mode– Find your inner peace and give a hoot about what others might think. I put on my horse blinders, this time, and held my little one tightly, till he got tired of crying. Sometimes that is all you can do.

2. Focus on the Fun- Act excited and happy all the way. That’s what I did when he decided to commando crawl all the way down from the clearance to the gates. I had to pretend play ‘Behind enemy lines’ with him till we reached the target. And I learnt that , when YOU are cool, so are the spectators. They start thinking it’s good fun.

3. Ask for help- People are good and they want to help. For a good long distance in the queue, I did not realize that the young lad behind, was rolling the carry on luggage for me. The family who stood in front of us tried their best to humour my child so that he would stay calm. The gentleman who sat right next to me didn’t mind playing peek-a-boo with my son.

See? It’s not too bad after all. And I’m all ears to receive more tips and advice from other frequently flying Mommies. Tell me your stories, ladies!

Thushara – A fairly new Mommy who is always at Target to a highly inquisitive little guy who inspires her to be a better entertainer, chef, nurse, maid, playmate and much more every single day. She tries her best to keep up with the big world wide web on @dhruvacharitham and @stayatTargetmom

  • Shobna S. Iyer

    Well-written, engaging post. Sometimes I feel grandparents know all this through hindsight considering they traveled with more pre-planning with meals and larger families. Our generation seems to have to learn from scratch.

    • Meditating Lion

      Thankyou Shobna! We learn all the time! And I do believe that’s what parenting is all about!