I am in the throes of preparing for a trip to South America with my almost one-year-old son Jack.  I've made lists of what I need to pack, investigated what medications we need to ward off typoid (more on this later!) and booked the dog for a stay in a kennel that's nicer than the accomodations my husband and I shared on our honeymoon. The one thing that looms over my head is the 6 hour flight to Ecuador with a very squirmy Jack on my lap.
Jack and I just arrived back to Louisville after a weekend trip visiting my sister and brother-in-law. We were in Atlanta where the big news story was about a zebra that escaped from the circus (I kid you not) and held up rush hour traffic. There's never a dull moment in Hotlanta.
I was a little nervous about flying all by lonesome with Jack, but to my surprise, it went pretty well. Even though we had some delays, Jack slept through most of it of the flight. While en route, I picked up some advice from fellow travelers and I'm feeling a lot more confident about our airplane trip to Ecuador next week.
Here are my tips for keeping airline travel with children as smooth a ride as possible:
- Ditch the stroller and babywear- If you're not familar, babywearing is when you use some type of carrier (a back pack, wrap or sling) to "wear" the baby. I've always found strollers to be a huge hassle in airports, especially when you have to go up and down escalators. Babywearing is much less cumbersome and also keep your hands free to do other things. It's also worth mentioning that almost all airlines allow you to check baby devices like strollers and carseats for free but...
- Find out first if the airport you are traveling from has stroller "express lanes"- Some large airports (like Atlanta) have super-duper stroller express lanes that allow you to literally walk straight through to security. So even though I checked my stroller going to Atlanta, on the way back I took it straight to the gate. The lines this morning just to get through security were over an hour long. My stroller allowed me to by-pass all of that madness.
- Ask for help- It's not easy to hoist a suitcase into an overhead bin when you're holding a screaming baby who is trying to poke you in the eyes. Don't be afraid to ask for help. People may not outwardly offer it (in my opinion less out of rudeness and more because of being oblivious), but they are usually more than happy to lend you a hand when you are traveling with children.
- Be prepared- The boyscouts know what they're talking about. This one seems like a no-brainer, but I'm always amazed how underprepared people are when traveling. Anticipate possible delays (like my two hour delay this morning) by bringing extra food and toys for your child.
- Give your kid something to suck on during takeoff and landing: Babies and young children often have a difficult time on planes because of pressure that builds up in their ears and causes pain during takeoff and landing. The sucking motion helps alleviate this pressure. Nurse your baby or give them a bottle of pacifier during takeoff and landing. For an older child, try giving them a lolly-pop or even a piece of gum.
- And finally, keep a sense of humor: Traveling is always stressful, let alone with children. Try to maintain a sense of humor. A friend gave me this idea when you sit down on the plane and the people give you the "oh no, I have to sit next to a child" look (I know it well because I used to give it out to others before I had a baby): break the ice with a joke. Offer to buy them a drink if the baby cries. It usually makes fellow passengers laugh and builds a sypathetic comradery.
So two flight down, several more to go before my arrival a week from today in Ecuador. I'd love to hear more tips from those of you who have also braved airline travel with children.
On a final note, I have to add that Standiford Field is one of the easiest airports to travel through with kids. The people who work there are helpful and friendly, and the airport itself is very accessible. Even better news for Louisvillians with and without kids...I found out today that the airport is getting a Heine Brothers soon!
You might also enjoy: The Healthy Heart Beat-- giving yourself the "run around" 
Photo: flickr: Lars Ploughmann