Today, PBS's The Rundown answered the question "Can families with small kids cut the boarding line?" (answer: a qualified yes) and that reminded me: I wanted to blog about flying with babies and toddlers.
I would not describe any of these flights as "restful," but I would not think of them as unremitting festivals of trauma. Much of the credit goes to the daughter, who obligingly sleeps for half of any given flight. The rest of the credit goes to obsessive preparation -- and some judiciously applied bribery.
Let's talk bribery first, preparation later. The picture to the left shows the constituent parts for what I call "Trixie Treats." They are:
- Soft earplugs, available for about $0.65 apiece at your local Ace hardware; these are to recognize that sometimes, kids are loud.
- Ghirardelli chocolates, or some other swanky candy; these are to try and offer an unexpected lagniappe for the flight.
- 4-bar envelopes (3 5/8" by 5 1/8")
- Customized stickers with a photo of the child and a goodwill message (I get mine at Zazzle; if you've got a decent photo printer, you can make your own). I want people sitting near us to see my kid as a human being, not "some baby that will probably act up on the flight," and the most effective way to do that is to present her ASAP as "Trixie, who is excited to travel," and not "some baby."
And then I make up 20 Trixie Treats: an envelope with a sticker slapped on the front, earplugs and a piece of candy inside. I use ten per each flight. Seven are for fellow passengers (three for the row in front of me, three for the row behind me, one for the person sitting next to me) and three for the flight crew in coach.
(I stash each flight's worth of Trixie Treats in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag. As a bonus, you can use the bag for storing child-related detritus on the flight, then toss the whole thing upon landing.)
Because I do ask gate agents if I can board early with my small child, I've got a five minute head start on my fellow passengers. I do two things: put a Trixie Treat on the seat of each passenger close to us, and have the baby hand a Trixie Treat to each flight attendant as we introduce ourselves.
I cannot emphasize this enough: Go out of your way to introduce yourself and your kid to the flight crew and let them know that you'll be doing everything you can to keep your child from disrupting the flight. These people are so often on the receiving end of crazy, entitled, dismissive behavior from other passengers. Be the exact opposite of that.
The worst thing that's happened when Trix and I met the flight attendants with our Trixie treats has been mustachioed hipster indifference; the other 23 flight attendants have all been incredibly nice.
The passenger benefits to Trixie Treats have been more diffuse. There was the twentysomething woman who loudly said, "Oh great, I'm flying with a baby" before cramming two pieces of Ghirardelli into her mouth, but there have been people who leaned over the seat after we landed and said, "Trixie, you did so well!"
That's what I was aiming for: People around us who would not be sending us psychic hate-vibes for the entire duration of the flight. Trust me: It's worth a little effort to buy people's amity in the air.
Tomorrow: I tackle preparation for flying with a small fry. With bonus Evernote checklists!