Flying with a 1 Year Old (San Francisco to Seattle)

After reading some of my previous posts, I knew I had to make a change. I’ve been relatively vague when talking about “traveling” with Abigail. Truth be told, there’s a HUGE difference between “traveling” and “flying.”

Traveling can include:

  1. walking
  2. driving
  3. busing
  4. training
  5. planing
  6. automobiling (couldn’t help myself)

In my opinion, traveling can be VERY easy with a 1 year old. I don’t want to sound too confident or anything, but I think I’ve mastered the 2 hour walk (by starting with the stroller, allowing for some Abby walking/playing time, and finishing with the baby bjorn because she needs some Mommy love).  I’ve conquered the 4-6 hour drives (once again, with stops in between and as much running around as possible).  We’ve even dominated 5 hours of wine tasting (if you need details on how to do that, send me an email).


Flying.  Ohhhh flying. It’s taken on a whole new meaning.

It used to be easy (relatively speaking, of course). At 3 1/2 months she slept most the time. At 5 months she slept some more. And at 8 months she was less tired but more willing to sit and play with Mommy and Daddy. I know I’m missing a flight in there somewhere but I can’t think of where we went…

Anyway…she’s been such a dream to travel with.

And then came Seattle. (she looks so innocent here…)

It was only a 1 1/2 hour flight each way yet each direction posed a new challenge. On the way there, she was sleepy and fussy. On the way back, she was being a complete ham and wouldn’t stop laughing/”talking” – she was SO LOUD. Happy loud, but loud nonetheless.  Funny to us…probably not so much to all the non-childbearing passengers on-board.

So…long story short, I thought I’d share a few tips with you based on what I learned on this particular trip (a flying trip) with a 1 year old.

What doesn’t work:

  1. High Expectations
    The minute you count on a flight going well, there’s an extremely slim chance it actually will. For example, before our flight I made the following comment to my Mom: “This flight is only 1 1/2 hours. That’s nothing compared to the 5 hour cross-country trips we’ve conquered. This will be easy!”  Nice try, Alison. It was as easy as running a marathon without any training.  I was pretty sure we were never going to land. Moving forward, I will set realistic expectations (for example, “I will probably be walking up and down the aisles of the plane with Abigail in the baby bjorn the entire duration of this trip”).  That way, if I’m only doing that drill for half the flight, I can consider it a monumental success!
  2. Planning a Trip Around Naps
    Let’s just say this doesn’t work.  I thought I was being brilliant when I booked our first flight to coincide with Abigail’s morning nap.  Instead of enjoying a flight with a sleeping baby, we flew with an extremely tired baby who refused to nap because she couldn’t get comfortable. Not fun. What was even more entertaining (I can say this now) was the fact that she refused to nap the rest of the day as well…that was super duper fun.  Oh the things you learn as a parent!

What works:

  1. Low/Realistic Expectations
    As I mentioned above, low/realistic expectations are the way to go.  If you prepare for the worst, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your trip “could have been worse/was actually pretty good.”  This one is going to be hard for me because I’m always hoping things will go perfectly, but I honestly think it’ll make a big difference in future trips.
  2. Patience
    Here’s another tip that I think is a good one but I also have a hard time with. I’ll be completely honest – I’m not the most patient person in the whole world. Luckily I was traveling with my Mom on this trip (see #4 below) and she has enough patience for both of us.  Since kids sense our stress, remaining calm when your wild one is freaking out (crying, screaming, trying to run away from your arms, etc) is key.
  3. iPad, Kindle Fire, or any other tablet device that has games designed for babies
    Thank goodness for my iPad!  That sucker kept Abigail entertained for at least 45 minutes on the way home.  She played some music, learned some animals and flipped through some pictures.  If you have one, bring it!  If you don’t, consider saving up for one because it’ll come in very handy.
  4. A Travel Buddy
    I’ve been on a fair number of flights with Abigail but I’ve yet to travel alone. Let me say this…I’m going to keep it that way as long as I possibly can.  Whether it’s 7x7xDaddy or my Mom, having someone help out (from going through security to keeping her entertained on the plane) is wonderful. In May when my brother will be graduating from Emory Business School and my sister-in-law is due with Baby Girl (within a day of each other), I will probably travel alone in one direction because I’ll be out there longer than 7x7xDaddy. I’m already feeling a little nervous about it…you better believe I’ll have a post about that trip!
    Oh, and make sure you bring your kid’s travel buddies as well…it would have been an even bigger challenge had we left baby behind!
  5. Snacks
    When all else fails, I’m not opposed to bringing out some snacks to keep Abigail preoccupied. We always travel with mandarin oranges (Cuties – Abby’s favorite), blueberries, some sort of crackers, puffs/cheerios, and lots of water!  Snacks work pretty darn well until they either run out or your baby loses interest (the latter happens to us much more often than the former). 

Those are my tips for now…I’m sure I’m leaving a bunch out but Abby’s nap will only be so long this morning and I still need to pack up some mini me papers for shipping!!!  Oh, and today is Abby’s 1 year doctor appointment…stay tuned for an update on that as well!

Question for you:  What works/doesn’t work for you and your family when you fly?


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7 Responses

  1. chris says:

    What a fun trip :)=

  2. Heather says:

    Our best flights have been when baby had his own seat. Granted we can’t afford to shell out for that extra ticket so it’s hit or miss but if you can afford it is absolutely worth it…especially on longer flights!

    I also think a seat near the rear of the plane is helpful since you can get up and walk around the back without having to pass by a bunch of people with your crabby baby. The flight attendants are also used to parents hiding out back there and in my experience are super helpful and fun with baby.

    We’ve done 10 flights (two all the way from Hawaii to the Caribbean) and each one was different and luckily none that I would consider a complete disaster. There are certainly “moments” but I agree that keeping your expectations low and your attitude in check makes all the difference.

    Other than that I agree a travel buddy and lots of snacks are key 🙂

    I’ve done the solo flight from Cali to Hawaii and other than trying to go to the bathroom the flight was as normal as any other. Definitely bring your carrier for that bathroom trip and like always expect to be doing lots of entertaining and walking those aisles.

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      Heather…this is all super helpful – thanks for the thoughtful comment! It makes me feel a little more confident about my upcoming solo trip with Abby! 🙂

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