We just got back from a family trip to Dallas, and we’re quickly realizing that we’re nearing the end of traveling with Baby Flyer as a lap infant. She’ll be two in January, and that’s both the cutoff by the airlines, and honestly, she’s just getting too big for it!
So, it seems like a good time to look back and share the synopsis of our experience and give our two cents on what worked, and a few survival tips.
But first, a little about the weekend- We hadn’t had a family trip that we all went on in a little while and so we made good use of American’s earlier US fare sale, and scooped up a couple of $71 round trip tickets from LAX to DFW and back. We have family in Dallas, so it was a great excuse to go see them ‘just because.’ These kind of trips are even more special now that Baby Flyer is growing so fast, and really enjoys new and different experiences.
We flew together on the way out, and scored an upgrade a day ahead of the flight, so we were assigned seats together on American’s 787 Dreamliner.
They’ve been having some issues with the catering service at LAX, so we didn’t know what to expect on board. Since it was a dinnertime flight, we stopped off at the makeshift Admiral’s Club in Terminal 4 that’s been opened while the regular space is under construction. It actually worked out well, because they offer full prepackaged grab’n’go meals, along with bottled beverages and snacks, so we stocked up in case.
As it turned out, they did have some limited food on the flight, but it was similar to the options we brought on board. We both chose the salad option, which came with chips, and packaged cookies. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, and we arrived in Dallas well fed. Baby Flyer arrived well rested too, since she took a late nap through the first two hours of the flight.
We stayed with family in Dallas, and rented a car from National for the first couple days of it. We usually rent from National, since we can choose from the Executive Aisle. This time, the selection was underwhelming- mostly nondescript midsize sedans, a couple Hundai SUVs and some trucks (it’s TX). Yet, on a last pass through the row, we spotted a Volvo x60 hatchback… what?? Usually that make is saved for the up-sell area, but we took it and ran. It was a little more space than a sedan, and fun to drive.
The area of Dallas we stayed in has some fun family activities. We were walking distance to White Rock lake, which is a lake surrounded by parkland that incorporates plenty of running/biking paths, a playground, and most importantly, lots of ducks and other waterfoul. Baby Flyer still loves birds, so she really enjoyed a daily walk to feed them and watch them swim around.
CET had to leave to go back to work early on Monday morning, but CAR and Baby Flyer stayed a few more days. If you’re an AA flyer like us, you may want to go check out CET’s review of American’s 777-200 Premium Economy class on the return flight.
But back to business here. In our almost two years of flying with Baby Flyer, we’ve got some takeaways-
With the tiniest ones, before they’re moving and standing and walking, bulkhead rows aren’t necessary. What’s more important at this stage is easy access to your diaper bag and supplies, so having under seat storage is more important.
The Infant Block Trick- On most airlines’ booking software, when a lap infant is added to an adult ticket, the computer blocks a seat in the row, most consistently when two adults on the same reservation (one with the infant) are in the same row. We’ve had about 50% results with this getting us an empty seat in the middle. If you have an Expert Flyer membership, you can even see by the big ‘X’ through the seat when an infant block has been put in place by the airline.
However, this won’t work on full or oversold flights, as these blocked seats will be assigned at the last minute to unassigned or standby passengers.
Toys & More:
When Baby Flyer was younger we used to travel with two diaper bags, one mostly full of various extras and toys. Along the way we moved to just one, and now Baby Flyer has her own ‘travel bag,’ which is both handy and adorable.
She has a mini Fjallraven Kanken backpack. it’s just the right size to put her toys in, but doesn’t result in something too heavy to carry. We saw these EVERYWHERE this summer in Europe. She sometimes wants to wear it, but then quickly reconsiders, so we end up just tossing it over the handle of a rollaboard.
She has a few standard items that she takes in her very own bag. We try for things that are interactive, but low on mess and noise. Some of the current favorites-
Homemade Play Dough (click here for recipe– omit the spices if you’re not feeling the fall vibe).
This may seem counter-intuitive. It could be messy, could get dirty, etc, but hear us out. With supervision, some play dough can be a great option of last resort…like 10 mins before you’re set to give up and take your toddler to play in the sink in the airplane bathroom. We pull this out and make shapes and play games on the tray table. Using a little bit at a time does the trick, and can keep a kiddo happy for awhile, which is the entire point.
Thinking out of the box:
Sometimes you need to go that one step further to feel like you’re ready to fly with a baby, especially an older one. We’ve tried a few things…
First- New stuff. Anything new really. Head to the dollar store and buy some cheap new toys. Think one or more per hour of flight time.
Second- If your baby is still fascinated by unwrapping things, try taking the toys in your travel bag, and wrapping them in aluminum foil. Pull them out when baby gets bored, and let them peel off the foil to ‘discover’ the toy. Put all the wrapped toys in a gallon sized ziplock bag so you have somewhere to put the used foil in.
Third- All of the above. Pro tip- If you have an older toddler, we recommend throwing some new toys into the foil mix. The satisfaction of unwrapping combined with the new toy element may buy you even more peace & quiet.
All of these ideas also omit that either through the plane’s IFE screens, or ones you bring with you, if your kid has favorite shows or games, that’s always an option as well. Likely because we don’t really have her watch TV at home, Baby Flyer’s attention span for this kind of entertainment usually runs out after about 10 minutes or so, which leaves us needing to be prepared with other distractions.
As our time flying as a family of three in two seats comes to an end, we’re definitely sad. Not only because now we need to be more crafty about our flight planning, but also simply because Baby Flyer is getting older. She’s less a baby, and more a kid. It’s been an amazing journey to watch, and we can’t wait for the next chapter, but the backward glances into her early days always amaze and leave us plenty nostalgic.
May your flights be smooth, and your babies be happy this holiday season,
~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer