Thursday, April 3, 2014

The one in which I traveled alone with a toddler, Part 1

So, this post is only... three months late. Let's just pretend it took me at least a month to recover from traveling with a toddler, and also remember that I've had morning sickness, and then the delay makes sense. Also, I started cramming a really, really long story into one absurdly long post, and then I decided to divide it into (at least) two parts. So stay tuned for part 2... because part 1 ends kind of abruptly.

Way back in October, I mentioned that Dan was scheduled to work a 12 hour shift on Christmas Day as well as on the two days before and the two days after. So after me agonizing over it (and Dan saying from day one that I should just spend Christmas with my family,) we decided that Lucas and I would fly down to North Carolina to be with my parents and siblings and my mom's side of the family for Christmas, and then Dan would join us a few days later.

The logistics of flying alone with a toddler were... tricky, to say the least. Dan had to work on Christmas Eve, so my wonderful friend Teri (and her two-year-old son) drove us to the airport. She offered to park and help us get through the doors, but it was approximately -437 degrees outside, so I had her drop us off at the curb rather than having to take her son out in the freezing cold. She had to sit there for at least 30 minutes entertaining the toddlers while I tried desperately to get the car seat out of the car, get it into the rolling car seat bag, and put Lucas in the ErgoBaby Carrier... all while I was completely unable to feel my hands because I had forgotten to wear gloves.

I just want to say this - the TSA gets a pretty bad rap sometimes. They pat you down and x-ray all of your stuff and only let you bring like half an ounce of shampoo on the plane. But if you walk into the airport with a toddler strapped to your chest and a gigantic backpack on your back; wearing a fanny pack (yes, I wore a fanny pack, don't judge me. It was cute. For a fanny pack.); lugging a suitcase, a car seat, and a stroller; and on the verge of tears, there is an excellent chance that a TSA agent will take one look at you and immediately rush to your aid. At least that's what happened to me. Also, a Delta airlines employee let me go to the "International Flights Only" counter because there was no line, and a second employee at the counter gave Lucas crayons and a coloring book and told me to "just relax, it's ok" when I had to go digging frantically through the backpack to get my driver's license because I thought I had put it in my fanny pack but actually I had put my health insurance card in there instead. Obviously.

I was going to have someone take a picture of me carrying 40 billion things for the purposes of your general amusement, but I did not have a spare hand with which to hand anyone the camera. Sorry for your luck. Just imagine a giant pile of luggage and toddler with my stressed-out face poking out the top, and you've got a pretty good idea of what it looked like

I had booked my flight with Lucas (who was just barely young enough to fly on my lap for free and didn't need his own ticket. Woo hoo!) for 10am on Christmas Eve. That way, we would land in just enough time to get to my granddaddy's place and put Lucas down for a nap. Except that when we arrived at the gate at exactly the right time (not so early that we would have to wait beyond what a toddler can handle, not so late that I'd be rushed and panicky,) they said our flight was delayed because of a mechanical problem with the plane. And then an hour later, they said that they were still waiting for the mechanics to come. And then an hour after that, they rolled out a cart with free snacks and beverages for us to enjoy while we waited. Not a good sign. Fortunately, some brilliant, kind, motherly soul had thought to put three of these near the gate:

Three hours after our flight was originally scheduled to take off (and after it was determined that our original plane couldn't be fixed so a replacement had to be found,) we finally boarded the plane. I had planned to write a super-helpful post on how to fly alone with a toddler without losing your mind (and I might still do that after we fly with him again later this month,) and I was going to include super-helpful pictures like this one:
This is the stuff I brought on the plane to entertain Lucas.
Plus a DVD player, Elmo DVDs and headphones.
And enough snacks for eight weeks.
But it turns out the thing that was the most helpful was that the person who was seated next to us was a really sweet lady (who - and this has nothing to do with anything - was an infectious disease specialist) who treated Lucas like he was her own grandchild... or a nephew she liked pretty well. She spread her coat on her lap and let him lay his head on it, she let him play with her watch and her magazine, and she generally helped to keep him entertained and happy long after he was supposed to be napping. It was wonderful. I'm pretty sure she doesn't rent herself out as a travel companion for flustered moms, though, so that's not really helpful to the rest of you. And if you specifically request to be seated next to an infectious disease specialist for your flight, you might end up being subjected to some additional screening by the TSA. So I don't recommend that.

We finally arrived in Charlotte well after Lucas should have been napping, and my dad and brother picked us up at the airport (and they were both sufficiently impressed that I had carried all of our worldly goods [or, you know, just our luggage] all by myself.) The highlight for Lucas was when we took an unbearably bumpy bus ride that served as a shuttle to my dad's car. I was very carsick - and probably an unpleasant shade of green - when the shuttle finally stopped, at which point Lucas piped up with "Again! Again!" Apparently he hasn't yet learned to recognize my "mommy's about to barf" face.

After that, we were off to see a bunch of my relatives... with a toddler who hadn't napped.

To be continued... (That's a dramatic way of saying "I'm going to talk about toddler puke and expiration dates in my next post.") While you're waiting for the dramatic conclusion of this story, don't forget to enter a giveaway for $100 in Mattel toys here.

You can read part 2 here.

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  1. I've had the same experience with the TSA. I've flown alone with Noah since he was 4 months old. We've lived in Germany and Italy so I was always flying back and forth. 99.9% of the time an agent would see me and help. Even if that just meant ushering me to the front of the security line. Flight attendants were always helpful too.

    I'm sorry you were car sick! At least you didn't actually barf? THAT would have been really bad. Traveling with kids is always a little crazy.

    1. Wow, you are a brave soul flying alone so often with a baby!!

      Yes, I'm so thankful I didn't throw up!! I get motion sick way too easily, though.

  2. I found the TSA agents to be very helpful when I was flying with my 11 month old daughter alone. My flight there was great, the way home was a disaster. Our plane was an hour late and then we sat on the runway for 2 hours. My daughter screamed the entire flight on my lap. The ladies next to me were very nice and tried to help but nothing worked. I'm pretty sure everyone practiced birth control on their trip after that flight.

    1. Oh no!! Well... maybe your toddler was just performing a public service??

  3. Yep, you looked pretty frazzled when we picked you up. Grateful you and the Luke-ster made it. Very true that he thought the bus was some sort of amusement park ride.

    1. I was definitely frazzled!! But it was worth it to see everyone. :)

  4. Stopping by from SITS, I've traveled with a toddler and it's tough. You are so lucky TSA was nice to you. On one of our flights they took my sons stuffed animal to put through the xray and then made him walk through the scanner by himself at barely 2 years old. But for the most part fellow travelers have been great and understanding.

  5. Oh my gosh! I just did a post about toddler road trips, but that was car-centric. I have never had either of mine on a plane. You deserve and award!! I am so happy to hear that everyone was so nice to you on your trip. I am also curious how the flight home went. I am visiting from the SITS link up -- cheers!

    1. Trips with toddlers are very stressful, but they do make a good topic for posts, don't they??

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. when i first saw that picture at the top i thought it was lucas sitting in an air duct (you know, from what i've seen of them on tv) and thought, "huh. that's one way to do it i guess." when i looked a little closer i realized that i'm an idiot.

    i remember when my brother was a toddler (either two or three) i told him that there was a bad baby window on every airplane and if he misbehaved a flight attendant would throw him out of it. (in my defense, i was thirteen or fourteen and apparently not old enough to realize that that is really mean and traumatizing.) anyway, he believed it up until he was like eight (long after i had forgotten about it.) i feel bad about it now, but i mean, he was really well-behaved on all our flights.