Key word: SURVIVED.
So, after this experience, I thought I would share some tips and pointers that helped us along the way. You know--sharing ideas and stuff. Here it goes.
Firstly: Know the seatbelt guidelines of the airline!
Cub was a ticketed passenger, which means his seat was paid for. Babies under the age of two do not need their own ticket--they can simply sit on your lap. But, given the length of the flight, we thought it would be best to have as much space as possible, hence, Cub got a seat. Only after his ticket was purchased did we realize that he would need to have an FAA certified car seat in his seat so he could be buckled in. BECAUSE! Every ticketed passenger must be able to buckle up legally. Ah yes. So, I brought Cub's infant car seat, that he still miraculously fits into, rather than his huge Britax convertible car seat. Thankfully, the flight attendants were very kind and allowed us to either hold Cub or put him in his seat during take-off and landing, so having the extra space paid off. I was worried he'd have to be strapped in the entire time, but that wasn't the case at all.
Secondly: Accept the reality of what is about to happen.
Whether in their nursery, on a merry-go-round, or on a plane, a one year old is bound to get bored after being in exactly the same place for almost five hours. Five hours is just a long time to be stuck ANYWHERE, much less a crowded and cramped plane. I went into it thinking that if we kept him entertained enough, he'd be an angel the entire time. But, the reality was, as I mentioned before, five hours is a LONG TIME. Cub got sleepy but didn't fall asleep easily on the plane. So, he had his moments of crying. And the crying TERRIFIED me and I felt so bad for everyone around me. Needless to say, we both spent some time crying in the lavatory in the back of the plane! But, all things considered, he really did do well on the plane. He cooed at the fellow passengers and played with his toys. He did as well as I would expect any one year old to do.
Thirdly: Be gracious.
As I mentioned before, Cub had some crying fits on the plane. And, as I mentioned before, it terrified me for the sake of the other passengers. But I learned that if I tried to calm him down, or if I walked him, or if I took him to the back, then the other passengers could at least see that I was aware of the situation and that I was doing what I could to rectify it. Obviously babies cry. It's what they do. But I do not necessarily expect all of the other passengers to understand that and give me sympathy. Let them know that you recognize that it can be frustrating. I even took the step of apologizing to a couple sitting in front of us. They were extremely gracious and told me he was doing great and that they could barely hear him (which I believed, since his cry is about as powerful as an aggravated kitten)! We Moms always think it is worse than it is. But it is always a good idea to remember those around you.
Fourthly: Dress the part.
I love wearing cute dresses. I just do. So, naturally, for the flight home, I slipped on a cute sundress and focused more on looking like a competent mom, rather than dressing like one. Not necessarily a great idea. I'm not saying you have to wear pajamas, but when your entire day is going to be spent either on a plane, in line, or in an airport, comfort is key. You never know where you're going to have to change a diaper or what you're going to have to bend over and pick up. People will know you're a competent Mom based on your child, not based on what you're wearing. Anyone can dress stylishly. But not everyone can take care of their children well while traveling! I found myself being very self-conscious when I had to sit or squat or do whatever else is required to handle a one year old! I wore jeans and a cute top (and my TOMS) on the flight down there, and I wish I would have done the same on the way home!
Fifthly: Bring out the toys!
We purchased a handful of toys and gadgets in the dollar aisle at Target and introduced them slowly to Cub throughout the flight. From slinkys to tape measures to ribbon, every toy we brought kept him entertained for at least a little while. Use that one toy as long as you can before introducing the next! We also brought along Baby Einstein, which Cub only watched a few times, but it was still helpful to have as a back-up. Also, utilize what is around you. Cub loved to play with the latch on the tray table, the shade on the window, and the safety instruction booklet tucked in the pocket below the tray. Utilize it all!
Sixthly: Familiarity is a good thing.
We brought Cub's "Mr. Lion" (a stuffed animal that Cub's grandparents brought him from Ecuador--it is made of alpaca fur! Very soft!) that he sleeps with at night. It helped to calm him down and also gave him something familiar to keep with him. Mr. Lion is usually ONLY a bedtime toy, meaning he can't have it outside of the crib (we don't want him dragging around Mr. Lion everywhere he goes), but we definitely made an exception for this trip!
Seventhly: Stay calm.
Just do. The baby feeds off of you. I was not calm at first on the flights. I was freaked out. I cried in the lavatory, after all! I thought it would be easier to hold it together, but, in reality, I was tired, too!! So, give yourself a break and take a deep breath. It's going to be fine.
There you have it! Helpful hints for a long trip with an almost-toddler. Babies change quickly and don't nap as easily everywhere the older they get, so get ready for an adventure if you fly for a long time.
So, would I do it again? Would I take Cub to Aruba?
Having him there with us was a blast. Sure, it was more work, but being able to experience such a cool place WITH him was awesome. We had my in-laws there as well, which definitely made it easier, too!
Have a lovely day!