Fast forward 23 months later, and flying with Scarlett is not something I want to do more than I have to! I do have some tips to make the experience less stressful that work for me.
1. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. I do believe snacks are the key to keeping children happy in certain situations. My daughter is the queen of snacks and will happily gobble down any cracker or anything covered in cheese. Keep bags of your child's favorite snacks or dried fruit handy. It will keep them occupied and happy.
2. Toys and books. Buy new small dollar store books or toys to keep your child busy while on the plane. Don't introduce them until you're actually flying, so they'll have something new and unfamiliar to discover. If you bring the same old toys and books, it might not hold their attention as long. Obviously, bring their absolute favorite small toy though.
3. First Flying Experience. For my daughter's first flight, we made sure to ask the Jet Blue flight attendant for a pair of wings to document her experience. The tiny wings had an adhesive backing and I was able to secure them in her baby book under the heading "first trip." Her boarding pass with her name on it is underneath! I'm big on documenting anything new with my child, and I know she'll be interested in seeing it one day. Make sure you get a pair of wings for your child's first flight.
4. Apologize 174,000 times in advance to everyone around you. Your child is bound to scream, cry, or throw a massive fit. You can't avoid this, and yes it is very embarrassing. Scarlett's had meltdowns on the plane due to not being able to sleep because it's bright and loud, or just because she's generally unhappy. This is not a fun situation and all you can do is hope it passes quickly.
As your child gets older and you fly with them, it gets harder to physically control and restrain them. Scarlett loves to stand up on my legs and jump and laugh and basically disrupt everyone around her. I'm sure the woman in front of me enjoys Scarlett drumming on the back of her headrest. She doesn't like to sit down and just be still, but what toddler does? Scarlett was able to fly for free until 2 years old. The downside of this perk is that a child under 2 is considered a lap child and must literally stay on your lap. After 2, they are no longer free and must be in their own seat.
5. Keep their ears happy. The air pressure as you fly makes everyone's ears clog and uncomfortable. Giving a child a sippy cup of water or a pacifier upon take-off and landing can make them more comfortable. The sucking motion helps their ears with the pressure and both mom and child will be much happier!
Hopefully these tips will make your flight as stress-free as possible, or at least alleviate some stress.