07/26/2010 05:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fear Of Flying... With a Toddler

I was nervous. I sharpened my peripheral vision to avoid making eye contact. I rehearsed pointed retorts to any possible snide remarks. My carry-on was bursting with just about every distraction and snack imaginable. Vacations are exciting, but getting there is no longer half the fun. We were leaving on a jet plane with our daughter, then 20-months-old.

Nobody likes to hear a crying, whining or screaming child on a plane, least of all that child's parents. But these days, said crying, whining, or screaming could actually get you kicked off said plane. Or, ridiculously, get the airline sued. And parents who are concerned about keeping their kids occupied and happy for the duration of their flight are finding that even that's not enough. For instance, you could even be removed from a flight for breastfeeding, the ultimate way to keep a baby quiet and content.

So what did I do to keep my daughter from disrupting our flight? I kept her mouth full of food.
I can rest assured that I'm out of the running for "Mother Of The Year" for what my daughter ate on that journey, but to quote a friend of mine, "It's not about good parenting practices, it's about surviving the flight!" I'd considered Benadryl, or Gravol, or other seemingly harmless medications often used by parents to sedate their kids for travel. However I read that they can make some children hyper instead of drowsy. I didn't want to chance it, so instead I kept her quiet with chips and cookies.

I steeled myself for angry glares from fellow passengers and hostile looks from overworked flight attendants, but I'm happy to report that none were forthcoming. In fact, some people were actually friendly! Nobody looked thrilled to have a toddler in their midst, especially in executive class (thank you frequent flyer points!), but the overt sighs and disapproving glances I was expecting never materialized. The comments I'd read online regarding flying with a baby implied that we'd be tarred and feathered in the departure lounge. Perhaps people are far ruder behind the anonymity of a computer screen than they'd ever dare to be in person.

If I was expecting a relaxing flight enjoying a good book or the in-flight entertainment for anything other than animated animals, I would have been sorely disappointed. Make no mistake, flying with a baby or toddler is work. Read up on baby travel tips. You need snacks. You need toys, books, and other distractions. You need diapers and changes of clothes. Use a good carry-on packing list so you don't forget anything. A pacifier is of no use to you if it's in the baggage hold. That's where you'll wish you were if you left it in your checked luggage.

The very idea of traveling with a baby or toddler seems so stressful to some that they either postpone travel until their child is older, or they leave the little ones at home. Here's the thing: Our kids won't remember the places they've been in their under-two years, but my husband and I will never forget the wonderful times we've spent away from our busy day-to-day life, watching our baby girl (and now her brother) experience new places, faces, flora, fauna and food. Our vacations aren't the same, they're better.