By the end of her first five months, my second daughter had been on:
- One 21-hour road trip (each way)
- Six plane rides
The road trip was about as horrible as you could possibly imagine. She screamed approximately 40 of the 42 hours we were on the road. And those two hours of silence were all thanks to these songs. In fairness to her, she was only five weeks old.
But the plane rides were AWESOME. I nursed at take-off, and she slept pretty much the whole flight. Every time.
While she slept, I read books written for grown-ups. I played endless rounds of Dots on my phone. I even got to snooze a little.
Then last week, I went to the DC area for work, which meant our 10-month-old would rack up four more flights.
Luckily, the cheapest flights happened to line up with her nap times.
We packed a few baby toys perfect for plane rides in her diaper bag, but I knew we wouldn’t need them.
Away We Go
After we got through security at the airport, I bought some mommy lit for my Kindle phone app—Life, Motherhood & the Pursuit of the Perfect Handbag.
While we waited by the gate, a middle-aged woman smiled at our daughter.
I smiled back and turned to my little one. “Can you say hi?” I said, modeling how to wave.
My daughter smiled but wasn’t feeling the wave, apparently.
Then the woman’s face fell. Like it was dawning on her that this cherubic little thing might be screaming bloody murder once we were all locked in a small enclosed space and hurtling through the air together.
She looked at me and raised her eyebrows. “Did you remember to pack a pacifier? Babies need it for their ears so they don’t cry.”
I wanted to say: “This ain’t my first ro-DAY-o.” But our 6-year-old was staying home with family, so how could this woman know this baby in front of her isn’t my first?
Then I wanted to say: “We don’t need a pacifier because I’m gonna stick my boob in her mouth.”
But instead, I said:
“I’ve got it covered, thanks.”
I smiled with just the tiniest glint of steel in my eye.
And then it was time to board.
Safety in Numbers
When we stepped onto the plane, I spied another family getting situated with their baby a few rows down. The baby looked just a bit younger than ours.
Then we got to our row and started tucking all our own baby gear into every nook and cranny, including all our favorite baby toys for plane rides.
Our girl was happy sitting in my lap while we taxied. A little wiggly, but happy.
As we started to take off, I nursed her.
Staring into her beautiful baby face, I smiled.
Waited for her eyelids to get heavy.
When she finished, I switched her to the other side.
After a few minutes, she popped off.
Still wide awake.
Wide awake and BUSY.
You Should Know This
Our daughter is not a calm baby. She’s always on the move. She was walking at 9 months old.
Someone trying to hold her in one spot for two hours? Not high on her list of favorite pastimes.
But no worries, we’re accomplished baby entertainers. We’d even researched “baby toys for airplane” ahead of time and amassed a big stash of toys proven to entertain babies on a plane.
Ty pulled a toy out of the diaper bag. A set of plastic keys that we hid weeks ago so she’d have a “new” toy for the plane.
She took the keys from Ty’s hand, held her arm out straight, and dropped them on the ground.
Okay, not a fan of the keys.
Ty pulled out another toy.
On the floor.
Again and again, until we were out of toys.
To be clear, she wasn’t crying. So it could have been worse.
But she was squirming, writhing, and bucking us like a bronco–with a few high-pitched squeals thrown in every 5 minutes or so.
After her first squeal, the woman in front of us turned back to deliver a pointed stare.
Heat pricked at my cheeks.
The other baby a couple rows up? Not a peep.
The next squeal was louder. The woman turned back again.
I avoided her glare by zeroing in on the seat back in front of me. How do you entertain a baby on a plane? Think.
I yanked the catalog out of the seat back and shoved it in front of my baby’s face.
She stopped squirming and opened the front cover.
Page after page after page.
For a whole seven minutes.
21 Free Baby Toys for Airplane Trips to Keep Your Baby Happy
And so began a quest for free toys within our 1.5 square feet of personal space.
Without these 21 things, our trip would have been completely miserable.
Instead, our flights were decent. Tiring but decent.
Next time you find yourself on a plane with a wiggly baby, try a few of these toys. You might just luck out.
- Skymall magazine
- 1 empty plastic water bottle, procured from the flight attendant
- 1 drink napkin
- 1 drink napkin, divided into 27 tiny shreds
- 1 cup of ice water, dumped on 1 mama’s lap
- 12 ice cubes
- 2 bags of peanuts
- 1 empty plastic water bottle, with 2 peanuts dropped inside to make a satisfying sound when shaken
- 2 empty bags of peanuts
- 1 seatbelt buckle, chewed on to soothe teething gums and to make mama cringe
- 7 animal sounds made when pointing to animals in the Skymall magazine
- A torn corner of a Skymall magazine
- 1 seat back tray
- 1 seat back tray latch
- 1 laminated safety pamphlet
- A game of peekaboo, with 1 mama hiding behind 1 laminated safety pamphlet
- 1 on/off switch on the overhead reading lamp, pressed approximately 1,571 times
- 1 airsick bag
- 1 airsick bag, filled with 27 drink napkin shreds, 1 empty plastic water bottle, 2 empty bags of peanuts, and a torn corner of a Skymall magazine
- 1 airsick bag, dumped out on the floor
- 1 puppet, constructed from 1 airsick bag and brought to life using an annoying high-pitched voice intended to get under the skin of the woman sitting in front who keeps turning back with nasty looks
As we deplaned our first flight, we came upon the other family with a baby, collecting their gate-checked stroller.
When the woman who had been sitting in front of us got up to the other family, she said in a sickly sweet voice: “Oh, your baby was so good on the plane.”
She shot us a final look.
Yes, and my baby is the spawn of the devil because she didn’t go comatose during the flight.
The Final Flight
We had one last hurdle.
For our final flight back home, we didn’t have seats together. I was in an aisle seat on the two-seat side of the plane, and Ty was in an aisle seat one row back on the three-seat side.
I’m not too keen on nursing in close quarters next to complete strangers, so we asked the gate attendant if we could get seats together.
Her advice? Ask the person sitting next to me if they’d trade their window seat for Ty’s aisle seat.
“People are pretty understanding when it comes to families sitting together.” She smiled.
When we lined up to board, I turned to Ty. “I think you should ask. People like you right off the bat. I kind of grow on people over time.”
He laughed. “Don’t sell yourself short. You’re holding a cute baby, so that can’t hurt.”
As we inched down the aisle, I looked ahead to my seat. The woman in the window seat was a little older than me, with kind eyes. She caught my glance and smiled.
I smiled back.
I got this, I thought.
Then I was level with her row.
“Excuse me,” I said.
She looked up.
“They didn’t give us seats together.” I turned back and gestured to Ty. “Would you mind swapping your seat for our aisle seat?”
She blinked. “I really wanted this window seat.”
“Oh,” I said.
So we got all set up in our two separate rows.
My face already felt hot, thinking of my right boob being clearly visible to the aisle seats all around me.
I took a deep breath.
Everyone’s seen a boob before, I told myself. It’s not a big deal.
But it felt like a big deal.
Then, just as I buckled my seatbelt, a young man in his 20s sitting in the row in front of me turned back.
“Nobody’s sitting next to me. You can have my seat,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I said.
“Yeah.” He smiled.
“Oh, thank you!”
We hurried to swap before he changed his mind.
I felt like giving him some money or maybe a candy bar to thank him. But I had no cash and no candy. And I thought an airsick-bag puppet show in his honor might not be up his alley.
We rotated through our magical collection of free airplane toys, and she was for the most part a happy camper.
And then, in the last 20 minutes of the flight, she started acting hungry.
I nursed her.
And then she fell asleep.
SHE FELL ASLEEP.
And stayed that way for the rest of the flight.
I pulled out my phone and went back to my mommy lit treat. I finished the last chapter just as the flight attendants asked us to put away our electronic devices.
Then I closed my eyes and thought of not a single thing in the world, while I held my sleeping baby.
As we walked out of the gate, we passed a woman who had been sitting in the row across from us.
She smiled at our girl’s sleepy face.
“Your baby was so good.”
I just smiled.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What are your best tips for how to entertain a baby on a plane? Share in a comment below!
Social media photo by Jyri Engestrom.