Fourteen Hours of Airplane Travel with a Toddler – A Diary

View from Airplane Window
The Cast:

The Mommy– a 30 year old woman, thirteen weeks pregnant
The Husband – a 32 year old man, who just wants to read his book in peace and instead has to carry all of the luggage
Wolfy – a toddler boy aged 2.5 years, “functioning” on seven hours of sleep

The Route:

Spokane International Airport in Washington to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia to New York’s LaGuardia to Burlington International Airport in Vermont.

5:30am PST (Pacific Standard Time) – At a Holiday Inn in Spokane, Washington an alarm on a nightstand rings and two adults (who weren’t sleeping anyway) spring into action. Is there enough coffee in the world to sustain a pregnant woman, an over-burdened husband, and a 2 ½ year old boy through a 14+ hour journey? Is it legal to give coffee or mild sedatives to toddlers? If so, which route should a parent go? Will this small family survive the journey unscathed? Well, I guess we’re all about to find out.

6:05am – Drinking bad coffee and taking pre-natal vitamins on an empty stomach = bad idea!! After we check in, I have to rush outside and gulp fresh air next to the nearest trashcan. We’re off to a good start.

6:10am – Those precious moments spent hovering beside the trashcan have put us behind schedule for making it to our flight. There is a giant line trying to get through security. Wolfy is standing around in his pajamas saying, “Mommy! Mommy!” over and over again like he has forgotten all other words. There are so many terrible smells. Why would someone wear perfume that smells just like Pine-Sol?

6:35am – The source of the Pine-Sol smell is revealed when the lady standing in front of me pulls out a giant bag of essential oils and proceeds to try to get through the check point. Our plane has now been boarding for over fifteen minutes and we might as well be three miles from our gate.

6:52am – On board and in our seats. Wolfy is in the middle. He pulls down both the arm rests and refuses to let either of his parents touch either one. My husband huddles against the window desperately trying to read his book.

7:14am – Plane is taking off. Wolfy, looking out the window, loudly exclaims, “I don’t want to land in that lake!”

7:39am – Wolfy refuses to change out of his pajamas. On the way back from the bathroom my stomach lurches- the smell of Pine-Sol is thick in the air, but the essential oil lady from security is nowhere to be seen. She was on a different flight. How did that horrible smell follow me onto this plane 30,000 feet in the sky? Then I see it, a lady a few seats from the back is reading an article about essential oils! And another lady has her computer screen opened to some essential oil website! Was there some kind of convention in Spokane? Did a bunch woman actually fly there to learn about this stuff? The world is full of mysteries.

8:06am – Wolfy has started asking, “Are we almost at our house?”

8:22am – My husband has started giving Wolfy coffee. I had been leaning more toward the sedative side of the plan, but I guess we’re going with the caffeinated toddler route instead.

8:24am – Wolfy has started loudly chanting/singing while destroying the safety card from the seatback and kicking the seat in front of him. Hmmm, I wonder why… My husband denies it could have anything to do with coffee since, “caffeine can’t kick in that quickly.”

9:35am – How long is it okay for a two year old to play a truck-themed iPad game? Wolfy has major meltdown because he needs his toy ambulance and we can’t find it.

9:45am – Second drink offering. Wolfy steals my bloody mary mix. What two year old likes spicy tomato juice? Answer: mine. Now I’m drinking his lukewarm, watery apple juice in a vain attempt to stay hydrated.

9:48am – Wolfy has polished off the bloody mary mix and reclaimed his apple juice. My husband tries to offer me the ice cubes dregs of his beverage and Wolfy steals that too. No drink for me.

2:02 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) – Plane is landing. I come incredibly close to throwing up. I have to put the puke bag around my nose and throat and take deep breaths. Saliva fills my mouth and I start shaking uncontrollably, but my fear of puking in front of a bunch of strangers somehow prevails. I am so fortunate not to be traveling alone with Wolfy. My husband holds him in his lap patiently letting him put the shade on the window up and down a million and a half times.

3:35pm – In the Atlanta airport. We get on the airport tram. Wolfy loudly proclaims that people are sitting in his seat at the front of the train. He needs his seat back! He keeps loudly talking about how they won’t move for the next five minutes. My husband is reading his book surrounded by our luggage.

3:56pm – We’ve just completed our third trip back and forth on the airport tram so that Wolfy can pretend to drive. My husband is halfway through his book.

4:16pm – We finally convince Wolfy to get off the airport tram and head toward our gate.

5:16pm – Exhaustion is settling in on all three of us. My husband buys a $5 iced mocha while we miss our chance to pre-board and Wolfy has a near meltdown.

5:20pm – We finally board our plane to New York. The whole airplane smells like fried chicken. It could be the Popeye’s that the three of us had for lunch. I’m praying that a certain two year old will decide to nap on this flight. He stretches out across the seat with my husband’s button-down shirt as a makeshift blanket.

6:07pm – Naptime achieved!! Wooohoooo!

7:47pm – Arrive in New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Wolfy really doesn’t understand the concept of waiting to get off the plane. He loudly exclaims, “These people are in my way! I want to get off the airplane but this man won’t move!!”

7:57pm – Wolfy is still wearing his pajamas from last night but now it seems normal again, except that the shirt is stained from a full day of food and drink and turbulence. Things are starting to breakdown. Everything takes on a dreamlike, misty quality. Wolfy refuses to walk to get to our next gate. My husband tries to carry him but Wolfy declares, “Only Mommy!” Then he accuses Papa of trying to steal his toy ambulance.

8:47pm – We randomly meet up with a close friend and her 18 month old boy. We realize we are even on the same flight. (Yes, Vermont really is that small.) It’s so great to not be the only frazzled parents within sight. I see my own exhaustion reflected in the eyes of my friend. Misery loves company.

9:42pm – We’ve boarded the airplane for Burlington, Vermont. It’s the last leg of our journey, thank God! We’re all in total survival mode. I’m sneaking M+Ms while Wolfy looks out the window at the airplane parked next to us. If I have to answer the question, “Are we up in the sky?” one more time, nothing is going to stop me from losing it.

9:55pm – I’ve switched seats so that Wolfy and I could be closer to our friends and so my husband could finish his 400 page novel. Watching two overtired toddlers fight to the death over a pretend phone is making me rethink this decision.

10:52pm – We’ve landed in Burlington, Vermont eight minutes early. Thank you, pilots!! “I want to get out, Mommy! I want to go outside!” Truer words were never spoken.

11:56pm – We arrive at my dad’s house and head straight up to our room. My husband and I are both tired beyond the ability to form sentences, but somehow Wolfy is wide awake. “I don’t need to sleep! I don’t need to sleep!” he says over and over and over again. He continues to repeat this phrase through the entire bedtime routine and even as both his exhausted parents lay down on either side of him. Our two year old is literally the last person in the family standing.

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