It Was Our Turn for a Miserable Flight with a Baby

Nov 5, 2016

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Yesterday we took Baby Toddler S’s 20th flight in her first almost 16 months on this planet. While some flights have been easier than others (and this one was particularly less-than-fun), I think you could reasonably state that we hadn’t yet had a “flight from hell” or one of those epic flying with a baby experiences that makes you hurt a little inside for the parents and little ones. Some of that success came from being prepared and strategic, but a lot of it was luck.

flying toddler
Happy enough flying toddler

After almost 7 years of traveling with little ones we finally had some legitimate bad luck in the sky.

Here are tips to survive a baby’s first flight.

Our flight yesterday was a simple enough early afternoon nonstop flight from Houston to Washington DC on United. We had seats together, we were in E+, we were towards the front of economy, and we were as prepared as we could be. I am attending a blogging conference in DC this weekend, and my little ones and parents were along for the ride. I knew we would probably have some sleepy toddler problems since we would be in the air during naptime and it was unlikely she would fall asleep on the plane since she is well past that “sleep anywhere” phase, but I thought we would be okay.


On the flight we watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, played toddler games on the iPad, we swapped back and forth between Mom and Grandma, we snacked, we nursed, we snacked some more, and while the toddler was in the redline sleepy zone, we made it through roughly the first 2.5 hours of the flight mostly okay.

Tired, but content on the flight
Tired, but content on the flight

As we started our initial descent into DC, I pulled out my final trick in the bag to keep the little one happy…playing with Snapchat filters. I know, it sounds weird, but seriously try it. I loaded up a puppy dog ears filter for her to see in her reflection on the phone, and as I was watching the phone (because what is cuter than a toddler with puppy dog ears)….I saw something that was decidedly not a part of the filter appear in the reflection.

Out of her mouth what I saw coming was not the oversized puppy dog tongue that is a part of the filter, but something different. Something liquid. Something massive. Something stinky. OMG. No.

I looked away from the phone and down into my lap and there was the sleepy toddler covered in vomit. As fast as I could register what had happened, it happened again. Let’s rewind for a second and note that a key part of keeping the sleepy toddler entertained on the flight was snacking, nursing, and snacking some more.

I’ll skip an overly graphic retelling, but let’s just say that thanks to the snacking, nursing, and snacking some more this was not a minor event that could be categorized in the “spit up” category. She and I were covered. There were legitimate puddles in my lap of what was a few seconds ago in her stomach….where it belongs.

Not only were we covered, but she was screaming. Not the “I’m kinda tired and whiney” noises she was making periodically, but full. on. screaming. I had never before been the mom on a plane with a totally screaming child, but you can now add that merit badge to my diaper bag, and I couldn’t blame her one bit for her screams.

Dealing With a Toddler Disaster Mess in the Sky

Obviously I was concerned about the screaming both for her sake and for the others within earshot, but I actually had a more pressing priority. My first job was to try and deal with the ‘puddles’ that were covering both of us before they spread further. I did what I could using a combination of wipes, airline napkins (oh they stood no match), the airsick bags that nearby passengers were passing our way, and select sections of the in-flight Hemispheres magazine.

Because there was no saving her outfit, I then striped her down to her diaper and contained her destroyed outfit in a ziploc baggie I thankfully had in my diaper bag. Pro Tip: always have a large ziploc. Roughly as we were touching down I had a very tired, almost naked, slightly unwell, but no longer full on screaming baby that I then passed along to Grandma.

I still had to deal with the mess covering me, but at least we were now on the ground. We were stinky. We were grimy. I wasn’t sure what to do with the puke covered clothes and Boppy cover for the duration of our trip, but we survived. I was so grateful we weren’t heading east over the ocean to Europe or something and instead were heading to our hotel.

Helping Others When Their Kid Goes Nuts in the Sky

I already had tons of empathy for parents and little ones when things go wrong in the sky, but now of course I have even more. I’m glad that we were close to landing when this happened, but for those 10 minutes or so that she was legitimately going nutso there was nothing more I could do. I couldn’t place her on mute or pause in that moment, but I was thankful that at least other passengers didn’t add to the inherent stress of the situation by throwing us attitude. Or if they did, I was too busy to notice. Instead they passed air sickness bags our way and said things like “I’m a Grandpa, too, this might help…”

In case you are curious about what happened to the contaminated clothes…they were sent out with the hotel laundry for same day cleaning (fingers crossed). Shockingly things like “nursing Bobby cover” and “contaminated baby clothes” weren’t listed as options to select on the hotel laundry sheet between more standard offerings like slacks and dress shirt, so we’ll see how much this costs!

We have had many good and uneventful flights with a baby and young kids, but it was just our turn for a bad one. I hate that it happened for everyone’s sake, but we all lived and after a couple showers and sending out the laundry we no longer smelled like garbage. I think. Fingers crossed our flight home is much less eventful.

Have you earned your “I survived a miserable flight with a baby” badge yet?

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