We hit a big milestone in our family this past week. It wasn’t one of the “official” ones you’ll read about in parenting books, but for me, it was right up there with walking and talking: We had our first gear-free, “big kids only” flight.

Flying like the big kids!

Flying like the big kids! No sippy cups, no diapers, no problems!

Our family is scattered all over the country, and we knew going into this whole parenting gig that air travel would be a part of our lives as parents. This past week marked my six-year old’s 15th flight, and my three-year old’s 6th flight, and it. was. glorious. I remember flying B.C. (that’s before children), and thinking about how bored I was. It was all a big waiting game: waiting at the gate, waiting on the plane, waiting at baggage claim…then boom! We had kids. My older son’s first flight was at two months old, and I found myself longing for the “bored” feeling I once had! Every single second was spent cajoling, nursing, carrying, shushing, changing diapers, swaddling…it was exhausting. We added a second child into the mix, and we could no longer even take turns relaxing mid-flight. Both my husband and I were “on” from the time we left the house until we landed. Well, I’m happy to say that with my kids now three and a half and six years old, I’m back to being blissfully bored on flights!

We were all excited to spend Christmas with my husband’s family in Minnesota. Normally, I spend the week leading up to a family trip making list after list, packing sippy cups, extra clothing, diapers, wipes, snacks, etc. In the past, we’ve been careful to book flights around nap schedules and bedtimes, and have avoided layovers like the plague. This time? I did nothing, really. Our flight times were horrendous (think 3 am wake up on the trip out and 1am bedtime on our return trip!), I packed everything the night before, and it all went off without a hitch. We even had a layover! Here are the major differences we noted between previous flights and this one:

*Neither of our children naps anymore, so we didn’t worry about who hasn’t slept and needs to

*Our youngest can easily drink from a regular cup, meaning no worrying about dragging sippy cups thorough filthy airports (where they will inevitably be dropped 57 times)

*No diapers! Again I repeat, NO DIAPERS! (If you’ve changed a baby on a plane you will understand why I want to shout this from the rooftops.)

*Both kids eat real people food! While there are exemptions to the TSA liquid restrictions for baby food and bottles, it is so nice to grab a few granola bars and be on our way.

*No stroller to wrestle with at the gate check! Our three and a half year old has more energy and endurance than your average greyhound, which means you are walking, my friend! And for that matter, wearing your own backpack!

*Related to above, everyone carries his own stuff! We always check our luggage, and in the past, my husband and I have lugged all the baby and toddler gear in our backpacks. This time? My backpack contained my own snacks, magazines, and my wallet. The boys carried their own snacks, entertainment, and extra clothing in their own backpacks.

*You can reason with them! On our trip home, we faced a one hour delay. Ordinarily, this would be no big deal, but the fight was already late, taking off at 7:15 pm (bedtime for the boys). But when I said “sorry, the plane isn’t here yet, but you can watch a movie or rest until it is” they understood this, and refrained from whining and crying. Hallelujah!

So there you have it! I wish I’d known sooner that I’d once again need to pack entertainment for myself on plane trips, because 6 years ago, pacing the Detroit airport with a two-month-old, I wasn’t so sure. If you’re a frequent flier with little ones in tow, fear not…it gets better! 🙂

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