Nothing brings out the best in strangers like witnessing men try to take care of children. They tend to think you need help – and even more, that you deserve it. Like a dude with a baby is automatically in over his head and crying out for a lifeline. You can take it as an insult, or, if you’re me, you can take the help, because hey, it’s free help, right?
Never does this mentality come in handy more than when you’re traveling. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire airport terminal to get that child to Grandma’s for the holidays. Soak it up, fellow gay dads, because this is where the new BFFs come out of the woodwork to assist you. Not that you need them, of course.
Drew and I have made the LA to New York journey with the kids four times now. That may not qualify me as an expert, but we haven’t lost a kid yet, so I’d say I’m good enough.
With the holidays coming up, I thought I’d share a few of my secrets.
Make a packing list. It’s easier than it sounds. Just write down everything you use in a 24-hour period. Burp cloths, bibs, formula, your “Daddy’s not messin’ around” voice. Figure out how many of each you’ll need during your flight and how many you’ll use for the rest of the trip. Use this as your checklist before you leave – and again before you return home. Next time you travel, it gets easier, because you can use your previous list as a jumping off point. As your kids get older, you’ll need less stuff with every vacation. And if this sounds too anal for you, hold on, because it’s about to get way more anal.
Ship, borrow and sacrifice. Getting your kids through an airport is tough enough. Don’t take the entire haul from your baby shower with you. Ship diapers and food to your destination. Borrow a pack-n-play from a relative or neighbor wherever you’re headed. Do without the bottle warmers while you’re gone. Do everything possible to minimize your haul.
Number your key items. A key item is anything that’s not attached to your body that needs to arrive safely at your destination. Why do you need to number them? Because you’d be surprised how fast they add up. Here’s our key item list from our first trip with the kids:
3. Bennett’s car seat
4. Sutton’s car seat
5. Drew’s carry-on bag
6. My carry-on bag
7. Diaper bag
Gate checked item:
8. Snap-n-go stroller
9. Drew’s checked bag
10. My checked bag
11. Babies’ checked bag
12. Bennett’s car seat base
13. Sutton’s car seat base
Start with the items you’ll be carrying on the plane, then gate checked items, then checked items. Any time you make a transition, do a count off to make sure you have everything you should.
From the condo to the car and the car to the airport, we counted up to 13.
From the check-in desk through security, to the waiting area, to the gate, we counted up to 8.
Once on the plane, we counted up to 7.
Keep a list of what the numbers correspond to in case you can’t locate something. And if you lose track of #1 or #2, it’s time to get on the airport intercom.
Pack food you can serve easily. You know how hard it is to do something as simple as crossing your legs in a cramped airplane seat? Well, don’t even think about slicing up strawberries and swirling them into little Joey’s oatmeal. Keep things as simple as possible. Chewy cereal bars. Snacks in no-spill cups. Those wonderful little squeezey pouch fruit purees.
And splurge on the pre-made formula in cans. It’s much easier than mixing your own from the powder. Don’t worry. The TSA won’t make you taste it. Just tell them you’re carrying it, and they’ll run it through the X-ray machine.
Get a greeter if you can. Did you know that, for a couple hundred dollars, you can hire someone to meet you at the airport and help you all the way from the curb until you get on the plane? These wonderful human beings will deal with skycaps, whisk you to the front of the security line, gain you access to the first-class lounge and come get you when it’s time to board. They’ll push your bags on a luggage cart, help you gate-check your stroller and even sweet talk the gate agents into letting you pre-board. Yes, traveling with your kids is already costing you a fortune, but why not make this your Christmas present to yourself? I assure you, it’s worth it.
Let the kid watch TV. Your day-to-day job as a parent is to raise a healthy, well-adjusted, intellectually curious child. For many of us, that means keeping SpongeBob to a minimum. But when you’re on a plane, your job is to get to your destination without you or the kid melting down. So go ahead and rot their brain if it helps.
For space reasons, try to avoid bringing a laptop or portable DVD player. Instead, load your iPhone with Yo Gabba Gabbas and bring your power cord so you can keep it charged.
And finally, the most important rule of all…
Don’t feel guilty if your kid cries. There’s a crying baby on every plane. There’s also a jerk who glares at the kid’s parents or sighs audibly to register their annoyance. Admit it: You’ve been the jerk plenty of times. Now you get to be the parent. It’s the circle of life.
But look around. While your baby is crying, you’re also getting lots of supportive looks from parents like you who’ve been there. And from this point on, that’s who you’ll be. When you’re getting off the plane, strangers will approach you to tell you how good your baby was (even if he wasn’t), because that’s what parents do for each other.
It’s really a beautiful thing – sniff, sniff.
Have any secret tips of your own? Help a Daddy out, and leave me a comment!