01/30/2018 15:35 EST | Updated 01/31/2018 12:24 EST

Here's How To Avoid Being 'That' Parent On A Flight

I have traveled alone with my two and a half year-old son on over two dozen flights, and learned a lot in the process

My child is only two and a half years old and has already been on over two dozen flights. We have flown between New York and Toronto countless times, and been to Paris, Spain and Jamaica. As a single mom by choice, I have always traveled alone with him, even on red eyes. Here are my top tips for flying with a baby or toddler.

Just do it

Do not retreat into an adventure-less life just because you are sleep deprived and your brain has turned into animal shaped pasta. So what if you are nursing a colicky baby? If your baby has colic for seven months (like mine did,) and you are going to be miserable no matter where you are, you might as well be miserable with a Spanish pastry in hand. Just do it. Live the fabulous life you always promised yourself.

shot by a friend
Traveling with a baby is worth it if it involves pastries

Breastfeed (or feed) anywhere, everywhere and all the time

Assume your baby is going to be fussy. They're away from routine, familiarity and parents who are chill. Breastfeed, feed and carry that baby wherever and whenever. I know most people are discreet about breastfeeding in public, but I try to mother as if I'm living in a matriarchal utopia. Breastfeeding is natural and if people take issue with it, that's their problem. I'm not going to let their ignorance detract from the happiness of my child. I have been breastfeeding my son openly his whole life, and have only received negative comments about three times. (One of which was on this flight to Spain, but so be it!)

Your brain might not work very well and that's OK

Cut yourself some slack. You might forget the diaper cream, your lipstick and even your manners at one point. Yes, of course you should try not to tear someone's face off if they wake your baby up before you board the plane. However, if you are a tad snippy, so be it. Nobody understands how hard this is except for you. Any judgment about how loud my baby is needs to be met with a little attitude of my own. We don't live in a child friendly society and that's not my fault. You do not have to apologize for creating another human.

Do what you gotta do

Eat ice cream, download apps or videos, feed your baby potato chips, let them crawl on the dirty airport floor, stuff your face with chocolate, grab a glass of wine and ask strangers for help. You are a queen and this is your day.

Everything is a toy

Go to the dollar store ahead of time and buy shiny things with lights, miniature animals and balls. Probably the best airport toy I have every brought is a hand sized beach ball. It's easy to travel with and kicking it around the airport gives your baby much needed exercise. I was surprised how entertained onlookers were. A few actually commented on what a smart mother I am to bring a beach ball to the airport.

I shot this myself
Horseback riding with my almost two year old in the Jardin du Luxembourg

Gather plastic spoons, napkins, bags, a box of wipes (anything you can find!) and demonstrate ways of playing with them. Be inventive and your baby will not be bored. The airport or plane is your child's playground, so go head and milk the novelty for what it's worth.

Also, please don't feel guilty about screen time. On one particular flight my son was being really difficult. As usual, screen time settled him down, for the most part. I was then able to chat with an elderly man sitting next to me, and asked him how they parented on flights before portable videos. "We hit them," he said, point blank. So, although your baby's brain might be melting from five hours of screen time, at least you aren't resorting to old school corporal punishment.

Make new friends

Do make friends with the people sitting next to you on the plane. They will come in handy if you need to go to bathroom if you're traveling alone. Or, you can always ask that sweet flight attendant (who cooed at your baby as you boarded) for help. Once I had a grumpy neighbor who asked at the start of the flight to be moved and the attendant obliged. It was a good move for both of us. You want to surround yourself with child-friendly people, whenever possible.

This kind neighbour helped me when I needed to go to the bathroom.

​​​​​​Is it worth all the effort? Well, on my flight to Spain I didn't sleep, but we made it. The jet lag was exhausting, and being in a new city with a colicky baby was challenging. However, had I stayed home with my screaming infant, I would have been bored and miserable in a different way. I have fond memories of walking around Madrid with incredible pastries, and hanging with Spanish friends in parks. It was hard, but enjoyable, much like parenthood.

More from Athena Reich:

The main thing I have learned from all my traveling is that the flight is never as bad as you think it will be. Yes, on occasion you have a nightmare experience that involves diarrhea, but as soon as you arrive you forget about it. And, sometimes your baby surprises you and sleeps through the entire flight while you catch up on old movies.

Either way, if traveling is something that is tempting you, just do it. Be the rockstar parent you know you were meant to be. Creating memories is what it's all about.

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