The Deal Mommy

Babies, toddlers and flying: the real poop

I’m going to put this right up front: if you’re never going to have kids, if your kids are over 5, or if you just don’t want to know what is coming, PLEASE skip this post! I am certainly not discouraging you from traveling with young kids, but I DO want you to be both mentally and logistically prepared. Just like there are some things out of a horror movie about childbirth you can’t know unless you’ve been there (ladies, back me up on this one), one aspect of flying with young children gets glossed over by travel guides: how much babies POOP flying.

Sure, the guides might say “bring a change of clothes” or “don’t forget not to carry on some diapers and wipes!”, but they fail to mention the obvious: air pressure changes cause gas, and children’s bodies are sensitive to the changes. Add the stress of jet lag, dietary changes, lack of routine, and plain old stress and you have a perfect storm for a blowout.

Diaper changing is not fun in the real world, but THEN you have to manage it on an airplane, in a lavatory, which may or may not have a changing table, with one hand on a squirming (by now likely screaming) bundle of joy and the other frantically trying to locate the diaper rash cream, which is buried in your carry-on underneath goldfish crackers, crayons, and all the other cr@p the book told you to bring on the plane to placate your child!

Deal Dad learned early: on our very first flight with Deal Kid, aged three weeks. Confidently he strolled down the aisle with DK, his spare supplies all ready to go for a change. Fifteen minutes later he returned disheveled, battle-scarred, and needing a drink. Apparently Deal Dad forgot one of the rules of infant, um, movements: they are never-ending. So as Deal Dad was mid-change, Deal Kid projected full force all over the mirror, sink, and lavatory like a machine gun. Deal Dad did his best to frantically clean up the battle damage while still holding to Deal Kid. (NOTE: NEVER touch anything in an airplane lavatory!)

My flight into Dante’s inferno came courtesy of Air France. I’ve never written this story down, but told it at a dinner with some 20-something frequent flyer friends at Chicago Seminars last year. By the end of it, a couple of them were seriously considering getting neutered. So be warned!

Just after Deal Kid turned 2, I took him solo for a week to Marbella to meet up with my parents, who were living in Europe. We had a lovely vacation, but the jet lag really took a toll on DK and he got a nasty diaper rash to boot. By the end of the trip, he was not sleeping well at all because every time he got a tiny bit wet, the rash would put him in pain.

To come home, I had an Air France flight from AGP-CDG, a three hour layover in CDG, then CDG-IAD. This was 2005, before the fancy new terminal. In Malaga I gate checked my umbrella stroller because I knew I’d need it for the layover. Besides one change mid flight, the two hour flight to Paris was uneventful.

Forever burned into my brain: the word for stroller in French is “poussette”. I know this because “Ou est ma poussette?” was the question I asked when I got to Paris and discovered my stroller had been checked all the way to Washington! To be honest, the stroller wouldn’t have been much help in the old Charles de Gaulle as I’m sure many of you remember…there must have been ten flights of stairs (carrying a now tired, cranky, and wet-rashy 2 year old and a wheeled bag that couldn’t wheel) between the domestic terminal, security, and the International waiting area. The one thing I managed to do in the three hours besides change diapers was buy a bottle of red wine at duty free.

And now to Air France 28…AKA the 8th circle. Deal Kid had the window and I had the middle seat in coach on an entirely full flight. We settled in and Deal Kid fell asleep…whew, I thought. This was the calm before the storm.

As the plane ascended and my ears began to pop, so did Deal Kid’s intestines. This is what I, and the surrounding four rows, heard:

(me standing up, whispering) “excuse moi, Madame”
(Walk 17 rows to lavatory, Deal Kid screaming whole way, change diaper, return to seat)
(me sitting down, whispering) “excuse moi, Madame”

This entire process took about 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen just once. It happened EVERY HALF HOUR, like some sort of deranged cuckoo clock:

(me standing up, whispering) “excuse moi, Madame”
(Walk 17 rows to lavatory, Deal Kid screaming whole way, change diaper, return to seat)
(me sitting down, whispering) “excuse moi, Madame”

The Poop clock’s battery ran out an hour before landing. Upon landing, getting through immigration, retrieving my bag and poussette while still holding on to Deal Kid, I let go of the Duty Free bag…spilling red wine all over myself. A perfect ending to a perfect flight.

And that, my friends, is the real poop.

8 thoughts on “Babies, toddlers and flying: the real poop

  1. Miles, Points, and Mai Tais

    We’ve been fortunate enough to not have any blowouts on the airplane. We did have one at a restaurant though- had to walk all the way home and hose the kid (and the stroller) off in the driveway. Good thing it was in Hawaii where it was warm!

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      It’s only a matter of time. We’ve had the hose-stroller on a cruise (that was fun), and then there was the time Deal Kid came off LAS-IAD in a United blanket because he blew threw outfit #3. Ah, good times!

  2. Lucy

    Luckily another mom warned me of the effects of cabin air pressure on poopy diapers. So before my baby’s first flight, I made sure to dress my daughter in bloomers (over the diaper) and pants. The trick was a life-saver! We’ve been on many more flights since then, and I wouldn’t say we were travel pros now; some new disaster always awaits us on the next flight!

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      Hi Lucy,
      I’m SO glad someone warned you…I wish someone had warned us! Bloomers are a great idea.

      I have to say, the hardest for us in flight (diapers non-withstanding) wasn’t baby, but 3-3.5…something about that combo of strong opinions and lack of self control. You couldn’t pay me to go back to that stage! I get it why you hear most about kids that age being thrown off planes.

  3. Kim T

    First flight with our son was at 6 months of age. I was TERRIFIED he wouldn’t react well to the altitude and was prepared . . . minus not thinking twice about checking his car seat.

    My husband was meeting us at the airport for mid-tour leave from Iraq and we were all catching a flight to MS to see family. We were paying for the flight out of pocket, but deemed the expense necessary to enjoy every minute of the 2 weeks we would have together, and skip the 6 hour drive. (Are you seeing where this is going yet?)

    Flight CANCELLED. No reason given. But we were rebooked on the next flight . . . In 8 hours. Someone had dropped us off at the airport, so not only did we not have a vehicle, we didn’t have a car seat or our luggage. Seems it all was put on a completely different flight scheduled to arrive prior to our rescheduled flight.

    Some 4 hours later, I was near hysterical after having cried the entire time begging any employee to PLEASE do SOMETHING for us – a rental car with a car seat? A flight via a different airline? A local hotel with a cab ride to and from with a car seat.

    I suppose they finally got tired of me and called in a head manager of sorts – Phil at Delta is a name I will never forget.

    Phil made things happen and we were booked on a puddle jumper via a different airline, albeit to an airport some 50 miles away, within an hour. This meant we had to ask the folks that were picking us up to travel an additional hour, buy a car seat prior to picking us up, and take us to Walmart where we each got a sweatshirt, pair of pants, and pajamas, diapers and wipes for the boy.

    They happily obliged, and we washed our one outfit every night. Had the airline hold our luggage at the (original) airport as we would have received it the day we departed.

    We gave the new car seat to the airline as a donation when we were dropped off, just in case anyone else had the same issue one day.

    But the story isn’t over yet. Our son who flew so wonderfully to MS, was grrrrrumpy on the way home. No matter what we did he would not stop crying. All that would calm him a bit was to walk up and down the aisle of the plane holding him. For 2 hours.

    The thing that really touched me though was a lady, who when getting off the plane, stopped at our seats and said “crying babies usually irritate me on flights. But seeing you with your calm demeanor and obviously trying so hard to be courteous to the other passengers, it didn’t bother me at all. Good job mom, and thank you for trying.”

    Still feeling quite inept as a mother (with 6 months of experience under my belt) that woman will never know how she warmed my heart. That was my defining moment when I thought to myself “I CAN do this mom thing!”

    My son is now 7 and loves flying – even the oh so long flight from JFK to Barcelona.

  4. Julie B.

    Okay, seriously reconsidering bringing the 3-week old cross-country in April after hearing these horror stories! LOL I’m not as concerned about myself as I am for my fellow travelers having to deal with it!

    1. thedealmommy

      LOL. As long as you’re prepared, you’ll be fine. Just bring DOUBLE the outfits and diapers you think you’ll need.

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