When you are flying with young children, it quickly becomes an all-consuming endeavor. Luckily, in a matter of minutes, you can find abundant advice online. Articles and blogs will walk you through everything you need to know, from what to pack to how to eat dinner in the bathroom of your hotel room while your baby sleeps.
But a recent business trip and an even longer one abroad coming up (hold me!) illuminated to me just how different my mindset is when all I have to think about is... me.
Other parents may have also forgotten how to go about this, so here are some common tips for traveling families, adjusted to apply to your solo journey.
Leave yourself plenty of time. Skip through the airport unencumbered by car seats, strollers and 20 pounds of shelf-stable milk. If skipping isn't your thing, then enjoy a leisurely stroll. I'm not talking about the slow march of letting your toddler pull his rolling luggage for the first time. I'm talking about sipping on your latte that cost half of your plane ticket due to airport concession price gouging while you browse equally overpriced neck pillows.
Bring snacks. When traveling with kids, we all know any rules we have about what foods they can or can't eat are rendered moot. If it will keep them happy and behaved, it's fair game, so we load up our bags with every pouch, puff and cheddar bunny we can find. But this is of no concern for you this flight. Whether you prefer a salad or a Big Mac, enjoy the freedom to lower your tray and eat without worry of little fingers helping themselves.
Have plenty of entertainment. It can be hard to figure out what to do when you are on a flight alone. Your iPad (which is temporarily ALL YOURS!) is loaded with all of the bestseller books and Academy Award-winning movies from the last five years that you haven't gotten around to. You have a break from nursery rhymes for your own music, and the in-flight entertainment is a random episode of Parks and Recreation, which all of your friends say you would just love. You also brought your journal so you could map your goals and reflect on your journey through parentho----and you're asleep. Let the drool flow freely onto your new neck pillow.
Show empathy. You are childless on this trip, but there is bound to be a worried, frazzled, stressed parent or two in the airport. Give them the look -- the one that says "I have been there, it sucks, but you got this." And when you deplane and you walk by their seats to see the baby finally fell asleep after three hours of screaming, high-five the parents on a job well done.
Distribute goody bags. Similar to the point above, if you have ever thought about heeding this misguided advice, this is the time to do it. Make goody bags to support families traveling with kids, not to apologize to ones who aren't.
Reconnect immediately. Once you arrive at your destination, promptly FaceTime your family because you already miss those adorable, dirty faces. Don't worry too much about that scratch across your baby's cheek or how long Sesame Street has been on in the background. Everyone is fine.
Sink into the hotel bed that you share with no one, and get back to your book. The clock is ticking and the time is now to find out what that Gone Girl hype is all about.
This post originally appeared on Journey to Napa.