My 16 month old’s guide to a delightful in-flight experience

Or, the mile-high menace

Or, mastering a gentle inner-thigh caress

Or, the complete guide to tasting strangers’ shoes… and getting away with it

Listen, toddlers, mastering the art of a fun flight is a careful balancing act. You must find that level of fun that teeters just on the edge of tipping your mom’s (and the flight crew’s) tolerance into the no-fly zone. You must ensure that your escapades are, for all their daringness, still a better option than listening to you scream.

Needless to say, the meltdown option in always available to you.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will help inspire you for your next flight. These strategies are designed for long-haul flights; we recommend being a perfect, quiet angel on shorter legs. It’s the most certain way to lull your parents into thinking they can handle a cross-country or even trans-continental jaunt.

Ready? Dive right in …

Pre-flight considerations.

Be ever alert. Threats to your plan abound: unless she still cowers under the watchful eye of screen-time-shamers, your mom will try to bribe you with Daniel Tiger. DO NOT FALL VICTIM. Resist the screen, no matter how intriguing the plot line about how to communicate your food allergies at school. If you play this right, you’ll get that screen time later, at your destination, when her energy and fear of judgment have been obliterated.

She might also have a new toy or snack as a “surprise” for you. Please, mom, that “surprise” is so overdone. Also, spoiler alert, there are way more fun toys to be discovered on a plane.

Moving sidewalks: just one of many exhilarating warmup activities.

Boarding the plane.

When your mom finds your seat, the time is ripe: spill that coffee she purchased knowing the chances of that sweet, sweet caffeine making it into her bloodstream were nearly zero, but which she precariously juggled through the airport and onto the plane along with the diaper bag and the roller bag and your wiggly body and her secret stash of toys and snacks. Make sure to splash that coffee all over neighboring seats, her clothes, and everything she’s carrying, including yourself. She’ll get distracted using up the rest of her baby wipes mopping up coffee and her caffeine-withdrawal tears, and you’ll have time to unload the seat back pockets and distribute the literature, perfectly beaded with stray drops of coffee, to surrounding rows. You’ll probably also have time to finger paint the window with the spilled coffee she hasn’t mopped up yet.

Establish dominance

As the plane is taking off, make as much noise as possible and move as much as possible. You’re setting a precedent here: if you sit quietly now, she’ll have less incentive to tolerate your next move. Unless, of course, you want to nurse, in which case you should make sure to bob back and forth between sides every few seconds so that she is as exposed as possible. Just think, she will be so absorbed in trying to alternately cover each breast, she’ll have reduced capacity to restrain you.

This is an ideal time to let your neighbor know who’s boss: give them a few well-timed kicks and jabs so your mom feels guilty and the neighbor gives her a stink eye.

Get the lay of the land

Focus! Now is not the time to be admiring the view.

Once you’re off the ground, or done nursing, squirm away from your mom and, even if you have literally never crawled in your life because crawling is for babies, army crawl up the aisle, occasionally stopping to turn back and smirk at her. Your coffee-soaked t-shirt will handily collect stray crumbs and hair and other detritus along the aisle. When she tries to pick you up, immediately execute FULL LIMP BODY and scream at the top of your lungs.

Trust me, she’ll let you keep army crawling.

Being on your belly gives you the best access to a few key in-flight amenities: wayward peanuts and other people’s purses. It’s best to casually remove an item or two from each purse you pass, just to deflect your mom from trying to pick you up again. She’ll be so busy handing people their lost pens and phones and slobbery wallets that you’ll be able to make significant progress down the aisle. If you get distracted, remember, follow the trail of peanuts. Especially the honey roasted ones. The “lightly salted” ones are so not worth the effort.

When you get bored with ground-level pursuits, stand up and start walking down the aisle. This step is all about speed and noise. Happy shrieks are less likely to cause interventions but still garner maximum attention from the entire plane.

Make new friends

If the mom hot on your tail looks away for even the tiniest second, to apologize to a stranger or to re-assemble the last purse you unloaded, seize the opportunity: casually lay your hand on the nearest stranger’s thigh, as high up on their inner thigh as you can reach, and gaze intently into their face. Bonus points if the thigh’s owner is asleep.

If their thigh isn’t accessible, try untying their shoe, or putting it in your mouth. Again, sleeping targets are worth the most, both in points and in potential reactions. If you get kicked in the face by a startled-awake shoe-wearer, scream bloody murder, tweet an angry missive to the airline, and make sure it gets captured on video so you can sue later.

And repeat. You got this. 

Then, when you land…

Just be your unbelievably cute self.

Works like a charm.

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