Debbie Matenopoulos: How I Made It Through My Daughter’s First Flight

04/17/2015 at 11:00 AM ET

When Debbie Matenopoulos realized she would be flying solo for her daughter Alexandra Kalliope‘s first overseas flight, the anxiety immediately set in.

During a Friday appearance on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, the “Family Member” admitted she even considered canceling her vacation, planned so that her family could meet her baby girl for the Greek Easter.

“At the last minute, Jon, my husband, couldn’t come so I panicked and I thought, ‘I can’t. I’m just going to cancel the flight and they’re just going to have to see the baby another time,” Matenopoulos, 40, says.

“Then I took a deep breath and I said, ‘Come on, I can do this! So many other mothers do this — I just need to have a game plan.’ So that’s what I did.”

Debbie Matenopoulos Home and Family
Jeremy Lee/Crown Media Family

Before setting off on their adventure, Matenopoulos took her 5-month-old daughter to the doctor for a routine check-up. “It was a $25 visit and it was the best $25 I ever spent,” she admits.

“One of the main reasons babies cry on planes is because of the difference in the air pressure.”

Armed with a clean bill of health from Alexandra’s pediatrician, Matenopoulos — who “did so much research, I was so scared” — made sure to schedule her connecting flight at a smaller airport to avoid switching terminals. The first-time mama also opted for a redeye to keep her baby on the same sleep and feeding schedule.

“What I did was, to have less stuff on me … I combined my diaper bag and my purse,” she shares, adding that while her daughter slept soundly in her Lillebaby, Matenopoulos was wide awake.

But one of the It’s All Greek to Me author’s biggest worries was the reaction of her fellow flyers. Fortunately, Matenopoulos came prepared.

“I was really concerned for the passengers traveling around me so I had this idea on the way out and I did it on the way back as well … I thought, ‘Hopefully, this is going to work,’ ” she explains.

After presenting each of the passengers surrounding her seat with a goodie bag — inside was a note from Alexandra promising to “try to be very good,” mints, gum, chocolates, vitamin C, Sharpies, a note pad, ear plugs and lip balm — Matenopoulos was thrilled with their complete understanding.

“It went really well … they were so helpful,” she says. “They all took pictures with Alexandra and they said, ‘Do you mind if I send these pictures to my wife? This is such a great idea!’ ”

Debbie Matenopoulos daughter Alexandra
Courtesy Debbie Matenopoulos

Home & Family airs weekdays at 10 am ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel.

— Anya Leon

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Showing 26 comments

kaye on

Goody Bags? How lame. I’d be interested to hear if she was flying coach. Somehow I doubt it. It’s hard to have sympathy – or empathy – if she was going first class. Somehow, travelling in luxury makes everything seem a lot better.

Song4Ten on

She such a drama queen? If you’ve ever watched her on Home and Family you’d think she was the only woman to ever have a kid. Everything is so dramatic, so TRAUmatic and diva-like. Honestly. It’s tiresome.

mommy on

LOL. what a drama queen. I did like the goody bag idea though.

Laura on

Beautiful baby and I love that pink tote! Debbie, on the other hand, irks me. “You” had that great idea for goodie bags, Debbie? That idea has been floating around the internet for years. There was also an article years ago about Jessica Alba using “your idea” on a flight with her first daughter. Don’t take credit for something that isn’t your own. Also, why did we need to know how much your doctor visit was? I was thrown off by that random, useless fact.

Jamie on

She was going to cancel her flight when her husband couldn’t go yet she was scheduling her red-eye, small airport connecting flight after she panicked about going it alone.. smells like a liar…

Lisa on

This is not newsworthy. I just flew across country with a 5 yr old, 3 yr old and 2 month old infant by myself. I sat coach. No one helped me. I had to switch terminals in Detroit. Congrats to her on traveling with one child that’s not even old enough to talk back yet.

Kristine on

@LAURA…..that “random, useless fact” just may help another parent someday. The reason she made a point of saying how much the doctors’ visit cost was to show other mothers that it really doesn’t cost that much for peace of mind, knowing your child is healthy and it’s safe to fly.

Who knows on

I’m trying to understand this trauma. Please, someone, anyone, explain why she was so inept that taking her own baby on a trip required help. Was she wheel barreling the baby across country alone. I really cannot take drama queens.

Who knows on

Debbie, when you get a real problem let the whole know. Otherwise, you were performing normal duties. I’m tired of woman wanting equal treatment but acting like little bitches over a simple task. Woman the fuck up Debbie!

Rem on

They don’t make women like they used to. What a wimp.

Sammantha on

Folks. She’s human. Lighten up a little. Geez. I think it is so sweet of her to give her fellow passengers around her a goodie bag. I mean, most of the time people get on planes with babies around them..who doesn’t roll their eyes thinking oh no! This kid is going to cry the whole time. She’s a regular mom with normal anxieties and I don’t see how anything of what she said is such a drama queen resemblance. Flying overseas with a little one, is not easy.

lala on

I’m trying to understand why someone would put a sharpie and note pad in a goodie bag. Was that for the passengers to write their complaints and submit them to her after the flight was over? And I’ve seen the goodie bag idea on Pinterest so many times, you can’t take credit for it Debbie.

ohdebbie on

Debbie, congratulations to you for being the first woman to fly alone with a baby! U did it! And so many original, bright ideas! Doctor visits, researching your flight options, flying redeye for baby schedules, goody bags! Now every mother knows what to do when flying with children!

Sara K on

Very cute baby!! I think Debbie was a *little* overanxious. (I thought being an older mother helped you feel more comfortable with everything but maybe it varies a lot from person to person.) I’m a single mother and have flown multiple times with both my little girls all on my own even when they were babies. It’s life! Glad the trip went smoothly for her. Hugs.

FelicityJune on

she sounds like a total moron. Better not have anymore children!!

Ala Lemon on

I don’t know who she is, but sounds like your typical over-the-top Greek mother to me (or Mediterranean, for that matter). I should know, my mom’s Greek!

emma on

She’s had her face done so many times you can’t tell it’s her anymore

kaye on

Sorry Debbie, my applause goes to the moms that struggle their way through a flight and the whole process alone – with no help – on an economy class flight. You conveniently neglected to mention whether you were flying first class/business class or coach and I think the omission speaks volumes. Not that there is anything wrong with travelling in luxury, but don’t pretend that you are like all the “regular” do it yourself moms.

Truthfinder on

SO MANY negative comments! It astounds me the amount of ill will that people will give out behind a computer. Is everyone SO unhappy, jealous or what? Be graceful and send well wishes…it feels so much better to be nice. Just try it!
A BLESSING SHARED: Please visit “Your Move with Andy Stanley” on his website or on Sunday morning TV. Please check local listings and have a great Saturday!

Hea on

Is that a doll she’s holding in the first picture? Looks odd.

Anonymous on

Jamie- Exactly, she was GOING to, but then she changed her mind. How does that make her a liar?

Also, where did she say she had help on the flight?

kaye on

Anonymous/Celebritybabylover: I think it’s implicit that she would have had “help” if she was flying first class — i.e. airline staff go the extra mile to attend to her every need.

Guest on

She is such a drama queen, kinda like a diva.

li on

come on? giving goodie bags to people on the plane? she is burning money. jay faires may have been telling the truth when he said she spends money ridiculously.

good luck john.

she has never been all about her greek heritage when she was on mtv nor on ABC’s The View nor E’s Daily 10; but now she is. Is this an act go get limelight ?

Nancy on

Goodie bag is a very good idea especially for having small kids on the plane.

lulumaebarnes on

I watch Debbie on Home & Family and I think the ‘dramatic’ thing is sort of part of her personality. I think she’s adorable. 🙂 Also, the doctor visit idea is a great one – have the dr check the baby’s little ears and give you that clean bill of health. It’s worth it for peace of mind.