Traveling with children can be pretty exhausting, especially when things don’t go as planned. I know this all too well because we are a military family, and we have spent a lot of time traveling all over the US to visit family. Before having children it was easy. We were stationed in our home state, good ole’ Texas, and both sides of our families lived within about a 200 mile radius of our house, so it was nothing to hop in the car and visit family on the weekends.
Our first baby, Ava, put a little kink in our road traveling adventures. She came out of the womb loathing her car seat (and as an almost 3-year-old, she still does!). Then our second baby came along, Carson, right around the time we were PCS’d (permanent change of station) to Virginia.
If you ever want to experience pure torture, take a road trip with my two kiddos. 22 hours of screaming, crying, temper-tantrums, whining, complaining, pooping and I-need-to-nurse-right-this-second’ing. Before we even took off, we made the wise decision to divide the trip into 6 days because emotionally, we (Trey and I) just knew we couldn’t do it.
After that road trip experience, we became airplane travelers. Our first flying adventure was a bust. I figured I’d just wing it (no pun intended), and it didn’t go very smoothly. I didn’t bring the right stuff, but after my third trip flying solo with two kids and a pup, I’ve become quite the professional. I want to share with you what I’ve learned, and what I would suggest as you prepare for your experience.
Pick a flight time after 7:00PM. If unavailable, pick the earliest flight.
I had the BEST experience with flying late in the evening. My kids don’t nap well outside of their beds normally, but they crashed before we ever even left the ground on our last trip. If you’re flying in the evening, I suggest taking them to the park or a place where they can do some serious energy expending before heading to the airport. The best thing that could happen to you, Mom, is your crew sleeping through the whole flight. And yes, that happened to me…me included.
If an evening flight isn’t available, I would recommend the earliest flight of the day in hopes that they will do some shut-eye on the plane. Don’t count on this though, so be prepared to entertain! I’d fill a little backpack up with fun stuff, that way they’ll fill ownership over it, making them more excited to use it. Here is what I recommend:
• I LOVE these Melissa & Doug Water Pen sets. They have SO many to choose from. You just fill the pen with water, and it’s mess-free!
• I HIGHLY recommend investing in one of these portable DVD players. They can always grow into it! MAKE SURE IT COMES WITH HEADPHONES!
• I always wanted this massive box of Crayons, didn’t you? The color options are quite distracting!
Make a fashion statement with your mom bun and yoga pants.
It’s going to be a long day, even if it’s a short flight. I dressed up for my first flight and realized how incredibly uncomfortable I was. No one is judging. Plus, mom buns and yoga pants are actually really cute.
Get a gate-pass for a friend or family member at the check-in counter.
I’m not sure if all airlines offer this, but I fly Southwest and they always let a friend or family member go back with me. The person going back with you will have to go through security, and must have a valid ID. My mom was able to wait with me at the gate until we loaded the plane, and it made trips to the restroom and getting bellies full before we took off SO much better!
If you have a milk-drinker, be sure to bring a full bottle.
I know every airline has a different policy, but at Southwest, I have been able to bring a full bottle of milk through security. It MUST be in either a sippy cup or baby bottle and CANNOT be in it’s original packaging. They will probably take a sample and test it.
Then, buy milk AFTER security.
You cannot get milk as a beverage on the airplane–I found this out the hard way. Don’t make the same mistake I did and forget to buy milk AFTER you go through security.
Don’t drink the coke. Or coffee. Or anything.
I was so tired when arriving to the airport for one of my flights, husbandless, with two kids and a pup, so I splurged on a fancy coffee…a Venti from Starbucks. DON’T DO IT! Caffeine makes you have to tinkle, and I literally had to get up 6 times (no exaggeration) to use the restroom on that one, three-hour flight. That meant I had to pile myself and two extra little humans into the undersized airplane restroom. I really don’t even know how I got us all in there.
Smile at a flight attendant. If she smiles back, BINGO!
As you’re boarding the airplane, find your person–the person who is going to make life a gazillion times easier for you. It’s hit or miss. Unfortunately, I’ve only had one really awesome flight attendant that offered to help me with the kids while I went to the restroom or changed a stinky diaper, but she was my life savor that day! Just look desperate as you board, and smile at every single one of them. You’ll know right away if they’re going to lend you a helping hand!
Stay away from book readers.
This is particularly important if you are traveling early-morning or late-evening, when it’s still dark out. The die-hard readers I’m talking about are the ones holding books when they board. These people will spend their whole flight with their reading light on. Not only will the light interfere with your plan for your children to sleep, but you will also find yourself envious of their peace and quiet time.
Be overly apologetic.
During one of my flights, my youngest was my stage 4 screamer. He wasn’t happy and he was going to let everyone on that airplane know it! I saw a lot of heads bobbing up and around seats throughout the plane, and I apologized to each person every time I saw it happen. 9 times out of 10, they were overly understanding and told me I was doing a great job. That was the very confidence I needed during that stressful episode!
Turn your diaper bag into a mini vending machine.
There is no such thing as too many snacks. Make sure that all of the snacks are sealed and in their original packaging or you might have trouble getting them through security. I am a pretty big health nut normally, especially when it comes to what my kids are eating, but I totally splurge when sitting on the airplane. I would try to stick to things with less sugar, as it could cause some unwanted energy thrown your way!
Oh, and don’t bring a purse.
That same mini vending machine, the diaper bag, is also your purse. Don’t bring more than you need to. It’s already stressful enough, and a purse will be something else you have to keep up with.
Baby wear if you have a younger one.
My Ergo Baby has been put to great use at the airport. You’ll need free hands when you’re checking in, but it also works well if you’re trying to get your little one to nap on the airplane. My one-year-old won’t sleep if I’m just holding him, but he’ll pass out anytime I put him in this little kangaroo pouch.
**Note: you will have to unbuckle the carrier at take-off and landing for safety purposes. I unbuckle, but keep wearing, and don’t ask any questions.
Or invest in a “princess” (or prince) backpack for your toddler.
I always said I would never leash my kid, but I totally leashed my kid and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. We left the Houston airport a few nights before the Super Bowl and the airport was a MAD HOUSE. There is no way I could have done it without this little butterfly!
My daughter calls it her “princess backpack” (it’s not even really a backpack, just a butterfly harness to make it look more socially acceptable). She asks me all the time if she can wear it because I acted like it was some huge privilege, bless her heart.
Traveling with babies isn’t easy, but it can go more smoothly if you are prepared for the trip. Remember, if it’s a disaster, no one on that airplane knows your name or where you live, so just breathe and know that you’re doing everything you can to make it an enjoyable ride for everyone.
If you have some extra tips, or ideas, please share in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you!