Ah, traveling with kids. The thought alone is enough to send many, myself included, into panic mode. Flight delays, poopy diapers on airplanes, temper tantrums, missed naps, germs – eek! The list goes on and on and not much of it is good aside from arriving at your destination, and even then you need a good 24 hours to recover from it all.
I’ve been able to travel with the boys a fair amount. Sometimes with M, sometimes alone, which may I add I have never felt more like superwoman. While I’m no expert, I’ve developed a pretty good routine and check list of how to do it all and I’m hoping a tip or two may help you out in the future. And hey, I’d love to hear if I’m missing anything. Open to any suggestions that make getting from point A to point B easier.
- Expect the worst. Seriously, I just assume the day of traveling will not be fun. Why set myself up for disappointment? And hey, there are times I have been pleasantly surprised. Score.
- Travel heavily when they are little and immobile. I dream of the days of B just sleeping through security and the entire plane ride. Amazing. I’ve found the most challenging age to travel with is 12 months to 2.5 years. After that you can, for the most part, just put on a movie.
- Nurse or bottle feed during take off and landing as it helps their little ears. B is a bit too old for this now so he gets a (watered down) juice cup or his pacifier. Gum for the older ones. Keep them swallowing!
- I’ve never had issues bringing milk in a bottle or juice in a sippy cup through security. They may take it for a few moments to do a test but that’s the extent of it, so pack it! So much easier than worrying about buying the necessary liquids post security.
- Kids (under 12) don’t have to take their shoes off for security. One less thing to worry about.
- Pack an extra set of (light) clothing for your little one in a ziploc baggie. That way, if needed you can change him into something fresh and seal up the dirty item in the baggie. I’ve known moms to pack extra tees for themselves as well (hello spit up). I’ve never done this but I’m wild that way.
- For some reason to me it’s important to look put together while traveling. I may be frazzled on the inside but I’m going to dress the part of ‘I’ve got it together.’ I’ve developed an airport uniform which combines this shirt, these leggings, and these shoes (which are so perfect for traveling in so many ways). Unless I’m heading to MT and then it’s all about these boots.
- I’ve found people find your kids cuter and less annoying when you match them in endearing tees. Have had major luck (and chuckles!) from ones from Crewcuts.
- Both my boys rock these on the plane. Perfect for little heads.
- If you bottle feed, I’ve found some spots in the airport will help you heat up the bottle (if that is what your baby is used to) but other times I’ve found myself in the bathroom running hot water over it. This one is a gamble. Starbucks always seems to be the most helpful if the terminal you’re in has one.
- Less is more. I recall earlier days when my carry on bag literally weighed more than myself. Not anymore. You have to find that balance of what is necessary, what is for emergency (long delays) and leave a little bit over for entertainment purposes. Skip the book you’re reading. Sorry but you won’t touch it.
- Don’t board for family boarding! I’ve never understood this. Why would you want to be on the plane longer? Hold out until the bitter end!
- If you can swing it, a seat for the toddler who is under 2 is amazing. I’ve held B for many flights but had the luxury once of an extra seat with him and it changed the game. Economy plus also rocks my world. I would never think about putting us in first class. I know our place.
- Avoid the last row. You may think it’s nice to be close to the bathroom and even a bit more room to roam around with the flight attendants but all you are getting is seats that don’t recline, a constant line of people blocking the aisle and let’s be honest, it smells.
- There will be mean people. After a 3.5 hour delay in Florida we finally boarded a flight home only to find out we had to sit on the runaway another 1.5 hours. At this point B began kicking the seat in front of us. It was very apparent I was actively trying to distract him so he wouldn’t, but the man still felt like he had to turn around and tell me to ‘get him under control.’ M then asked if he had kids to which he pointed over to a 17 year old girl zoned out to her iPad. Yea, that’s the same.
- There will be nice people. When traveling (alone!) with both boys to Montana, we had a six hour delay at O’hare before the three hour flight. Kill me. Keeping track of both boys who always seemed to want to go in separate directions, and the carry ons, and the stroller seemed impossible. To top it off, United kept switching the flight time and gate so I just felt lost. A nice man in cowboy boots made it his point to track me down each time there was an update. I’ll never forget that!
- The stroller. This is a tricky one. Under a year, yes, 100% travel with a (light weight) stroller. Gate check it. After that I really think it depends on your kid. With B being as independent (read: stubborn) as he is the stroller would travel hundreds of miles with us only to serve the purpose of holding my carryon from time to time. L wasn’t in a stroller, why would he be? I actually find it helpful he would walk (/run) through the airport as it got a lot of energy out.
- I always travel with a copy of their birth certificates and vaccine records. It’s mandatory when they are little for proof of age if you haven’t purchased them a seat.
- Car seats on the plane. It’s funny, I had a friend recently ask me about this and for as much as I traveled with the boys I couldn’t give her a straight answer (sorry, Jenny!). The only thing I know is required is that your little one (under 2) is strapped in for take off and landing, whether that is on you, in a car seat, or in their own airplane seat. I know it’s recommended when they are in their own seat to be in a car seat but we travel with B without one (we check his car seat). The best thing to do is to reach out to the airline you are traveling with if you are concerned with following their guidelines.
- Baby’s Away. Life changing. We’ve arrived in South Carolina and Florida with pre delivered toys, a high chair, a crib, etc. You can also rent car seats, strollers, etc if you don’t want to bother with those items at the airport.
- A glass of wine never hurts and I’ve found if you look desperate enough during the flight they might even offer it to you for free. Cheers.
All in all, it’s not a walk in the park by any means but it’s only a few hours (if you’re lucky) of your life and chances are high you won’t see any of the people you’re traveling with ever again. Pretty soon the years will go by and you’ll be that oh so chic mom reading InStyle next to her perfectly behaved older children.
Hey, a girl can dream right? Good luck to all those traveling with little one this holiday season. I’ve been there and I’m routing for you!