flying solo. tips for air travel with little ones

Abby here… This was originally posted a few months ago.  After flying cross country again yesterday, the packed airports made me realize I should probably update this little list.  Flying with little ones can be fun, exhausting, exciting and challenging.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season! 

My kids and I flew to Texas this weekend to surprise my dad for his 60th birthday.  My 3 year old has done at least 20 roundtrips so even though I know what to expect, I still dread it.  I expected the 3 year old to do fine… it was the baby I was worried about.  To my surprise, both kids did amazing.  Hoping for the same results on our trip home.

I have learned a few things along the way that have made airplane travel a little easier for me.

  1. Snacks.  I know this is a no-brainer, but snacks are really important.  I tend to bring healthy snacks that I know my kids love.  I avoid the junk food, because the extra sugar just winds them up.  This trip I brought popcorn, homemade granola, pears and grapes.  Ohh, and don’t forget the gum!
  2. Toys.  Think quality, not quantity.  Bringing a bunch of toys means more to keep up with.  My kids are always so excited to be in an airplane, that toys don’t really hold their attention.  My 3 year old carries a small Northface backpack with a book, stickers, crayons and a few matchbox cars.  I brought a few small toys for my little one, but he ended up playing with are my gum wrappers and his sippy cup lid.  If you are lucky, there will be another child in the row in front of or behind you… which makes for more entertainment for your kids!
  3. Getting through security.  You have to really think ahead on this one.  Try putting all your liquids in your checked bag, so you don’t have to think about them going through security.  When carrying baby liquids (including baby food), you will have to go through addition screening and probably a pat down.   The very best case scenario happened this trip.  The kind woman at the ticket counter offered to give John a gate pass so he was able to go through security with me.  This was a huge help!
  4. Clothing.  I wear comfortable jeans, a t-shirt and slip on shoes.  I pack a thin jacket that doubles as a nursing cover.  I put my 3 year old in comfortable clothes and my 13 month old in footed jammies.  For the baby, it is much easier to not worry about shoes and socks.  Bring an extra pair of clothes for everyone, including yourself!
  5. Backpacks and strollers.  I checked a large suitcase and the carseats, leaving me with my own backpack and the stroller.  I travel with the same Northface backpack I have had since college, and I highly recommend that over an over the should diaper bag  The airlines allow you to check your stroller right at the gate before you board, and it is waiting for you when you get off.  I highly recommend taking advantage of this.  We have a BOB stroller (which is amazing for everyday use) and it works great for carrying my kids and all our stuff!  Your backpack will hold everything you need during the flight, including snacks and diapers. Up until about a year, I carried my kids in the Ergo Carrier while in the airport.
  6. Crying and yelling and just being loud.  It happens.  When my kids were babies, we had our fair share of crying.  I’ve gotten a few annoyed sighs from other passengers, but overall everyone is very nice about it.  Most people have been in your boat, and know there isn’t much you can do about it.  If you are traveling with baby, nurse or give them a bottle at take off and landing.  This should help keep their ears from popping.
  7. Naps.   Go ahead and plan on them not sleeping.  It is really stressful if you are counting on that and then they don’t.  That being said, I’ve seen plenty of little ones asleep on a plane, so if you have a secret that I don’t know about… please share! Typically, I just count on mine falling asleep as soon as we are in the car.
  8. Layovers.  This trip we have a 2 hour layover, which I really enjoyed.  The kids had some time to get some energy out and regroup.  We almost always have our layovers in Denver and Elijah always gets alot of energy out the moving sidewalk.
  9. Flight times.  I prefer evening flights where we arrive at our destination in time for bed (even if it is way past our bed time). Airplane travel always messes the day up, and I would prefer to just go to bed when we arrive!  We have done a few 6AM flights where we arrive back home around 10:30AM.  To me, this just makes for a really long day once we are home.

Good luck with your travels!

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