If just reading that is overwhelming, you’re not alone! I read many articles about traveling with little ones before my most recent trip. I found it very helpful to read others’ experiences and tips, although not all of them worked for me.
Flying is a great option for travel (even with children!) as it saves so much time and can even save money. It doesn’t have to be that bad, either. Equipped with some helpful tools and tips (and some good ole fashioned experience), you’ll be a frequent flyer in no time.
In September, my barely 2-year-old, my 2-month-old, and I flew from Greenville, South Carolina to Rochester, New York with one layover. Flying was definitely the best option because tackling 28 hours of driving round trip is just absurd. And that time estimate doesn’t allow for fueling up, changing diapers, stretching, crying on the side of the highway (baby, of course, not me)… About midway through planning our mini-vacation, we learned my husband would have to stay home and work, so we were going solo. Oh boy…
On the flights up to New York, I tried putting into practice what I had gleaned from the articles. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t easy, either. My return trip was much more effortless as I had done it once before and felt more prepared. There’s only so much you can learn from reading. Sometimes, you just have to experience it for yourself to know what will work for you.
These are my takeaways from the trip overall
They’re going to cry.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s remember that it’s okay! First of all, most planes are fairly loud. And if yours isn’t, most people you’ll be flying with have headphones and are so into their phones they won’t even notice. On my first flight, the girls cried a majority of the time, or so it felt to me anyway. In the end, many people complimented their behavior. That was nice!
Limit it to one bag.
Everything I read told of how airlines allow extra bags for babies. Don’t fall for it! They do allow extra, but it was just an added stressor for me. On my flights back home, I kept everything in the diaper bag. Whatever wasn’t absolutely needed was tucked away safely in my checked bag so I didn’t have to lug it through the airport. You may want to bring toys if traveling with a toddler but really they’ll enjoy the safety pamphlet and looking out the window as much as any boring old toy.
Bring a stroller.
My toddler loves to walk. She sometimes fights sitting in the stroller because she would just rather walk. However, sometimes your gate changes and you’ve found yourself going from one end of a large airport to the other. I’d much rather do this at an adult pace rather than a 2-year-old’s curious and distracted pace.
Wear the baby.
I love my carrier! It’s the Ergobaby 360 and I highly recommend it. If carrying a baby under about four months old, you’ll need the insert as well. When my older daughter was a baby I had an off-brand, uncomfortable carrier. Buying the Ergo this time was a lifesaver! Wearing my baby in the airport kept my hands free which was useful in entertaining my toddler and getting through security smoothly. Plus, she was able to nap and that was heavenly.
Don’t forget snacks and water.
Both of my little one’s nurse, so on takeoff and landing I was able to offer some comfort for the changing pressure. But if that isn’t the case for you, a bottle for babies and a drink for older ones can be helpful in avoiding ear pain. Plus I don’t know about you but my kids just love to eat. It’s a great distraction!
Take advantage of preboarding.
You may not want to sit on that plane a second longer than you have to, BUT you’ll be glad for the extra time to coax a kid up the stairs to the plane or help the staff fold up your stroller when they can’t figure it out. I wasn’t ready to board early the first flight and I was overwhelmed. I felt rushed and anything but organized. So I made sure to be ready well in advance for my subsequent flights.
Expect the unexpected; mainly travel delays. Diapers, formula, wipes, and clean clothes are all things I would not want to run out of. I packed two extra outfits for each of them and one for myself (hello, spit-up!). I picked clothes that are easy to change such as sleepers with zippers as opposed to snaps. I also included a full extra outfit including socks because you just never know the reason for the change. I’m glad I did because my toddler spilled water on herself and was soaked. She was then able to change and be comfortable which is important to everyone’s flight experience!
Call the airline/airport to address any confusion well before the flight.
This will help ensure everything goes as planned on the day of travel. You wouldn’t want to have to leave something behind at TSA, especially not something your little one planned on bringing. This will also bring clarity as to whether you will have your gate-checked items at your layover or final destination.
Oh! And another distraction that worked for me was showing my toddler pictures of her Daddy. Next time we fly, I will print and laminate some photos for her so they’re compact and she isn’t on my phone throughout the flight.
My final takeaway: Enjoy it!
You’re making precious memories, so take pictures and laugh. Before my trip, my friend told me “They probably won’t cry the entire time. And if they do, you’ll likely never see the people you’re flying with ever again.” It’s true! Overall, people were helpful and encouraging to me. It didn’t go seamlessly but honestly, what is easy with two little kids? Not much. But it is absolutely still worth doing. Now that I’ve got this trip under my belt, I’m eager to plan more and confident that we can do it!
For the curious planner, here is a list of what I had in my carry on:
- Reusable water bottle (Check out this one I love for their product and their company’s mission)
- Wipes (These are my all time fave)
- Portable changing pad
- 2 spare outfits each
- Extra outfit for me
- Books (I especially love these because of how compact they are!)
- Snacks we bought at the airport
- Identification and money
- Receiving blanket
In my checked bag I also included some diapers and wipes but I ordered the majority from amazon to be shipped to my destination to save room in my luggage.
Have you flown with little ones? What worked for you? I’d love to hear about it!