Traveling with kids, I am telling you right now, it is possible! You can do it. Now I am no travel expert, but I have taken my kids all over the place (Florida, California, Texas, North Carolina and even across the Atlantic to Germany and Ireland!). I have flown with extended family, I have flown with my husband, and mostly I have flown with just the kids all by myself. Trust me, it is possible!
Here are a few tricks I have learned that help make things much easier!
1. Maneuvering through the airport- Depending on how old your kids are I have two different ways that are easiest for me.
Infants (non walkers)- I use the stroller and infant carseat. I push the stroller and carseat through the airport and check it at the plane. This way even if my luggage gets lost, I still have my car seat at my destination. I also have a place to put my baby when I have to use the restroom or grab a bite to eat. Now that being said, my girls were not always the best stroller riders. So more times than not, I used the stroller to push my bag and stuff while putting the baby in some kind of carrier (my personal favorite was my Moby wrap).
For kids who are walking and are no longer in the infant carseat:
Car seat on wheels- This is probably the most helpful thing I can do. I have a set of wheels for both of my girls. This way they are strapped into seats and cannot run around the airport. I can carry them and their crap through the airport. I like to bring the seat on the airplane so that they can sit in their carseat for the ride. This helps them feel safe, secure, and gives a nice place to nap. There are a few downsides to bringing them on the plane though. They are heavy and trying to carry 2 kids, and 2 carseats down the isle of the plane is a complete mess! (Trust me I have done it before and thank goodness for the sweet passengers on the plane that help!) Also if you are flying with a kid under 2 they are free and may not have a seat. Now that Kares is almost 5, she likes to sit in a big girl seat. So we just bring them up to the plane and check the car seat and wheels plane side (which is ufree). Then we get it back when we get off the plane.
**(I still bring my carrier to “baby wear” my 2 year old just in case she won’t ride! It comes in handy everywhere!)
Babywearing- I had Kailani in the Moby wrap at 3 months old. She was finally asleep after screaming the 2 hours in the car to the airport. I am in line for security, have all my stuff ready and go to walk through…they tell me I have to take the baby out! I about lost it! I was furious that I had to take my sleeping baby out of her wrap and still manage to hold on to my very curious 4 year old. So be careful, some TSA agents may make you take the baby out for a better security check…ggrrrr!
2. ASK FOR HELP!- Flying by myself with 2 kids I feel more like a pack mule than a mom! They require so much crap! So I always ask for help in the security line. Usually there is some guy who is traveling on business and has 3 kids of his own at home. They are always willing to help pick up things hold a bag while I take shoes off or whatever. I am always so thankful for the extra set of hands from a Good Samaritan.
3. Bring your own help to the gate- When I fly with just the girls I always ask for a gate pass for someone to come with me to help me through security and help entertain the kids while we wait. My mom, father in law, mother in law, husband, have all come right to the gate to help me before. All you have to do is ask either before your flight by calling or at the check in at the airport. Each airline is different. This is HUGE! They can even request one to meet you as you get off of the plane. When we flew from Florida to Texas, I cannot tell you how nice it was to see my husband standing there as we got off the plane. The kids ran right to him and he carried the 15 bags we seemed to have out!
4. Lollipops- These are a lifesaver when the kids are cranky, crying because of the pressure and tired of sitting. I give them a lollipop. They usually don’t eat these so they are a treat. The lollipop is nice because it is on a stick, so not terribly messy. The extra saliva they make when eating them helps with the pressure. I love the dum dum brand ones because they are small. When Kris picks me up and asks how my flight was, I tell him it was a 2 lollipop flight. It is bad when it is a 5 lollipop flight! Haha
5. Always carry the birth certificate- In the what feels like hundreds of flights I have taken the girls on, I have only been asked for a birth certificate twice. They needed it to prove she was under 2 (she turned two 5 days later!). I just like to have it with me to prove that I am their mother. No matter what, I feel better knowing I have that.
6. Ziploc bags for the sippy cups- When traveling with kids, you are allowed to bring more than the 2-3 ounces of liquid. I always pack a sippy cup of milk and a sippy cup of water for the girls. I put a small plastic bag over the tops of the cups that don’t have lids. It is so nasty to watch the things go through the x-ray machine, I cringe when I think of anything there touching something that goes in my kids’ mouths! This covers them up and keeps them clean. Security will have to check the liquid by hand, but it is worth the hassle so that my kids can have a drink.
7. Know what you can check for free- Most airlines let you check 1 baby item free. A baby item is considered pack and play, car seat, stroller. Now choose wisely, depending on what you need when you get where you are going. For babies I check my infant carseat at the plane (which is also free) and use my pack and play as my baby item. It gets tough when you have older ones. Because I put my girls’ carseats on wheels, I check those planeside and use my pack and play as my baby item. BUT I don’t have a stroller this way….but again I usually end up babywearing the little one for whatever we do!
8. Diaper bag- I usually use a backpack for a diaper bag when traveling. This way it won’t fall off my shoulder. I can also wear a diaperbag while carrying Kailani on the front in the pack. Now what you put in the diaper bag is important! Obviously all of your normal items, but you may want to include some new toys so they are exciting. Lots of snacks (our plane always runs late and there is never time to grab a snack during the layover). I like to pack small paperback books. They are light and are entertainment. Of course ipad, smartphone, things like that for games and movies…just don’t forget headphones! This way the kids can hear and no one else can! Also don’t forget your post it notes for the bathroom! (Click here to see that blog post) I also always bring a small flannel blanket. It folds up small and keeps the kids warm or can be put on the floor in the airport for a mat to play on.
9. Breastmilk does not have to be x-rayed!- No matter what TSA says, they do not have to X-ray your breastmilk (And you can bring more than the 3 ounce limit). You have to be stern and request that they hand check your milk, but you do not have to send it through.
10. RELAX- I always tell myself that when I travel, I will never see any of these people again. So if my kid is bothering you because she is screaming in pain from the pressure change, get over it…you can leave hating me! If my kid is running around the seats at the gate to burn off energy before the flight…get over it! If I give my girls 5 lollipops in a 2 hour flight to keep them happy and quiet…so be it. If they haven’t napped, haven’t eaten, and are SUPER cranky…no one I know will really care. So relax, nothing has to be perfect. The only thing that matters is that you and your kids get to where you are going in one piece. Oh and have a drink when you get there…you will probably need one!