Our first cross-country flight. There we were, scrambling aimlessly at the airport like chickens. Checking one zillion bags and “essential” baby gear, breaking down a double stroller with one hand, while trying to remove (and replace) shoes, strap 2 babies into Ergo carriers and keep a three year old from joining the TSA team with the others (how many hands is that???). You better believe we learned some things. Now, I feel like a pro (well, better prepared) having learned from experience.
For those of you who are anxious about flying this summer, allow me to share a few travel tips that made our flights more enjoyable.
- Schedule flights according to children’s sleep schedules. When schedules and budgets allow, we book flights close to the kids’ nap or bedtimes to increase their chances of sleep. Fortunately, cheaper flights often coincide with these times.
- Call airlines in advance to find out their requirements. Some airlines require birth certificates or immunization records for your little ones. They may or may not ask at the gate, but it’s better to be prepared. Find out car seat stipulations if you plan to use one.
- Borrow/rent baby gear. Little people come with a lot of stuff. At one point, we traveled with 3 car seats, a double stroller, and a pack and play, in addition to our luggage. Here’s how to lighten your load:
- Ask people at your destination to network with their circle of friends for items you can borrow.
- Opt to rent a car seat along with your rental car.
- Investigate whether you can rent baby gear in your destination city. Baby’s Away is located in 70 locations across the U.S.
- Consider purchasing inexpensive booster seats and strollers (like this Bebelove USA Single Umbrella Stroller with Mesh Pocket and Canopy) that can be donated once they are no longer needed.
- Pack carry-ons strategically.
- Think easy access. Your infant will have a blow-out in the terminal. Your toddler will spill her juice. The flight will be delayed.
- Pack an extra change of clothes for them (and you).
- Pack more favorite snacks than you think you’ll need, preferably some things they don’t typically have the opportunity to eat.
- Include favorite travel-size toys (Legos, Hotwheels, Playdoh, PLAYFOAM(this stuff is amazing!).
- Visit a dollar store beforehand to surprise the kids with a few new toys they haven’t seen before.
- Bring electronics. But, because our flights typically take at least four hours, we’ve learned to save the electronics as the “Hail Mary pass”—the last resort. When we introduced the iPad too early in the flight, we had no alternative on deck once they got bored. MI. SE.RY.
- Remember: Novelty is your friend.
- Dress comfortably and simply. You do not want to have to lace up shoes, buckle a belt, and take off a jacket while holding a child, unfolding a stroller, and putting your bags on the conveyor belt. Trust me (see above). Simplify where you can.
- Determine the best mode of transport for you and your child/children. I used a Moby wrap the very first time I flew with Enoch. We both loved the Moby, but by the end of the flights, I was ready to burn it. You can’t wear it through security, so you have to undo it, place it on the conveyor belt, and re-wrap it while holding a baby, and gathering your belongings. And, trying to re-wrap on the plane??? We found the Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier to be much easier to work with, wonderful for holding lap babies, and there is a zippered pocket large enough to hold small items like an ID, phone, and boarding passes. I even managed to discreetly nurse when they were younger because using the hood made it look as though they were just snuggled in sleeping.
An umbrella stroller is helpful because you can take the stroller right up to the gate. Just remember to get a gate-check tag from an agent when you first get to your gate. You don’t want to miss out on family pre-boarding if you have to handle that last minute.
- Get moving. Because we are usually on such long flights, we came up with creative ways to get the kids moving while waiting in the terminal. “I Spy Tag” is one of my favorites. We would go for a walk, and play a traditional game of “I Spy.” The twist is they would have to run to the item, and wait for me (warning: if you have “runners” – DON’T do this). We have also been known to bring a small soccer ball, bubbles or a laser light – all things that could be chased/played with in a less crowded area/corner. We figured it is better to get stares in the terminal than snarls on a cramped plane. Some airports have even added play areas for the kids. Find them.
- People will help you or avoid you. You’ll see both smiles and frowns, tears and laughter (Ha, and they all may be yours!). Try to relax. Arrive at least 2 hours early to allow enough time to get through security, and have bathroom and snack/meal breaks without getting overwhelmed. Spring for coffee.
Preparation is half the battle to having a great flight. So, control what you can, because there will be things that you can’t.
And, if you happen to fly Southwest and everyone walks by your row because they don’t want to sit next to your children, don’t get offended. Count your blessings…and spread out!
Seasoned fliers, what would you add?
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