Recently I traveled by plane from Kansas to Florida for my grandmother’s funeral. The entire trip was less than 48 hours long and involved four flights and two preschoolers. Having flown with my kids before, I had a plan. The ONLY way we survived this trip is because we were prepared. Here are some helpful tips for traveling by plane with young children:
#1 – We bought a TON of junk from the dollar section at Target. Each of the kids got a sticker/coloring book pack for each flight, plus a few extra coloring books and activity pads. Plus, we bought a huge pack of extra batteries. All in all, the $30.00 I spent I would have gladly paid three times over for all the distractions the stuff provided during the flights.
#2 – My two-year-old sat in her car seat. There was absolutely no way she would have stayed in her seat without a massive tantrum otherwise. Hauling a car seat through the airport isn’t the most convenient, but my husband helped me jury-rig it to the roller carry-on, so I could manage it. She is used to being buckled into the seat for long car drives, so there was no fighting about sitting still.
#3 – We took more than one electronic device per person. Our family has an iPad, I had my iPhone, my son has a Leap Pad and we checked out a FlyAway Launchpad from the Wichita Public Library. That’s right. If you don’t have a kid-friendly tablet, you can check them out from the library! They are a 14 day loan, and this is the second time we have used one for traveling. There are multiple Launchpads available, each with different games geared towards different ages from preschool to middle-elementary. All you need is your library card (and the willingness to either put one on hold in advance and wait or drive to whatever branch has one in stock the day before you leave).
#4 – We ate a LOT of snacks. Our normal schedules were so disrupted anyways (and we are really, really, really routinized people) that random snacking between meals didn’t faze me. It kept the kids occupied and happy, and they got some special treats we normally would not have had in “real life,” like pretzels at 9:00 am or yogurt parfaits in the middle of the night. Also, when they bring the drink cart through on the plane, a cup of ice is like the world’s best kid treat. They may get a little wet, but for some reason my kids have always felt like ice was really special.
#5 – I refused to mess with a stroller in the airport. I am not a huge fan of a stroller anyways, but wearing my daughter in a soft structured carrier kept my hands free for the rolling bag and holding my son’s hand while we walked through the airport. I think a stroller invites you to carry more stuff that you really don’t need and is awkward to navigate. Things I’ve done in an airport while wearing a baby include going to the bathroom (you can fit into any stall and, again, you are hands-free!), running through the Dallas airport to catch a plane (made it with literally one minute to spare – if I hadn’t been able to jog up the escalator we wouldn’t have made it!) and travelled with two kids by myself when they were 10 months and three years old.
#6 – Don’t buy into the “Families traveling with small children may now pre-board” nonsense. Get at the end of the line! Your seat is already reserved, so why coop yourself up twenty minutes earlier than you have to? Make sure you have at least one diaper, your wipes, and a change of clothes in your purse in case they make you gate check your roller suitcase that has all your supplies in it. Ain’t nobody want to get caught without a clean diaper!