Dear Fellow Air Travelers, I’m THAT lady. The one traveling solo. And by solo, I mean without another adult, but with two kids in tow. That’s me, holding up the security line with a five year old who wants to put his backpack on the belt, “By myself!” and a six month old strapped to my chest while attempting to single-handedley fold a stroller. So first, an apology. I’ve been you, the business traveler annoyed because they are trying to make a connection despite kids in your path. You’re anxious to make it to your big meeting, while we’re just excited to get to Grandma’s. So I get your frustration. I really do.
But unless you’ve been me, I’m not so sure you get mine. I’m doing everything I can to make both of our travel days easier. Really. In fact, I’m about to tell a bunch of other traveling mamas (via this magical internet) what they can do to make traveling with kids go smoothly. So bear with us all . And good luck with your meeting!
Flying with Kids: Tips and Tricks for Pro Mamas
Before you go:
- Pick the best seats. Airlines seem to like putting babies in the back of the plane. But that means you’ll be waiting longer to deplane at your destination. And THAT is always the time when a baby starts to lose it. The closer you are to the exit the better. Also, try to sit close to a restroom. There is no way to fit yourself, your older child, AND a baby in there when it comes time to change baby’s diaper. You may have to leave the older child alone in their seat. The closer they are to you, the better.
- Play “airplane.” Teach your child about staying in their seats (they love the concept of the “seat belt light”), talking in an inside voice, and the possibility of some bumps along the way.
- Make every attempt to schedule flights during nap time.
- Pack as light as possible. The one thing NOT to skimp on is diapers. They don’t sell diapers at airports (They should, shouldn’t they?). Backpacks are useful, both for mom and kids. Some people avoid bringing a stroller because it’s another “thing,” but I find a stroller really helpful. You can use the area under the stroller to hold stuff and hang your diaper bag on it. It will give a baby a place to sleep if you’re stuck waiting for a long time. You can use it as a highchair, if you need to feed a kid in the airport. As long as it’s easily fold-able, you can gate check it.
- Ride-on suitcases are great for preschoolers. It gives them a place to sit when their feet are tired and you extra room to pack stuff.
- Bring hand sanitizer. Airports are germ-y places.
At the airport:
- Give yourself extra time. If you would normally arrive an hour before a flight sans kids, give yourself an extra half hour with kids in tow.
- Make everyone use the bathroom before you get on the plane.
- Wait to board. Some airlines allow travelers with children to “pre-board.” This is a terrible idea. The longer your child is on the plane, the more likely he is to have a meltdown.
- When it’s time to board, place baby in a baby carrier which you will wear on the plane. Push the stroller to the end of the jet way (using it to haul any carry-ons), fold it, and gate check it.
- Remain calm. It’s easy to feel rushed and embarrassed when it takes your extra time to go through security and to get your kids in their seats and your bags stowed up top. You’ll feel the pressure of the passengers behind you. Take a deep breath, knowing that you are doing the best in a difficult situation and have nothing to apologize for.
On the plane:
- Gently but firmly remind kids of the “rules of the plane”: talking in an inside voice, not kicking the seat back in front of them, staying seated, etc.
- Accept help. If the person in the seat behind you wants to play peek-a-boo with your baby, let them. If the man behind you in line offers to stow your suitcase in the overhead, gracefully accept. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING on your own.
- Don’t sweat the crying. Do everything you can to keep your baby quiet, but with the knowledge that it sometimes is just not possible. It’s not a failure if you babe cries a little. He’s a baby, after all!
Traveling alone with kids is tough, but it’s better than not traveling at all. As soon as you get to your destination and get those kids in bed, reward yourself for a mission accomplished!