How to Survive Flying with Kids

Today, I’ll share my best advice for flying with children!

When we lived in Charleston, my family was always 10 minutes away.

For almost 30 years, my Mom and Dad, aunts and uncles, grandma, friends, sisters, brothers… everyone was just a phone call away. If I needed childcare, if I wanted to invite someone over for dinner, all I had to do was ask!

Well, my husband accepted a job in Texas. Now my family is a thousand miles away! I can call them and I can post to social media til the cows come home. But I can’t give hugs and I can’t share a chat over an iced chai with my best friend at Starbucks (*you know who you are*). My heart hurts a little just thinking of it. It’s hard.

Flying to visit family has become our new “normal!”

I’ve been flying with my daughter since she was just a few months old!

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Insane? Maybe a little. (but not as insane as those bangs! What was I thinking?)

I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t particularly like flying. I kind of hate it.

Flying is a means to an end. You stand in line and stand in line and stand in line. You endure a bumpy ride that smells strongly of diesel fuel. You sit in a confined space with little to no comfort for at least an hour. You are touching (actually Touching) total strangers.

But then you land…

You’re there! (wherever “there” is) You did it; You endured. You reached your destination and you reached it in the fastest way possible! That is why We fly. Driving is simply not always practical; a means to an end.

When you fly with kids, there are so many things to consider. I am all about making travel as easy as it can be. Read on to learn my Best tips on how to survive flying with small children!

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First things first:

(Before the Flight)

PLAN AHEAD: I am a list-maker. I plan out everything that we need to bring along. I make a note for how many outfits I need to bring for me, for each child, how many bags and what goes inside of them. I list out toiletries and entertainment items. I even write down who is carrying what! I prepare and then prepare some more! During our most recent flight, I flew without my husband (just me and 2 kids!). I knew I wouldn’t have an extra pair of hands, and that seemed so daunting! I survived and I will again.

But without careful planning and flexibility, I don’t think I would have ever made it. Take the time to think things through. What do you need to bring? Where will you store your tickets, your id, and your phone? Make a List of what you need for your trip, then make a list of the specific things you need to have on the flight.

LET THEM HELP: If your children are a little older, why not give them a task to do? At 2 and 5, both of my children were assigned a bag to carry. The truth is, they love to help and I love to encourage them to be productive. If I’m already carrying things or pushing a cart or stroller, it’s difficult to imagine carrying them and their bags too!

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Before you get to the airport, think of ways they can help! Perhaps someone could be in charge of a bag of snacks, or the bag with the coloring books. Maybe one child could push a cart while you push the stroller. Talk to your children as you go along. Encourage them to help! (Let’s face it, they’re going to want to be busy anyway!)

HAULING: Kids require a lot of stuff. Even for those minimalists out there, kids come with a seemingly never ending list of supplies! For air travel, I say keep it as simple as possible!

In our most recent trip we were gone for 2 weeks. I checked one big bag and the kids and I each brought a personal item onto the plane (backpacks). In part, I was saving money not purchasing a Spirit airlines carry-on. But I was also limiting the amount of stuff we had to haul through the airport, through security, onto the plane, off the plane, through the airport, then into the car. That’s a lot of hauling!

Be choosy about what you actually bring onto that airplane.

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For my 2 year old and 5 year old I packed separate backpacks. Both bags had 2 pairs of underwear, 2 bottoms, 2 tops. I always bring an extra outfit, and a back-up extra outfit, just in case our checked bag is delayed or lost. Inside their backpacks, I also included small hands-on activities, snacks, a lightweight jacked, and a couple books.

**My backpack is a different story. I include a versatile change of clothes, more snacks (always a special mommy-only snack: Brookside pomegranate dark chocolate… I deserve it after all). I carry my phone, tickets, card and any other need-to-reach items in a convenient backpack pocket and I make a point to always put it back in the same place. I carry 2-3 diapers. {(Though my kids are potty trained, I want to avoid the plane bathroom if possible. My daughter wears the diaper as a “just in case”). I always have both of them go potty right before we board!} I carry a small fleece blanket and a magazine for myself. I carry a bottle of water, chewing gum and Dramamine (which I take before leaving home). Anything else- any other clothes or things I can’t imagine needing on the flight, I pack in the checked bag. *Bring only the Essentials*

When I flew with a “lap baby”, I had to bring diapers. We’re cloth diapering family, but for air travel, I packed 5 disposable diapers to get us through flight (because you never know!).

Hauling Continued!

This is my favorite tip: the stroller! In our case: the double stroller. If you need to bring their carseats, check the airline’s guidelines for bringing large items like carseats and strollers along. Even Spirit Airlines will let you bring these items, at no extra charge!

Let’s talk logistics:

When we first arrive at the airport, both children sit in the double stroller. Carefully balanced on top is a carseat. My husband carries the other carseat. When we make it through the line to check our bags or carseats, it’s a breeze. Be sure to have the little tag with your personal info attached to each piece (and make sure any straps are secured).

Keep your stroller with you!! They give you a special tag for your stroller that allows you to bring it right up to door of the plane!

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here’s our double stroller. That thing is my best friend. It has a removable back seat. We use that part for a stroller or place for Silas to stand these days

Once the bags and seats are checked, you go through security. Our double stroller can fold up easily. We have had it fit through the scanning machine, but we’ve also had it Not fit. If your stroller doesn’t fit, they walk you to the side, (possibly do a little pat down) a search over your stroller to make sure it’s safe. Be prepared; it may take a minute.

Everything moves so quickly once you are through security. It’s a mad dash of people reaching for shoes, belts and laptops. Keeping your bins close together helps. Last time, I walked through the machine, barefoot, holding each child’s hand. We grabbed the stroller first. Both of them got in and we put our shoes back on. I grabbed our backpacks and threw them in the stoller. I put my tickets and phone back in their pocket. That was it! It was so smooth! We bought candy, we went by starbucks and to the potty. Then we headed to the gate. The moment we arrived, they announced that they were boarding those with children under 5. Yup. We were the first ones on the plane!

I pushed the stroller down the hall and to the airplane door. We each put on our backpacks. I folded up the stroller and we stepped on board.

IN FLIGHT: I think the key is to try to anticipate what they’ll need, but also try to relax. Keeping them busy with fun activities can really help! Small puzzles can be a great distraction to use on the tray tables. Reading small (lightweight) books, playing pre-downloaded games, or watching pre-downloaded movies on a phone or tablet are other great distractions. We also Love these little play packs:

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I don’t know where we’d be without these. I buy them at Dollar Tree. Sometimes I find them in the “one spot” at Target. They come with a mini coloring book, crayons or tiny markers, and a sheet of stickers! The top also zips closed for easy storage. My kids get one per flight.

Will the crayons and stickers end up on the floor? Inevitably, but you do what you can do! Try to be a good guest and clean up after yourself if possible.

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Catching up on some light reading!

Munching on snacks can pass the time as well. We like to pack dry foods like craisins, pretzels, and honey-nut cheerios. {We even developed a game with cheerios: Count out 4 cheerios when you see the number 4 etc.!) If you’re bringing snacks, I also recommend bringing a small ziplock bag with babywipes.

When I flew with Belle early on, she was breastfeeding. When we took off, I had her feeding. When we landed, I had her feeding. In between, she fed some more and giggled and explored my lap a bit. She also slept!

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I wore her through the airport after we went through security. I wore her everywhere until we were seated on the plane. You’ll notice, in this photo, I wore her in the baby bjorn. Immediately after this trip I purchased an Ergo and I never looked back. That thing is amazing.

Every flight I consider their ears popping. For Belle as a baby, I fed her. I figured the swallowing would “pop” her ears and keep her more calm.

Recently I tried to give my kids gum to chew, just during take off and landing. I won’t be doing that again. It didn’t work for them. Instead, they had some relief when I gave them more pretzels to chew on. We imitated “BIG CHEWING!” in slow motion. It worked a little bit but both children still covered their ears, saying “Ow!” Sorry kids… I tried!

CLOTHING: What are you wearing? I think LuLaRoe leggings are the perfect answer. I tend to travel in leggings, a comfy top like a Perfect T or even a Carly dress, and a Sarah (the duster cardigan) to complete the outfit. Not only do I look amazing; I am so comfortable that if I didn’t have 2 precious lives in my hands, I could fall asleep! In my bag, I roll up an alternate outfit. I coordinate my outfit to the cardigan or the shirt I’m already wearing. Jewel tones are a good idea. They go great with so many colors!

On planes, you go for comfort and practicality, but fashionable is just icing on the cake! I do a long sweater so if I’m cold I’m covered, and if I’m hot I can take it off. If my kids need a blanket, my sweater can double as that too!

I put my kids in shorts or leggings, a comfy shirt, and a light jacket. (things they can and will wiggle around in) When we go through security our jackets and sweaters and shoes come off, but then they go right back on again. Don’t pick the jacket with the zipper that sticks. Don’t pick the shoes that he struggles to get on every time. Pick things that easily slip on and off: slip on shoes, or shoes with just one strap, a zip up hoodie etc.

 

Bring options, within reason. Wear what you can and fit what you can’t into your bag.

BE PATIENT: The day is full of adventure. Think of flying on a plane through the eyes of your children: endless exciting, even scary things to see and explore. It’s likely all new to them. Be patient. Nothing is perfect. Be ready for things to go… less than smoothly! Odds are, you won’t be the only one with children on your flight. Have grace for those around you (including your inquisitive little ones).

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BE EARLY: There are plenty of things to do at an airport that will keep you busy. Always try to arrive EARLY. (We always aim to get there 2 hours before our flight). You will breathe easier. You won’t be frantically rushing around to find your gate or anxiously going through security. Be early and relax… you’ll live longer! You’ll have less to stress about, which means you’ll be in a better mood to everyone around you (including your inquisitive little ones!!)

If the stress of planning a trip is getting to you, remember why we travel this way. We go through all of this to have time with the people that we love.

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The best thing I can tell you readers, is to plan ahead. Don’t wait til the last minute. Prepare yourself for whatever you can. It won’t always be perfect my friend, but if you think ahead… You Will Survive (and even thrive!)

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