Here’s tip #1: stay home. Ha, just kidding. Sort of.
I’m definitely not a world traveler or anything, but I do feel like I have quite a bit of experience traveling with kiddos. A decent amount of my trips have been solo too so they’re especially fun :).
Just to give you a little background, we live in rural Colorado so the closest airport is either Denver, which is 3 hours away (and also hell on earth), or Grand Junction, which is 2ish hours away. So, when I say we travel, it’s an all day affair no matter where we are going. Our kids are about 1 and 3.
I recently took our kids to Phoenix for a week by myself so this fresh in my memory. Here are a couple ways I try to numb the pain:
- Pack Snacks: If you have kids already, or you’re a normal human being traveling by yourself, you probably already know snacks are a must. This gets a little tricky the more kids you have. Let’s just say your shoulders will be screaming by the end of the day (so much crap in your bag!). I usually pack snacks for the car ride and sometimes sandwiches too. Once we are at the airport through security I’ll get the kids a snack. A “new snack” is more exciting for some reason and kind of keeps them busy while we wait to board.
- Allow Lots of Time: The Denver airport is a nightmare. It takes forever to get through that place no matter what time of day or year. I think it took me an hour and 15 min. this past time through. That’s nuts. It took me 20 minutes to get to my gate in Phoenix. Anyway, since Denver is horrible, we allow for LOTS of time. Security with 2 kids is a little complicated since I have to hold the baby and walk through.
I’ve seen a lot of parents take babies through airports in a carrier which definitely seems like a great idea. It probably depends on your baby and their age. My little one is at the age where she wants to move around constantly and the carrier I have (Ergo) keeps her so close to my body I think it drives her nuts. So, I use a stroller.
- Use the infant car seat/stroller combo- I like the stroller/infant seat combo because I need the car seat anyway, it keeps the baby off of me, I can use the space below the stroller to carry stuff, and I can check all of it at the gate. If my baby’s going to fall asleep, she falls asleep easier in the stroller than in a carrier. Again, I’m sure this depends on your babies age and probably the carrier. The challenge with a stroller is I have to take it apart during security. It’s not horrible, but I have to keep the 3 year old near me, take the seat off, fold the stroller, take the baby out, then place the seat on the security belt. Usually, there are people around to help out. I still prefer this method to the carrier. So, if I’m traveling by myself, I usually have 1 rolling bag, the stroller/car seat, and diaper bag. I check the bag no matter what because I cannot deal with all the crap. Then check the stroller/car seat at the gate. If the flights not full, they usually let you take the car seat on the plane if you wanted to try and have your baby sleep.
- Use a harness. Or as I like to call it, a leash– We’ve all seen those parents walking through airports or theme parks with their kids on leashes and I TOTALLY GET IT. This idea is genius. I’ve absolutely made fun of these people at some point in my life, but what an awesome idea! 2 or 3 year olds can be erratic little crazy people. Airports are not the place to lose a toddler. I call our 3 year old’s a backpack (because it is essentially) and she actually likes it. She has a little pocket where she can put stuff like stickers, snacks, or books. It’s a great way to hide little surprises and get them out during the plane ride. It also keeps your kid near you! If you’re traveling solo, it’s a life saver.
On the plane:
- Entertainment for your toddler– I really tried to avoid gluing our oldest child to cartoons during plane rides but eventually, I caved. I’m not sure why I didn’t do it sooner? Plane rides are basically tough on everyone so why not just ease the pain a little? I download episodes of her favorite cartoons or Sesame Street and set her up on my Ipad (risky) during the flight. She will usually sit back and watch her shows almost the whole ride.
- Window Seats- Our toddler always gets the window seat. It kind of contains her in a way. She usually doesn’t show much interest in looking outside but she actually did this past trip to Phoenix. We looked at other planes driving around then at the clouds. She liked waving goodbye as we left too.
- Lollypops– These are my secret weapon. I give my toddler a lollypop when we’re taking off. I think it helps with the ear situation since she’s swallowing a lot. I also know that she will absolutely eat it. I can’t guarantee she will drink water, but I know she will suck on a lollypop. It also keeps her busy for a while.
- Breastfeed or Bottle for the Baby-I’m not longer breastfeeding, but if you are, breastfeed that baby! That used to always guarantee that they would fall asleep. I never loved getting my boobs out but I’m telling you it’s worth it. Luckily, our baby girl will take a bottle so I bottle fed her throughout the plane ride. She never fell asleep, but at least she was full and didn’t have any ear problems.
- Play with the Plane– Babies are so into seeing and touching everything so I just look around and use what I got on a plane ride. For example, I take out the magazines and the flip through the pages which totally entertained her. Then I’d rip out a page and crinkle it up. Ask the stewardess for a cup. Babies like those plastic cups! When my toddler was a little older (maybe like, a year and a half or 2) we would look through SkyMall like, nonstop finding pictures of dogs and cats. Seriously, it’s the little things.
- Show baby the people on the plane- I did this with both of my kids. When the baby gets kind of fussy, I lift her up over the seat so she can look behind us at all the people. Our 1 year old loved this this past week. People interact with them (or don’t) and they just love to look around. It’s almost like peak a boo if you lift them up and down. Just don’t bang their head into the ceiling (my husband did that with our first and you could hear the gasps behind us hah!).
Some things I still haven’t conquered:
- Seat Belts-Sometimes I can get the toddler to put her seatbelt on, but most of the time, she squirms out. The stewardess’ always ask me to get her belted and when I’m traveling alone, I literally have no idea how I’m supposed to do that. I usually just fake it and hold her down.
- Getting out of her seat– She’s contained next to the window, but sometimes she will get out of her seat and down on the floor. Since I have a baby in my lap, it’s basically impossible to get Brooke off the floor. Eventually she gets back up.
Probably others too but my 1 year old is being a crazy person so I gotta wrap it up!
Bottom line is: be patient and remember that it will be over before you know it! It can be pretty awful, but we all get through it. Don’t worry too much about the other people on the plane, they will be fine!!
If all else fails, Tylenol PM ought to do the trick. Either for you or the kids :). (Kidding of course).
What are your tricks when traveling with small kids?