Surviving Air Travel with Little Ones

Enjoying our first day in Montana
after a good night's rest!
We have done lots of little road trips with King Diaper, but air travel is new territory for us.  I travel more solo for work.  Incorporating both my guys into a trip is an adjustment to say the least.  However, I think that travel is something to enjoy and not dread - even if it involved airports and rental car lines.

How did we fair for our first big family trip?  It was overall an awesome trip.  There were a few little melt down moments here and there, but there was noting that makes me look back think that we won't try a big trip like this with out little one again.  We really enjoyed it. Planning and the prep work ahead of time made a big difference.

  1. Think it through.  What do you positively have to bring that you are going to toting around?  And, what can you pick up on the fly to lighten the load?  For example, do you really have to pack all the snacks you are going to need?  If it takes little space and travels easy, then take it.  But, we eat lots of fruit.  I can pick that up in the airport.  I'm not packing fruit.  But, cereal bars, etc, this is my squirrel food that we take!  Also plan wisely with the toys you take.  Eliminate noisy and big toys.
  2. Plan for security checks.  Dress accordingly.  Maxi dresses and simple shoes can be done while looking put together without showing up in your PJs.  Also, leave the clunky funky jewelry!  throw a fun scarf or wrap on and call it a day.  It can be your fun accessory and keep you warm all in one whack!
  3. Make sure that shoulder straps fit comfortably and are not overly heavy.  Test everything in advance.  Otherwise you will be cursing all the way through the airport as you try to survive the day while juggling a child.
  4. Don't shy from checking luggage.  I'm over people that have overstuffed bags that fill up overhead bins and take the the isles while they shove stuff that will NEVER fit and then have to get help from the attendants!  CHECK YOUR BAGS!!!  Unless you are traveling alone, you are NOT going to fit all of the stuff you need into carry ons for all of you.  Trust me.  Juggling a baby, big carry on bags and whatever else you need will make you crazy before you get half way through the airport!  The price of checked luggage is worth your sanity.  And mine.  I thank you in advance for checking those bags - and if not, I'll be giving you the stink eye from my seat or the isle while I wait.  
  5. Make lists before leaving.  Make a list for each person and what they need to take.  Make a separate list of what you will need to pick up for baby when you get there.  And there will be things.  The easiest way to do this and keep track is using apps on your phones.  I like using Our Groceries.  My husband and I have this on both of our phones.  I can make the list and it syncs with his phone.  He can update and change as needed.  This way we are both organized and aren't digging around for crumpled up paper!
  6. Pack only the diapers you are going to need to travel.  I packed about 6 in my diaper bag.  We picked up a pack at the store once we got there.  I did pack a night time diaper for each night.  I didn't need to buy a whole pack of them and this didn't take up as much room.  Also, throw in a couple of swimmers if you think you will need them.  Items like this won't take up a lot of space and don't come in small enough packs to warrant separate purchases for just these.  Regular day diapers are in high demand and are easy to get on the go.
I'm not going to profess to be an expert here after one trip by plane with King Diaper, but I will say that I feel more confident about doing it again given our recent experience.  Here are some things that I feel made it go well.
Napping on the way home.
  • Leave early!  It may mean that you go against your instincts of waiting until everyone has their coffee to leave, but trust me, this is a good thing!  We got our guy up at the last minute, threw on his clothes and left.  He was happy, alert and not too tired to be satisfied during the day.  Plus, this helps keep your little ones on schedule by getting to bed at a normal time upon arrival, etc.
  • I don't really want to talk about number two, but I will.  This will probably be the only time I will  ever talk about this on my blog, but it can and does happen in the air.  Don't panic.  I had to change king diaper in that little bitty bathroom on the closed lid of a toilet seat.  Not fun or a great mental image.  But, I just sang and talked calmly to him so that he wasn't scared in a crazy position and strange environment.  Over.  Done.  And nothing terrible to it.  Just keep things like a diaper, wipes and changing pad handy so that you can grab and go when it does happen.  Let me stress again - CALM.  It goes farther than you think!  For you and everyone else!
  • Plan for layovers and possibly an extra stop.  I know.  Most people think that getting it all done at once is better.  For us, no.  On the way, we had one stop.   The long 4+ hours on the plane all at once was almost too much.  On the way home, we had 2 stops.  He slept for two hours during the first flight.  He had breakfast and played with his toys and books on the second.  We had a nice leisurely lunch at the airport next.  Then he slept on the last hour flight.  It was much better.
  • Skip the train and walk in airports.  Unless you are running to your next terminal, walk!  Let the kids walk and just allow them to run off some steam!  It also allowed us all to score some extra steps in on the handy dandy Jawbone UP!  So, everyone wins!  
  • Snacks are key!  I had planned for things like granola/cereal type bars, puffs and that kind of thing going.  Even those squeeze pouches of food work great.  But, look for kiosks that have cheese, fruit, yogurt, etc.  It may be expensive, but these items are better than junk.  Nothing is cheap at the airport so make it count!  And finally, save your money on milk and ask your flight attendant for some so that you don't have to buy it at the airport!
  • Ibuprofen.  Give it to your child in flight about 30 minutes before landing to help with ear aches due to pressure.  I know that lots of people say medicate your kids with Benadryl, but I have also heard parents talk about it having the opposite affect on children and making them hyper.  We rolled the dice and did fine.  If you are in doubt or concerned, ask your pediatrician or local pharmacist.  They should be able to recommend a safe solution if you feel that you need to provide your child with something to made the ride easier.
  • Pack toys and items to keep your child's attention in a small backpack or tote that you can store under the seat and easily pull out without digging into the overhead bin.  We packed a few thin books.  Highlights are great for kids on a plane.  Also, we have Scout that is a programmable dog with songs that are fun.  The volume can be adjusted so it doesn't disturb everyone.  And a couple of other small items.  I would recommend pulling out things your child enjoys but hasn't played with in a while.  He or she can rediscover it on the trip and enjoy something "new" all over again.  
  • Running through the airport!
  • Use your phone for entertainment.  I have this app on my phone called Play Kids that has little PBS Kids shows like Caillou, Super Why, and Daniel Tiger.  This was an easy compact way to entertain as needed on the plan.  Other apps like Petting Zoo are fun and entertaining for small children.  
Finally enjoy your trip!  If you forget something, it is not a crisis.  Just pick up what you need and move on.  Don't try to do everything.  When you are tired, stop and rest.  Killing yourself to pack it all in just makes for a miserable day!

Enjoying some quality time with
And schedules are key.  Naps and reasonable bed times are a must for everyone involved.  After all, you are the grown up.  Take charge and take a mental health break.  You will be glad you did!  And so will everyone else you encounter.  There is nothing worse that worn out, grumpy children that are out of control because they are too tired.  

My good friend Susan kept schedules for her kids on every trip for all of the years I have known her.  She said it was the only sane way to survive any trip.  She travels and has a big time every where she goes.  My friend Elizabeth is the same way.  Her children continue to have a regular bed time even while out of town.  Everyone is happier.  So, take your cues from other parents that have survived little ones and travel.  I've watched for years and seen what works and what doesn't.

My husband and I both love to travel.  Traveling early with kids and often is a good thing.  We have enjoyed doing little trips as a family.  This was by far our biggest one, and we feel up for the next one already!  Plan a trip and settle in for the ride.  Seeing the world through the eyes of your child is so much fun.  I can't wait to see where we go next!