Welcome back! Here’s part two to yesterday’s post on gear for traveling with two little ones. I thought it might be fun to make my travel suggestions a bit more applicable by running through a quick trip to the airport while I’m flying solo (I just actually did this in June). Just as a reference, everything that I refer to here is mentioned in yesterday’s round up! Sorry for the lengthy post – I hope this comes in handy for fellow traveling mommas at some point in the future :).
Travel in Action
When we arrive at the airport my first mission is to get our little crew and all of our luggage to the check-in counter in one piece. Having whomever drops me off (Kevin, parents, friend) park their car and walk us in is usually quite time consuming, so I prefer a curb side drop off.
Checking Luggage: I stow our Ergo in the basket of the stroller and attach one of the car seats to the top of the stroller with the safety belt (I have the car seat adaptor attached). The other car seat I carry in a travel bag. How I choose which car seat to strap to stroller: if we’re on a flight that I don’t think will be sold out I’ll bring T’s car seat – they’ll let you bring it aboard for free. If I know it’s a busy flight, and because I already have purchased a seat for Liv, I bring hers. Kids flying in car seats makes life so much easier for mom. They’re strapped in! They’re used to that feeling while traveling and they’ll happily sit and read books, eat snacks, and so on rather than attempt to move about with their plane curiosity or kick the seat in front of them.
Liv helps me roll one of the rolling suitcases to the counter, I roll the other suitcase and push the stroller which has Taylor in the lower basket and my packed up car seat stacked on top. We are a moving luggage cart at this point :).
I always check our bags. I check one car seat in a travel bag (free – you can even fit other equipment into this free bag), one roller bag for me and one roller bag with Liv & T clothing (diapers, etc). If you have a three-year-old that loves to hold her own boarding pass simply ask that two be printed (one for you, one for her).
Security Line: We move on to the security line with both girls now in the stroller (one strapped into car seat in stroller) so that we’re all contained. Easy peasy!
When I reach the front of security I already have my laptop out of the diaper bag/briefcase and push that as well as Liv’s travel backpack through the conveyor belt. I unstrap girls and add car seat upside down to belt and then break down stroller. We reassemble on the opposite side and have the whole process down pat to make it extra fast and easy for everyone lining up behind us (wondering how they ended up ‘stuck’ behind a family). Kids don’t have to take off shoes, though Liv usually wants to join in on that fun.
Terminal to Gate and Nabbing Extra Seats: Down to the gate we travel. I stop first at the gate desk and collect a gate check tag for the stroller (if I brought T’s and there’s a chance that I might not be able to bring it aboard I grab one for the stroller, too). These tags confirm to the airlines that we intend to drop equipment off before boarding the plane at the end of the passenger walkway bridge. They also sign away airline liability should a piece be damaged, so make sure that extra straps and plastic parts are secure. I double check with the airline attendants that there’s room on the flight for us to take over three seats (we’ve only purchased two but airlines are always awesome about giving away one more at the gate for a baby if there’s room).
Boarding: Family boarding is the best. Board as early as you’re able (and if you’re pregnant you can even board earlier when they call for travelers needing extra time) so that you have your choice of seats – not the front, not the back – on the plane. I prefer middle where other kids might sit (business travel is usually at the front of the plane and you’ll receive more sideways glances, I prefer the company of other moms and kids).
When we board the flight I put Taylor in the Ergo attached to me and walk the stroller to the plane door. Here’s where I leave it broken down for the crew to gate check. Liv carries her backpack and I carry the car seat, baby and my bag (Ergo is SO awesome here) down the aisle to our seats. If I have T’s car seat Liv sits in the middle, car seat at the window and me on the aisle (no escaping). If I don’t then Liv loves the window! We pull out books and snacks and settle in for a nice little flight. If I don’t have Taylor’s car seat I do my best to convince her to stay in the Ergo for the duration of the trip.
Deboarding: Since we have to wait for our stroller (and possibly a car seat) to come out of gate check cargo we might as well wait until everyone else has gotten off the plane to deboard. Once Taylor is back in the Ergo and Liv has her backpack ready to go, off the plane we walk to meet our stroller right at the plane door on the passenger bridge.
Hint #1: Flight take off is the best opportunity for coaxing naps. There’s something about the ascent and elevation change that lulls little eyes to sleep so thin blankets (or momma’s scarf) and snuggling are helpful here (headphones with lullabies from your phone even better). If no one falls asleep as we rise to 30,000 feet then it probably won’t happen.
Hint #2: Pack more snacks than you ever thought necessary. Little hands are occupied best when they are busy enjoying snack traps of raisins, pretzels, fruit and the like. I literally pack Liv’s backpack with a pound of snack options. The goal is that they are eating for every second of the flight.
Hint #3: Board with empty water bottles. There’s nothing like discovering that your water bottle has emptied onto all of the toys/snacks/change of clothes in your bag. It’s happened too many times! Hydration in air is key but I fill up the water bottles during in-flight service and order water with no ice.
Hint #4: Apps, videos and games are lifesavers. All of my technology rules fly out the window when we are in flight. Doesn’t occupy Taylor in quite the way it entertains Liv, but she’s a happy camper if she has her headphones and a kid’s show to enjoy during the flight. I use a board book (that we read forwards, backwards, upside down…) and more snacks for T. Extra toys aren’t really worth the work to carry them on board (with the exception of these – genius that they don’t roll!), my goal is to pack as small and lightweight of a bag as possible.
Hint #5: If you must share your row with other passengers I highly recommend grandmas. Or women that look like grandmas. They are kind, they hold babies while you take toddlers to the bathroom, they smile while kids sing softly in their seats. (I’ll save you the story of the bewildered business man who once held, at arms length, Liv as an infant while I repositioned bags in overhead storage).
Hint #6: If it’s a night flight, PJs are great. They might even encourage a bit of sleep (as will a car seat as opposed to sitting on their own).
Hint #7: Bribery is okay. Here’s one of those rare situations when I use bribery to get my way. With a 3-year-old it’s not always a guarantee that travel will be smooth or easy (even with angel children like mine ;)). I often have a handful of M&Ms or Skittles ready to incentivize and we make a game out of behaving well on the plane. Liv might earn an M&M for each ten minutes of great behavior on the flight, she might lose an M&M from the bag if she kicks the seat in front of her. There’s always an opportunity to earn every lost treat back.
Hint #8: From a reader and so good that I had to add it to the list: It’s okay to accept help. We all want to be tough, capable mom’s but there is nothing wrong with someone helping carry your bags on, or unfold your stroller. :) People like to help, which is so awesome!
In general, travel with our little fam is less stressful if I follow these simple rules: 1. strap children to myself or a car seat/stroller whenever possible, 2. pack LOTS of dry, not messy food, 3. make sure iPad/phone has a long charge in it, 4. relax because kids will get as ansy as you are in any situation.
What are your tips? Please do share any that you’ve found to be successful! I’m always looking for extra tools for my tool belt.
Enjoy your beautiful weekend and your next opportunity to travel!
PS more travel posts shared here. We took Liv over to Europe for 4 ish weeks when she was 20 months old and documented (all except Morocco – I promise to get to that) here. She was a travel champ, even with 10 hour flights.