I don’t mind traveling with my children by myself. We travel enough to have a good system down, but not so much that the wonder and excitement of the airport is lost on them. I’m very organized and I have a system. I love my husband very much but he is a “business” traveler. He’s starting to understand why there is a difference between business travel and traveling with children. For this reason, I find it easier to travel by myself. The staff helps me with carry-on luggage or holding a baby so I can go to the bathroom. For some reason everyone around me seems to take pity on me and be nicer when I’m by myself than when I travel with my husband. However, I do have some tips and tricks to traveling with 2 children easier on everyone involved.
1) Find your zen zone: There is no place for rushing when traveling with children. Get to the airport early, schedule layovers with plenty of time. If you are a mother of multiple children I don’t need to tell you that everything takes longer with children. Take your time. I don’t let anyone rush me. The businessman behind me in line acting annoyed, the irritated flight attendant, it doesn’t matter to me, I go at my families pace because this makes for a better traveling experience for everyone. Even those that are annoyed at my situation.
2) Be organized: You know all those free makeup bags you have just laying around in the bottom of your closet? Now is the time to use them. If you do not have make up bags then zip loc bags work great as well. Instead of throwing everything into my diaper bag like I would do on a regular day, I put everything in separate bags. Extra clothes for the toddler, extra clothes for the baby, diapers, wipes, toys, snacks etc. Everything has its own organized little bag. I do this for several reasons: first, if my bag tips over, instead of having a huge pile of mess to clean up I can just pick up a few bags and be on my way. Second, I don’t have to grab the entire bag if I only need to change a diaper or get a new toy. Third, it keeps me organized if TSA decides they want to search my bag. Everything fits and everything has its place. I’m not very organized on a normal day, but when I travel I’m hyper organized. I usually have 2-3 bags with small toys in them for each child. (Be careful what toys you bring as you will have to clean them up at the end of the flight.) My daughter loves this! Each bag is like opening a present with surprises on the inside.
3) Bring all items: From my “8 Tips to surviving travel with an infant” post I clearly state that it’s better to “Have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.” If you’re not sure you’ll need something, bring it anyway.
4) Layovers: I cannot stress enough how important it is to take advantage of layovers. It’s my general rule to have at least a 2 hour layover when traveling with children. This gives plenty of time to go to the bathroom, get food, replenish drinks, get the wiggles out or whatever you find yourself needing to do in an airport.
5) Check the Car seats: I’ve read so many opinions on this topic. “Children are more comfortable in a car seat. It’s safer for the child in the car seat should something happen.” Etc. I’m not trying to start a debate on the topic so I’ll say, you are the parent. Do what you think is best. For me, I don’t have enough arms to lug car seats through the airport. My daughter is perfectly comfortable in the large seat. I let her bring her blankie and a small stuffed animal that doubles as a pillow should she want to sleep. Most of the time she stays awake these days and she thinks it’s cool that she gets to sit in the big seat like a big girl. As far as safety goes, I’m of the opinion that if the plane is going down, we are all going down with it. I don’t think having my child in a car seat is going to save them from a fiery plane crash any more than it will save me. For these reasons, I check the car seats. Again, you are the parent, do what you think is best for your family.
6) Bring a stroller: Even if I really enjoy baby wearing I would recommend a stroller when traveling with 2 children. This gives you 2 ways to navigate them quickly through the airport if by chance you didn’t get to the airport early or you didn’t get a long enough layover. Gate check your stroller so you can use it through the airport and give your arms/back a rest. Once I land at my final destination I’m ready to be done with traveling and my patience is all run out. I strap those babies in and we go as fast as we can to baggage claim. More than likely, kicking and screaming.
7) Entertainment: Yes, I think about what order my kids will play with toys before we get on the plane. I also think about how long they will play with each toy/activity. My child will not sit behind a screen for hours. I probably have 30 minutes to an hour before she will get bored with screen time. For this reason I save the screen for last. It is my last ditch effort to keeping her still and quiet while we land. I find that she needs several activities to keep her busy.
8) Be courteous: Whatever this looks like for you, be courteous to other travelers. I’ve seen many ideas online on how this looks (purchase candy, buy drinks, etc). Whatever you can do to help the other people you are traveling with have a comfortable flight will be much appreciated if your child freaks out. I usually ask the people I’m sitting with if they have a short layover and let them out before you if they do. It takes a special person to board a flight and see they are going to sit next to a mom with her 2 kids and think, “YES! I LOVE sitting by kids. This is going to be the best flight ever!” While this has happened to me, more often than not this is not what the person sitting next to you is thinking so be courteous of them and they will show grace to you and your family.
9) Have a system: My final and most important tip is to have a system. This is totally up to you how you want to do this step but I find this is the most important. My kids know what is coming next and for this reason they feel prepared. I talk to them all the time about what is coming. When it’s time to get on the plane, the baby goes in the carrier, toddler has her blankie and stuffed animal in her hands, her back pack is on her back or close to her, and my carry on is packed and ready to get on the plane as quickly as we can. And then we wait in line. Again, I do my best to tell them every step. “It’s time to clean up our toys now so we can wait in line until it’s our turn to get on the airplane” Constantly, I’m talking to the toddler. I usually board when they call for parents or people with disabilities. Anyone who needs extra time for boarding. However, I may wait to be the last one to board if I feel my kids need more “wiggle” time. Having some sort of system or routine will also ensure that you don’t leave anything behind.
This goes for the plane ride as well. When they call for the final descent I have my daughter start cleaning up. That way by the time we have to be in our seats with the seat belt on we are already packed. I usually hand her my Ipad for some screen time while we land. I try to sit in the back by the bathroom and let everyone else get off before me. This way my children don’t have to deal with a frustrated rushed mommy and air travel and be a fun experience!
Any other tips you have used? How was your travel experience?