If you’re traveling for less than 1-2 weeks for summer vacation, pack light. If you’re traveling for 2-3 months and 2 seasons, pack light AND find a Target and/or H&M or C&A (very affordable in Europe!) upon arrival. I’ve found that no matter how long we travel from one week to one month, IF laundry facilities are available, my kiddos need about: four outfits (shirt/pants/underwear/socks), plus two ‘accident outfits’ (i.e., a complete change of clothes, socks and all), one set of PJs, and two pairs of shoes (in case one gets wet, or covered in pasta sauce). For non-winter-weather trips each kid gets one wind-rain jacket, one warm hoodie and a hat. For winter travel I add gloves/puffy coat/hat and boots. Don’t forget everything liquid or gel gets double ziploc bagged including 2 kinds of toothpaste flavor (because, toddlers…). And shoes get put in plastic bags in the outer zipper so they don’t stink up the main suitcase (because, toddlers!)
It may seem daunting: travel ALONE (or even with a partner!) with 3 kids (one baby, and a 4 and 6 year old who have requested their own backpacks with books, stuffed animals, snacks, markers, etc- which I will 100% end up carrying through the airport), a stroller, a carrier, 2 checked bags, a camera bag, MY diaper bag and purse. But it can be done. Check in online. At the airport, use the SKYCAPS if they are available! (Outside check-in, usually lax with baggage-weight requirements, and they can also print the baby boarding pass that you need so you head straight to security line)- Don’t forget to tip!
SECURITY LINES with kids
Keep re-assuring the kids that as soon as they get through the X-ray and we get our bags that they get a donut. Honestly, it’s the only thing that works for us (my 6-year-old knows that Dunkin’ Donuts stand is right after the TSA line at DAL!)
WAITING for the flight to board: Try to keep the kids moving! They’re about to be ‘strapped in’ for the next few hours— take a walk in the terminal, window shop, find a children’s play space (Thank you, Southwest Airlines for the wonderful play areas all across the US for kids!) get them HYDRATED with water, and 40 minutes before take off (10 minutes before boarding) try to get everyone to use the restroom (and change baby’s diaper).
Most airlines still have family boarding–if your kids are 6 or under and traveling with multiple children, USE it!
NOTE: If your child knows what 10×10 is, and can wipe his own tush, consider boarding when your group number is called.
When you visibly see the cringing on passenger’s faces as you pass by with baby in the Bjorn, holding both kiddos’ backpacks AND your two bags and then finally sit down in a row of 4 next to your new neighbor for the next 6-12 hours, GIVE A BIG HELLO AND APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING! Babies and toddlers sometimes have BETTER behavior than adults on the airplane!
ACTIVITIES ON THE PLANE
For 3-6 year olds: Activity Books/Coloring/Stickers/Dot-to-Dot plus a pouch of crayons or markers
For 2-3 year olds: SMALL(er) toys–Cars on the tray table (yep! I’m that parent), mini-dolls, a ziploc bag of a few legos
For Babies: Finger puppets, flap books, a set of KEYS (preferably toy, not your own car keys!)
If you’re feeling adventurous: KOOSH balls for a soft game of catch,
If you’re feeling crafty: WRAP each little gift up for an extra 4 minutes of ‘unwrapping’/surprise time
If the kids are allowed bring THE IPAD–let the kids watch favorite shows and use apps, download NEW apps, educational apps, YouTube clips, things that will work even if WIFI on the airplane is spotty and/or non-existant! We give our 2 older boys 30 minutes of ipad per week. When we fly, it’s pretty much unlimited.
And of course, travel with SNACKS. Carefully timed and distributed snacks can prevent meltdowns and help with math skills! (You have 3 cheerios, now take away 1 cheerio?)
If THEY have to go:
6+ yrs.: guard the almost-closed door for them and make sure they DON’T. TOUCH. ANYTHING except the ‘flush’ button and then wash hands!
2-5yrs: squeeze in WITH them (and obviously the baby still in the Bjorn)–get their pants miraculously down but not touching the floor since there is obviously pee and toilet paper there already, wipe, get their pants back ON without gagging, wash their hands, usher them out, keep door open and wash YOUR hands.
Baby: I have STEALTH NINJA’d diaper changes in my own seat with baby on my lap and/or taking up half the seat next to me and/or IN the overnight long-haul flight bassinett. #SorryNotSorry
If YOU have to go:
Traveling with a partner: all kids stay in their seats and you get to go in peace.
Traveling alone: 6-year-old is in charge of 4-year-old, baby comes into the loo with mama and we do the tiny-toilet-tango.
THE MOST IMPORTANT (2) THING(s) TO REMEMBER WHEN TRAVELING WITH KIDS
1. This too shall pass
2. Bring an extra shirt and pants for YOU in case of: Baby poop explosion, toddler air-sickness, kindergartener’s overszealous reach for apple juice from flight attendant.
What works best for YOUR family?! Happy trails!