Congrats, everyone! If you’ve completed Part I of this series, it means you are prepared and ready to depart for the airport. In case you haven’t gotten through Part I, definitely jump back to it. There is a ton of great info about preparing for any vacation with kids. To bring everyone up to speed, we just did long-haul flights from Chicago to Hawaii and back again. With a 3- and a 5-year-old coming along, I did a lot of planning ahead to make sure the flights were as seamless as possible…and with minimal misery. Having flown on shorter jaunts with the kids, we have definitely fine-tuned our airport process. I thought some of you might also be in the market for these tips, which brings us to Part II.
Remember that time I forgot the kids’ birth certificates? Yeah, there was that other time we got to the airport and realized we had left a whole suitcase back home. Ever since, we’ve made it a point to have all the bags packed in the car or by the front door, making sure IDs are also in place.
If you have kids who are toddlers or older, it really helps to do a little pre-correction. Having a quick chat before you leave about how much you’re counting on everyone to be flexible + patient will help everyone take on the mindset necessary for a successful flight.
Ours was as simple as, “This flight to Hawaii is going to be SUPER long. We are all going to be pretty tired and uncomfortable by the time we get there. I’m counting on you to follow directions quickly. Even when we ask you to do things you don’t want to do. It’ll help us make sure we all get there on time, safely, and ready to have fun!”
Don’t belabor it, the more we talk, the less they listen so keep it short and sweet.
When you get to the airport, the biggest hurdle is getting inside and through security without a hitch. Your best bet is to get your littlest one into a wearable baby carrier (if they still fit). Meanwhile, your partner opens the stroller and loads it with carry-on bags. This will allow you and the kids to get situated. You push the stroller holding the carry-on bags and your partner can grab the suitcases.
If you have older kids, it helps to have them wear their carry-on backpacks until you get to security. They like feeling a part of the trip. I find the kids are proud being prepared for their trip and walking around with their bag on. (Just try not to overpack it because if it’s too heavy, you’ll be carrying it for them.)
At security, the other adult can take over collapsing the stroller, taking out computers et. al.. And you can focus on getting through the detector. If you’re traveling with baby’s milk/food, you’ll also have to give it to the TSA agent to be tested. They will also want to swab your hands. So definitely don’t hang around waiting for everything to make it on to the belt. Once everyone’s done with security, set up the stroller + reload it with carry-on luggage for easy navigation to the gate.
As a side note, if your family will be traveling a lot, it can be worth it to invest in TSA’s Pre-Check program. These Pre-Check lines are not only usually shorter but also quicker. The adults each need their own pre-check status, but the kids are covered by their parents’ status, which is always a nice bonus. Double-check your credit card benefits, too, because some travel or premium cards cover the cost of enrolling!
Nourish everyone. Get your partner something to eat and pet their ego too some for good measure.
When you arrive at the gate, collapse the stroller and get it gate-checked along with the car seat. Just remember to put both in some kind of protective bag; I’ve heard there can be condensation in the storage area of the plane. We have had good luck with a backpack style like this one.
If you didn’t get a seat for your youngest child, you can talk to the agent about any extra room. I’ve heard they will give you an open seat so you can use the carrier for them on the flight.
Right around the time for boarding, give any kids in diapers a quick change into an overnight diaper. It can be helpful to have your partner board the plane in the meantime and get everything situated before you get on with the kids. I think the later you get on the plane with a baby, the better. Wait until the tail-end of boarding to get on. If your partner did their job, you should be able to plop down and take off.
(They won’t let you take off or land with any kids in your carrier. But you may want to keep wearing the carrier in case the baby is sleepy and wants to nap; it’ll work wonders for your arms). You can also bring a pillow bed like a Dock-a-Tot, but if it’s a short enough flight, you may not want to bother with juggling it.
You have arrived and reached the shortest part of my advice!! I’m a big fan of front loading the work so that once you’re on the plane everything is taken care of. Hopefully, you also find that doing the preparing keeps everything so much calmer!
I always gave a bottle to the baby at ascent and descent to help with their ears, even if it wasn’t time for a bottle. The big kids like gum now, so I always make sure I have some in my carry-on for them, too. After that, it’s all just doing everything in your power to entertain, entertain, entertain.
I’ve given up on trying to watch a movie or get any work done. Instead, I usually download an audiobook for myself and bring a puzzle book or magazine for the moments when the kids are occupied. I always try to hold out on the iPad as long as possible + save it for the moment when it seems all hope is lost, it’s the best shiny object around.
And, if all goes well + you’re lucky, the kids will sleep, too.
How have your airport + airplane experiences with kids gone? I feel like we have all had great and less-than-exciting experiences–what do you think makes the difference? Share your thoughts below and head over to IG to follow our other posts!
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