How to air travel with (two) small kids alone!
Going on your first flight with your baby? Want to know more about travelling alone with little children? If so, keep reading and hopefully you will find at least one helpful tip from this post ;)
So I have been a serial traveller for years now and for the most part, done it alone with my kid(s). Travelling gets a whole new meaning when you have a child with you. You are no longer on your own terms and time and there is a lot to adjust to, and learn about before you fly with a child for the first time.
For many of you this might be a common knowledge, but I will go through this anyway. When you book your flight, your infant can sit in your lap until the age of 2 - meaning, the baby does not need a separate seat, you will only have to pay a small % of the ticket price and/or some fees. If you fly with a lap infant, the seat next to you is for someone else. From the age of 2 the child will require his own seat with approximately an 80% of the full adult fare (until they turn 12 and pay full price from then on) and therefore get checked luggage allowance as well.
As long as you have children on your ticket, you can take a car seat and a stroller for free with most airlines. Therefore be prepared to check those items in OR ask for a gate check for your stroller (only works with one piece, collapsable travel strollers). This means you can go through the security and airport with the stroller until the gate. Some strollers are super small and you can also take them to the cabin as a carry-on item, but I have not used that option, the gate/aircraft door has been good enough for me.
For the checked items, I have bought a travel bag to keep them from getting too dirty AND to pack some extra items in it. For example our car seat bag looks like a huge backpack (here's a link to a similar one). I have found it super helpful as I prefer using our own car seat while travelling and I ALWAYS put extra stuff in that bag like winter coats, extra diapers, toys etc that do not fit in my regular checked luggage, also it is easier to carry it on your back if need be. With little ones, it is always better to keep your hands free of stuff.
Keeping your hands free brings me to the next point, which is a baby carrier. That is another item that has become super helpful while travelling with a small baby and a toddler (who will most likely be running around). This way the little one is strapped to you, he feels closeness and the movement can rock him to sleep and you can attend your toddler easier. I pair my baby carrier with a backpack, so there will be nothing in my hands and it also helps to balance out the weight a bit :)
I know that most people find it weird and maybe not even acceptable, but there are kids' backpacks that have a leash attached to them. I fully understand that my child is not an animal and should not be treated like on, but once in my life I have used it at the airport. As my toddler is extremely active and all he does is run, run and run. He will run away from me to the wrong gates, through all the closed doors, to escalators etc and when I was expecting my second baby and was pregnant with him for 7,5 months, I simply could not keep up with my first born and storm through the airport after him. Then I had him wear the backpack and held onto the leash myself - it saved me few possibly harmful events and kept him somewhat close to me. I think that people should not judge other parents choosing this option as we do not know their circumstances - if all kids were obedient and stayed right next to their parents, these leashes would not exist :) You can always opt out and not use it if it is against your moral code.
For older and calmer kids, the sit-on carry-on luggage might be a great option. We now have two of these and Liam, our 3-year old is finally using it (even though it is for a very short period of time at the moment) and it makes life at an airport a little more entertaining for them too.
In addition to all the baby carrying "transportation" items there are few more tips to consider, like always plan your's and your kids' outfits accordingly as well. I swear by super comfortable easy-to-put-on and take-off clothing items, easy nursing accessible tops and slip on shoes. This means no jeans and belt for me as once you have a baby strapped to you (or you are simply holding one) and there is another one running around and you would like to use the bathroom - guess what, buttoning up your pants and opening/closing the belt can turn out to be quite a challenge one handed. The same goes for lace up shoes - try getting them on and off without using your hands at the security line for example. It has happened to me many times that I am simply putting my laptop, liquids, baby food etc on the tray at the security check and even that gives my toddler enough time to run through the x-ray machine and escape the area - taking off my belt, jewellery etc would all add to that and therefore I prefer to keep it as simple as possible.
In case you are still nursing your baby, try wearing something that makes nursing in public (like on your seat at the plane) fairly easy and private. I have found a top under a long sleeved loose shirt/sweater the best option - this way my stomach won't be exposed and my shoulders and breast will be still covered up until the baby's lips. Also, some airports have nursing pods that provide a quiet and private room for you and your baby - you can check if your destination or lay over airport has one beforehand. If your baby takes a bottle, you can either bring ready made formula, your pumped out breast milk or a milk powder (just add water later) in a bottle to the plane and simply use that.
Once you have figured out your own clothing, think about what will your little ones wear as well - do you really want the socks constantly falling off and three layers of buttons to be opened before you get to change the diaper? I usually choose the kind of pants for my baby that have socks attached to the pants (one piece) and a simple shirt on top to make the diaper changing as quick as possible and I actually prefer to do it right before getting on a plane (as the changing areas in those tiny airplane toilets are very small, have hard surfaces and for some reason, have the ceiling light directed straight to your baby's eyes, so I only use them when I do not have another option. Also trying to change your baby in that tiny room with your toddler standing next to you (as you can not leave him alone on his seat hoping he will be there when you get back), can be a bit of a challenge on its own.
Having the right type of clothes on your trip can seem a small thing but can prove to be very helpful. Also, never forget to pack extra clothing for your baby AND yourself. It just happened that we were flying to America and it was a long flight during which my baby got a diarrhoea and of course the diaper leaked (not just once) and his and my clothes were covered in poop. I had to change him way too many times on that flight and wash my own shirt and pants in a lavatory few times and wished I had packed a spare shirt for myself - any shirt! So please learn from my experience and when on a long haul, just add that little shirt in that diaper bag for yourself! :)
Once one a plane, always keep your diaper bag near and make sure to have wipes, snacks and entertainment items for your kids in it. As my toddler is old enough to watch cartoons, ipad (with headphones) has become a life saver on our flights.
After all this talk about what to bring and wear, I will leave a quick check list for you to take a look at before going on your next flight.
Travel check list:
stroller/car seat bag
easy slip on clothes without bells and whistles
slip on shoes
What to pack in a diaper bag:
diapers, obviously :)
changing pad (if you prefer it)
change of clothes
milk/milk powder, purees
(ipad + headphones)
These previous tips were about how to literally and physically get through the travel day with your kids, the other part, and maybe even more important part, is how to get through it MENTALLY!
Flying on it's own is tiring and stressful and adding children to it can be very trying. My biggest and most important piece of advice for you is to ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS for the travel day. Go in knowing that you will be carrying way too many bags, running after your children, changing them, attending to their needs, entertaining them, they will play with the window shade on the plane and open/close the tray table a hundred times, they will stand on the seat, kick the seat in front of them and try your patience in many other ways. If your child is anything like my toddler, add several encounters with security guards etc (you can read all about it from my post here). Breath in and breath out, try taking it as relaxed as possible and try understanding your children - travelling is new, exciting and full of new things to explore and when possible, ask for help! Maybe a fellow traveller or the flight attendant can give you a hand with your luggage, child etc. If your baby sleeps well in a bassinet during the flight, try booking the seats with the bulk head, if your kids are able to sleep well on a plane, try booking a night flight, just think about your children and what would most likely work best for them during the flight time.
I truly wish that your next flight with your kid(s) will be as easy as possible and if you found any of these tips helpful, please leave a comment below and say which one! Also, sharing is caring and I would appreciate you sharing this post with your friends if you sincerely think they could benefit from it.
Thank you for reading and finding your way to my blog and page! 💖