Flying with young kids can be quite the adventure – learn from our victories and defeats.
We had 3 kids in less than 3 years. I know what you are thinking, are they all yours? Yes, if you do the math, it is possible. What’s it like? Well… we love it. There are definite moments of pure insanity, and equal moments of pure joy when your kids are all that close in age. It does present some extra challenges and that would be a little of an understatement when we were on our way to Hawaii for a month of vacation.
Picture this… a mom and dad with their 3 little kids ages 7 months, almost 2 and 3 1/2 years old step out at the airport with car seats in tow and all their luggage. And this isn’t any ordinary luggage… this is 6 carry on’s, a stroller, 3 car seats and all the camping supplies needed for a a month-long vacation on the island of Kauai with a two week camping trip! Luggage included a cooler, camping stove, sleeping bags, tent and the list goes on. Yup, that was us, and we were quite the spectacle. We took it in stride though, we knew the day was going to be a marathon of an adventure so we approached it that way. We also knew that at the end of the day, we would be on a beach in Hawaii on vacation and all of it would be worth it. To be honest, that’s what I kept repeating to myself all day long… “it will all be worth it, soon we will be in Hawaii listening to the sound of ocean waves, under the nice warm sun”. As soon as I thought about that for a moment, I felt like I could take on the world! No baby or toddler whining and fussing was going to defeat me. Although about 3 hours into a 5 hour flight, I did wonder if it was really worth it having two free lap kids on my knee instead of paying for an extra seat.
Many parents have been there and I think it is no small task to survive a flight with a baby, toddlers or pre-schoolers. Flight attendants who don’t seem to know what you are going through and you just want to scream at them “HEY, you want to try this?! How about you hold my baby with an ever growing dirty diaper that is now oozing onto my pants and can’t be changed because I am supposed to have my seat belt on, and I’ll go hand out the peanuts!”. Airport security who have no clue what it means to take off 3 pairs of shoes off your kids plus your own, move luggage through the screener, keep the kids from running through the metal detector too early, close strollers to get on the conveyer belt… all the while trying to keep your pants up because you had to remove your belt.
We did survive the flight, but you’ll notice there aren’t many pictures of babies on the plane in this post. I’ll let that comment speak for itself as to why we didn’t think of taking pictures.
As our kids are all pre-schoolers and young elementary now, it has gotten a little easier, but let me tell you… it is still quite the adventure EVERY time. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea though about flying with young ones. The adventures are not all hard work… that’s not the case at all. We have actually had many tender and happy moments on the plane as well with our kids, from exploring new toys and activities, nap times, watching a movie together, to exploring the long corridors at the airport with many up and down rides on the escalator. I’ve really enjoyed our plane flying days, and I know you will too.
I do hope these tips for traveling by plane with young fliers will inspire you. You can do this! It will all be worth it.
4 tips for infants
1. Go ahead and bring that big stroller you love so much. It’s incredibly handy to have a nice stroller that can hold your carry-on, as well as your baby, comfortably when walking the miles of hallways at the airport. You simply check it at the gate prior to boarding the plane and then it’s there when you arrive at your destination or if you have any layovers.
2. Feed your baby when the plane takes off and lands. When babies suck, it helps their ears clear and not have the pressure pain. This works especially well during landing when ears need to “pop” over and over. Either breastfeed or give them a bottle or a soother/pacifier. Just try to get them sucking.
3. When it’s time to change your child’s diaper, be prepared to feel a bit like Houdini in the onboard bathroom (aka – cupboard). Go in with a sense of humor and do your best to come out with it too. First, take only what you need in there. The space is so small that if you don’t need the entire diaper bag, then don’t take it. If possible, just take the new diaper and the wipes. Once you’re in the bathroom (aka – fortress of solitude), put the change table down, grab a couple of paper towels and place them on the change table. Now you can put your little lovely on the table and change their diaper. Keep calm, take your time, and don’t worry about the line-up outside the bathroom. The other passengers need to stretch their legs anyway so a few more minutes won’t hurt them. One time when Jay emerged from the bathroom with our 6 month old son, he raised our son up and said, “I am victorious! If you can change a diaper in there, you can do anything!” The back few rows of the plane laughed and applauded him. So you, too, can have fun with it.
4. Give yourself plenty of time to clear security at the airport. You will be asked to empty out your stroller, fold it up for screening, take off your shoes, put all your carry-ons up on the conveyor belt, and walk through the metal detector to only have to put it all together on the other side. And chances are, you will be asked if the guard can search all your bags as you inevitably will have bottles of liquid or jars of mashed peas for your baby and they will want to inspect. So plan for it to potentially take you longer than normal to get through security.
BONUS TIP – When crossing the border between Canada and the United States when flying you MUST bring a passport. I’m sure everyone knows that now… but at one time it wasn’t always that way. We relied on a birth certificate a few years back and our little 6 month old Titus was not permitted on the plane and missed visiting Nana & Papa in Edmonton. There is a longer version to that story… but let’s just say it was soooo sad!
4 tips for toddlers and pre-schoolers
1. Pack lots of special snacks. I am one of those moms who makes everything from scratch so when string cheese, pudding snacks, yogurt in a tube, and fruit snacks come out of a bag, it’s like Christmas morning.
2. It’s great to pass the time in the air by watching movies or children’s programming. Kids love it, but be careful to split up the time. Resist the urge to try and have them watch videos for the whole plane ride. We have found, after too long it stops working and our kids get quite cranky. Rotating through activities with a loose schedule is more enjoyable for you and them.
3. Pack a new activity for the plane, but be careful to avoid activities that can be messy and/or noisy (play-dough, silly putty, anything with small pieces, toys with songs). A new sticker activity book, Colour Wonder books, Where’s Waldo-type books are great ideas. You know what your child likes, so bing their favourites.
4. Have a sucker or gum available (along with some Tylenol) for your child for when the plane begins its decent. Like babies, sucking will help your toddlers ears clear. We all know it can be quite painful once that plane comes down from such a high altitude so the Tylenol will help alleviate some of that pain.
How about you? What is your favourite tip for parents traveling with young fliers?