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My son is not even 3 years old and I would say he has been on a plane about 100 times. By now, he’s a pro in the airport and has his travel lingo down pat. It’s no surprise that his favorite game to play at home is “airplane” where the couch is the airplane and he is the pilot.

I was asked for a travel post by someone very special to me – so here it is 🙂

As someone who traveled all the time before I had kids, I was very nervous to add kids into the traveling mix. My husband and I had our system all set – we always got the airport with plenty of time no time, but we liked it that way. We were happiest when we would walk up to the gate just as the plane was boarding. We minimized our time spent in the airport as much as we possibly could. Whenever we could, we only packed carry on (even when it was a stretch.) The extra time luggage tacks on to BOTH ends of the trip was not up our alley. Luggage needs to be checked in at least an hour before and then you have to wait for it when you land – we avoided it as often as possible. We also have Nexus, Global Entry, TSA Pre – anything available, we applied. Going through security with our shoes on – few things make us happier. (jk)

Almost 3 years ago, we were over the moon when our son was born, but definitely more than once we discussed that our enjoyable travel days are over. I wish I could tell you I found the secret to success for traveling with kids. If anyone knows it, please share. But, we have tried to make it as smooth as it could possibly be and I am happy to share how we do it.

Now that we have 2 kids, I look back and laugh that I thought traveling with 1 would be hard. I laugh even more when I thought traveling with my newborn would be hard. I would take traveling with a newborn any day over flying with a baby once they are on the move. We actually used to fly carry on when it was just the 3 of us and we were going for just a weekend. Now that we are 4 people, and only 2 who could carry the bags, carry on becomes more of a pain and ends up outweighing the extra airport time. So unfortunately for us, our carry on days are over.

Before we even get to the flying experience, let’s focus for a second on the packing. While I would rather fly with a newborn than a toddler, I would rather pack for a toddler than a newborn. A newborn needs so much STUFF. The way I would pack is I would write down on a piece of paper everything I use for the baby throughout an entire day. Then I would use it as my packing list.

Flying with infants:

1 – Use your packing list and pack everything in a suitcase.
2 – In the diaper bag pack diapers, change pad, wipes, diaper cream, bottles (if you use), bibs, burp cloths, pacifier if they have, teething toys and multiple changes of clothes for the baby (In your carry on you should start traveling with a change of clothes for yourself as well – you never know when you will be spit up on or worse) If you use a pump – in the pump bag make sure you pack the pump parts and bottles. (and a nursing cover)
3 – When you are checking in the luggage, keep the baby in the car seat attached to the wheels. Have the diaper bag hanging on the stroller. If possible, wear a knapsack so that you don’t need to be dragging a carryon. We use these stroller clips to hang our diaper bag.
4 – SECURITY! Even if your baby is sound asleep, you will have to take your baby out. Leave the baby in the car seat while you take off your shoes and put the bags on the belt. Then you take the baby out while your partner takes apart the car seat and wheels. They fold them up and put them through the machine (or in family-friendly airports can be pushed right through the detector) while you walk through holding the baby. Usually they will then need to check your hands because your hands were not able to be properly detected while carrying a baby.
Now, the bags come through and if you brought any breast milk or formula it will have to be tested. While that happens, have your partner put their shoes on and then re-assemble the stroller and car seat, take the bags off the belt and back on the stroller, all while you are standing holding the baby. You can place the baby back in the car seat, you can put your shoes on and you are ready to go.
5 – Change the baby’s diaper before you board, although it probably won’t mean anything because babies like to have explosions during take-off when the seat-belt sign is on.
6 – The next challenge is getting on the plane. The wheels and car seats have to be folded and put by the door of the plane. This is always stressful and if you are not prepared you will have lots of people annoyed to be waiting behind you. Our system is as follows: I put the diaper bag on using the cross body handle, and then I take the baby out of the car seat and carry them. Can also use a baby carrier for this part. My husband then takes the car seat apart from the wheels, folds them up and we walk on the plane. The key is not to have a million separate bags hanging from the stroller. Then you are stuck there trying to figure out how to carry them and the baby.

If you are flying alone, ask for HELP. Lots of people are very nice and will help you fold up your stroller or anything you feel you can’t do.

7 – Finally, you are on the plane. I always just fed the baby when he was hungry and otherwise let him sleep. I never woke him up to eat for take off and landing if he was sleeping. For the most part with an infant the actual flight part was fine – can take turns holding the baby (Yes, my husband does WAY more of the holding… but hey, he wasn’t the one that had to pump/feed on several flights)
8 – When you get off the plane, you walk with the baby (and the diaper bag) and don’t wait for the stroller at the plane door since it gets really crowded. Let your travel partner wait for the stroller and car seat, assemble it and they will meet you after the jet bridge.

{Just a point — the roles are interchangeable, sometimes I am the one that holds the bags and the baby and my husband waits for the stroller, and sometimes he takes the baby and I meet him with stroller at the end of the jet bridge}

Toddlers are a whole other ball game because, well because they are toddlers. I make sure to pack snacks, coloring books, stickers, iPad, books and more snacks. Entertain, entertain, entertain. The best thing about being in the airport is that watching the planes is always a good distraction. But once on the actual plane, it seems each activity only lasts 5 minutes. I try to fly during nap time with the hope that he will sleep. My son is toilet trained but we always put on a “just-in-case diaper” before the flight to avoid a situation where he has to go and the seat belt sign is on. We use a lot of the same systems we did when we just had an infant, it just gets a little more complicated because there are 2 strollers. But it’s a lot of the same idea, that one person will wait with the kids after security, while the other takes care of the bags and the strollers. When it comes to waiting for strollers after landing, we usually wait together but as soon as 1 comes out we get out of the way and wait for each other at the top.

Overall, we can’t complain because we have not had many disaster flights. Something I did learn early on was to bring TWO diapers to the bathroom on the plane. I once changed my son but he got the new diaper dirty and I needed the flight attendant to ask my husband to bring me a new one, so now I always bring 2 just in case.

I almost forgot that if you travel internationally often, apply for global entry for your kids – saves so much time.

Something to always remember is that a lot of people have been there, and if your baby is crying and you get stressed out it isn’t going to make the situation better. Just remind yourself that it happens to everyone and it will soon be over. Until the next flight…

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