Categorized | For the Little Ones

Surviving Our First Full Family Plane Trip and my Tips

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My family and I just returned home from a short notice trip to Tampa, Florida.  This was our first plane trip as an entire family since Everett joined us.  I’ve been places with just Everett, and prior to him being born we have taken many plane trips with just Fletcher.  Having two children can certainly make things logistically challenging.  We chose to take 2 car seats and check them, plus luggage for 2 adults, two kids, diaper bag for the plane trip, laptop bag for husband’s work, snacks, and a few toys.

I’ll be talking about why we went to Tampa at a later date, but for now I’d like to list out a few of the tips I use for flying with kids that have been successful.  Flying was the least stressful part of our trip considering we were almost stuck in Orlando, 1.5 hours from our hotel, with no way to rent a car or leave the airport.  LONG STORY, but believe me when I tell you it would make a great new movie in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series…

Tip 1:  Bring a Ring Sling!

Unless you are really keen on back carries a ring sling is the perfect airport carrier.  It can be compacted and rolled into your diaper bag, it works for any age baby, can be used for a hip carry, tummy to tummy, and the kangaroo hold (for younger babies with head support).  Not only is it good to keep your hands free at the airport- it doubles as a nursing cover if you want one, and I even use it to wrap around myself and the baby while they sit in your lap.  Talk about versatile!  Oh….. and if you need to cover the little one or need a makeshift pillow it can do that too.  I love my Soft-Structure Carriers like my Boba but with the buckles and bulk it isn’t quite as convenient at the airport.

I used my ring sling to cover the top of my breast while Ev nursed

Tip 2:  Let em’ Roam

I hate flying with crawling age babies because I am a firm believer in letting them roam while waiting for the plane, whether it be before the first flight or on a layover.  Babies and toddlers can’t grasp the concept of “sitting still” as well as we do, so giving them plenty of exercise before a flight will hopefully “get the wiggles” out enough that they are willing to sit and read books, color, or play a game.  This trip my husband and I took turns walking the aisles of the airport.  At one point my boys started holding hands and walking…. trust me when I tell you that this sight made the day of many travelers and weary pilots.  Everyone that passed let out an “awwwww…

Roaming the halls

Tip 3:  Find a Safe Play Area

Tip 3 goes right along with Tip 2.  For non mobile and crawling babies, if you can find an airport play area, use it.  If it is disgusting beyond belief then make a judgement call.  Not every airport has a play area though.  I ASSUMED Orlando would have one considering it probably has more pint sized travelers than any other airport in the US but I was wrong.  They did have an arcade and we chose this as our play area… Fletcher got to play some games and even Steven and I got to kill time and play games like air hockey and pinball.  Everett was entertained by the flashing lights and noise.  Win/Win/Win.

Tip 4: Bring Strategic Entertainment

In the past my diaper bag has been packed to max capacity with activities for Fletcher.  I even brought a puppet at one point…. With two boys I had to think in terms of what items they could both share and what would entertain them the longest.  For Fletcher we let him pack his own tiny backpack that he would carry around.  He chose to bring a few tiny trains, a monster truck, a sticker, a lego train, a train book, and a piece of his motorcycle game.  I packed Everett’s 2 favorite board books and some snacks (including pouches which are the perfect airport snack food for both boys).  The final piece of the entertainment puzzle was the iPad.  It is space saving and contains more than enough games to occupy both boys.  We also have a few shows for the really desperate times.  The books for Everett and the tiny trains for Fletcher were the most used.  I read and re-read Quiet, Loud 100 times.  You can also get creative- whn the light was just right we did shadow puppets!

Tip 5:  Let the Kid have the Window

If you have a child with a seat then let them have the window.  It will give them a wall to rest their head if they sleep, and they might like seeing the view.  If they are terrified then you can always switch places and close the window.

Tip 6:  Bring Noise Cancelling Headphones/ Ear Plugs

The first flight with Fletcher had him yelling that he didn’t like the airplane.  In the airport he explained that he thought it was loud.  On our return trip we gave him the noise cancelling headphones and he promptly fell asleep.  If your kid will let you put in ear plugs you can try that too.

Fletcher wearing headphones and sleeping

Tip 7: Forget the Routine

If your life is dictated by naps schedules and set meal and snack times then you may want to lose your watch.  If 12:00 rolls around and you make your child nap at the airport while waiting for the plane then they will be wired and ready to roll once boarding comes.  I always keep them up as long as possible before we board, even if they look like zombies.  This paid off big time when it was time for our second flight on the way home.  By take-off Everett had already passed out on my lap.  Even after napping far later than normal they still went to bed at a reasonable time that night.

Both kids snoozing soundly on me

I’ve learned over the years to care less about the other passengers and just worry with making the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible for my kids. I used to be so tense and stressed if one child cried or yelled that my energy was spent frantically making them stop. Of course crying isn’t good but it is normal, especially during take-off and landing. if you are nursing then putting the baby on the breast during those times will help their ears pop. Older kids can be given a drink or snack to swallow. Bigger kids can have gum if you allow it.

What are your favorite travel tips with children or babies?

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.
  • http://www.melissastottmannphotography.com/ Melissastottmann

    Great tips! I would not have thought of noise cancelling headphones :)

  • Leigh

    My two are just a few months younger we have flown with both a few times, including once with just me and the kids.
    These are great tips. A few more:
    Remember to preboard or board last
    If you bring a car seat on board (I like it because it traps my preschooler), make sure to install it rear facing so they can not kick the seat in front of them.
    If you bring your carseat on the plane, carry it through the airport by strapping it to your rolling bag (you can also check or gate check it for free on most airlines)
    Bring a tote bag for all the coats, hats etc. 
    I organize my diaper bag with mesh bags, one for toys, one for food (food also doubles as entertainment)
    We have a travel DVD player and it is like preschooler crack. Put the headphones on and the only thing you need to do for the next four hours is restart Thomas. iPad would be even better.
    Assume someone will leak and bring extra clothes and a wet bag. Bringing said items will prevent it from happening.

  • Brooke

    I myself am not a mother YET but have tons of friends who are and really enjoy reading about your family and the tips you give. Helps with their kids too

  • Joyfulcanary

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will be flying,cross-country with my then one year old in March, and am a little daunted by the prospect! Bookmarking this post!

  • Sandy

    I prefer my Boba to the ring sling, just don’t feel like my 18 mo old is secure enough in the RS when I am trying to keep track of my 3 & 5 year olds. Don’t bring too much stuff on the plane. Relax your TV standards. We don’t have a TV at home so the inflight entertainment (even if it was Barney at times) was a lifesaver during our recent 14.5 hour flights to and from India.

  • Rebecca

    I love my ring sling for traveling too! And I know this may seem odd to some, but those stretchy leashes are great when you’ve got 5 kids to corral through an airport. I used to give mamas the “How can you do that to your child” look, but now I totally get it!

    • Anonymous

      Hah! I know! I bought a backpack leash after Ev was born because Fletcher was so independent but wouldn’t stay with me. I ended up not using it but it isn’t the end of the world. We used the backpack part for this trip but not the leash.
      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Julie

    Thanks for writing this up. We’ve traveled extensively with our first (overseas to Asia multiple times) and as I’m gearing up to travel again with a new one (4 mo) this is a great reminder. Love the backpack idea!

  • Lee-Anna Semenyna

    Thanks for the advice!! I’m looking into travelling with our little one (2 months so far) and am trying to figure out the best time… Your tips will definitely come in handy, no matter when we go!


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