Before writing this post, I sat down with one of my friends who travels with three kids cross country multiple times a year to get her perspective. I wanted to preface the post with that because… credentials! I don’t know about you, but traveling with kids can be stressful, so I wanted to try and take the stress out of the experience for you with this post. I have highlighted MANY things that you can read and apply to your next trip. Let’s start enjoying the opportunity and blessing to be able to travel with our families, instead of dreading it. Let’s get on with it!
What to Bring: 0-12 months
- Stroller: I know your baby is tiny enough to hold the whole time, but I have always felt like it was worth bringing a stroller. It gives you a break and your child gets their own space for a bit. It’s nice to have them confined during layovers, while you go to the restroom, etc. I’ve seen lots of women with baby carriers and wraps as well. I think that is a legitimate option unless your baby would break your back if you had to hold him/her the whole time. That would be my chunky monkeys.
- Boppy: When I only had one baby I loved to bring the boppy. It was a comfortable way for my babies to sleep on my lap during the flight. I found a nifty way to hook the boppy through the straps of my backpack so it was no big deal to carry it when we weren’t using it.
- Changing Pad: Have an all-in-one changing pad that holds wipes and diapers. Changing a child ON an airplane is a joke, but it can be done. You don’t have room to bring the entire diaper bag to the restroom, but I also suggest you bring a onesie with you just in case something gets soiled when you are changing your child in the smallest space ever.
- Extra outfits: I bring a minimum of three extra outfits. Onesies, rompers or pj’s fit nicely. You will likely need at least 2 before you get to your destination.
- Feeding Items: The baby food pouches are the neatest for feeding a baby on the plane. If you use formula, I liked the prepackaged pouches. I saved samples I got in the mail for when we would fly.
- Medications: Bring the teething tablets, Tylenol and whatever else you would want on hand in case your baby gets sick.
What to Bring: Toddlers
- Stroller: If flying solo, don’t you dare think you can make it without a stroller. If you have help, then you can entertain the idea of letting your little one walk, but when traveling solo, a stroller is truly vital.
- Snacks: Pack snacks like you are preparing for the apocalypse! The more variety the better. Try not to bring anything that makes a mess if possible. You really don’t want to wear melted chocolate on your clothes.
- Cups: The pressure on an airplane can do funky things to sippy cups. Try to get one that closes or has a cap. The cups with a straw seem to be the worst. One of ours was like a fountain for an entire plane ride. I would open it to release the pressure, and it would be bubbling liquids out the “spill-free” straw in no time. Don’t even think about using the open cups the flight attendant passes out. You will have a lap of liquid in no time. I don’t even get a beverage for myself. I bring a water bottle because I know a grabby hand will knock over my drink.
- Wipes: I know there will be a day I won’t carry wipes anymore, and I will miss them. But for the toddler years, don’t leave your house (EVER) without them. Make sure you have them in an easy spot to grab when you are flying. Even having an extra pack in an outside pocket is a good idea.
- Toys: Be polite and don’t bring your most stimulating and noisy toy. I like to get the kids something new for a plane ride. I sneak it in their bag and they don’t see it until they are on the flight. A set of princess figurines are great because you can play pretend with your little girl and act out stories. A ninja turtle or an action figure works for the boys. Nothing huge, but nothing small with pieces that will get lost in the cracks of your seats.
- Extra Outfit: Bring socks, pants, and a shirt. If they get sick on a plane, even their shoes will stink. We like clogs because they rinse off nicely in an airport restroom. I wish I didn’t have that fun fact to share.
- Medications: We always have Benedryl (which I’ve heard is not only good for making your child snoozy but has the same ingredients as a motion sickness medication), pain relievers and bandaids.
What to Bring: Kids
- Pillow Pet: Let them bring their pillow pet. I think it’s safe to say that most kids in America have one. They make for great pillows on the plane. I’ve caught a few zzz’s on a fluffy pink pig a time or two. I know they seem big and that goes against my minimalist mentality, but our carry on has an upper section that can fit a pillow pet. It doesn’t come out until we board the plane.
- Coloring: I had 4 hours of peace and quiet from a coloring book. It had the magic marker that was clear until it hit the page. My Annabelle was almost 4 at the time and she colored page after page till the marker went dry. There are a lot of cute coloring books that come with markers in a compact case. Activity books like My Pretty Pink Bible Sticker Purse and My Bible Sticker Backpack are also a great option!
- Devices: Charge em up! There is no such thing as being “unplugged” or “limiting screen time” on days we fly. Search The Simple Moms for the apps we like for our kids and get them a few new ones to play while you’re traveling. I’ve been on one flight that had a USB port at our seat and an outlet! Oh man, it was fabulous that we didn’t have to worry about our batteries dying. I played a seriously ridiculous number of hours of Candy Crush.
- Extra Outfit: Bring socks, underwear, pants, and a shirt. As I said, if they get sick on a plane, even their shoes will stink. If you missed it earlier, clogs are a good shoe choice because they rinse and dry off easily.
- Medications: Benedryl (in case of allergic reaction), pain relievers, bandaids, inhalers, etc.
What to Bring: Yourself
- Extra Outfits: Bring yourself an extra outfit. Even if it’s a basic t-shirt and yoga pants. Whatever you can roll up into a carry-on. I have had more of my kids’ bodily functions happen on my clothes then I care to share.
- Plastic Bags: Bring a plastic bag (or 2 or 3). You might need it as a sick bag, you might need it for soiled clothes, you might need it for a leaky cup.
- Medications Pain relievers meds because you will have had too much caffeine, too little sleep, and any number of reasons to have a headache. It’s a good idea to have cold meds in your stash too.
Carry-on or Backpack Tips:
You need to pack your carry on like it’s what you might have to live out of for a day or two. I have a change of clothes for each family member, toothbrushes and chargers (phone, camera, computer, etc.). If they ask you if you want to check it at the gate, make sure you are positive you aren’t missing your layover or that they will return it. We have had numerous times that we got somewhere without or bags or when our bags got to the destination without us. The odds of that happening TRIPLE when you aren’t prepared with extra items in your possession.
Check it/Keep It:
Check as much as you can when you check your baggage. I love my car seat bag. It not only checks for free, but I can stuff it (up to 50lbs) with diapers, coats, whatever I can mush around the car seat. Now that our kids are older, we throw the boosters in the bottom and get an entire duffel bag in it as well. FREE baggage check! Keep your stroller. It’s easy to get a tag and leave it at the gate when you board the plane. Pack a carry-on to save money on luggage and keep it with you in case you don’t arrive at the same time as your other baggage.
- Stay Calm: Do not let anyone razzle you. Get in the zone and get you and your family through security. This is the time when you want to stress out, but I promise if you stay cool as a cucumber, your kids will too. It doesn’t matter who is in a hurry behind you, just focus.
- If Applicable: Leave your child in the stroller til the end, but leave a space for your stroller to go through the x-ray machine first. You want your stroller to be the first off the belt after you’ve been screened.
If my friend with three can do it, you can too! Be as organized as you can and the rest will fall in place. If you forget something, there’s always a gift shop or you will make do. Happy travels.
What did I miss?
Because this is funny, and because I want you to know that ALL doesn’t always go as planned, here’s a (now funny) horror story… We had a streak of a few years where we didn’t make it through a flight without someone getting sick. I caught it in my hands once and couldn’t reach up to push the button to call a flight attendant. No way I was lifting that up over my head. It’s funny now, but it was one of our top 10 worst flying moments.