Summer is here and family travel season is upon us!
Traveling with small children gets a bad rap. And it really shouldn’t. Traveling with your children is a blast. It takes a bit of planning and preparation, but once that’s in place traveling opens a whole world of adventure!
Taking account of my experiences as a nanny and a mother, traveling with infants and toddlers is something I’ve a bit of experience with! Most of the many dozens of flights I’ve taken with small children were easy peasy. Sure no one wants to get stuck on a 6 hour flight with a crying baby or antsy toddler, we’ve been there too! But here are some tips of the trade to help minimize that risk!
First and foremost: Try and remember no one is having a worse time than you when the crying starts!
Tips for Smooth Flying!
- Fly Southwest: if you can. We promise this is truly our advice for flying. We don’t have a sponsorship or advertising agreement with Southwest. We have just flown with them as a parent and nanny for a number of years. They are simply our favorite airline to fly with children. Flight attendants, who seem to enjoy their jobs as well as the children on the flight, have more than once gone above and beyond to make our experience wonderful! They have sometimes given us extra snacks & water. One even went so far as to let our toddler do snack service with them so they could get out of their seat! Everything seems streamlined for family travel: their luggage policy, their boarding for families between A and B groups, their helping with bags for parents traveling alone, and even their stroller policy (we have a big stroller and big case, which has been weighed and charged for by other airlines before, but never Southwest). We’ve even had flight attendants put the changing table up and down for us in the bathroom… more than once!! So in our experience, fly Southwest. It sets you up to succeed!
- Use Smaller Airports if possible.
- Babywear rather than have a stroller. We swear it is easier! Unless you have a small and cheap stroller, you don’t want your gorgeous expensive jogger or UppaBaby tossed into the luggage hold when you gate check it. Some carriers have pockets that make being hands free even easier. One for your ID’s and boarding pass, one for a couple dollars… keeps you from having to dig around for them at security and gate check. For the most part, we have been able to keep the baby in the carrier.
- Bring a color copy of your youngster’s Birth Certificate if you don’t have a passport. It is considered valid and then there are no worries if it is lost or stolen.
- Time: give yourself extra time for check in, security, and boarding.
- Change diapers after security. For some reason, the airport handwash or hand sanitzer pings the wipes they do on your palms. And twice we’ve had to do a body search after… it’s just worth the wait to us now even if we are being superstitous.
- This one is controversial but we are in the camp of checking the car seat and using a harness on the flight. If you want to bring the car seat (as some kids do sleep much better in them, and stay more safe and comfortable), then get a holder for the carseat. They are a bear to carry through the airport and you gotta get that thing through security.
- Snacks and water bottles. Pack lots of snacks and water bottles to fill on the other side of security. You can bring breastmilk and mixed formula but they will check it and it can take longer. Bring a little cooler for the milk and bring an insulated water bottle for warm water. Then fill at coffee spot once through security. We would mix it all up in a thermos and pour into bottles as needed versus trying to mix forumla on the plane which is really challenging.
- Pack twice as much as you think you will need for the day. Twice as many diapers, wipes, clothes, underwear. We pack PJ’s and a change of clothes, any lovies, and toothbrush too in case luggage is lost or flights are delayed or canceled. It is insane how hard it is to find diapers and wipes in an airport and when you do expect to pay insane amounts for just a couple. We once saw a set of two diapers and wipes selling for $15!
- Bring a blanket or crib sheet for the airport. Place your bags in the corners of the sheet to make a little enclosed play space for baby or simply place a blanket on the ground. For crawling infants… we recommend trying to ignore any germ awareness; allow the crawling to commence and just wash up with hand sanitizer or soap afterwards. Crawlers gotta crawl. It’s easier to let them do it- trust us! It’s your vacation too, relax and go with it!
- Make a Fun Bag
- Design a transition book about home & one for where you are going.
- Fly with a well rested child. Do not assume that a child will sleep on the flight. In our experience this is actually rarely the case. Planes are loud, bright, uncomfortable, and filled with new things, it is not the best sleeping space for a small child.
- Feed babies during take off and landing it really does help with the ear pressure. We weren’t a pacifier family but we always brought one with just in case on flights.
- Consider a set of noise reducing headphones which can be life changing for sensitive babies on flights and/ or you are headed to a outdoor concert on your trip.
- Toddlers or Preschoolers enjoy chewing on something as well. Carrots, fruit marshmallows, fruit leather, or a drink can help with their ear pressure.