Friday, June 29, 2012

Traveling With Kids: Alone and In the Air

We recently returned home from a two week visit to Indiana. We have become quite used to making both the 2 plane flight or the 18 hour drive to and from, but all of that was before... Before what?... Before 2 kids!! Not just 2 kids, but 2 kids that are completely different ages, stages, and genders. What this meant for me was a lot of strategic planning, packing, purchasing, and list making. I thought I would share some of the old stand by tricks we always use and some of the new ideas I have come up with since baby number 2.

                The Flight

Now, I have flown with my four year old before. I have even flown with her by myself. I have never however, flown with a 4 year old and a 4 month old alone!! Let me give you a minute to really let that soak in...2 flights, 2 kids, 3 bags, and 1 mom!  Now that you understand the gravity of the situation, I will fill you in on some of the rules that help me make it through.

Rule #1 List's Are Your Best Friend

I literally write lists for EVERYTHING in my life so packing should be no exception. Here are the lists I use to pack for our carry on bags and a bit about why I do so.


   - Portable DVD player with DVD's, headphones, and charger
" This is a luxury {ours was a gift} and something not everyone wants to invest in but it is sooo worth it." TIP: Make sure you bring the charger so you can recharge the battery on layovers and bathroom breaks.

   - Books
" You can bring regular reading books if your child can read or pictures books for smaller children. We have a TAG reading system {also a gift} that actually reads books to your child along with lots of games and puzzles through out the story. Why this pays off? It has a headphone outlet for quiet use and hey mom, your off the hook from reading the same story over and over again :) "

   - Coloring or Art Activity
" We usually do a coloring book and crayons and then one other thing like stamps, modeling clay, or stickers." TIP: Kids can spend an insane amount of time QUIETLY peeling off stickers and sticking them into a designated notebook. Fun for them, peace for you.

   - A Favorite small toy or stuffed animal

   - Blanket and neck roll pillow
TIP: I use inflatable neck rolls. This allows for easy use and take up minimal space in your carry on.

   - Gifts
" This to me is the BEST for both air/road travel. Hit up your local dollar store and buy 3-4 small items, wrap them, and hide them in your bag. Believe me, 3 dollars in junk is enough to save your sanity" TIP: Can't take another "Are we there yet"? Bribe them! If they can make in until the plane lands, drinks come, an hour passes, etc without asking again, they will get a prize :)


   - Diapers, wipes, plastic bags, powder, diaper ointment, sani wipes, and changing pad.
" All of these things should be packaged together so you can pull them out all in one swoop." {I will show you exactly how I do it in packing tips later on." TIP: You may think you don't need a changing pad, but think again!! You don't want to face laying your beautiful little baby on a nasty public bathroom floor when you find there is no changing station and if you are lucky to get an extra seat in your aisle you can always skip the closet potty and do the deed right from your seats.

   - Several changes of clothing, bibs, and burb cloths. Put these items in their own plastic bags so you can throw soiled items back inside, keeping your other items clean.
TIP: Airports and planes can range from hot to freezing cold so make sure to pack something for all temperatures. No one wants to sit next to the hot, sweaty, crying baby!

   - Pacifiers and pacifier clips
" Even if your baby does not normally take a pacifier, I would recommend it to help with the pressure in their ears during take off and landing {big kids can chew gum, if trustworthy haha}"
TIP: Pacifier clips are SUPER handy not only for keeping paci off the dirty floor, but for clipping small toys to you or baby, keeping them from the floor and you from playing the "throw it down, pick it up game".

   - Small toys, rattles, musical toy

   - Neck roll
" Good for big kids, but also good for baby! Use to prop during feedings or to help hold them up if an extra seat comes available."

   - Baby carrier or sling 

   - First Aide
" This bag contains items for both kids, but is kept in the diaper bag away from big kid hands and at easy reach for mom. I will show you later on what all goes in our travel first aide bag."


   - Phone, fully charged with charger

   - Wallet
" Instead of dragging my huge purse, I bring only my wallet, packing all of my other things into a zippered bag and putting them into the diaper bag." TIP: Keep your ID, kids birth certificates, and boarding passes together in a paper clip SEPARATE from your wallet for 2 reasons. 1. Easier access when passing through security. 2. This way if you lose one or the other, you don't lose EVERYTHING.

   -Chapstick, compact, hand lotion, eye drops.
" Flights dry you out."

   - Tylenol, allergy meds, etc.
"Keep this with your things and not in the kids first aide bag."

   - Gum and Candy
" Just like with the older kids, you yourself might want to chew gum to decrease the discomfort from the pressure in the plane."
TIP: The candy, once again, one word, BRIBE.

   - Magazine
"Just in case you manage to have a couple of minutes to yourself"

   - Datebook/address book
" If heaven forbid you should lose your phone containing all of your important arrangements and phone numbers, than a good ole paper version is a life saver in that instance.

Besides the carry on containing Isabelle's things, the diaper bag with Jude and my things both inside, I carry on a small cooler tote. I do this for a lot of different reasons, but the most important, is that it saves me time. Lots of time! It would be very difficult to get off the plane, get everyone to the bathroom and changed and find a place offering food that we will all want to eat. I save myself the hassle by packing our lunch and buying drinks once we get through security to last me the duration of the trip. This way we can eat what we want, when we want, and don't wind up missing a meal due to short layovers or limited choices!


   - Premixed formula or breast milk.
" When traveling I find that it is much easier to buy the premixed formula rather than packing powdered formula, bottled water, and worry about measuring and mixing who knows where"
TIP: If your baby has never tried premixed formula before, you might want to let him try it for a couple days before your flight. The last thing you want is a gassy baby spitting up all over you in the plane.

   - Lunch, snacks, drinks
" Things like lunch meat, cheese sticks, apple slices, carrot sticks, squeezable fruit purees, etc are good options to bring. I also pack things like granola bars, fruit snacks, goldfish crackers etc. for quick snacking." TIP: Try to avoid things like yogurt, handy snacks with cheese dips, puddings, or anything else that is saucy, sticky, or crumby. We want to make as little mess as possible.

   - Drinks, enough for everyone, enough for the whole day.
" You will need to purchase your drinks at the airport AFTER YOU PASS THROUGH SECURITY. They will make you throw out anything containing liquid so make sure you buy after security or follow the TSA rules accordingly. 

A few things I like to have but are obviously optional are as follows.

   - A double stroller
" Unless you want to carry one kid and drag another through a busy airport, you are going to want a stroller. Now, if you don't want to push one kid and listen to the other whine about having to walk quickly in a crowd at 4 a.m., then the double stroller is your saving grace." TIP: If your children are further apart in age like my children {4 and 4 months} then Sit and Stand strollers are AWESOME. there is room for newborn baby- toddler to sit in front and an area to sit or stand for your big kid in back.

This is the one we have

 -Stroller hooks
" These are so so awesome. I have a pack of 3 which allows me to hang tons of bags from my stroller, keeping my hands free for lots of other things."

   - Multi-pocket utility tote, like these from Thirty-One
" Once again, this is not a have to have. You can use a diaper bag you already have but these save you time since you don't have to dig to find everything."

   - Rolling back pack for your big kid
" This frees up an extra arm for you mom and let's your child feel like a big kid, in charge of his or her own things for the trip."

Rule #2 Do As Much As Possible The Night Before.

This may sound like a common sense thing to say but I will say it for all of you out there who are, uh me. Try to have nothing more to do in the morning than get dressed and walk out the door.

   - Lay out everyone's outfit for the next morning, including shoes and hair accessories. 

   - Have all luggage and carry on's packed and either in your car already or sitting by the door.
TIP: Make sure to fully charge all of your electronics before packing them up.

   - Choose something simple for breakfast the next morning like muffins, donuts, a piece of fruit etc. and have it out and waiting for them to eat after they dress or in the car on the way.

   - If possible print all boarding passes and put them in your carry on with your ID's.

Rule # 3  There Is No Such Thing As Too Early!!

Make sure to get up EARLY, giving yourself plenty of time before you leave home. Sufficient time to drive patiently to the airport and time for all those unexpected hold ups once you reach the airport.

- I like to give myself 30 minutes per person. So for the three of us, I made sure I was up 1 hour and 30 minutes prior to leaving home.
TIP: Don't forget that airports suggest arriving a full 2 hours prior to your flight time. You may not have to leave this early for a solo flight, but DON'T push it with kids. Chances are you will have to take extra time going through security.

- On stressful days like this, running late can really push you over the edge. If you get through security and have ample time left over, spend it relaxing with a decent cup of coffee and zen out for a while in preparation for what is about to come.

Rule #4 When Someone Offers Help...Take It!!

This may be the most challenging thing of all when flying solo with your kiddos. When all those nice people offer to carry your bag, or give up their seat, your inner Supermom will want to say " No thank you, I'm ok", but you need to save your pride for another day and hand over that bag!! It makes people feel good to help you and let's face need the help :)

                       Packing Tips

                Diaper Changing Gear

What's inside

Earlier, I mentioned packaging all of you diapering supplies together. Here is what I like to do. First start with several gallon sized zip-lock bags. { At home, I DO NOT use these to throw out soiled diapers. We use our plastic bags from the grocery store but for travel, these work better}

Put each bag inside of another...

Put your diapers and wipes inside of your changing pad and roll up...

Put your baby powder and sani wipes in the front zipper of the changing pad...

Put your bundle plus your diaper ointment into the ziplock bags...

Throw this whole thing into your carry on. Now when you have to take baby into the closet they call a bathroom on the plane, you wont have to drag that whole bag or dig through looking for each thing :)

                    First Aide Bag

Depending on the ages of your children, you will want to carry different things. This is what we keep in our bag. Thermometer, teething tablets, baby Oragel, Tylenol meltaways, rubber gloves, hand cream, first aide kit, cough strips, and more sani wipes

The first aide kit contains band aides of various sizes and styles, burn cream, antiseptic wipes, and pain reliever.

I put it all in one of these plastic binder pencil cases...

These things cost less than 1 dollar a piece and I use them for EVERYTHING. I keep 3 in my purse at all times. 1 with snacks, the first aide bag, and 1 with crayons, pens, color pages and a notebook in it.

                      The Suitcase

There are many strategies when it comes to packing suitcases. Folding, rolling, vacuum sealing, stuffing it in and sitting on it until it closes...the list goes on. Different ways work for different trips also. If going on an extend trip, I try to roll a lot of things but fold flat bulky items like jeans and robes. If you are going on a quick trip however, this is THE BEST way to go.

Just like packing clothes for the carry on, It is a great idea to package your KIDS clothes into individual zip lock bags.

If you have little girls, include their hair accessories and socks. For boys include matching hats and socks as well. When you get to your destination, you can just unload the bags into the dresser and allow your child to pick an outfit for each day. TIP: Once again dirty clothes can go back into plastic bag, safe guarding other things in your suitcase.

This is also a great strategy for...

- Pool gear. Bathing suit, cover up, googles
- Baby feeding. Food, bowls, spoons, and bibs.
- Toiletries. Shampoos, body wash, sponges, shower caps.

Basically, sort everything into a category and then slap it in a zip lock!!

Airlines are getting pricey these days about checking luggage so these tips can help you maximize your space. If you are flying Southwest or another airline that lets bags fly free, TAKE ADVANTAGE. Check as much as you can and save yourself the grief of another carry on.


If you held in there and read this entire post, let me congratulate you and give you a round of applause. It took a lot longer to get this all together than I thought, but hope it can help you out when taking those fun vaca's this summer. If you enjoyed this post than I hope you will check back to see the Road Trip with Kids post coming soon!!


Jen said...

Wow! What a great post! Even though I still have a 4 year old and a really does get easier when you have older kids. They tend to entertain the younger ones...and the parents, too! Really good tips.

Andrea said...

Very good post! Well put and so helpfull..

Kathy said...

You are so bright, talented and organized, Brandy!

Debt Free Mommy said...

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Heather Benza said...

Have you flown recently and been allowed to bring the non-liquid snacks? I was under the impression that was not allowed. I'm flying in a few weeks with my 5 year old and 3 year old and am dreading the potential shrieking fits!

Brandy Sweet said...

Heather, This past time was in May. I have never had any problems with bringing in food of any kind as long as it is sealed. Hope you have a smooth shrieking fit free flight :)