flying with two children: tips, tricks, and learnings

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first flight since the pandemic! This was the first time Lucy and I  have been on an airplane since November 2019 (so almost 18 months later!) and Winnie’s first ever flight. Because I  apparently like a good challenge, our first flight during ‘these times’ was just me + the girls. NOT something I  would recommend, but totally doable! A few years ago, I did several flights with Lucy and Jack alone (one of them while 5 months pregnant…) but juggling a young toddler + ‘regular’ toddler + masks was… a lot. I’m actually doing another flight with just me and the girls in June for my sister’s birthday, and we have a long flight (with E, thankfully!) later this summer, so I  guess it’s good we got our practice in.

Anyway, I’m SO EXCITED to be sharing travel-related posts again! Traveling is something that I’m so passionate about and something I’ve loved sharing and connecting with others about. Especially about traveling with kids. We used to travel allll the time with Lucy (she was on 30+ flights before she turned 2) but obviously, haven’t been on an airplane with Winnie until she turned 14 months! Here’s a

MINDSET

I’ve shared before in my initial traveling with babies blog post, but there are a few mindset reminders that I  have found helpful before travel. Especially when traveling with two kids, and even more so if traveling solo with kid(s), these mindset reminders helped me just as much as all the preparation and organization.

STAY CALM: kids feed off of our emotions and attitudes and can tell when we are stressed. Take a deep breath, remember the travel day/experience is temporary, and you will get through this. For me, when traveling with two kids, this means trying to not get anxious about someone crying or whining, not beating myself up for forgetting to pack something, not letting a bad 10 minutes ruin the whole day. On my solo trip with both girls, at the precise moment in the airport that I realized the shows didn’t download to the iPad, Winnie projectile puked on me. WOW! It was a bad moment. I did my best to stay calm — to get on wifi and re-download the shows, calmly walked to bathroom with the girls to clean up, and kept going.

HAVE LOW EXPECTATIONS:  It’s best to go into the flight with low expectations — assume that your child will be fussy, cranky, annoyed, etc. I’m usually a glass half full kind of gal, but in the case, it really helps when I have realistic and LOW expectations for the day. The flight isn’t going to be the most joyful day of your life as a parent. Some days are pure survival mode and when you come to terms with the fact that babies will be babies/toddlers will be toddlers/the day isn’t going to be rainbows and butterflies, you will feel a lot more content with however the travel day turns out.

ASK FOR HELP: Usually people are willing to help. 💛Ask a flight attendant to help you getting situated in your seat, ask someone to help you down the jet bridge (especially if you’re traveling alone with your kiddo), ask for help getting your bags above the seat, etc. I’ve found that people are often kinder and more helpful than I would expect. I was a little worried about this during our last trip (which was the first one during pandemic) but people were so kind to us. Someone carried my stroller down the jet bridge, someone else put our stuff in the overhead compartment, someone else asked if I  needed anything. Really, people are help and the kindness really is so touching.

BE FLEXIBLE: travel days are not the days to be rigid about schedules and routines. Our last flight was smack dab in the middle of Winnie’s nap-time and it was a bit stressful, but she eventually napped (1.5 hours later than usual) and THAT IS OKAY. You can and should pack strategically and prepare, but even the best plans sometimes don’t work out. Things are OUT OF YOUR CONTROL and it’s best to just go with the flow.

KIDS GEAR CHECKLIST

Stroller: we’ve had the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller for three years now and it’s been great! It’s traveled all over the country and world with us and is still in great shape. It’s super lightweight, folds up to be small and compact, and comfortable. The basket underneath surprisingly holds a lot of stuff, too. We don’t have a double travel stroller, but if we decided to get one down the road (if we were doing an extended trip or something), I’ve heard amazing things about the Zoe Twin+ double stroller.

Carseats: we’ve also had the  Cosco Scenera Next carseat for three years. Lucy used it for a long time and now, Winnie will use it. The carseat is only 7 lbs (!!) so is perfect for travel. Our regular carseats are just too large and bulky for travel. The Cosco Scenera Next is a convertible carseat so can be used as an infant seat if needed and can be forward or front facing. This carseats for children up to 40 lbs. We just ordered the  Cosco Finale DX 2 in 1 for Lucy; we needed a second one and wanted one that could grow with her. The Finale DX is also super lightweight (8 lbs!) and holds children up to 65 lbs and eventually be used as a booster seat. Carseats for Littles is a great resource to learn more about carseats; here’s their review of the Cosco Scenera Next and here’s their review of the Cosco Finale DX. Both carseats are affordable, have great safety reviews and ratings, and are lightweight – all important to us, especially for traveling.

Carseat Bag: when traveling with carseats, you’ll need a bag to put them in at airport when checking them at the counter or gate.

Baby Carrier: I always bring a baby carrier, especially for babies but even for toddlers! I  prefer a ring sling  for easy in/out, although you will need to take it off at security because the rings will set off the alarm. I  love Solly wraps for babies under 6-8 months and they are great for traveling, especially through the airport!

Diaper Bag/Backpacks: this is where I  keep the essentials – diapers, masks, Pull-ups, wipes, hand sanitizer, SO MANY SNACKS, water bottles, small toys/books/stickers, iPad + headphones, etc.

Pack n Play: I try to avoid flying with a pack n play at all costs, but I  have had to bring it once! I  just checked it at the ticket counter with the rest of our bags. Typically, our destination will have a crib or pack n play we can use.

PACKING TIPS & PREPPING FOR THE TRIP

I believe organization and planning is super important for ALL travel with kids, but even more so when traveling with multiple kids and definitely when traveling as the solo adult. I started setting out our bags and making a packing game-plan several days before the flight. Doing so early allowed me to feel more in control and provided me time to tweak what I  packed as needed leading up to the trip.

I  find it helpful if you can to have diapers/wipes at your destination – or get them right when you arrive. This saves a LOT of room in your suitcase! I  will still pack a few diapers (in suitcase and backpack) but not the usual amount.

For this trip, the three of us shared one large check-on bag and also brought my diaper bag backpack, Lucy’s small backpack, and our travel stroller. I use these packing cubes to help maximize space in the suitcase! The travel stroller we have folds into a little bag so you can check in or put in the overhead compartment. When I  traveled with just Lucy as a baby/toddler, sometimes I  would skip the stroller and just use the baby carrier, but for traveling (especially alone) with two kids — the stroller was a MUST, especially for navigating the airport. I  also made sure to download movies/shows from Netflix/Disney+ on the iPad so they were available off of WiFi during the trip.

For future trips where we’ll need a carseat at our destination, we’ll also bring our two travel carseats, plus a carseat bag for gate checking the carseats.

Here’s what I  packed in each backpack!

This blog post shares more about traveling with breastmilk/formula!

AT THE AIRPORT

I used to HATE checking bags and waiting for my luggage to arrive after a flight. I always was a carry-on only traveler….even the majority of the time when traveling alone with just Lucy. We did a three week trip to Europe with 8-month-old Lucy with two carry-on suitcases and two backpacks (plus travel carseat and stroller). While it’s amazing to travel so light, for me – now with two kids (and even if I  didn’t) – IT’S OKAY TO CHECK LUGGAGE! The travel day is going to be different than traveling sans kids, and it’s okay to wait a little bit longer for your checked suitcase afterwards, especially if it’s going to be less stressful to not be worried about everything fitting in a carry-on.

So, at the airport right away, we went to ticket counter and dropped off our big suitcase. You can always rent a luggage cart thing if you need, or have someone come into the airport with you to help get you through this part of the trip (where you have a lot of bags!). I then pushed Winnie in stroller and walked holding Lucy’s hand to security.  Security was fairly easy, although it was a bit chaotic folding up the stroller quickly with one hand while holding Winnie at same time. But we did it!

If you’re traveling with carseat, you’ll need to decide if you check it at the ticket counter, gate check it, or bring it on the plane. I’ve done all three! Personally, Lucy never did well when we brought the carseat onto the plane, so don’t do that anymore. Remember, if traveling with a lap child under 2, you need to have paid for your own seat for the seat OR ask them at the gate if there’s an extra seat you can use – just don’t COUNT on it beforehand unless you pay for an extra seat). If I’m already checking a bag, I’ll usually just check the car seat then and there, but some people prefer to gate check it so it’s not being tossed around with the luggage and perhaps handled more gently. Gate checking might be your best bet and then you can snag it (with your stroller, likely!) right when you get off the plane.

I also attached Winnie’s pacifier/lovey to the stroller so I  didn’t have to worry about losing that or it falling on the ground. Easy!

If you’re traveling alone with kids, I would try to have someone meet you at the destination airport. My dad met us by baggage claim and it was SUCH a relief to be able to have him sit with the girls while I  waited for our bag and to also be able to (finally!) go to the bathroom alone. One time (at 5 months months pregnant), I flew alone with our dog Jack and 18-month-old Lucy from SF to Nashville (almost five hours). I  DON’T RECOMMEND THIS lol. I had to haul our suitcase, stroller, carseat, Jack’s travel bag, backpack, plus the dog and toddler by myself to get a Lyft home. I  wish I  would have asked someone to pick us up instead!

 

ON THE PLANE

For babies and young toddlers, sometimes the air pressure change can be sensitive on their ears so I always try to have baby suck on something (whether breastfeeding, taking a bottle, pacifier) at takeoff and landing. If you do have your baby in a baby carrier (like I  did), they will usually ask you to take him/her out at takeoff/landing. Winnie was sleeping so I  just loosened the rings so she was more like sitting on my lap vs. tightly on my chest.

Here’s a few in-flight entertainment ideas: window clings, sticker books, mini puzzles, small bag of coloring supplies, WaterWow markers, small + lightweight books and magazines, iPad (don’t forget headphones + case!). I often will go to dollar store or hit up Target’s dollar section and pick out a few toys as “surprises” during travel days. Don’t offer all the entertainment things all at once! Spread them out over the flight to break things up.

And obviously you can’t forget snacks, snacks, snacks! This is a must (at least for my kids). Here’s a few ideas: pouches, goldfish, pretzels, crackers, fruit (bananas, apples), single serve peanut butter cups (I  packed two small spoons!), fruit snacks (given individually as a reward/incentive lol), mints/gum. I  kept snacks in two collapsible Eizzy Baby snack cups.

For long flights, we pack this inflatable foot rest pillow and it was SO helpful. We only use this when we have the window seat (so it doesn’t block anyone’s ability to leave their seat) but it allows Lucy (and now Winnie) to spread out a little bit more and even fall asleep more comfortably. I bring this on cross-country / international flights; probably not worth the effort for a shorter flight.

MASKS/SOCIAL DISTANCING/COVID PRECAUTIONS

Of course, right now, you have to wear a mask at the airport and on the plane. I  wasn’t super worried about Lucy wearing her mask because she’s been doing it for a year and we’ve practiced a lot. Here’s a blog post with 8 tips for helping kids wear face masks! We’ve tried A LOT of kids masks and the ones she likes best and can wear the most comfortably for the longest are the Mamask masks. She also likes having a mask necklace which attaches to the mask so even when/if she takes it off, it doesn’t fall on floor. We have this customizable one and it’s so cute and works great! I wore a Kitsch mask (that link gets you 20% off anything on their site!).

All kids over the age of two have to wear a mask on the plane. I  found the airport to be a little more flexible mask wise (like not all kids wearing them in airport, people weren’t wearing one when eating/drinking, some took theirs off when in a seat at airport, etc) . The plane itself felt a bit more strict about masks – they need to be on unless actively eating and drinking. No one yelled at us (but we were also wearing mask entire time) but there were many announcements being made about masks being required at all times.

Socially distance wise, once through the ticket counter line I  felt like we could pretty easily social distance. Security and boarding the plane itself weren’t super crowded for us (everyone spaced out and respectful for the most part). Once you’re past security and in the airport, I  found it pretty easy to maintain your distance and just stay in a little area to yourself. Overall, I  felt that people were pretty self-aware and doing the best they could to be respectful and safe (at least around us!)

Alright I  think that covers everything! I linked a few other travel-related blog posts below, plus have saved a lot of tips and tricks and Q+As in this Instagram story highlight. Let me know if you have any questions!

SHOP THE POST

Packing Cubes

Travel Stroller (Mountain Buggy Nano)

Travel Stroller (Zoe Twin+ Double)

Travel Convertible Carseat (Cosco Scenera Next)

Travel Carseat (Cosco Finale DX 2 in 1)

Carseat Bag

Kids Backpack (Fjallraven)

Adult Mask

Kids Mask

Kids Mask Necklace

Snack Cups

RELATED POSTS

Flight Tips for Traveling with Babies & Young Toddlers

Traveling with Toddlers: Long Flight Tips

Roadtrips with Infants & Toddlers: Tips and Tricks

 

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