Well, I survived. Rather, WE survived. A few weeks ago my BFF and her wife flew my family to their home in San Antonio. The catch? On our trip there....I was flying by myself with three little boys ages 3, 2 and 3 months. Yep. Not many tourists brave the south Texas heat in July...but with our own pool in the backyard and three little boys - two of which have endless energy....the week was a great one. I'll share more about our adventures in San Antonio over the next couple weeks, but first I want to share what I hope are some helpful tips and information for flying with kiddos.
Anytime you're traveling with kids there's bound to be unplanned issues that take extra time or require quick problem solving. When you FLY with kiddos - all that is taken up a notch. We flew Southwest airlines, so any information I share only directly applies to Southwest, however many other US airlines uphold similar rules and requirements....you'll just need to check. A simple Google search of 'name of airline' and 'stroller' or 'car seat' etc... will get you the answers you need.
Southwest is my favorite airline whether traveling with kids or not. Their free bag checking, friendly service and easy checkin-in/boarding system are incomparable. Therefore it's no surprise that they're still my favorite traveling with kiddos. "The stuff" can add up when bringing the kids along (reference our picture) and the following list contains items you can bring along that don't count against the 1 personal item, 1 carry-on rule:
Stroller - you can either check this to your final destination at the ticket counter, or use it till you get to your gate and then gate check it so it's waiting for you when you deplane. I only recommend this if you have a simple umbrella stroller you're taking, or if you have another adult to help you collapse your stroller and put it back together.
Car seat - again, you can check this to your final destination at the ticket counter, or take it with you and put your child in it on the plane. NOTE: using it on the plane is only possible if your child has their own ticket. I often see parents using car seats as strollers by attaching the car seat to a luggage dolly. Again, taking a car seat onboard should only be done if you have another adult or two along to help.
Diaper bag - load that sucker up with extra diapers, wipes, cream, a nursing cover, (empty till you're through security) sippy cups, whatever you think you'll need. The diaper bag does NOT count as your carry-on item or your personal item.
Breast pump & bag - from the extra bottles, the pump parts (Oh the pump parts, don't forget these! I've done this a couple times now. Doh!), extra breastmilk. It can all come along. TIP: if you freeze your breast milk it can be easier to keep it cold on your travels if necessary. If you bring a freezer pack, you'll need to make sure it is completely frozen when going through security. Any liquid inside your freezer pack and the TSA will most likely take it from you. I've had this happen to me....so I freeze my breastmilk if I'm going on a longer trip. More than likely a TSA agent will ask to test or check your milk, but it's very quick and non-invasive in my experience.
Keep in mind...that even though these items don't count against your carry-on/personal item allowance...you still have to carry it all. Therefore in my case, since I was by myself with three littles, I checked the car seat and the stroller. It wasn't worth the effort it would take to put it together and take down before flights and as a human I can only handle so much. I fit my pump bag in what you might call my "carry-on" and brought our diaper bag which is a backpack. Then my purse was a crossbody bag. I REALLY recommend a crossbody bag when traveling. Throw in the bare essentials and make sure there's room for random treasures you might pick up along the way...and enough room that it's easy for you to find what you need quickly, and likely with one hand.
That's how the Everywhere Bag by Baggallini really helped me out. Baggallini was started by a flight attendant who was looking for stylish, good-quality travel bags. They nailed it - you can see my full review of the bag in an upcoming post. Baggallini is so awesome, they're offering an exclusive discount to Brevity followers!! From now through August 20th, 2019...use the code BREV10 to get an extra 10% off your purchase!
Snacks for the kiddos are allowed, just make sure they're in disposable packaging. Permissable snacks include: baby food, bread, candy, cereal, cheese, chocolate, coffee grounds, cooked meats, cookies, crackers, dried fruits, fresh eggs, meat, seafood, and vegetables, frozen foods, gravy, gum, honey, hummus, nuts, pizza, salt, sandwiches, and all sorts of dry snacks. When it comes to non-solid foods like cranberry sauce, jam or jelly, maple syrup, salad dressing, ketchup, and other condiments, liquids of any type, and creamy dips and spreads including cheese, salsa, and peanut butter in a container under 3.4 ounces. This 3.4 ounce rule does NOT apply to breast milk. Make sure you take the snacks out of whatever bag they're in so screeners have easy access.
I also have lots of random, helpful tips that I'll list below in no particular order.
I mentioned checking car seats and strollers at the ticket counter. There are many different kinds of travel bags for this equipment and I recommend getting one. You don't HAVE to have one...but if you've seen how luggage can sometimes be handled, you'll want to protect your valued kiddo equipment as much as possible. Make sure the bag fits the dimensions of your stroller and/or car seat...because the bags come in numerous sizes. I've attached the bags we use. We've taken them on several flights, they're still in great shape and our strollers and car seats show no damage.
Back-time everything and add 10 minutes for each step. It's advice my BFF gave me years before I had kids and it is now essential to getting anywhere in a timely manner with my kids. For example: You want to be at the airport by 5? If it takes 20 minutes to get to the airport, you allow thirty minutes, and plan to start loading the car at least ten minutes before that at 4:20. Plus, if you have a lap child...you will most likely have to wait for a ticket agent to check you in and not use those convenient kiosks...so add lots of time to allow for that. And lots of extra time for security. And just keep adding extra time. I'm somewhat joking here, but not really. It's much easier to get to your gate early and wait with kids...than it is to be running to your gate and miss your flight.
If you're traveling with a lap child, you'll need to bring a birth certificate or passport that proves their age. Otherwise the TSA generally doesn't require photo ID for children under 18 who are traveling within the United States.
Kids under the age of 12 DO NOT have to remove their shoes when going through security - that was a huge blessing.
Look for "family bathrooms" when you're in airports. They're usually located between the men's restrooms and women's restrooms. Family bathrooms have everything you need in a room where you can shut the door and lock it. It can be a challenge keeping little ones together when you're trying to change another's diaper or help them go potty and there's no way to contain everybody.
This may seem obvious, but allow yourself 20 minutes or so before boarding begins to change all diapers. Also - if you have a little one who is recently potty trained...it can be wise to let them travel in a diaper. This is what I did with my oldest who just turned 4. He can tell me he has to go, but when you're traveling, especially flying, there's no guarantee you'll be able to reach a bathroom when he needs it. Unless you want to have a large supply of dry underpants and shorts or pants....trust me, a diaper is the way to go. Sometimes your best efforts don't matter. On our flight into San Antonio...BOTH my middle and youngest son pooped in their diapers. Small spaces, recycled air, poopy diapers. It wasn't pleasant. Not to mention we weren't even getting beverage service because of turbulence. This leads to my next tip....
...Don't plan on changing anyone's diaper onboard a plane unless they're 6-months or younger. Changing tables on airplanes (they're usually in the bathroom in the front of the aircraft cabin, usually NOT in the rear bathroom) are a joke. They're so small. I was able to change my 4-month old but it wasn't pretty or easy. Thankfully our flight was only an hour and 45.....so I told my middle son we'd change him as soon as we landed...and embraced the stink. :)
Bring a few quiet toys. For my kiddos I let them each pick 3. That way they get to decide (within reason) what goes and will be more excited to play with it. I recommend bringing toy airplanes, trucks or cars for boys. During our layovers they seem to gravitate toward other little kids also traveling who are waiting nearby, they make friends and play together. It's fun to watch and I've met lots of new mom friends this way too!
I mentioned loving Southwest Airlines before, and here is a big reason why. The way they board. No matter when you remember to check-in for your flight....Southwest allows families with small (under the age of 6) children to board after their loyal customers and their A group. This way, as long as you're at your gate before boarding begins - there's another story - families get to sit together! During out flight home we BARELY made our flight out of San Antonio. As in, we were the LAST ones on a full flight....so no sitting together. But kind souls did make it so that Dylan could sit by our older two and I kept our baby with me and sat further up front.
Speaking of kind souls, they are another one of the reasons I love traveling with our kids. When people see you traveling with kids - so many of them are so kind and willing to help. Chances are, they've been where you are and know what it's like! People REALLY help you when you're one woman traveling with three little boys. From opening doors, to letting me de-plane earlier than normal, to helping me carry them up the jet bridge when two have fallen asleep and I can't carry it all. I use my good judgement and gut instinct...and these friendly and kind people make my life much easier and less stressful. I hope this information helps and makes your next adventure easier. Dylan and I go by the following mantra when traveling with our kiddos....It may not always be easy, it may not always go as planned...but it is always worth it. Share your tips and questions in a comment below. I'd love to hear how you make navigating airports with your kids easier.