Traveling with Children by Airplane

Survival tips that helped me when I traveled with babies and young toddlers.
Now with airlines changes in baggage allotments, it is crucial to bring only what you will need.
Everything is charged. Everything is expensive.

When we traveled shortly after requirements changed, I invested in a backpack with wheels for each of the boys. (That’s eight plus my husband and my carry-on). That enabled everyone to have one carry on bag that would be carried, drug, or wheeled through the airport. My husband would lead off to the gate. The boys would follow…I would take the end, and count to make sure all my ducks were in a row. I could see the backpacks, some carried, some wheeled, as we made our way to our gate.

For some reason we seemed to travel in the winter, when extra coats and boots were needed when we reached our destination. We checked in one big bag that held those coats, boots and toiletries that we’d need that weren’t the right size. And I planned gifts that were small enough to back or light enough to mail ahead.

My carry-on bag held snacks, entertainment (i.e. book to read out-loud to boys) and all my clothes for two weeks.
Less really is better. I tell myself that every step I run through the airport lugging my junk…and the next time I try to bring even more “less.”
Every boy packed three days’ worth of clothes. Something to occupy their time on the plane and in car, since invariably we’d be driving extensively once we did reach our destination in the plane. Oftentimes the smaller boys, because their clothes weren’t bulky, I put in extra, since they may spill or soil their clothes during the day. This would include diapers, special blankets or stuffed animals necessary for sleep time.
Carry enough for three days. I do laundry there.
I’ve also found those vacuum seal bags (if your destination will have a vacuum to reseal it for its return) work great for fitting those bulky sweaters and extra items. I’ve even brought an extra quilt made by Mom back. (YEA!)
[Remember, we do live in America and there’s a store on any corner in the city—but shop before you visit us, our country store does not have much more than pepsi and liquor. Although new management has broadened the selection.]
Wear pants or skirts that can be worn with all shirts. (Helps to know your season.)
Choose two pair of shoes. (Always a struggle when it could be raining, snowing or not).
If you don’t use it at home, don’t expect to use it away from home. (You have no room for “what if’s”)

Hold shirts in half, then roll. Avoids wrinkles, packs tighter.
Pack socks in the one extra pair of shoes. Put shoes in bag to avoid soiling clothes.
If taking breakables, put in socks for cushion.

1-pain reliever, for all ages, (I’ve found travel size containers that I refill and carry in my purse)
2-cough and cold (since we are going in winter, also for all ages, includes cough drops)
3-allergy medicine (we have used it, even in winter)
4-nausseuous, comes in tablets that you can chew (doesn’t help my boys, but maybe physiological?)
1-sample package of q-tips (in the travel section at Walmart, I keep and just refill for the next time)
2-sample toothpaste for each boy
3-shampoo and conditioner (or in checked baggage if I can, or if I’m going to my mom’s she will buy it for us)
4-deoderant (boys have own, not liquid)
5-facial cleaner (boys have special wash, they carry) Ever since I’ve had little babies, I’ve used baby soap for my face…no strong smells, works great…I refill a travel size container or include in checked baggage
6-vaseline (lips, chapped hands, all purpose wound covering
7-bandaids (just a few)
8-toothbrush (boys take their own)
9-brush, comb, hair needs (I’m thankful I have boys, no extras needed) Hair gel put in checked in bag

Candy: lollipops (sticky but helps with ears), smarties, hard candy for older ones (can play who can keep it the longest without chewing), tic tacs (container can entertain little ones and give something to chew, orange flavor is not spicy.).
Trail mix (I mix nuts, dried cranberries, raisins, cut up mangoes…sometimes chocolate chips)
Granola bars/protein bars (they fill them up)
Cereal (cheerios, something non-sticky)
Gum (I give each boy a pack before we leave, not toddlers, give as needed.)
I make burritos (they squish better than sandwiches and still are enjoyed)
Fruit is debatable, if I have room. Bananas don’t travel well.
I bring tea bags. (nice for the visit, but also can request hot water.)
My husband reminds me that the sugar I’ve brought in a plastic bag had to be inspected for potential ‘bomb material.’ Maybe having packets would be better….

Books to read out loud to boys. Can read at gate and in car. Often I’ll bring extra.
Babies and toddlers toys include:
Smarties (wouldn’t leave home without them.) They keep them busy, without a sticky mess.
Lollipops do help with ear problems.
Small picture books.
Check out the Dollar Store for small, interesting, quiet toys. Don’t allow them to touch them until they are on the plane and need a distraction. (only good for a little while.)
My Ziploc bag of cars and trucks had to be opened and inspected by security because of all the metal. But I wouldn’t leave home without it. (My boys don’t need them now…sigh.) (I guess the same idea with little dolls for girls, Can’t really help you out there.)
Inflatable balls can be kicked around at the gate before boarding. Gets wiggles out before they must sit down.
Deck of cards. (Can be used to match diamonds, teach numbers, distract, distract, distract.)
NO THROWING TOYS should be included. (Imagination not necessary on why. Experience is a hard teacher.)

With today’s technology, there are so many options for movies, audio books, I couldn’t tell you what your child would like. And since we don’t watch many at home, this is even more special for them.

With so many of us (ten), we could not all sit together. Many people are willing, when they realize that you are separated from your little ones, to switch a seat here and there. Don’t expect it, but be appreciative when it happens.

On one flight, a man, who had imbibed enough to take the edge off being too nervous for the flight, sat beside one of mine. My son was excitedly telling this man how we were taking off and how we were tilting in the air. The man told him to shut up. I could hear the entire conversation, as I sat in front of them. He became rather loud. I looked back to see where my husband was sitting. He nodded to me that he had it under control (he was behind my son). The stewardess soon found the ‘gentleman’ another seat.

The feeling of taking off and landing has unsettled my toddlers. Sitting by the window and watching helps. I hold their hand and reassure them. After one particularly rough landing, my husband told me that my choice of words was probably not the best for those sitting around us, as I kept telling my son, “We’re going down…we’re going down.” Simple words for a toddler, the meaning for others may have been more stressful.

Times have changed. You use to expect a distraction with the stewardess offering drinks, snacks, providing a lunch, etc. Now everything has a cost, and it is with great cost that you pay it. That’s when you break out the snacks (another diversion). I do try to have something out of the normal that travels well.

We purchase drinks after going through security…sometimes buying a large container of water so we can share in empty water bottles we’ve brought through.

I’ve been pinning a lot of suggestions from others on my pinterest board about travel. Some people go into great detail what they bring. Helpful.

Nothing helps a crying baby, like walking around…on a plane, that’s impossible.

Remember a baby will pick up your stress. If you can stay calm (I couldn’t until after I finally get on the plane), then the baby will feel that. Relax and try to enjoy the ride, even if the baby you hold is crying. Maybe you need the lollipop.

Some people take Benadryl to make them tired enough to relax and sleep. We’ve never resorted to that, but…it is an option. (Some people respond to Benadryl by being more agitated and awake. Know what it does before you use it on the plane. Nor is this medical advice.)

People drain me. I love my solitude. I like things to be the same. I stress when they are not. Travel is all of those. Although I do like to see new things…
Some people thrive with people. Love crowds. Enjoy new things. They love to travel. Try to catch their enthusiasm…
Find those people to help relieve your stress. (Maybe one of them is your child.)
The boys, after traveling with me and the family, were reassuring me when I had to travel alone. “Mom, traveling alone is nothing compared to traveling with all of us.” Now my children are reassuring me!
But their comments remind me when Mom is stressed, everyone is stressed.
Get sleep (impossible I know) before you travel.
Prepare in advance. Use a list to remember it all. (I start packing several days ahead, so as I remember things, I can throw them into the bag, then repack them to fit. My husband packs ten minutes before leaving…he isn’t stressed, that’s how he works.)
Get to the airport in plenty of time.
Again, try to enjoy the ride not just the destination. What you can’t fix, don’t worry about.
If your baby cries for the entire flight, remember you will never see these people again, except at the luggage claim, where your baby will probably be his back-to-happy self.

This too shall pass...and you will reach your destination.

Displaying 1 comment

I've only ever flown with a 3-week-old baby and obviously won't be doing that again, but I do enjoy your writing and all the great suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

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               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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