Our best advice for airplane travel is to Simplify. You probably won’t have time to read a book or peruse a magazine. You probably won’t even have time to take a nap. So, simplify your carry-on as much as possible. When you signed up for parenthood, your bucket bag and your briefcase got traded in for a diaper bag. Trust us – you want to leave everything possible in your checked luggage: your kids will be enough to juggle. These are the things that I put in my carry-on:
- –Diapers, wipes (in a travel size case), and disposable changing pads. (When we get on the plane, the in-flight magazine comes out of the seat-back pocket and this list of diaper changing supplies goes in. It’s nice to have these things in a convenient, dig-proof place on the plane).
- Baby food and formula (and extra baby food and formula)
- –Snacks (things that can be given one at a time double as a food and an activity)
- –Dum-Dum Suckers (for take off)
- –Pacifiers (work like dum-dums for the ever so tiny traveler).
- –Footed pajamas – One piece of clothing as opposed to three or four. Pack and spare pair just in case.
- -A couple of small toys or games. We also download a movie or two on our ipad.
- –Wallet, Passports, Cash, Phone, etc.
- -A hard copy of travel itinerary and flight confirmations.
If your kids can carry a backpack let them take it. Our 2-year-old takes her own carry on. She has a little Dora the Explorer backpack that she loves. Inside there is a coloring book, crayons, a very small story book, and a couple of snacks. The less you have to carry yourself the better. But at a small age, make sure to pack the bag for them. They are not going to know how much is too much to carry. If the bag is too heavy for them you’ll end up with it. Aside from the sheer practicality of having them carry their own things, this also gives them both a responsibility and a “security blanket” of sorts. It will be an object that young kids can identify with as something from home while traveling to a new place.
For International Flights, here are a few extra things you will want to consider.
Call ahead! Unlike domestic flights, you have to pay the taxes on a lap child’s flight. Because of this, there is a bit more fuss involved when bringing the “under 2” crowd along for the ride. Check and double-check that your infant has been added to your ticket. I’ve had a problem with this on EVERY international flight I have been on. Make sure to print out a confirmation of your tickets before you go to the airport. Get there early and make sure you have PRINTED boarding passes for each person (baby gets his own) for every stop on the trip. Keep these with your passports in a safe place. Without them, you will probably miss a tight connection.
Request the front row of your section. Many airlines have baby bassinets for the really small ones (call ahead to arrange for this). They clip into the wall on the front row of any section. For me, this is a game changer. It means not having to hold that baby for 10 hours. It means you are not their bed. You might even have a chance to sleep. Also, being on the front row means extra space. When the seat belt sign goes off, we put a blanket down with some toys and sit the baby down for some play time. Being on the front row also means that the flight attendant is keenly more aware of you and usually willing to help out.
Strollers: Some international policies say that your stroller will be checked all the way to your FINAL destination – even if you check it plane side right before boarding. When you check your bags, make sure they put a white final destination sticker on your stroller or there is a good chance it will get lost. This also means that you may not have it for your layover. I know, I know… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
We are not kidding you. The laws have to do with customs and there is really no way around it in some countries (Germany and France for example). So plan for it. You can ask the front desk to call ahead to the other airport and have someone meet you with an airport issue stroller. These, however, do NOT come in double form so if you have 2 little ones you will need to request 2. You can also bring a baby carrier (something like a Moby wrap or ErgoBaby) for the infants. Just make sure it fits in your carry-on bag.
Pack an Overnight Bag. On an international flight you’ll want more than your diaper bag. This overnight bag will have everything you would need to be on vacation for 24 hours. Think of it as an emergency preparedness kit. First of all, it is going to be a long flight so you will want whatever things you may need to have on the plane. But more than that, this bag is a safety net in case you miss a connection and get stranded in Timbuktu. You’ll also need it if your bags don’t make the same flights that you do.
Go in knowing that if it can go wrong, it probably will. Your bags will get lost (especially if you are flying through Paris) and your kids will cry. You’ll miss a connection or get put on standby. But you will make it: so, keep the faith! Remember that 30,000 ft. is not the place to teach your kids life long lessons or to shape them into the wonderful people they will one day become. If they are screaming, just give them the candy already. You are a better parent for it right now and the people sitting around you will thank you. Treat flying like the special experience that it is. You can reinstate all of your rules, time outs, and bed times when you are back on solid ground but from airport gate to airport gate, just try to get though it with as much as your mind as possible.
Worried about jet lag? Click here to check out our post on Jet Lag for ways to help the little ones cope with big time changes.