Flying with Kiddos

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our girls are 4 and 16 months (1 year and 4 months for those of you who don’t have kids and haven’t learned to convert the months properly.) The Sugarbean took her first plane ride at 6 weeks. Every year since then, she’s been on at least two flights. Tesla, on the other hand, boarded her first plane when she was 8 months old. She flew like a champ without issue. Over the years we’ve tried to perfect our own version of flying with kids. In the past couple of months, they have taken 6 plane rides. This is an account of what has worked for us.

The items you will find us carrying as we walk up to the airport:
  • 1 checked back for the both of them (their clothes actually fit in a carry-on sized bag, but we check it because we are usually carrying other things.)
  • 1 checked bag for the both of the adults
  • Mari has her carry-on bag (rolling little kid-size bag is genius) and the diaper bag is her other carry-on
  • I have my carry-on bag and purse
  • Don has the camera backpack and is carry-on
  • 1 umbrella stroller (gate checked)
  • 2 car seats (one booster, one convertible) – checked for free
The two checked bags can be expensive in this day and age. For most normal airlines, each checked bag is $25, which makes it $100 extra dollars for a roundtrip. We are AA Advantage card holders, so we get 2 free checked bags when flying American. Hooray! Two checked bags will work for our family of 4 for any trip up to a week…maybe two weeks if we can do laundry. On this trip, we flew Delta and our summer trip we flew Virgin, so we still had to pay, but no big deal.

In MariJul’s bag, she keeps her small comfort toy, iTouch, headphones, crayons, coloring book, drawing book, and 2 books. Some planes have a built in TV in the headrests. In the case of our California trip, Virgin has quite an interactive headrest. She was disappointed on the the Michigan flights. “Where’s my TV?” In the case of our Michigan trip, we couldn’t find the iTouch, so we had to rely on books and the sketchbook. Talk about taking it old school! This sketchbook was mighty handy! We received it as a Christmas gift and she loves it! That is a picture she drew of Tesla with a bow in her hair.


In the diaper bag, there is a change of clothes for Tesla, diapers, wipes, snack foods, milk sippy cups, a juice box, one of her muslin blankets, extra pacifiers, and Yummy Earth lollipops. In the case they want them, we have noise canceling headphones.

In my carry-on I have my laptop, up to two magazines or a book (ha, like I get to read books), the travel folder (which has all of our itineraries printed out, a list of addresses to mail postcards, confirmation print offs to hotels/rental cars/restaurants, etc..), a couple of pens, emergency gum, a pipe cleaner*, and in the case of the Michigan trip, the portable DVD player with movies.

*pipe cleaner?? – it is a great stress reliever and will occupy a kiddo for longer than you might think.

My purse always has purse items, which includes my phone charger. The camera bag is self-explanatory. And Don packs magazines, gum, extra chargers, and other survival items that would come in handy in the event of an emergency. (Thanks for being prepared, babe!)

The Flight

We definitely take full advantage of the pre-boarding. We need the extra time to get situated. When we walk down the gangway, Mari does get a little timid when she crosses into the plane. She sees the tiny crack between the two and gets a little anxious. Since she is 4, she has her own seat. We always seat her next to the window. For a few more months, Tesla is still a lap child until her 2nd birthday. We usually start with her on my lap. She wears a C.A.R.E.S. vest that easily attaches to my seatbelt. When I need a break (or she just wants to be with Daddy), she will sit with him, but we only switch off when the seatbelt light has gone off. We don’t want to risk injury during turbulence.

Sometimes, we may have an empty seat next to us. In the case of the California flight, Tesla was quite tired during the early morning flight, so we buckled her up and let her sleep.

Upon take off, I insist Tesla suck on the paci for her ears. I will also give Mari some gum to chew. She said she has anxiety upon take off (yes, she knows that word) and I will hold her hand and rub her belly. She also says that take-off “drives her belly nuts” (thanks Carol for teaching her that phrase. LOL). She knows that if she is brave, she will be treated to a ginger ale/OJ cocktail to help settle her tummy.

She also knows to listen closely for when she can use her portable electronic devices.

Potty breaks are inevitable. Most airplanes have a changing station in the bathrooms, so this is great. We try to keep a couple of diapers/wipes/changing pad nearby to help speed up the process. After all, the aisles are quite cramped.

I really appreciate that we get about a 20 minute warning before landing. This gives us ample time to pack everything up before the flight attendants go through their landing procedures. It also allows us to prepare to de-board the plane.

While the plane is taxi-ing to the gate, we come up with a plan of who is carrying what. I usually strap a baby to myself with the Boba (did this with Mari until she was 3 and will continue with Tesla), carry my purse, my carry on and the diaper bag. Mari carries her bag. Don will carry the camera, his bag, and the booster seat (if we didn’t check it) and he waits for the stroller. We use the stroller to carry items since Mari likes to walk.


If you happen to have a layover, try to make the most of it. Mari is a huge fan of the moving walkways. She thinks they are magic. In the Detroit airport, there is a hall with awesome lighting with the moving walkways. I really enjoyed it. Tesla was passed out as I carried her in my Boba. The Sugarbean was in awe.

There is also a water piece that both girls really enjoyed touching. We gave them each a coin to toss in an make a wish. Mari said she’d have Tesla’s wish since she couldn’t talk yet. But then actually made a wish for Tesla in the voice she uses when she “tells” us what the Sugarbaby is saying. It was great!

Snacks are great, but aren't a meal substitute. Layovers usually happen around eating times, well for us. (we definitely try to find direct flights) It is a great time for a warm meal, just be prepared to spend quite a bit more than you might want to. That is the only drawback. My beloved will usually take one of the girls to get the food while I linger back with the other charging our devices and watching our stuff.


This is all great and dandy when we are flying like a family, but what if one of us is solo. One of the things we’ve noticed is how doting people have been with Don when he travels with the girls, but the same attention isn’t paid to women. If you see a parent flying with kiddos and one is having a fit or they are struggling to take something out of the bin above the seat while juggling a squirmy child, please help!! Offer a kind word, don’t give the disdainful look. Even if the kid is screaming, I guarantee you, s/he isn’t having a great time of it. Thank you to the strangers who have helped me over the past 4 years. Especially the older gentleman on my flight to El Paso when I was on my way to my grandfather’s funeral and the Sugarbaby had spilled a bit of milk onto my dress, while she was simultaneously trying to jump out of my arms. Your help (and patience) was INFINITELY appreciated on an already difficult day. Thank you!!

That’s it! Anything you all do differently? Any flying tips?

1 comment:

E said...

I'm usually happy when I get myself somewhere successfully, so what you do is impressive.

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