Taking trips with young kids is often a challenge. There are so many things to bring and such little space to pack it. We usually pack the bags, cram it all in the car, and get on our way. It seems a whole lot easier than flying. It’s hard to figure out what we really need and what we can live without. I’m always calling around looking for high chairs and pack-n-plays to borrow at our destination. It’s a lighter load but a bit more work beforehand.
With Ryan’s job getting so busy in the summer, we thought about how hard it would be for us to be stuck at home while he worked all day. He doesn’t have a set schedule of days off and I knew that would drive me crazy. So, I mentioned the possibility of me taking the girls to see my family in Pennsylvania. Two days later, I bought the tickets!
I work best when I don’t have much time to think about all the aspects of my decisions. I was just too excited to go on an 18 day vacation, so when my parents were just as excited, I knew this was a trip I had to take.
When we got closer to leaving, I started to realize what I was actually about to do. Did I really think it was smart to fly with a 2 year old and an almost 6 month old? By myself?! Thankfully, the tickets were bought and there was no going back. I was excited to get away but wanted to skip over the “getting there” part.
I had everything planned out perfectly. We were dealing with a 3 hour time difference, so I planned our flight early. I searched for the right ticket and paid extra to have a non-stop flight. I perfectly packed one bag containing all three of our clothes. I packed a carry-on snack bag, downloaded 15 shows on the iPad, and had every single thing I would need for the flight. All I needed to do was get on the plane and we would be good to go.
Well, it didn’t end up being that perfect.
We got to the airport, parked, and started unloading all of our stuff when my phone rang. My heart sank as I listened to the voice on the other end say, “We want to inform you that your flight has been cancelled.” ….CANCELLED?!? Seriously? The possibility of our flight being cancelled had never crossed my mind! I had planned the trip perfectly, to the minute! I just wanted to cry.
We got to the check-in desk and found out that we were rescheduled for another flight a few hours later. Thankfully, even though it wasn’t a straight flight, the first stop was actually a better option for my parents to pick us up. So, it wasn’t too bad.
I had heard about escort passes that airlines sometimes give for people who need extra help. We tried to get one beforehand but were told we had to ask when we got to the airport and hope they were nice enough to give us one. Ryan asked for the pass and the lady was very generous. I think the look on my face and the cancelled flight gave her mercy on us. I was so thankful to have that pass. Ryan was able to help me through security and wait at our gate with us! It was such a huge help!
After we ate some breakfast, I went over to check the screens, just to make sure nothing had changed. I’m glad I looked. Our gate was moved. So, we gathered our things and headed to the new gate. Thankfully, we had a few hours to spare. To make a long story a tad shorter, our flight was delayed 30 minutes. Then another hour. Finally, 4 hours after our original scheduled departure, we boarded the plane.
My perfectly planned flight, which was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon, got in late at night. After a two and a half hour drive to my parent’s house, we arrived around midnight. It was the absolute longest day for all of us, considering we got up around 4am and lost 3 hours due to the time difference. When it was all said and done, I had survived. And I even discovered a few helpful tips along the way that I would love to share with you!
What to Bring (for the flight):
- Lightweight double stroller – I suggest a sit-n-stand. It was helpful that Myra was able to climb in and out all by herself. I didn’t have to pick her up while trying to manage a baby and all of our bags.
- Infant Carrier – Even though we had the double stroller, I ended up using the carrier most. The stroller became a perfect spot for all of our carry-ons and Vivian is usually a little happier being so close to mama.
- Lots of snacks – In my opinion, this is not a time to be concerned with healthy eating. I brought all of Myra’s favorite special treats. We had apple sauce packs (these got through security with no problem), pretzel sticks, fruit snacks, m&ms, granola bars, and crackers (we like options). Honestly, the m&ms ended up being a life-saver. When she was feeling exhausted and upset, I whipped those bad boys out and she was happy as a lark! Like mother, like daughter.
- Empty sippy cup – Since you can’t bring liquids through security, just bring a non-spill cup that your child can use easily. I bought some apple juice in the airport and had the flight attendants refill it on the plane.
- iPad and headphones (or any video/game device) – I downloaded a bunch of different shows for Myra to watch and some simple games she could play by herself. I brought children’s safe headphones so the volume won’t get too loud for her little ears. She enjoyed these for a little while. When she got sick of them, I just kept the volume low. No one seemed to mind!
- Books and toys for baby – It’s good to have some board books and chunky baby toys for your baby to chew on and play with. I think Vivian was pretty thankful for the entertainment when she wasn’t eating or sleeping.
- Blankets and warm clothing options – In my experience, the airport is always freezing and the plane is always hot. I like to have options.
- Extra shirt for mom – Thankfully, I never had to use mine. But it was nice knowing it was there in case Vivian decided to spit up randomly…which she often does.
- Wipes, diapers, burp cloths – I can’t tell you how many wipes I used to clean up spills, slobber, and chocolatey fingers. Bring a big pack…you never know when to expect a blow out!
- Lovey – If your child has one, I suggest you bring it. Myra always sleeps with her teddy bear so I brought it along. It helped her sleep and brought her comfort in this not-so-comfortable situation.
Here are 10 tips I found helpful for traveling alone with my toddler and baby!
- Book a non-stop flight – It is not always possible to make this work, but it is worth it if you can find a flight with no layovers. I bought a more expensive ticket because it was a direct flight and it was definitely worth it (well, on the way home at least!)
- Plan flight for when kids will be well-rested (if possible) – Once again, this isn’t always possible. We were dealing with a 3-hour time change so early morning was the only way we would get there before midnight. We had to leave our house at 5 am which made for a cranky flight for the girls. They each took short naps but were so exhausted that they just cried for the last hour of the flight. The flight home worked better because it was in the afternoon, when the girls were more rested.
- Ask for an escort pass – This ended up being a life-saver for me with all of the cancellations and delays. Ryan was able to get us through security and wait with us at our gate until we took off! There is no guarantee that they will give you one and you can’t request it beforehand. Just ask at check-in and let them see you need the help!
- Check car seats and suitcases – If your child is not riding in a car seat on the plane and you don’t have a car seat at your destination, just check the car seats at check in. It’s less you have to lug around with you and most airlines check them for free! Also, I know we all like to save money with baggage, but you really don’t want to be carrying around all of your clothes and stuff you don’t need for the flight. Plan to fill your carry-ons with snacks and activities to keep your kiddos happy!
- Consider pull-ups for potty trained toddlers – Myra was potty trained on this trip but I didn’t want to deal with any accidents (that were pretty much inevitable). I took her to the potty in the airport (which was tough with the stroller, bags, and a baby) but she went in her pull-up on the plane. I felt bad, but there was only a slight chance that taking her to the bathroom on the plane was actually going to work! After the trip, we had to refocus on going to the potty again but it only took a day or so for her to get back in the swing of things.
- Ask for and accept help – Lots of people are willing to help but they may not notice the need. Be confident in asking for help, even from passengers! I remember trying to get through security by myself. I was so overwhelmed and flustered while trying to get the stroller opened up, put my shoes on, and get all of my bags off the conveyer belt quickly so I wouldn’t back up the line. A man in a suit saw my need and asked if he could help. I immediately handed him a bag and pointed to a spot to put it. He looked a little surprised with my boldness but kindly helped me until all of my belongings made it to that spot. Honestly, I don’t know how I could have done it without him!
- Separate snack bag – The separate snack bag was unplanned but ended up being perfect. I didn’t have room for the snacks in my main carry-on so I shoved it all in Myra’s little backpack. It was a life-saver on the plane because I didn’t have to dig through all the diapers, toys, and burp cloths to find a treat. I knew right where to look and easily found what I needed. It definitely help turn off the tears a little more quickly! (you can find a great travel bag here)
- Check your stroller at the gate – Airlines allow you to check your stroller as you board the plane. That way you don’t have carry your kids through the airport and you have a spot to put your stuff. Plus, it will be waiting for you when you get off the plane!
- Board last – In all of my experiences, airlines don’t allow moms with kids to board first anyway. I figure it’s best to let your child run around as long as possible before they are trapped in a 2 foot space for hours. When boarding, I held Vivian and had Myra walk in front of me to our seats. Myra climbed right into her seat and the passengers were patient enough to let me take a few moments to get situated.
- Go with the flow – This is probably the most important part of any trip. You can read as much as possible and get all of the best snacks and toys. But, in the end, it most likely won’t go exactly the way you have planned. Relax as much as possible and don’t worry about what other people may be thinking. Most of the time, the other passengers have been through something similar and are pretty understanding! I felt like my kids were terrible for the last hour of the trip but tons of other passengers stopped me to tell me how well my kids did. They also commended me for my patience and courage. They understood how hard it was for me. As for the people that don’t understand…who cares!
If you are taking a trip alone with your kids, I commend you for your bravery! I know it is not an easy thing to do but I’m sure the trip will make it worth it! I hope these tips help you in some way as you prepare and go on this crazy adventure! Good luck!
Have you ever traveled alone with young kids? Do you have any helpful tips to add?