Tips for traveling with small children

We are back in the land of the bright and shiny, and the land is pretty warm too.  😉  Which means to say that our vacation in “I don’t know how humans survive this!” weather in the midwest is over.

This also means that we can put another badge on our parenting vest for “Traveled with Small Children…. And We ALL Survived!” because really, it is a miracle.  And these days its a miracle that we haven’t gotten kicked off the plane.  We have 4 kids which means we have a 400% greater chance of landing in a non designated stop with only one family being personally escorted off the airplane.

One might conclude that I am either A) Amazing or B) Utterly Insane for all the traveling we do with 4 kids 5 and under.  I’d like to think I’m a little bit of both.  Having successfully managed this Mount Everest Parenting Task (MEPT), I’d thought I’d jot down a few tricks of the trade, in case you were thinking of being a bit insane too.

  1. The dollar store is your friend.  I often go to the dollar store to pick up a few new toys for each of the kids and sometimes I even wrap them up to give them a few more minutes of play time (i.e.: not crying time).  These new toys are fun to explore and keep them occupied for a little while.  Plus they aren’t expensive (hello its a buck!) so if they lose it by the time we hit the runway I don’t care.  Its worth every cent.
  2. Dum Dum suckers.  Either at the dollar store pick up or at the local convince store I try to stock my diaper bag with a couple of dum dum suckers per kid.  When you have an infant it is easy (or rather easier because nothing is really easy with a baby) to help their little ears with the pressure and flight/landing with nursing or a bottle or even a pacifier if they will take it (my 2 year old does when he wants to sleep so he took one and I didn’t care about the shame that my 2 year old still likes a pacifier).  The bigger kids need something too, so I give them suckers during take off.  The kids think this is the coolest thing since I never give them suckers otherwise.  Its become our new tradition.  And on this last flight I happened to have a bag of hard candies and a box of gum (I never seem to have these things on a regular basis so I’m convinced that it was an angel who placed these things in my bag), which was great for me because my ear was hurting so bad and the sucking and chomping really helped.
  3. Get the right bag/parent/kid combo.  If you are traveling with more than one kid and perhaps in more than one row, like us, this tip can really be beneficial.  I divvy up the carry on bags by which parent and which particular kid they will be sitting with.  For this trip daddy had the evens (#2 & #4) and I had the odds (#1 & #3).  Because daddy had the baby in his row it was important that he have the diaper bag, which had the bottles, formula, diapers, a few baby toys, and a blanket he needed to help him fall asleep (see tip #5).  I had the big kid bag which had the coloring books and crayons, dollar store finds (tip #1), snacks (see tip #6), and the IPad with a few pre-loaded shows.  You need to know which bag goes with which kid/parent set up.  If not done well, results could be disastrous.  You would hate to be the parent with the baby and no diaper.  Awful.  Plan ahead of time.
  4. Empty your sippy cups.  I know it seems like a “duh” moment to say “Hey don’t bring any liquids!” on a plane since they aren’t allowed…. for adults.  However, they do allow certain things for kids.  I have to bring bottles for my littlest so I can’t get away from bringing some liquid, but I have stopped bringing anything for the bigger kids.  I have found it to be so much easier to have empty sippy cups to open and have ready for the regular drink cart round up.  It helps cut down time with the TSA inspection, which can be such a drag.  The flight attendents will fill up their sippy cups as much as you want and its plenty for the kids.  Bonus, if you limit the kids liquid intake before the flight, the better chance you have of not having to enter the bathroom of shame that is located in the back of the airplane with your potty trained kid.  Have you ever shared that teeny tiny space with another person?!  Let me tell you, you will curse the cheeseburger, ahem, ok ok the many cheeseburgers that you have eaten and vow to start dieting immediately once you return to your seat.  You will take a look into that low lit circus fun house mirror that resides in all planes, and wonder how did you get here as you are praying that your young child doesn’t lick anything while your butt is in their face at the attempt at giving her ‘privacy’.  But I digress…..
  5. Make sure to bring your child’s special nap time friend/paci/blanket.  Whatever it is that your kid needs to fall asleep, bring it.  This is for 2 very important reasons.  One, you don’t want to put it into your checked baggage in case it gets lost and then you will be in a world of hurt for as long as it takes to get it returned to you, if it even does.  Two, if you are flying during a nap time or on a red-eye, you want to give them and yourself a fighting chance at sleep.  My 2 year old has a special tiger and when he doesn’t have it he will whine whine whine whine whine whine whine until he has it.  Its dreadful.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if I forgot it.  *shudders*  Don’t put yourselves or your fellow passengers in a torture tube.  Bring the special things!
  6. Bring snacks!  I can’t stress this one enough.  Snacks makes everyone happy.  Kids are entertained by food and when their bellies are happy, everyone is happy.  Pack way more than you think you need, because suddenly they become ravenous creatures with a hollow leg.  Imagine that they will eat the entire flight, because they just might.
  7. Fill up your freezer.  This tip is for your return home.  Before you leave, freeze any remaining milk and bread that you have left over that you couldn’t eat through before you leave for your trip.  This is great for a couple of reasons.  One, you don’t waste anything, which appeals to my cheap nature, and two, you have necessary items at home when you return.  On flight days, from door to door, it can take up nearly the entire day, so the idea of getting home and having to turn right around to the grocery store is the worst.  This time we froze our basics and simply pulled them out of the freezer and was able to survive for a couple of full days before we had to venture out for fresh food.  It made our transition home oh so much easier.  I highly recommend this.
  8. Make sure to bring cash or credit.  In case you didn’t due your homework, the flights do have snacks and electronic devices that you can rent.  Give yourself the option and get these things if you didn’t bring the necessary items.
  9. Have a sense of humor.  Honestly, it is really really hard to travel with young children and sometimes the only way you can survive this crazy adventure is if you laugh at the insanity of it all.  When there are rude people all around (and believe me they are ALL AROUND), or the flight attendants get snarky about your ‘I thought the brochure said I should’ baby wearing, or the other passengers accidentally bump into your just-got-to-sleep-baby and woke up him up, the only thing you can do is either cry or laugh.  I try to laugh.  But don’t do it loud.  Everybody freaks out at loud noises on planes.

These are simply tricks that have worked for us to streamline our travels with our young posse.  These are also tips that perhaps you haven’t thought of.  Got any tips to share that I might have missed?  I would love to hear them!

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