Well you guys. We DID IT! *In my head, that was said in the same tone as Buddy the Elf when he discovers the world’s best cup of coffee.* We not only survived our first big trip out-of-state as a family of 4, but we survived both flights to and from! Flying with kids is no joke, and flying with a baby and a toddler is even more-so not a joke! Holy moly wow. It was tough, and at times a tiny bit anxiety inducing, but for the most part it was smooth and dare I say, comical? Much of parenthood has been that way for us so far though – we’ve learned to just roll with the punches, go into any situation with low expectations, throw perfection out the window, and laugh about it in the end! All of the stress, I truly believe, is worth it in order to create lasting memories as a family.
I’ll admit that the idea of flying with both kiddos has terrified me for months though. In fact, it’s partly why it took us 9 months to even make this trip in the first place! For a while, we tossed around the idea of me making this big trip by myself, (big fat LOL there) but thankfully Adam was able to join us which meant two extra hands and two extra eyes. We tried to research, and ask our fellow mom and dad friends for advice before we left, but in the end knew that just like going through the birthing process, you can’t truly know, until you KNOW! And I’d like to think that we now have a tiny arsenal of tips, tricks, and learnings we’ve gathered from our experience.
While our flights with both littles are still fresh on my mind, I thought I’d share them with all of you. I am sure there is at least one other mom out there frantically looking for reassurance on this matter. Flying with multiple tiny humans wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, but it definitely took some planning, and a whole lot of adulting.
Here are my tips for flying with a baby (9 month old) and a toddler (3.5 years old), as well as a few learnings and good things to know. I’ve just listed them all out in bullet form as they came to mind.
I’d love to hear YOUR tips and anything I may have missed that I could change for next time!
- Double Stroller. Absolutely necessity! This made me feel so much better throughout the airport and long security lines knowing I could strap in both kids and keep them from escaping! We have a version of this one.
- Fly early in the AM, or during/around the first nap of the day. Ideally, baby will nap on the plane. That was not the case for us though, but still, it worked out well to fly around the first nap of the day so he could eat and at least relax on the plane.
- Motrin before the flight – We gave baby a little Motrin right before our second flight and it seemed to help. (He’s also been teething we think, and was overall a little fussier than normal, so it didn’t hurt to take the edge off!)
- Fly Southwest and board with family boarding, right after Group A. They will make an announcement about this. If you don’t want to put baby on the plane just yet, you could also have one person take the toddler and go ahead and claim your seats, then have one person stay back to board with baby very last. We preferred going ahead and boarding early so we could get settled and start his bottle.
- Give bottle or nurse right before you take off and use the paci as you lift off. Everyone warned us that baby would need to nurse/take bottle while we were taking off or descending to help with pressure but honestly found that his paci worked perfectly fine. He refused his bottle completely and was too distracted to nurse the first time we took off and then he refused to eat the whole flight, which then made him overtired and hangry. So for flight 2, we gave him his bottle right before we took off so he had a full belly and he was happy the entire flight.
- Snacks/iPad/headphones/books/”new” toys for both kids.
- All the hand sanitizer and wipes.
- Sit by other families so you can form a little loud family community. We loved bonding with the other families around us on both flights.
- Order a carseat bag from Amazon and check your carseat with your other luggage if you don’t need it on the plane. We put baby’s carseat and base in this bag, and checked it at the counter with our other luggage. It came out first at baggage claim and wasn’t damaged at all.
- Check everything you can for FREE and bring as little as you can onto the plane with you. Southwest allows your first two bags for free, up to 50 lbs. As our carry-on’s, I brought the diaper bag, Adam brought his backpack, and Adeline brought her little bag. With a wiggly baby in your lap, you’ll get easily frustrated if you’re also fighting with too much STUFF.
- Write your name and phone number on your walking child’s inner arm so it can’t wash off. God forbid we got separated, they could easily show a policeman or security officer and they could contact us.
- Gate check your stroller – call airline to confirm there’s not a weight limit first. Southwest did not have a weight or size limit, but in the past, American told me the weight limit to gate check a stroller was something like 20lbs? Or maybe 35? Definitely call to verify though!
- Amazon sells wheels you can attach to car seats if you’d rather not check them – we’ve heard these are amazing!
- Bring an empty snack catcher container for the plane but use a big gallon sized bag for all your snacks or pouches to get through security. TSA will make you take out any food item and it’s easier if everything is in one big baggie.
- Pack extra outfit for the kids and YOU in diaper bag in case they get messy or you get spit-up on.
- Bring gum for your toddler to chew if they have trouble with their ears popping. We actually found that sipping some water and eating a snack ended up being just fine as well.
- Kids 12 and under won’t need to remove shoes to go through security.
- Baby must come out of stroller when going through security and they will let you carry them through the metal detector instead of the big body scanner. If B had been much younger than 9 months, I might have worn him in our Ergo – but we knew we’d want the double stroller with us once we arrived in Franklin so we went the stroller route.
- If flying with a lap child you have to check in/check bags at the FULL SERVICE desk because baby’s boarding pass will not print at the kiosk
- Southwest WILL ask for proof of age of baby (or any passenger under age 2). You can use a photo of their birth certificate or vaccine records. (We printed off baby’s shot records from our pediatrician’s patient portal and just kept it in the diaper bag.)
- Changing table in airplane bathroom is actually pretty average size.
- Fly early in the day if you can to avoid possible delays – so in case you ARE delayed, you’ve still got the whole day to travel and hopefully make it to your destination before bedtime (or dark!).
- Remember to bring headphones if you’re going to use an iPad or tablet device. Also remember to actually download movies to your iPad on Wifi before you leave.
- Make sure to fill up your toddler’s water bottle before you board the plane in case you have to sit on the runway and it happens to be hot. I’ve heard horror stories of people being stuck on the runway in hot airplanes!
- You can bring formula and breast milk through security but they will take it out and inspect it separately, so just be sure to mention to TSA that you have it in your bag. They’ll also wipe down your stroller and pull it aside. When I called ahead of time, they said you could also bring a cooler/ice pack/frozen milk through security (“as much as you need for a day’s travel” – whatever that means.) I also asked about bringing more than a day’s worth of breast milk through, like if I needed to pump the entire time I was gone, and they told me basically that that was fine. However, I’ve also heard horror stories of TSA not allowing breast milk through and/or giving mothers a hard time, so FOR SURE call your airline before you fly.
- Take a picture before you leave for the airport of your kids and what they are wearing so if something were to happen, you could provide photos to ID them easily and explain what they look like.
- Take extra battery pack for charging your phone easily. This has to go in your carry-on, of course.
- GO POTTY and CHANGE DIAPER right.before.you.board.
Above all else, patience, patience, patience. Just smile and laugh through it. Your crying baby has every right to be on the plane – same as every other passenger on the plane. If you end up being “that person” with a crying baby (that was us on flight 1) just remember, it will end! It’s only an hour or two, and then you’ll never see those people again. And odds are, everyone on the plane has probably been there before, too.