For anyone who has ever flown with a single toddler knows there are moments of pure chaos, moments of unexpected quiet and moments of intrigue as their little minds take in everything around them. Flying with a toddler can be easy and can be unbearably difficult. So, what about multiple toddlers? We have two. We fly with them. It's twice the chaos, half the intrigue and a quarter of the peace. I won't lie, there are moments on the flight I want to get up and walk to the galley and complain about them to the flight attendants as if they aren't mine. The real question we as parents need to ask ourselves is: Is the short duration of the flight worth skipping an entire adventure? For us, the answer is no. We take them. We get through the flights. We get through the mile high poop diapers & melt downs. We get through by finding some really great ways of dealing with all that comes with bringing the kids along.
Here are 9 ways we make flying with multiple Toddlers (or just one) easier on us and them:
1) Pack light.
Anyone who has traveled for any amount of time will tell you that excess baggage will weigh you down. If you are traveling alone with kids (i.e. -- only one adult) pack even lighter. We pack a single carry on bag for international flights and for domestic flights we only pack our usual diaper bag. We only bring necessities. For us that consists of a change of clothes for each kid, the ipads, a water bottle for the kids, snacks, a few very small toys, and diapers/wipes, comfort items like pacifiers and loveys.
2) Avoid bringing a gigantic bulky stroller through the terminal.
When I see someone in the airport with massive double BOB or giant single jogging stroller, I feel bad for them. Yes, you can glide along the terminal, but at the gate someone is going to be struggling to get that thing folded down. Not to mention, a stroller that size is probably going to get damaged from being tossed around by baggage workers. We used to use our double city select for travel when our kids were infant-toddler, BUT we didn't use it INSIDE the airport, we checked it all the way through. Instead of a stroller we put one kid in our Ergo Carrier and one kid in our Toddler Tula. When I fly alone with the 2 kids, I bring one very small stroller and I wear one kid on front while I have our diaper bag on my back. We recently started using the GB Pockit Stroller and that thing is a TRAVELER'S DREAM. It folds down SO small that it fits under the seat on the plane meaning it is not going to get damaged by gate checking AND you're going to be able to walk off the plane and GO instead of waiting for your gate checked stroller.
3) Pick your seats in advance.
I like to book my seats when I book my tickets. We are hardcore about getting the middle 4-across seats when we fly international. This gives the kids the two middle and us the two outer seats. We get so much space to spread out. For domestic flights, we usually do a two-two configuration, so each parent gets a kid. Some airlines don't allow pre picking seats unless you pay extra. If you're flying with one of the airlines that don't allow pre selecting seats, check to see if they allow families with small children to board first. This will let you board and be sure to get seats together with the kids. I do this with Southwest Airlines and I haven't had an issue not getting with my children.
4) Have all of your documents accessible and in order.
I keep mine where I can easily grab them no matter if I am wearing a kid, a backpack and pushing the stroller. I put each family member's boarding pass inside their passport, so that TSA & boarding agents can easily look at both.
5) Be ready for TSA.
Know all the rules of what you can and can not bring through the line. Know if you need to remove shoes or not. Anticipate this portion of your trip by packing appropriately & have computers/Ipads/liquids EASILY available to pull out of your bag for a scan.
**Remember: Strollers have to be scanned & not every place allows you to babywear through the body scanner.
6) Manage the Layover.
First, only have a layover if you HAVE to. Direct is always best. We recently had a 38 minute layover in Atlanta with both kids. We had to sprint, ride the train, sprint again and were the very last people to board the plane. We were soaked in sweat & a bit flustered. When you are flying and you absolutely have to have a layover, I like to make it at least an hour, maybe 2. I like the kids to be able to run free, use the bathroom, and eat. Things that can help make longer layovers easier: Play areas, Airline lounges, sleep rooms, nursing rooms, and open areas. We love the lounges, but these days many airports have play areas for kids. It's always a go-to for me. I get a coffee and let the kids loose while I take a deep breath and appreciate not having someone sitting on me.
For military families: Find the USO. Free food, drinks and typically some nice accommodations.
For American Express Delta Reserve card holders: You and your kids can access the Delta Club free!
7) Restrain them.
If you asked me a year ago my thoughts on flying with a carseat, I would laugh. "We never fly with carseats" I would say. While it is still true, we have never brought a carseat onto an airplane, we DO now use the CARES harness. This is the only FAA approved safety harness for children. It's tiny and lightweight. It is very easy to install. It keeps your kids restrained. (and safe) My kids must think they are in a carseat because they don't seem to mind this harness. I love it. It makes flying with them by myself so much easier. PERK: These harnesses can save your child's life during unexpected rough air or turbulence. It would prevent a child from flying up and hitting the ceiling if the plane suddenly lost altitude or jerked violently forward in a ground crash.
8) Snacks on Snacks and more Snacks.
I don't need to harp this, so I'll just ask you: Does eating make you happy? Probably. It also makes kids happy. My go-to snacks for planes? Gummy bears, yogurt melts, gold fish, baby food pouches (easy + mess free), Nilla Wafers, Apples & Clementines. OH and the Delta cookies they hand out -- my kids go to town on those, so I ask for extra always.
9) Keep them entertained.
We believe in using movies on planes. If you don't, that's cool too. We use movies, but we also bring a couple distractions. We like the Melissa + Doug Water books, window clings, Tegu magnetic blocks, sticker books, and picture books. We introduce different things at different times and my theory is, if they aren't crying, don't pull out all the stuff at once. If you have multiple flights in one day, save some activities and toys for that second flight so it's new. OH and my son spends most of the flight shredding the Skymall magazines, so that could work for your kids too! Get creative!
10) Surviving Potty Breaks + Diaper changes.
We bring our potty trained toddler to the bathroom every single time we go and ask constantly if she wants to go. We always take her, regardless, before boarding and as soon as they make the "initial decent" announcement. They may still surprise you, so don't get too comfy.
For diaper changes, this is pretty typical. We change when dirty. There are changing tables and family bathrooms in almost every single airport I have ever been too. There are also changing tables in *almost* every plane I have ridden on, except 1. In that case, I just put the baby on the floor of the galley and did a quick change. (Yes, I used a changing pad so he wasn't on the actual floor)
11) Hype up the Destination.
We recently traveled for 21 hours straight with our 1 and 2 year old in tow. We salvaged many toddler meltdowns by reminding them that their Nina and "the tower" (Eiffel Tower) were on the other end. On the way home, we did the same by hyping up coming home to our house and seeing their Oma at the airport! It surprisingly worked every single time.
No matter how long or how short these plane rides are, it's going to end at some point. It is a blip on the entire trip Who cares if they cry some? You paid just like everyone else. Don't worry about other people. One thing I love about flying is that I can tend to my children face to face unlike driving where I can't see them and its dangerous for me to do much interacting with them.
There are so many ways to make your travel day easier and these are just a few of the ways we tackle the monster. When in doubt - refer to Tip #12. Everything that happens on that day is a temporary moment on the longer journey. Keep your chin up, you're rockin this whole "flying with kids" thing.
Do you have something special you do when you fly with your tots? Let us know in the comments!