As a mom of two young kids and a travel agent, I have done my fair share of traveling with little ones.....and at times traveling by myself with them. Below are some quick tips while traveling with kids that will make the experience enjoyable and less stressful for all parties involved.
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What to Take on the Plane
When you are traveling with kids, you don't want to forget these items. Here is what I highly recommend taking with you from personal experience:
Infant Carrier - makes it easy to get through security, you have your hands free. I would avoid taking a stroller through to be gate checked unless absolutely necessary. Instead check it at the desk for free.
Here are two different types I loved with my little ones (one is a wrap and the other is an actual carrier). The Boba Wrap is perfect for infants and smaller babies for a soft and snuggly feel. The Ergo is just a great overall carrier that is very versatile.
Food/formula/bottled water - Bring an excessive amount of snacks, formula, and a bottle of water or two (especially if you are breast feeding - for you to drink). Having snacks readily available is crucial when you have cranky kids. When traveling with kids, the 3oz limit does not apply, but TSA will likely test the liquids just to be sure.
Copy of immunization records or birth certificate - this may be requested by the airline if you are flying with a child as a lap infant. It has always been hit or miss, some airlines are stricter than others, but you should always have this with you.
Car Seat - If your child is mobile, having a car seat to keep them contained and in one place is helpful. Attach it to your small carry-on suitcase with an inexpensive car seat strap. If your child is a lap infant (under 2 years of age for the duration of your trip), then I would recommend checking your car seat at the check-in counter. Make sure you have a cover for it so everything is a bit more protected and no straps get caught on the conveyor belts.
Diapers & Wipes - Pack way more than you think you will need. Have extra in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets lost or delayed.
Small Backpack - For kids that can carry their own backpack, let them! Ask them to help pack their backpack with fun toys, activities, and snacks that they will be responsible for carrying. Young kids love to have responsibility. My little ones love their Skip Hop backpacks!
Change of Clothes - Not only for the kids, but also for parents. If there is an epic blowout or spit up on you, you will thank me later for packing extra clothes. While you are at it, just toss in a plastic grocery bag or two just in case.
Blankets - Bring your child's favorite lovey or blanket to help them sleep, cover up on the plane if it is cold, and dual as a breast feeding cover. The Aiden + Anaise swaddling blankets were my go to!!
Bibs, spoons, and other eating utensils - don't forget the sippy cup or bottle.
Toys & Entertainment - bring an assortment of entertainment options. For toddlers and young children, having their own headphones are nice. Download movies to your device from Netflix, and have a plethora of activities to pass the time. Some of my 4 year old's favorite activity books are from Little Passports, a fun travel themed subscription box.
What to Pack in Checked Luggage
Depending on where you are going, and what will be available at your destination, you may want to consider bringing the following with you.
More Diapers and Wipes
Medicine - I always like to bring the basics with me just in case.
Thermometer - I don't know how many times I have left this at home thinking it was not going to be needed....and then my kids ended up with a fever.
Sunscreen -Thinkbaby is our favorite! I even use it for myself. And it's non-toxic!
Sunhats - iPlay sunhats are great inexpensive options to keep the sun off of kids. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles.
General Planning Tips
Plan flights around naptime - This has always worked out well for me. Even if they don't get a great nap, it helps to pass the time.
Call the airlines to add a lap infant ahead of time - Most airlines require you to call the reservations department to add a lap infant to your reservation. Doing this ahead of time will make the process at the airport smoother.
Select Your Seats - Make sure you select your seats as soon as possible to give you the best option of your family all sitting together. If you have a child that will be sitting in a carseat on the airplane, they must be seated in a window seat for evacuation reasons. For families, it is very important to avoid purchasing Basic Economy tickets to allow you to select your seat assignments.
Children 12 and under may use the TSA precheck line when traveling with a parent or guardian that has TSA precheck on their boarding pass.
To help with pressure changes give your kids something to suck on take-off and landing. If you are breast feeding, this is the perfect time to do so.
Give yourself plenty of time to get through security and the airport. Allow your family time to take potty breaks, find the play area in the airport (if available), and enjoy the process.
Read the airline rules & policies related to what you can bring on or check for kids. Some airlines are getting very strict on the weight limits of strollers. Also note whether or not you can check a stroller, pack n play, or car seat for free. Most airlines will allow an extra personal item (i.e. diaper bag) for those that are flying with a lap infant.
What are your tips for traveling with young kiddos? What has worked for you?