From September of 2012 to July 2013 I was traveling the world on a mission trip that took me to 11 countries in 11 months. With all of that traveling experience under my belt, I still was not prepared to travel with my children in tow. Schlepping a 55-pound hiking pack and a ten-pound backpack is nothing compared to the gear you have to haul around to accommodate your children. I’m not talking about unnecessary items either. You’ve got a stroller, car seats, diaper bag, and on one of our trips I needed a breast pump. All that after you have checked any baggage. I can remember the first time we traveled one hour to my parents’ house, the minivan was packed to the gills. We have since learned our lesson or kept duplicates at their house.
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Last summer we flew to Colorado and California (from Ohio) with a two-month-old and a one-year-old. Then this past spring break we flew to Myrtle Beach. Here are some of the things I learned when flying with children.
(Note: You should, of course, double-check with your specific airline, if we’ve learned anything recently it’s that there is fine print attached to your plane ticket.) All of the airlines we flew allowed us to bring car seats and strollers aboard without being charged. I highly recommend a bag to stash the unused car seat. You might also fit a pack of diapers or two inside. We purchased this car seat travel bag with shoulder strap from Amazon in orange so it would be easy to see and easy to carry. Be sure your car seat says approved by the FAA, we almost had an issue. Of course, that’s only if you care for your child to sit in it on the plane, otherwise, check it at the gate.
Another thing I learned that you may not be aware of is bringing food through security. Any snacks or drinks that are intended for the children are legal to bring through security. That includes breast milk. You may have seen the tragic story about the woman who was made to dump her milk, cringe! There are regulations for traveling with it. I printed the policy and had it on hand just in case there was an issue! They also allow you to carry on your breast pump, without considering it a carry on item.
One policy we did not account for was not being able to sit together with both children as lap children. There wouldn’t be enough oxygen masks if we all sat in the same row. Fortunately, two incredibly nice women sit next to me and offered their help when I needed to feed or change the baby.
One of the best things I brought with me on the plane was My Brest Friend Inflatable Travel Nursing Pillow that I purchased from Amazon. I didn’t use it on the first flight and my arms were so tired by the end. The flight attendant said it wasn’t safe for me to wear the baby. So on the next flight, I inflated the pillow and she was able to comfortably rest while my arms did as well.
On our flight to Myrtle Beach, the kids didn’t handle landing very well, even with pacifiers and bottles. The flight attendant suggested Dum Dum suckers. It sounded crazy, but it worked fabulously on the way home and even saved another toddler across the aisle from losing it.
If you haven’t been introduced to packing cubes let me tell you how great they can be. I ordered three different colors, one for me, one for my husband and one for the kids. Check out these travel packing cubes, from Amazon, they come in a number of different colors. This allowed us to pack in one suitcase, but keep everything organized. If you separate by clothing type it makes it very easy to find what you need while keeping all the other items neat.
There are tons of great videos on the internet that will show you how to save space when packing. Yes, rolling your clothes saves space. It goes without saying an extra clothing option for the kids is always good in the diaper bag. My preference is a romper or footed pajamas so I’m only adding one article. Parents may want to toss an extra t-shirt for themselves in the bag as well. Try to find something both mom and dad could wear in case of an emergency.
Next time you book a vacation try using this website for the best travel sites. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned in the last two years traveling with our children. Share some of your great traveling tips in the comments below.