Saturday, April 12, 2008

Traveling with Kids

Ok, I have decided it's time to swallow my fear and just do it. Yes, it's time to get on a plane with my two kids by myself. I do find it a trifle pathetic that I haven't pushed myself to do this yet, especially since it wouldn't have been too bad to do it with only one. But, I waited too long to try it, and here I am packing a couple of 'em. A set of circumstances have encouraged me greatly to go visit a college friend I haven't seen in, hmm, eight years? (Eesh, has it really been that long??) The flight is short, so hopefully that will make it easier. Hopefully. And, if all goes well, maybe I can even talk myself into doing this cross-country to visit my in-laws. Let's not think too much about that.... So, finally, we come to the purpose of this post: anyone have any good traveling tips that could help me out? Specifically, how to survive the airport with a nursing baby and recently potty-trained toddler who will still probably need a stroller if I have any hope of making my flight in time. (He gets so distracted!) And, secondly, any advice on what baby backpack to buy? I've been wanting one for a long time now. I bought a Maya Wrap for Oscar on the idea that I would sling it to avoid buying a double stroller that would be useless very quickly. I had a convertible Snugli sling for Wyatt and absolutely LOVED it, but it's only good to about 12 lbs, so I wanted something I could use a little longer. Supposedly, this would last until toddlerhood. Unfortunately, the hype about slings conceals the fact that they are not so easy to use. I've watched the DVD over and over, and still can't put it on comfortably. You really should have a friend who knows how to use them (and I don't), and probably a baby who didn't put on the pounds like Oscar did. (Wyatt was three months old before he hit 12 lbs - Oscar wasn't even two months when he passed that milestone.) I've never been able to get it to fit comfortably; it digs into my side or my shoulder depending on how I'm carrying him. There's no way I'm using it for a long-term situation. So, I want a backpack. I've loved them ever since I carried my three year old niece in one on a hike when I was in college. However, I don't want to make the mistake I did with the sling and buy something that turns out to be a waste of money because it doesn't work very well. I've got my eye on a Macpac. It's a little pricey, but I love that it's adjustable (there's almost a foot difference in height between Oliver and I) and there isn't a huge frame on it, like most I've seen. Has anyone used one of these? I'm going to have to order online, so I don't want to make a mistake! P.S. I haven't forgotten about the housing issue (I wish!), but that's gonna be a long-winded post so I'll get to it later.

6 sonar pings:

sues2u2 said...

Hmmm. I haven't traveled with two little ones (mine are 5 yrs apart) but I have done several cross Atlantic flights with a baby/toddler.

I would suggest getting some new toys (or maybe something that you've had packed away?) & also try the Crayola Wonder marker/paper set that only works on its own paper. Also make sure that you have plenty of snacks.

Your older guy will need something to help his ears as you take off & land so maybe a sippy cup? Also plan on nursing the baby to help his ears "pop" @ the same time.

Go for bulkhead because it has more room and make sure that you & the boys are on the outside of the aisle. I wouldn't advise splitting (ie getting an aisle & a window) as you'll invariably get someone who likes only the middle between you!

I know nothing about backpacks.

There will ALWAYS be someone on the plane who will be grouchy that you have brought young children on the plane. DON'T let them get to you. But by the same token there will always be someone who will smile & be very encouraging as well. Hopefully you'll sit by them. Most flight attendants are pretty nice too. Good luck!

Peggy said...

I flew with Steven and Jackson once. I'm not planning on doing it again, at least not alone, especially since there are 3 now. I don't know if your kids like movies but our's love them so the DVD player works great for us. The suggestion of some new toys and Crayola Color Wonder products is great. When we are traveling anywhere long distance I try to have a special little pack for each boy (of course the baby won't mind if you skip him). In the pack, I'll put a special snack (someting they don't usually have but really like); a new, small, quiet toy (this is kind of tough because they don't have much room on the plane to play with anything and you don't want to feel too bad if it gets lost. We have a Cheerios race car in the wall of Chicago O'Hare - ask later about that one); a favorite book, some kind of coloring and or drawing materials, stickers, etc... Things that keeps his interest. In the terminal, we can usually keep the kids busy by watching the planes, having a snack, and walking around. Get as much energy out before boarding. We have found that most airlines give little sticky "wings" for the kids. They don't stick that well but it's new and kind of exciting for them if you talk it up. Our boys are usually pretty interested in exploring the plane from their seats (playing with the tray table, checking out what's in the seat back pocket), and watching everything out the window. Your excitement will play into his interest. Try to think of everything you will need during the flight and keep it at your feet. You might be a little crowded but it's easier than trying to get up and get a bag from the overhead in-flight. If you can get someone to help you through check-in that will be a huge help. Trying to juggle carseats, a stroller, and 2 kids plus your luggage is very difficult. You could try a harness for W and a pack for the baby but a stroller will save your back. Our stroller is our pack horse. But you will have to unload everything for security, including taking the baby out of a carrier of anykind. (At least I did at Reagan National.) Try wearing slip on shoes for you and W. (We haven't flown in over a year so security may have loosened up a bit.) Remember, this will be tough but the more organized and prepared you are will make it easier. Try to think through the entire situation and head off any problems before they arise by planning. Oh, and one more thing: Go to the bathroom before boarding!

Peggy said...

Wow! sorry that was SO long!

Angie said...

I love my Ergo--but its not a "backpack"....I carry my four year old in it too sometimes. AS far as the newly pottytrained toddler--I would go ahead and do the pullup thing....treat them like panties but in the case that you have to get on that plane RIGHT NOW...no accidents making it even harder! (BUT I know that not ever mom would approve of what I just said too) I think you are brave to battle the flight thing with all the issues that they are having....

Emily said...

Ana,

I have a lot of experience with flying with kids. Not as much with two, but I have done that three times, as well.

I agree with everything that has been said.

My initial advice is "to expect the worst, but hope for the best". Getting through security can be the hardest. It really will be the luck of the draw whether you get compassionate, patient TSA workers dealing with you or the opposite. Same goes for the people that are waiting behind you to unload all your stuff. You're definitely going to want to mentally practice how you'll unload your things, if not actually practice it. Shoes will go off, it used to be OK with sandals and then last summer, I even had to take off my flip-flops!

Then, you get your things loaded on the conveyer (sp?) belt, get you and your kiddies through the metal detector and it's a mad dash to get all your stuff off that belt. I usually just grab everything and look for the closest chair to get organized again.

On flight days, I come prepared with lots of treats. I pack a lot of dum-dum lollipops for my oldest, it helps with the air pressure and the ears. In general, it is the coming down that hurts more than the going up. We do the DVD player thing, as well, but you'll need to be prepared that that will also have to come completely out of the case and opened up when you are going through security.

You probably already know this, but since your toddler has his own seat, you are entitled to bring his carseat into the plane, if it is indeed a carseat and not a "booster" and has the sticker on the side that says it is FAA approved. It can be really nice to have there, they'll be able to see more and you will feel like you have more control because he is strapped in, but it is also one more thing to lug around. However, keep in mind that if you don't bring it on and you haven't made arrangements at your destination, you will want to bring it along and it will count as one piece of your luggage!

For the baby, if you have a travel system, I would recommend using it the day of your flight. Not only can you hold a lot of things in those baskets but you will also have your baby carseat with you. If there happens to be an empty seat, you will be able to put him in that seat AND bring on the carseat! When you get to your gate, you'll have to ask if there are any empty seats and if there aren't...you'll need to get "gate-check" tags for the stroller and carseat. You will have to completely fold up the stroller in the area right before the airplane door. This is another thing that gives me a lot of anxiety, (because you are dealing with bags, kids and in a hurry) but have almost always been offered help by some other traveler. Seriously, this is a time that although it will be a complete stranger, if they offer to help take them up on the offer!!

FYI...when you do gate-check your stroller and possibly baby carseat, those will NOT count as checked luggage.

Really, I could go on and on because I have learned a lot of little tricks. Just pack in an organized way, but don't put so much stuff in that you can't maneuver around...it is hard when you only have one hand and you have one child whining and one crying and your stress level is already maxxed out!

I usually buy Thomas a couple of brand-new Hot Wheels to play with, so he is entertained by the novelty of something new, but if they are lost (which happens a lot) I am not sick about it. I never let him bring on "favorites", it's just setting yourself up for more anxiety...

One really helpful thing I have learned is once I get through security, go buy my own bottled drinks, and bring along a sippy cup for the oldest. Fill his cup before you get on the plane. Of course, the airline will offer you drinks, but I have found that they are disasters ready to happen! It is so easy for them to get spilled in that little confined area! It's so much easier to bring on your own that you can twist on and off the cap when you need it. I witnessed one brand-new mom a couple of years ago nearly spill her hot coffee all over her baby because the baby started to get fussy and she was trying to get something out of her diaper bag. Open drinks without lids just do not work when you have kids in a confined space like that.

Best of luck! Email me if you have any further questions!

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

We have a Macpac and love it!

I'm going to come back and read these suggestions on air travel with kids when I have more time. Wednesday is my travel with children on the airplane day!

-Andrea