Flying High with Little Guys: Travel Tips for You and Your Tots
Flying solo roundtrip with my two boys wasn’t part of the plan. Our vacation was supposed to begin on New Year’s Eve. Instead, it was moved two weeks ahead of schedule due to my grandma’s sudden passing. I was dazed and stressed because we booked an emergency flight home after receiving the phone call that she had gone to heaven. It was the week before Christmas and everyone was busy with shopping, parties, and gift wrapping. I was in the middle of the all that hustle and bustle when our schedules were turned upside down. Weighing all our options, we decided it was best for me to fly home to Manila with our two boys and my husband would just follow as planned. He had to work and didn’t have enough time off to leave when we did.
We had less than 36 hours to book our flights, pack our bags, and hop on the plane. I took it as a welcome distraction before I had to face reality. I was looking forward to this trip because it would have been the first time my grandma would meet our second son, Titus. But the trip came three weeks late. I love packing and I would normally fold and place everything so strategically in each suitcase so I know where things were and to whom each package (pasalubong as we Filipinos call it) would be given.
But this time it was different, I taped up three balikbayan boxes and tossed everything I thought I needed, categorizing them into kids’ clothes, my clothes, and for everyone else. Good thing my hoarding skills came handy. I had pre-bought a lot of presents beforehand for our trip so I had enough to give to everyone. I was running on adrenaline. Sleepless and stressed, I quickly put everything together and set aside time to think about what would go into our carry-on—the crucial must-haves (so as not to be hated by all the passengers) or so I thought.
A friend of mine who had come from a missions trip to Taiwan had some left over “plane activities” that she gladly shared with me. It was packed so nicely in letter-sized envelopes that made it light and easy to travel with. I had absolutely no time to do any of this so it was a huge blessing that she had some extra. Each envelope had a different activity in it: some had stickers, some had crayons and a coloring sheet, some had dot-to-dot activity sheets, and a ziplock filled with snacks. I was grateful! I had packed Micah’s favorite reader set and his asthma medicine. I had a small bottle of Tylenol in case of emergency and of course a jacket for each of them, some diapers, a bag of wipes, and a set of extra clothes for each kid. I like having them wear matching bright shirts so I can spot them easily; just in case something happens.
I thought of the worst case scenario like the pilot and the flight crew would get so mad at my screaming children and drop us off in Hawaii or Guam. We’ll actually pass by there on the way to Manila. Thankfully, it was only way worse in my head. Our 15-hour flight went by rather smoothly. Thank God for routines! Because we followed our nightly routine, the boys fell asleep right when the crew shut off the cabin lights and didn’t wake up until they turned it on in time for breakfast! Yes, I couldn’t believe it myself! I was able to sleep for a couple of hours, watch a movie or two, and write my grandma’s eulogy- in peace! Even the cabin crew couldn’t believe I had two munchkins with me. I told them to hold off their compliments until landing. Better safe than sorry! Haha!
For the smoothest possible soar through the skies, here is what I prescribe:
1. Get Comfy from Head to Toe
Wear slip-on shoes—you’ll be thankful when you get to security. Vans, a sweat shirt and yoga pants are my travel buddies! Simple and comfortable clothes are the best, especially if you have to use the bathroom while holding a baby. I always bring/ wear a sweatshirt because it tends to get really cold on the plane.
2. Try to Stay as Hands-Free as you can
Ideal carry-ons for Mom and Dad are backpacks or across-the-body bags. AND OF COURSE THE BABY CARRIER! Micah had a small backpack that allowed him to carry his own toys and snacks. You don’t have time to carry and worry about his toys when you have a plane to catch! Try to put everything in one bag so you don’t have to carry a lot of other things. Imagine trying to remember all those bags, your passports, tickets and your kids.
3. Shake, shake, shake those Wiggles Out
My husband took the boys to a jungle gym while I packed that day. He kept them busy and got them pretty wiped out before our flight. Of course, you know your kids best, some kids tend to cry and become more fussy when they are over-tired. Most airports nowadays have kids’ areas where the little ones can play before going through security. Make use of them! If not, walking along those moving sidewalks a couple of times can do the trick, too! After some rigorous activities, sitting down will be something they will definitely enjoy.
4. Plan for an Emergency
You never know what can happen with a kid! Extra wipes, a set of extra clothes, socks and diapers always come in handy. Pack them in ziplock bags so you can contain the soiled clothes and not contaminate your whole bag. My son Titus actually decided to have an explosion (through the diaper into his clothes) right before we boarded. I even heard the lady say it was our last call right in middle of our fiasco at the lounge. Luckily, I had my 911 kit handy. Ziplock bags were my life savers! I tend to dress my boys alike and in bright colors so it’s easier to spot them (just in case they run off.)
5. The Best Seat in the House or on the Plane
The ideal spot for me and my little crew is the last row of the plane, where we bother fewer people. However, if I am taking a long flight with a baby, I always request bulkhead seats and a bassinet (a folding crib that attaches to the front wall). Take advantage of this free amenity while you can because babies grow out of them once they’re over 20 pounds or when they get longer than the bassinet itself.
The bassinets I had in my recent trips were the ones where you could lay out on the floor instead of the ones that attach to the front wall. Request it right away, because sometimes they only have a limited number on board. It was interesting because Titus was able to sleep on it on our way there but on our flight back, he grew and was too long, therefore I had to make-do with two blankets and a pillow and a couple of bassinet sheets and laid it out on the floor for his bed. It worked out just fine.
6. Pick your Carrier
I chose to forego the stroller for a couple of trips now. I’ve only actually taken the stroller once and it was a pain. I didn’t like having to check it in the gate and waiting for it when we got off the plane. I brought my Maya Wrap (which I absolutely loved) on my first few trips home with Micah and the Ergo 360 with Titus. I love that both carriers allow my babies to face out because they can’t stand just seeing me. Think about one that you can carry around while you are at your destination too. 🙂
The stroller was just another thing I had to carry. I chose to bring a carry-on luggage instead. I found it more practical to hold all of our things and to carry around. But I know that a lot of parents have the stroller in their short list of must-haves. You’ll have to fold it to go through security, but at least you can bring it all the way up to the gate. Bring a carrier that works best with your needs and with your family-on and off the plane! 🙂
7. In-Flight Entertainment
Choose your books and toys wisely. Keep them for “flight purposes” only. Novelty items are great but don’t forget some favorites as well. The envelopes with stickers and activity sheets were great because I could toss it after I used them. The Water-Wow bundles, non-messy art supplies, favorite books that are light, small toys, and your child’s favorite bear or blanket will go a long way!
8. Solid and Liquid Gold
The good news is that you can bring on board reasonable quantities of formula, breast milk, baby food or medications. Bring an empty water bottle or a sippy cup, and fill them up later. (Since milk goes bad and juice is sticky, I find water is the best beverage.) Most of the time, airlines have these on hand so you don’t have to worry about bringing extra packs of milk or juice for your toddler. The kind steward gave me a big bottle of water so I can have it handy whenever I needed to refill the bottles anytime.
If you want to bring anything liquid for yourself, make sure each container is less than 3.4 ounces and that all of them fit in a quart-size zip-top bag. A bottle of Tylenol is always good to have when you travel. You’ll never know when a fever will strike. I tried the Benadryl thing and it didn’t work for my kids. Try it at home first and watch for its effects. It will save you the hassle if it really didn’t make much of a difference.
To avoid painful ear pressure during takeoff and landing, offer your child some snacks or have them drink water, juice or milk; babies can be nursed or bottle-fed whichever works better for you.
9. LET ANYTHING EXTRA GO!!!
Indulge yourself with a relaxing entertainment such as magazine, book, computer game or hobby. If you don’t expect to do anything but take care of your children, then you won’t be disappointed. Avoid bringing anything you can’t make use of. Consolidate everything in ONE BAG! Believe me, you won’t use half the things you’ll bring! 🙂 If you do have the extra time, watch a movie or go to sleep! You can even ask for a snack!
10. RELAX! You’ll get there…EVENTUALLY!
You can watch the in-flight update—you know the little plane tracker that goes around the world and that seems to move oh so slowly—yes, that one. If you catch yourself staring at that thing for a while, just doze off, and get some rest. You’ll be on your feet in no time. Make your flight an adventure instead of viewing it as travel torture. Have a positive mindset. Believe me, it will be worth it! Talk to your kids beforehand and prepare them for what’s ahead. It helps them process the journey and it makes it a fun experience for them, too.
AND OH! Lastly, please weigh your luggages beforehand to avoid repacking and having an overweight baggage at the check-in counter. It is such an unnecessary pain! Check the car seat rules of the country you will visit beforehand so you can plan for it. In my case, we don’t need car seats in the Philippines so I didn’t even bother bringing them.
Flying with your kids is an adventure that’s filled with surprises and fun moments. Don’t stress yourself too much! Think of it as just another bonding time with you and your tots. And if mishaps do happen, just calm down. You know your kids better than anyone else and for sure you will find a way to soothe their fears and fuzziness. Make flying fun both for you and your children. After all, it’s not every day that all of you will get to ride on a plane!