1. Do not try to carry much! I ended up carrying three coats, a baby carrier and a backpack and it led to me losing the baby carrier and adding more stress to the process. I also had packed Jane’s backpack too heavy, so I was worried about her as we trekked across the airport twice. Check all the bags that you can and carry only the most necessary items with you on the plane. There is not enough room. Also, a word on types of bags to bring…pack a bag that opens and closes easily. One of my backpacks was hard to open and retrieve things from and when you are already in a tight space, this can be really annoying. One of the other moms that was traveling had a bag that essentially did not close at the top, but stayed upright and fit under the seat. She had a much easier time on the plane, but she only had one child and had a direct flight, so she was probably not worried about packing it far. My daughters pack could be strapped to her and my husband also attached a “leash” before we left so I could keep her close.
2. Snacks. Pack light and meaningful snacks. I brought mandarin oranges, raisins, chips, fruit pouches (4 oz), pretzels,some Starburst for when they really needed some motivation, and empty water bottles that I could fill before boarding the plane. I did not have any problems with TSA on any of the baby items that I needed to bring.
3. Age appropriate activities that is saved specifically for the trip. For example, my older daughter had never colored in the coloring book before and the toys were bought and saved for the trip. For my one year old, the stickers, the dry erase board and the play-doh were a hit. When she didn’t want to sit on my lap I pulled those out and she was entertained enough to keep her in one spot. I did also walk up and down the aisles a few times when the fasten seat belt light was off. My one year old also ate a lot of snacks and that kept her happy. My four year old colored, played with Disney princess figurines, molded play-doh, watched a movie on my I-phone (apps are good to have downloaded ahead of time too), read a few board books and did a puzzle. She also enjoyed helping me entertain my younger daughter. I used whatever distraction I could. She was incredibly helpful and good during our eight hours of traveling on the way and thankfully slept half of the time on the way home. Think of activities that your little one is consumed by at home and see if you can modify it enough to bring aboard the plane. I had enough variety to switch snacks and or activities throughout the trip and this made all the difference. Even one of the passengers that my one year old waved at throughout the flight commented on how I had come prepared. It made me feel really good.
4. Be flexible with yourself and stay positive. During the flights and the switches I praised my children for how good they were, stayed polite and grateful with all the flight staff and talked with fellow passengers. Each time we switched planes or got through a certain amount of time I checked it off in my mind as a victory. Sometimes it also helped to imagine the alternative to my flights which was three days of driving. I flexibly accommodated my children’s wants and needs as best as I could without worrying about how I would do it. Don’t get too bent out of shape if they want to sing or say hello to people around them. This is better than crying and tantrums and most of the people we encountered were charmed by my children’s outgoing personalities.
Most of all, prepare ahead of time by talking with your children about what to expect and having the right stuff with you.
Travel safely and have fun!