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Flying Alone with Kids | Tips for Survival

There might come a time that you'll have to fly with your kids.  And there might even be a time when you'll have to do it by yourself.  Since I live so far away from home. . . 17 hours driving. . . only 2 1/2 hours flying. . . I've done my fair share of flying with kids.

Logan flew for the first time when he was about 5 months old.  And truthfully, he would have been slightly younger than that if our first flight wouldn't have been cancelled by a hurricane.
We ended up flying a couple weeks later.  And while we were in Florida, we still got hit by a hurricane.  It was the year that Central Florida got hit three times.  My dad lost over 40 pine trees that year.  But, that's not why we're here.  We're talking about flying.

I was so nervous the first time I flew alone with Logan.  I barely knew enough about airports to fly by myself, much less with an infant.  And we had a connecting flight.  Logan and I flew together about five more times before Jaycee was born.  All three of us flew one time when Jaycee was five months old and then all three of us didn't fly together again until three years later.  

Here are some things to remember~~
  • If you're flying with an infant in your lap (under 2 for free), you might need to show the child's birth certificate.  I've never had to, but most airlines say to bring it.  And don't forget your driver's license or any passports or other documentation if you're flying international.
  • If you breastfeed or bottle feed, try to save the feeding for while the plane is taking off.  It will help with the pressure on their ears.  
  • If you have a child that's too old for bottles, bring a sippy cup or small snacks for them to chew during takeoff and landing.  Older children can chew gum.
  • Or, if your child still uses a pacifier, let them suck on the pacifier on the way up and down.  Just make sure it's attached to the child somehow--chasing pacifiers between seats is not fun, especially after the fifth time.
  • Make sure that you have the child's favorite loveys with them on the plane.  Any favorite blankets or stuffed animals will help them get through the flight and possibly help them take a nap.
  • If possible, use curbside check-in, so that the person dropping you off can help.
  • When flying by yourself with kids and you have an infant, buy the extra seat if you can afford it.  Your arms will get tired holding a baby the entire flight.  If you have the extra seat, you can get a little break.
  • If your child is over two, check the carseat.  Most airlines won't let you use a normal car seat on the plane.  The only exception (in my experience) is the babyseat carriers.
  • If you're using a stroller, make sure you can open and close it with one hand by yourself, while holding a baby and trying to keep any other kids under control.  You'll have to fold it up to send it through security.
  • Wear shoes that slip on and off easily to get through security.
  • If you're wearing your baby, put them in the stroller while you're getting everything else ready to go through security.  Then, the stroller will be the last thing to go through.
  • Security will not let your child through on a leash.  So, don't think that you'll be able to  be connected to your child as you walk through security.  If they'll let you, walk through first so that you can catch your child if they decide they want to dart away.
  • If you're at the airport really early or really late, there is a chance that the restaurants and snack stands won't be open.  They are not open the whole time the airport is open.  Bring extra snacks just in case.
  • Make sure all bottles are empty before going through security.  No liquids. . . they do make exceptions for liquid formula I believe.  But, as far as water goes, you'll have to buy it on the other side.
  • Make sure your stroller is balanced.  If you stack and hang a lot of stuff on the back, once you take the child out, it could tip over.
  • As soon as you get through security, go to your gate (if there are service agents there already), and get a tag for your stroller.  You'll need a stroller tag to pick up your stroller once you reach your destination.
  • Try to change any diapers right before you get on the plane.  That way, at least you're fresh to start.
  • If your flight is longer than 3-4 hours, try to get a connecting flight so that you can get out and walk and take a break.  Just make sure to get flights that allow you enough time to make your connecting flight.  It can sometimes take a while for the airline to get your stroller off the flight.  You might have to wait a couple minutes.  You don't want to be rushed and running through the airport with one or more kids.  This is supposed to be a little break, not a stressor.
  • A lot of airports have a kid's play area. . . find it!
  • Don't plan on being able to read any of your own stuff.  You'll only get frustrated when you keep getting interrupted. 
  • If you have a portable DVD player, computer, smart phone, anything to keep the kids quiet and busy on the flight. . . bring it!
  • Bring at least 4-5 things to do per hour for smaller kids.  Their attention span is shorter and you want to be able to keep them busy for most of the flight.  If they have their own seat, they can bring on 2 small bags of their toys.  .  . but remember, you'll probably end up carrying everyone's bags.  .  .
  • Stash all activity and snack bags under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bins.
  • If you need help, ask for it.  I've seen an article online that had flight attendants saying, "We're not babysitters".  But, I've never had any problems with that.  I had a flight on Southwest Airlines one time that was so good I wanted to write the company and anyone else who would listen to tell them what a fantastic flight it was.  Every flight attendant on that flight was so helpful.  
That flight was the time I flew when Logan had just turned three and Jaycee was 5 months old.  I had a diaper bag, a baby carrier, a baby carseat, the stroller, 2 other bags and of course the children.  When I was getting on, they helped me fold up the stroller and buckle in the infant seat.  When I had to use the restroom, they sat in my row with the kids so that I could go.  Everyone was really awesome.
 
  •  Make sure there is someone at baggage claim to help you get everything.  It is not possible to carry all of that stuff by yourself.  .  . well not easy, anyway.
  • Expect the unexpected.  There are tens of thousands of flights in the US and worldwide on any given day.  Not everything is always going to go smoothly.   
One time when I was flying with Logan and he was still flying in my lap, we got stuck on the runway for almost two hours.  My arms were so sore and tired that next day from bouncing him up and down and turning him and moving him.

And last year when I flew with both kids, the airline didn't have our seats together, even though I booked them together.  So, they told me I would have to speak with the gate agent to have them switched.  When I got to the gate, they had switched gates.  I went to the new gate and it was still on the current flight.  They switched the flight back to the original gate, which still had another flight.  Then, they switched it back to the other gate.  And our flight was then delayed by almost two hours.  They finally got all of the stuff straight and I was able to get our seats together.  But, man!  Way to stress a girl out.  In the meantime, Jaycee was eating someone's food off the floor.  And we decided to get something to eat, which cost me an arm and a leg.  And then Logan, who has never met a seat he couldn't fall off of, fell off his chair and sent his sandwich flying into the air and onto the floor.  And after that, I still had to keep the kids occupied for two more hours and then occupied on the plane.

Last but not least. . . if you have someone else driving at your final destination, I won't judge you if you buy one of those little bottles of wine.  I did.

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