Ten Tips for Trippin’ with Tiny Travelers (and a few for the folks traveling amongst them)

My husband and I have traveled quite a few times over the past few years with our crew of three small kiddos. This upcoming week we will be taking our first trip of the summer by bringing our five year-old, four year-old and nearly three year-old on an international adventure from Chicago to Los Angeles to Mexico and back. As self-proclaimed family travel experts we both feel quite confident in our ability to navigate this trip, stress-free. Well, relatively stress-free because, as you know, #kids.

As we get ready to take off yet again to visit with family and enjoy some fun in the sun, I thought I would compile a brief list of my top ten travel tips for parents of multiples (or even just one kiddo) traveling our friendly skies this summer. I’ve also included a brief list of helpful tips for those of you traveling sans-kids, outlining ways to deal with parents and their pint-sized travel buddies.

Image: spyderonlines.com

Short Flights, Long Layovers — When traveling with multiples, I’ve found that if you have the means, it is worth a few extra bucks to choose direct flights (win!) or flights with brief air travel times. Also, keep in mind that little legs and all the extras like using the restroom, eating, crabbiness, temper tantrums, strollers, and such that come along with wee weary travelers take double the time getting through airport terminals. You likely will be unable to Usain Bolt-dash from one gate to another with your small kids. Allow adequate layover time to ensure you do not miss your connecting flight.

Early Check-In — If you’re flying an airline that does not have assigned seats, check in as early as possible to get an early boarding group. This will allow you to get your preferred seats, arrange your carry-on bags in the bins and under the seats and will also give you the space you need to get settled. Some airlines even have “family boarding” and I highly recommend taking advantage of this preferential boarding opportunity.

Prepare for TSA — We opt to dress in as few layers as possible, keep belts and jewelry off our bodies, tucked away in our carry-on and my hubby and I wear easy to slip in and out of shoes. Kids typically don’t have to undress or de-shoe, but they do have to go through security. Allow extra time as TSA agents often see families as a hassle and will relegate you to the “these-people-take-forever” line and getting through security may take you longer (especially with multiples in tow) than when you fly alone.

Sit Together — If the computer assigns us seats throughout the plane, I typically speak with the check-in associate or gate agent to request (read: nicely demand) that we have seats together. This way we can allow the kids to switch laps and seats without disturbing rows upon rows of passengers. If you find yourself ‘gently encouraging’ an agent to help you in this way, be sure to mention how sitting together will help other passengers enjoy their flight and the agent should be more than happy to try to accommodate.

My three honey-bee babes

Pee Early and Pee Often — If you have small children who are just beyond or currently in potty-training years, take advantage of your early gate arrival to use the restrooms. We avoid excessive drinking prior to boarding as well. Once the gate agent announces that the flight will be boarding momentarily, we make one last mad-dash for the restroom. For the smallest of us, this is also a great time for a diaper change.

Nurse on Call — Just like adults, babies’ ears pop when ascending and descending. If you’re nursing, take advantage of this opportunity to feed your little one as the sucking and swallowing motion will help alleviate ear pain. For older children or bottle-fed babes, you can also serve a freshly prepared bottle or even give them chewing gum or gummy candy to help encourage the chewing motion.

Play to Win — I always travel with tons of snacks and treats. Yes, I bribe the kids when we’re traveling, I claim it. If they behave, they get something special. If they sit still, they get to play with a brand new toy or game I’ve secretly packed in my carry-on. If they are quiet, they get to watch a new movie on my tablet. You get the idea. I bring a small assortment of established favorites and new things to help keep their interest engaged.

Pack Light — If you’re traveling to a destination where you will be with family or friends, ask ahead about car seats and strollers available for use. If you can borrow one at your destination, do so. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to struggle through the airport with baggage, crabby kids and those terribly heavy and awkward car seats and oversized strollers. Plus, in my experience, no matter how many ‘fragile’ stickers they place on your gear, some piece of something always ends up broken or bent.

Travel Red-Eye — Our family loves traveling late night and red-eye flights. As these correspond to the kids’ natural bedtime hours, we are usually guaranteed a bit of relief once the sleep-bug settles in; at least for a portion of the flight. If you can’t catch a red-eye, I’ve heard of (and seen) parents using Benedryl to help their kiddos relax. I haven’t tried it myself, but from experience using it on our allergy-kid when he gets hives, sometimes Benedryl causes sleepiness (yay) and sometimes it causes hyperactivity (yikes). If you go the medicated route, I recommend proceeding with caution.

Be Friendly — Probably the most important tip that has helped us traverse many airlines with our three kids has been simply being friendly. Smiling at everyone from gate agents to TSA, flight attendants and other passengers has gone a long way. Pilots have gifted our kiddos with wings, other parent passengers have offered their extra crayons and snacks when they saw us at our wits end and we’ve done the same for others. Smiling at kid-less passengers has elicited offers of assistance while settling in and has even prompted conversation and play that has kept the kids engaged, even if only for a few brief moments. A smile can go a long way.

In their natural habitat.

Now, for those of you traveling without kids, a few pieces of advice for you from those of us in the trenches.

Be Patient — We parents are doing our absolute best. Kids will be kids and even the most well-disciplined, polite kids will act up on a cramped, boring, hot airplane. Think about how you feel cooped up in a plane. Kids feel the same way you do (times like, 100) and have zero filter. Trust that we parents are doing our best to keep things running smoothly.

Rest Up — Many times, kid-less travelers are excited to get some great rest on the plane. Accept the fact that you are in a public place with hundreds of other people and you simply may not get the rest you desire. That being said, do your best to get a good night’s rest before boarding. Please do not blame an anxious, bored, sweaty kid for your case of the sleepies (sorry, not sorry). Create a relaxing ipod playlist or wear some noise cancelling headphones or purchase an in-flight drink, take a sleep aid and let it go. Trust me, if we could will our littles to sleep for the whole flight, we would.

Lend a Hand — Sometimes, the ticket to a comfortable quiet ride lies in the hands of a stranger. Offering assistance to a parent whose hands are full of kids and bags and tickets can mean the world. Keep in mind, calm parent = calm kid. If you can help keep mom or dad calm in the midst of a very stressful time, likely you will be a part of keeping the kiddo calm too which is what we all want isn’t it?

So, if summer travel is on your list, feel free to test out some of these tips and let me know your results. If you have some amazeballs suggestions, I’d love to hear them too! We leave soon, so the more amazing ideas, the better! Happy Travels Friends!

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Originally published at theslayathomemom.com on June 23, 2016.