Yesterday I showed you how I pack for a trip. Today, we get to go on the trip–hooray! I love traveling, but I have to admit it–traveling with kids can be a bit challenging. I used to look forward to the plane ride when I’d get 3 hours all to myself to catch up on reading all of those celebrity magazines that I only read when I’m at an airport. Now, I get to spend travel time anxiously anticipating my child’s every potential need and/or desire before they realize it and throw a temper tantrum at 30,000 feet. Or, I get to spend 3 hours bouncing a baby up and down the aisles as I get nasty stares from that old man who wants to leave his foot dangling out in the walkway right where I can trip over it. Yes, traveling with kids is exhausting and it tests your will as a parent, but in the end it’s always worth the effort. And, there are things you can do to make things go more smoothly for everyone. Today we’ll focus on getting through the airport so you can actually make your flight!
Arriving At The Airport
Always allow a bit of extra time when you’re traveling with kids. It will take you longer to physically move through the airport with little ones and all of their accompanying “stuff”. Plus, you’ll want some extra time to feed, do diaper changes, and run off some energy before your flight. I always bring a small stroller with me, even for my toddler who can walk, because sometimes it’s just easier (or necessary) to strap a kid in and run to your gate. I also try to check in for my flight and print our boarding passes before I arrive at the airport. As long as we’re not checking any bags, this allows us to go straight to security when we arrive–this gives us one less line to wait in and a few more minutes to get where we need to be by the time we need to be there.
Getting Through Security
Getting through airport security with a baby is a bit like competing in a triathlon: it requires training, endurance, speed, and the ability to perform a number of ridiculous tasks. I’ve got this down to a bit of a science now. I always bring baby’s car seat and stroller with me to the gate because you can check them there for free. Plus, if there happens to be an empty seat on your flight, they’ll let you bring the car seat ON the plane so you can let baby have his own seat next to you for free (this will give you empty arms and your baby will have a chance to take a nap in his own space. Glorious.).
The trickiest part of going through the airport with little ones is security because you have to put EVERYTHING through the metal detector (including strollers and car seats, baby not included). Here’s what I do for the baby: I bring a snap-and-go stroller with my “personal item” (a diaper bag) stored underneath it and the car seat snapped on top. When I flew by myself, I decided not to check a bag so I brought a nice rolling suitcase that I could drag behind me. I put the baby in the Ergo carrier as soon as I got out of the car so I could walk through security and not have to jostle him out of the car seat there (I have never had a problem leaving him in the Ergo through the security section, but maybe some airports will make you take baby out for further inspection. Perhaps junior is carrying a samurai sword under his onesie–you just never know).
Once at the security checkpoint, look for a family line. Some airports take pity on parents lugging children through the airport and they give you a little star treatment with a special, shorter line. Kind of like a fast pass at Disney–but instead of flying on Dumbo at the end, you get to walk through the magical metal detector.
Now, get a whole stack of those bins that you’re supposed to empty your pockets into. Excuse yourself to the impatient lady standing behind you, and take over the floor. If you plan on carrying baby through the metal detector in your arms, lay down a blanket or your jacket and set her down in one of the bins so she doesn’t roll away as you’re getting everything ready. Put the diaper bag in one bin. Put your liquids and any other questionable materials in another bin (by the way, if you’re traveling with a baby you are allowed a certain amount of liquid formula or breast milk through security, and I think even some water for you to drink as a mom. Check with your airline or the TSA website for more details). Put your shoes (I hope you’re wearing slip-ons or flip-flops, because good luck untying your shoes with a baby already strapped to your chest!), jacket, loose change, watch, etc. in another bin. Fold up the stroller and put it upside down on the conveyor belt. Make sure the handle is all the way down on your car seat (it won’t fit through the “security tunnel” if it’s not just right) and put it on the conveyor belt. Put your suitcase and all of your bins on the conveyor belt. *Make sure you got your baby out of that bin if you haven’t already!* Run back and forth like a mad-man trying to push all 30 of your items through the conveyor belt so you don’t cause a back-up. Hold baby, and walk calmly through the metal detector–no need to alarm anyone at this point. Yay, you did it! Now, go retrieve your pile of items that have already started spilling onto the floor on the other side of the conveyor belt and start putting everything back together again. Whew!
At The Gate
After you get through security, the rest is pretty easy. Get to your gate a bit early and check to see if they have any empty seats so you can bring your car seat on with you. This will make a world of difference, so it’s always worth checking once you’re there.
If you have a crawler or a toddler, encourage him to run/jump/climb/dance down the hallways–whatever it takes to burn some energy before the long flight ahead. Get a snack or a meal. Change diapers and use the potty yourself–bathroom runs and diaper changes mid-flight are difficult at best. Basically, do anything now that you’re not going to be able to do once you’re on the plane.
We’re almost to the good part now: actually flying to your destination. Check back tomorrow for my tips on flying with your little one!