Maddie, Riley, and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in the Detroit suburbs. While the kids and I have taken a number of flights together, this was actually the first time I’d ever flown alone with them. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have a grandparent (Thanks, Ba!) available to help us on on the plane, and, while I could imagine how I could manage on my own, I’ve dreaded the day that I had to make a solo journey. Dread no more: we did it, and it was so easy I’m embarrassed to write about it. Here are a few things that I think made our trip go so well and some things to think about if you find yourself traveling by yourself with your kiddos.
1. Talk it up before you go. I told the kids we’d be getting on the airplane, that they’d have their carseats, that we’d eat a snack and take a nap. I told them who we’d see when we got off the plane. We talked about the trip a lot before we left, and all the talk got them really excited about it all.
2. Travel at off-peak times. We left at noon on Thanksgiving day. The airport was empty. When we went through security, it was us and about ten TSA agents. That’s it. Not feeling the stress of the busy holiday crush made me feel more relaxed and made all of the logistics that much easier.
3. Check in ahead of time online. I had our boarding passes all printed out and I’d even paid for our checked luggage online so we had fewer logistics to deal with at the airport.
4. Hitch a ride. If you can, get someone to drive you to the airport. I was lucky enough to have a friend drive us in our own car, so I was able to have the carseats ready to go and our luggage loaded in advance. Our friend just dropped us at curbside checkin and we were all set. A taxi would have worked fine, too, but it’s nicer when a friend can see you off.
5. Limit your carry-ons. (Please stop laughing. Really. Stop.) You can do it! You can keep your carry-on luggage to one backpack. In my backpack, I had: a change of clothes for each kid, two coloring books, a bag of markers/stickers/crayons, a bag of new board books, a bag of snacks, two empty water bottles, and my essentials (wallet, boarding passes, phone, etc.) I also packed the twins’ hats and jackets in our checked luggage so that I wasn’t dealing with those bulky items in addition to the two kids, carseats, and my backpack. I packed my own purse in our luggage to use once we arrived at our destination, although I could have just used the backpack the whole time. I was able to wear the backpack through the airport and thus have both hands free to manage the twins.
6. Speaking of managing the twins, they rode in style in GoGo Kids Travelmates. I love these. They are amazing. I attached them to the carseats the night before, then strapped the seats into our car with the wheels on using the seatbelt instead of the LATCH system. Once at the airport, I lifted the seat—kid and all—out of the car and we literally hit the ground rolling. At security, we just popped off the quick-release wheels, and the carseat and handle went right through the scanner. On the airplane, I pushed on kid ahead of me down the aisle and pulled one behind me; when we got to our seats, I lifted the kids in their carseats one at a time into their airline seats and strapped them in. I have no idea how I would manage two kids and two carseats without our GoGos.
7. Let the kids run around a lot before you put them on the plane. This is pretty elementary, but always worth repeating. They are going to be stuck in those carseats for a long time and they will get fidgety. Run them around in the gate area before you board. You won’t regret it.
8. Travel during naptime. We took off at noon, when the twins usually start their nap. They slept from before the plane leveled out until it was parked at the gate in Detroit. Awesome. Of course, all those new toys and books I packed were for naught, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. We’ll play with them eventually.
9. Be willing to bend the rules. I never let Maddie and Riley have their special frog and duck and their special blankies out of their cribs, but I did let them have those comfort items on the airplane. Even better, I packed them into little animal-shaped backpacks, so Maddie and Riley each had her and his own carry-on bag. They loved having the responsibility of caring for Duckie and Froggie as we went through the airport and really loved having them to snuggle on the plane. I also let them eat all manner of things that I would not normally let them eat, at least not all at once: fruit snacks, endless crackers, juice, cookies, and a lollipop each. It’s one day. It will be fine.
I’m sure you all have more tips, so feel free to share them in the comments. I have to say that travel, even solo, was much easier at 2.5 than it was a year ago at 18 months. I’m hoping the worst of the travel nightmares are behind us.
Of course, ask me that again after I fly cross-country and back with the kids at Christmas…