I recently took my two toddlers (3 and 1 year old) on a solo trip via a 10-hour airplane flight to visit family. While I grew up traveling, it’s certainly different having the sole responsibility placed on me. From packing to planning, here are 6 things I learned:
Lots of snacks. Options are always great, plus then my 3-year-old remembers the other snack choices I showed her and would alternate between them. This became an activity in and of itself. Our trip also started at 5 am so we ate breakfast en route. We had string cheese, with banana and GoGo SqueeZ YogurtZ edition for breakfast. They were the perfect snack for this trip as they are healthy and fit under the liquid capacity. With the large variety of flavors, they also provided servings of fruit and vegetables throughout the day also. Freeze-dried strawberries (zero sugar added but perfectly shelf-stable!), flavored rice crisps, and goldfish also were in our snack bag. Made me feel slightly healthy during our trip.
Bring an empty sippy cup for each child. Of course, this must be empty when passing through TSA but can be refilled at water fountains throughout the airport. During the flight, there is typically a small snack and beverage option. The options of apple juice or orange juice offer a nice change up to water in the sippy cup, and also a spill-free (stress-free) method for holding drinks on the tray table. It will require you to pour the drink into the sippy cup from the disposable cup given by the airline, but it allowed my kids to enjoy their drink, even with the 1-year-old playing patty cake on the tray table.
Technically speaking, I was allowed a personal item and carry-on per seat – of which we had two. And a diaper bag for the 1-year-old. But realistically speaking, I can not lug around a 1-year-old that can’t walk, three book sacks, and two carry-on suitcases. My biggest advice is to be realistic with what you can bring and carry. Be mindful of how much stuff is being packed and pay for the checked baggage if you can’t carry it all.
This was a saving grace in so many ways. The double stroller was helpful in swiftly moving across the airport and for carrying the 2 book sacks we were transporting. It gave me a quick break from holding the extra weight on my back, as well as a great (and clean) place to put the 1-year-old, especially during family bathroom breaks. Strollers can be checked in at the gate when boarding and picked up immediately after deplaning. This (as well as car seat check-ins) is an additional item that can be brought to accommodate children free of charge across pretty much all airlines.
Extra pair of clothes:
While I’m sure every mama has an extra outfit for baby, it’s a great idea to have extra clothes for everyone traveling. Blowouts, spilled beverages, the potential for vomit. Anything can happen, and it’s always a good idea to be prepared or pay the cost of airport clothing.
Knowing I had to survive a 10-hour trip largely confined and limited in what we could do, I raided the Dollar Tree. From colors, coloring book, workbooks with stickers included, a separate spiral notebook to color in, a book of 276 stickers to adhere to said spiral notebook, magic water book (add water to the pen from the water fountains to draw over a picture and magically make the colors appear), puzzles removed from the boxes to save space, color by numbers book, and a dough set with moldable clay and 2 included cookie cutters made for perfect entertainment during the trip. There were so many creative options for my 3-year-old, plus the 1-year-old held puzzle pieces or practiced his fine motor skills by removing stickers from his clothes, and while he couldn’t mold or cut out shapes with dough, he enjoyed squishing it between his fingers. Of course, I also had the iPad ready with Disney+ movies downloaded for offline use, but my goal was for this to be a last-ditch effort to wrangle in the kids.
While this was only my second time flying with little children, I hope we get to continue traveling and exploring in the years to come.