Month: May 2017

12 tips for flying with kids

Six passengers.

Five airline tickets.

Four car seats.

Three suitcases.

Two flights.

One trip covering 3,500+ miles.

It might sound intimidating, but repeat after the mom who’s just flown with four kids in tow: “We can do it!”

My husband and I have kids, ages 8, 6, 3, and 4mos, and I’ll be honest: I wondered if we were a little crazy as we walked through the airport doors with our entourage. But, a little pre-planning, some strategy, and plenty of deep breaths made traveling with young children surprisingly simple, and we picked up some tips along the way that are worth sharing.

Before you go

1. Book at the airport for possible lower fares

When we booked our tickets, the online processing fees would have totaled almost $50 per person. We bypassed that by visiting the airport several weeks ahead of our trip and booking directly at the ticket counter. When you consider we were buying five tickets, it was well worth the hour spent at the airport to save more than $200.

2. Pass on selecting seats

New FAA regulations require airlines to seat children under age 13 next to a parent, at no cost. This saved us another $200 on our trip! You may not all sit together (my husband and two of our kids were about a dozen rows behind me and our other two kids), but your kids will not be next to strangers. Tip: If your boarding passes have your family split apart like we were, ask the gate agent before boarding begins if he can move you. On the flight home, we were able to be reassigned to all be in the same row.

3. Make your itinerary kid-friendly

Book direct flights whenever possible to minimize travel time and hassle – and consider flying in and out of smaller regional airports. We flew into Mesa, AZ instead of Phoenix, and were able to rent a car on-site and walk only about fifty yards to it – a godsend when you’ve got kids, a stroller, suitcases, and car seats to transport. We flew home from the (very large) Las Vegas airport, and the experience was much more challenging because of the sheer size of the complex.

Try to fly during daytime hours, too. It’s not easy for anyone to answer a 4am wake-up call, let alone a toddler who may be off her game the rest of the day because of it.

4. Get the kids photo IDs

When we travel, I like our kids to have photo identification. Our local DOT office issues exactly what I was looking for. I brought their birth certificates and social security cards, as proof of ID, and it took just a few minutes to fill out the paperwork and snap their photos for their cards. Plus, even if they end up not needing them during your travel, these cards make adorable keepsakes. Bonus: the first card was free and additional cards were less than $10.

5. Buy something new for each child

It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but a new toy or activity to give each child during the flight is a great trick to have up your sleeve. Stickers, a new book, special treats – the possibilities are endless, and the benefits are, too. A mom friend was traveling solo with her three boys ages six and under when they encountered a 90 minute delay after boarding the plane. She said a cleverly hidden bag of gummy bears saved her whole trip.

It’s also a great idea to pack each child a small backpack with a few favorite things inside. An easy way to organize things like crayons and small toys is to pack them in gallon Ziploc bags; this makes grabbing what they want hassle-free once you’re in the air.

At the airport

6. Check all the things

Most airlines let you check things like car seats, strollers, and Pack ‘n Plays for free – something you should take advantage of at the ticket counter if at all possible. Some might argue you’re better off taking car seats to the gate to check them, that they’ll be handled more gently that way. We lugged a car seat through the airport on a previous trip and gate checked it; when we boarded, I looked out the window and watched it be tossed right alongside the booster seat we’d checked at the ticket counter. Now we check everything we can right away.

If you have an especially wiggly toddler over age 2, you might consider bringing the car seat onboard and installing it in his paid seat so he has a familiar and secure place to sit. I have some friends who swear by this approach and who say it makes the whole flight a much more pleasant experience.

7. Utilize car seat checking hacks

You can buy car seat covers, but there’s a cheaper option: I bring several big, clear garbage bags and a roll of duct tape to the airport to wrap our car seats before we check them. It’s not fancy, but it keeps them a little cleaner during transport and allows me to double some things up – like the Bumbo seat for the baby I taped inside her car seat. It’s also a great place to stash things like life jackets or pool toys if you’re packing them. I use two bags per seat, and it’s worked well every time we’ve flown.

8. Don’t be in a hurry to board

Use the time before your flight to let the kids run off some energy. We sat next to an open area that our kids happily flipped bottles in, and my husband took a couple of them on a walk to get snacks (and use the ever-exciting moving walkways). Take a couple of bathroom breaks, and spend some time watching airplanes take off and land; the airport is a busy, fascinating place – especially for a kid! Once boarding does begin, we wait as long as possible to avoid unnecessary extra time cooped up in the parked airplane. Tip: If you have a stroller, you’ll need to fold it up at the end of the jet bridge so make sure it’s emptied of  toys and snacks when you board.

In the air

9. Help those ears 

We make sure the older kids have gum or chewy snacks to help cope with the altitude change, and I always nurse the baby during takeoff and landing.

10. Capitalize on the excitement 

You’re zooming through the air thousands of feet above the ground – flying is an adventure! It’s fun to look out the window together and talk about how tiny everything looks below. It’s even fun to put the tray table down and enjoy a cookie and drink together, or chat with the passengers around you. For most kids, flying is an out of the ordinary experience that can really be memorable.

11. Hand the kids the camera

This trip, I tried to be conscious of letting the kids take pictures instead of always doing it myself. It’s fun to see the adventure through their eyes, and handing it off means mom and dad have a fighting chance of being in some of the snapshots, too.

12. R-e-l-a-x 

Roll with the punches and stay relaxed – your attitude sets the tone for the little eyes watching you, and they want to enjoy the experience just as much as you do. You’ve got this!

This post originally appeared on Bison Booties

Dear Mama Bird…

Dear mama bird,

It’s been a long day, huh?

Your babies were up with the sun. I heard them, outside my window, twittering like little pint-sized alarm clocks. I don’t speak your language, but I understood what they were squalling: “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!”

It’s the universal cry all mothers know, especially in the wee hours of the morning.

I peered out the window then, wondering how you would react from your perch on a nearby branch. Would you exhale and sink into your your feathers, try to conjure up a few more minutes of rest? It was Saturday morning, after all, the weekend. But no, swiftly, deftly, and with not one scolding chirp, you flitted over to the nest, shiny dragonfly in your beak, and ducked inside.

And then—oh my!—did those little ones go crazy. I can’t see them in there, you’ve so snugly tucked them away inside your birdhouse, but I can imagine the scene. Two, maybe three little beaks straining towards you, clamoring in anxious excitement, probably stepping all over each other. One of them snatched it up (the firstborn?!), causing the others to squawk their indignant fit. You deflate ever so slightly. How silly to think they’d share such a bounty.

You reappear at the window, cast a furtive glance this way and that, and dart back to the dewey grass, searching for another bit of breakfast. Success. Again, you hurry over to your babies, bug in beak, and are greeted with same reaction (and, I’d venture to guess, not even so much as a “thank you.”).

How many times do you perform this same scripted dance today? If only we could lock eyes, I think a moment of understanding would pass between us, across the species. We mothers of young children are all pretty much the same. Feathered or friend, we exist to care for our little ones. When they’re tiny and helpless, with so much yet to learn about the world and how to find their place in it, we are their constant. We comfort when they cry. We nourish when they need. We encourage. Protect. Satisfy.

Then, all too quickly, they grow. They peek their heads out of that window, realize the world is one giant adventure that awaits—and they’re off, spreading their wings and soaring on the love you’ve so freely given.

I’m sure you’ll be nearby, perched on that branch, swelling with pride that’s tinged with sadness. It’s the universal cry of a mother’s heart, dear mama, and I’m right there with you.

This post originally appeared on Bison Booties