I have to admit when we decided to fly without my husband to San Diego, I was surprisingly nervous. I’ve driven across the country with them multiple times and we have flown as a family multiple times, but I still found myself shivering in my high tops about navigating the airport with small kids in tow. I decided I couldn’t be the only person looking for practical advice for managing my squad so I took notes during our excursion and I’m typing up my tangible tips to make traveling with your littles more possible and more enjoyable for the whole family.
1) Pack efficiently. Since this was a trip for just “kid stuff” we didn’t need many shoes or extra items. We packed enough outfits for each day, swimwear, and the shoes we were wearing matched all of our possible outfit combinations. I wore a light cardigan over a sundress. If you’ll need car seats, pack your car seats as far in advance as you can. We have two car seats for each kid, so I packed the extra ones and threw them in the trunk. I borrowed a car seat backpack, which made it easier for bring my son’s five point harness seat and then I packed a low back booster inside that car seat. Otherwise, I packed my items in my carry on bag to save on checking a bag. I packed all of our items in a backpack (personal item) and one carry on rolling bag. (Tip: Find yourself a personal item that slips over your carry on handle!) I wanted as many hands free as possible.
2) If possible, have someone drop you off at the airport. This saved me from paying for parking, and also got me straight to the Alaska check in area. I had checked in online, but realized it wasn’t very helpful since we get seat assignments and I still needed a tag for my car seat bag. (You can generally check a car seat and stroller for free on most airlines!) So, I checked those and we headed to security.
3) If you travel regularly, consider getting TSA Pre-Check. I believe we paid 95.00 for five years of this service, which truly makes navigating the airport so much easier. I’ve been very happy with TSA Pre Check, especially when traveling with groggy children!
4) Treat yourself to some airport Starbucks. We got snacks in the airport and waited patiently at our gate. Luckily, we didn’t have a long gate wait for our departing flight. If you can see planes take off, that is even better! This is a great time to have gift cards on hand for places you find in an airport, like Starbucks!
5) Make sure your electronics are charged up! This is no time to avoid screen time, take advantage of in flight movies.
6) Have snacks. When we fly Alaska, we let the kids get their snack box. It’s only 6 bucks and loaded with great kid snacks.
7) Try to find other families or genuinely sweet and helpful people. We were blessed by people showing us kindness all throughout our experience. One sweet gentleman even gave my kids money as they got off the flight for them to spend at LEGOLAND. Ask people questions if you need help!
8) Use the app for your airline. This was a helpful tool for us to find our gates, etc.
9) Have low expectations. This is always my first piece of advice to people who want to travel more with their children. Stop expecting to have the same kind of vacations you had before you had children, and start embracing the adventures you can have with your precious ones in tow!