1. Ditch the stroller. We have a huge double CityMini stroller that is great for the malls and walking in the parks but in reality we knew we would only be using the stroller in the airports, if at all. The kids are 16 months so don't even want to ride in the stroller and we like to let them walk to tire them out if it is convenient and safe to do so. We also were heading to Western PA where it probably would be snowy and cold so we weren't planning on going out for a nice family stroll around the block and we also were planning on visiting a lot of relatives, all of which live on hills with gobs of steps or hills to mount to get to their houses. Not stroller friendly anyways!! So instead of the stroller, we heard about theses gadgets called Travelmates from GoGoBabyz. GENIUS!! These are little wheeled carts that you attach with a couple of straps to your carseat and the kicker is that the kids can actually ride in them!! Basically you turn your kid into wheeled luggage!! This worked out brilliantly for us. We had to bring the carseats anyways because we would be getting a rental car at our destination and even though the kids were riding on our laps on the plane we just gate checked the seat with the cart attached and voila they were always waiting for us on the jetway by the time we gathered all our stuff and actually disembarked. The kids though it was great fun to be wheeled around and it saved our necks and backs from hauling around the toddlers when they decided they didn't want to walk anymore. During our layovers, we used the seats to haul our carryons while the kids ran all over the terminals checking out christmas decorations and looking out the windows at the planes on the tarmac.
Here are some picts of my hubby and the kids in the carseats with the Travelmates attached...
2. Make diaper/changing kits before you go. So you all probably know that I have been cloth diapering the kids since they were born, but when we travel I have personally found it easier to use disposables. I decided that I would try to make traveling a tad more efficient by making up 8-10 diaper changing kits (for the two kids, traveling for an estimated 6-8 hours). I HATE fumbling around in the diaper bag for a diaper and the wipes package while trying to wrangle a squirmy toddler on a plane, so I made these kits consisting of three disposable wet wipes in a small sandwich ziplock and a diaper, both packed inside a sandwich-sized ziplock. So this might seem like a bit of overkill on the ziplock front, but the outer ziplock serves as a containment bag for that inevitably super-stinky diaper you will be changing on a plane-full of people. Believe me, your flightmates will thank you for bagging up that dipey before you leave it in the restroom. Extra unused wipes can stay in their own ziplock for future use (and small enough to stick in your pocket unlike a giant pack of wipes) and you are done.
Here are a couple picts of my kits:
3. Organize your diaper bag carry-on. Chaos make me anxious. So I decided to TRY to organize the diaper bag as much as possible. I knew of course that everything would get all out of whack on the journey but at least it's nice to start from an organized place. I packed two sets of emergency clothing changes (t-shirts and athletic shorts) laid in the very bottom of the bag, followed by a few books laid flat and a couple of small toy cars in one of the inside pockets. One side was packed with snacks - goldfish, pretzel goldfish, small 100 calorie packs of snack mixes, raisin and dried cranberry snack boxes, and yes some cookie packs. When your kid is melting down in the airport, you have to bring out the high value bribes!! I am not a fan of traveling with perishables. You never know when you are going to be traveling for 18 hours!! (see my NIGHTMARE travel story...). Bottles fit in the outside pockets and I generally carry milk (and buy milk at the airport, although we were able to get milk on the plane on one leg of our journey) and bottled water.
4. Put the kids in rubber-soled slipper socks instead of shoes. I really liked the Skidders rubber soled socks or the Rubberoos or Skidders soft rubber bottom shoes. They are both great for airport and airplane surfaces and just as a note, you don't have to take kids' shoes off to go through security. The socks are great because you don't have to take them off for dipey changes (I always take their shoes off, easier to get their pants back on). They are also harder to kick off and thus lose under an airplane seat that you can't reach with your diaper bag and kid on your lap. Just makes things easier and it's two fewer thing to lose.
5. Take liquids!! When you are traveling with kids, I found that the security guards are pretty lenient about liquids. Now, we were traveling on Christmas Eve (and back on December 29th) through smallish airports (Santa Ana CA and Pittsburgh PA) so maybe the guards are lenient anyways but I was able to pass through sippy cups and bottles with milk and water (just send them through the xray and tell the guard they are formula) and they will probably hand check them once they pass through the xray machine. I also put through several kids' liquid medications (4oz and larger) packed in quart ziplocks (more for leaking than anything) and didn't get any hassle about them. As long as they are marked for kids you can usually get away with it.
6. Backpack harnesses for safety's sake. Ok, I know some of you one-child or childless people are saying sarcastically, "so you put your kids on a leash, like a dog" while rolling your eyes. "How about teaching your child to hold your hand and walk nicely beside you"? Um, yeah I was that person two years ago. But you know what, when you have two toddlers
7. If you travel with multiple lap children, book front to back seats. Did you know that you cannot have two lap children in a two or three seat row? This is because there are only enough oxygen masks stored above any row for the number of seats +1. In an emergency (god forbid), if a full 3 seat row had two lap children, one person would be without a mask. So it makes sense to book back to front (and I prefer the window) seats on the plane. That way your kids can look over the seats at you and dad and you can pass stuff back and forth easily. And if you have a seat kicker, put him in the back seat so at least you are annoying only your own family. This all being said, also pack yours and the other adult's carry on with snacks, diaper kits and some toys in case you get separated or you cannot get back to front seats. This happened to us twice (we ended up in one case back to front but one on the aisle and one in the window and another time across the aisle.) and people were willing to hand stuff back and forth between us, but it was annoying and I hate to annoy people if I can avoid it.
So I think that wraps up the tips and tricks portion of my traveling posts. Oh, a lot of people bring ipads, iphones and ipods for kids to use on the plane. That is all well and good once you get in the air, but consider bringing some non-electronic entertainment, especially for the unlikely but extremely aggravating event that you are on the tarmac with electronic restrictions for 3+ hours. Yep, it happened to us...and onward to the fun part..our NIGHTMARE travel story.....(my next blog post when I get a chance to write it!!)
Do you have some tried and true tips and tricks for traveling with kids!! Would love to hear them!!