This past weekend we celebrated my Grandaddy’s 80th birthday on the beach in Huntington Beach, CA. What a gorgeous spot! It is, however, not very close to Oklahoma. We were only able to go for two nights, although I’m sure the Southwest gate agent thought we were moving. After four flights, two nights and some serious traffic on the 405, I have some tips and lessons learned from our first flying trip as a family of four.
The Stroller was mostly a hassle.
Have you ever tried to push a stroller on sand? Of course you haven’t because I’m sure you have a better understanding of physics than I. I brought our double stroller thinking two kids, lots of stuff, containment is key. The stroller got used one time in California and only as a single (I popped the second seat off). The snack tray got damaged. Which is slightly annoying but I should have removed it before anyway (ie my fault). I ended up wearing my infant daughter most of the time or just carrying her on my hip. It was nice for storing all of our carry-on crap while in the airport, but other than that I’ll take the umbrella stroller or nothing next time.
We rented one car seat and brought another.
We have a cheap Cosco car seat from Prime Day last year that we use for travel. It’s a touch wide on the airplane, but its super light. My husband wore it on his back in a backpack style bag that we also loaded down with one of my carry-ons for boarding. My two year old son sat in it on the planes. He was able to be contained, comfortable and sleep for 2 of the 4 flights. While getting it on and off was a bit of a challenge (thanks for family boarding, Southwest) as it has to be lifted up over the tops of the seats to clear the aisle space, I think a strapped down toddler is worth it. For my daughter, we rented a car seat from the rental car company. It was no frills, but one less thing to bring. We will probably repeat this pattern until my son can sit independently in a seat. Other things to keep in mind:
-The car seat has to be in the window seat on the plane as to not obscure the path to the exits in case of an emergency. Also, the seat has to be buckled into the airplane seat. Something to consider for tight connections.
-They are free to gate check if you change your mind, either to your next connection or final destination.
-Airlines are responsible for loss, but not damage to car seats that are checked. Our infant seat’s canopy got cracked a while back which is why I don’t travel with that anymore.
Zip-top Totes are a Must.
Not sure what I was thinking when I initially packed our carry-on bags. I put the majority of items in a large leather tote bag I have, thinking it would double as a beach bag. This bag contained the diaper bag basics, some extra clothes, toys, electronics, etc. While I organized everything into Ziploc baggies, after one flight of items spilling into the aisle, I wish I would have brought a cheap backpack instead. For the return flights, I took everything we didn’t use out of the carry-ons and placed it in checked luggage. I had everything we needed, but I could have done with a lot less. The MVP’s were for my two year old: Amazon Fire Tablet with “Super Simple Songs” downloaded, a Melissa and Doug Water Wow, and DumDums. (Screen time and bribery rules get suspended for us during flights). For my 7 month old daughter: her sleep sack, extra formula (she seemed to eat more to help her ears), and the safety instruction card, haha.
Staying Relaxed is Hard, yet Vital.
My kids could 150% tell when I was getting tense, and their behavior reflected it. Of course no one in the world wants to be the parent of the screaming child on a plane, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. Travel means missed naps, late bedtimes, and too much sugar (see above). We have rules for behavior like any family, but sometimes you have to give in a little when you are asking tiny people to comply with plans they did not make. I tend to get super uptight during these situations where I have little control, so on the first flight I had a glass of wine. Yes, it was way over priced and not very good and also quite possibly a judgement worthy moment on my part. But you know what? We were all calmer when mom was calmer. Travel is supposed to be fun.
Now we’re home with more laundry than should be possible given our short trip, but I could not be more pleased to have spent that special time with my family in such a beautiful setting. Aside from a toppled coffee cup at breakfast and some limited, yet impressive whining the trip was a great success. Can’t wait to see where we go next!
What are your tried and true travel tips with kids?