Traveling alone…with kids

Next week I will be embarking on uncharted territory for me – I will be traveling on flight to Florida with my two kids (4 years and 2 years) on my own.

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to make this trip run as smoothly as possible. Like, a lot of thought. I’m feeling confident, I thought through worst cases (and somehow convinced myself that my kids would never do that), I’ve put together lists of the best on board entertainment to carry in my bag of tricks, and I’ve thought about how I need to pack in order to be successful.

Here are some of my thoughts and tips for traveling alone with toddlers –

1. Consider Flight Times – My 2 year old is a champion sleeper so I booked our flight during his afternoon nap. This is risky, I know. If the flight gets delayed or he gets cranky during boarding I put myself in meltdown city, but if this works out I have potentially 2+ hours of my flight with one child sleeping. I’ll circle back and let you know how this one works out.

2. Pack as light as possible and check bags at the airport entrance – The last thing I need is more to worry about as we go through security and the airport. I plan on packing in 1 smallish suitcase and checking as soon as we enter the airport. It may cost a little more to check, but I need my hands herding toddlers not pulling roller bags. We are going someplace warm, so I can consolidate the 3 of us into 1 bag. The bonus is I can pack my full-size sunscreen since I won’t be carrying on!

3. Get TSA pre – no matter who you are traveling with, TSA pre is worth it’s weight in gold especially if you are going to a hectic airport (I’m talking about you Orlando). I know a lot of people think they get TSA pre without even paying for it (I heard you mom and dad – you are special) until you don’t and then you are in hell. So, I love TSA pre – I’m not sure the business people behind me and my kids will love me, but I promise I’ll keep it moving as best I can.

4. Think realistically – I’m meeting my parents on the other end of the flight, so they have a lot of sage advice like “you just put them in the stroller and then gate check and then after they sit for 3 hours like angels on the plane they will definitely get right back in a stroller and roll through the airport. You just tell them they won’t be going to Disney if they don’t.”

Here’s reality: I think that maybe I can get them in the stroller to the terminal, but I’ll have to take them out at security, fold up the stroller, put it through the scanner while hoping neither of them runs off. Then open the stroller, get them back in and walk however far to the gate where I will again take them out, fold it up, tag the stroller to gate check. After the 3 hour flight there’s zero chance of them getting in the stroller so now I’m trying to steer a double stroller through a crowded airport while trying to keep my kids from getting lost. So basically, it’s a shit show.

So, I’ve decided that checking the stroller at the entrance to the airport along with my bag is the way to go. Maybe I end up carrying my kids part of the way, maybe it takes longer to get through the airport but I as long as I give myself enough time, letting them walk to get some energy out of those little legs sets us up for a more successful flight. Having my hands free to meet my kids’ needs seems to be the right call, but we’ll see.

5. Be prepared – Bring snacks – a few comforts, a few healthy options and a few special favorites that the kids don’t often get to have (not candy, you don’t need a sugar high at 25,000 feet).

Bring water bottles that the kids can drink out of easily – you don’t need them trying to drink out of a big bottle you buy at the airport and being soaked on the plane (2 year olds don’t tolerate that very well).

Bring entertainment – freshly charged ipads with favorite episodes/movies/apps downloaded. A few unplugged and age appropriate games and activities. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post of my favorite airplane activities.

That’s where I’ve landed with my flight plan. Let me know your tips and tricks in the comments below and…wish me luck!

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