We’ve traveled a fair amount with both of our children. At not even 4 years old, Lila has taken more cross country flights than many adults. Lucy was on her first flight at 3 weeks old. This isn’t to suggest we’re experts at flying with children. I will say, however, that we at least have an idea what to expect and are never surprised when asked to take our shoes off by TSA.
So what have I learned through all these experiences traveling with children? Number one thing is to never think you are prepared for everything. You will not be. You can bring your child’s favorite snack, favorite book, favorite stuffed animal and have 20 hours of Dora the Explorer downloaded and they will still have a meltdown at some point. No one likes traveling. Not adults, not kids and no, not babies. So how do we prepare for a trip with 2 kids these days?
– Packing. I try to reduce the duplication of work by packing straight out of the laundry, instead of putting away clean clothes and then taking them back out to pack. This weekend I just sat on the floor with the clean laundry for all of us and made piles of what to pack. Straight from laundry basket to suitcase – and this helps ensure what I packed are things the kids will wear, since they recently wore it.
– Lists. I make a list for everything. I use big index cards and have one for each type of packing needed – suitcases, carry ons – as well as things that need to be done at home before we leave. I check off as things get packed in their correct spot and then circle what is still needed (like last minute items such as toiletries, shoes, etc.) I also try to be as general as possible in this list. Unless I think there is really a specific outfit I need (or the kids need) I don’t write down “blue pants, pink top;” I keep it more general to “7 casual outfits,” “2 work outfits.” Oh and I always forget pjs. Don’t forget pjs.
– Involve the kids. Asking a 2 year old and a 4 year old to pack their own clothes will not end well. However, asking them each to pick 2 books, a stuffed animal and a snack to put in their own backpacks to bring on the plane will. It helps them feel ownership over the packing process, as well as what they have on the place. This is of course not all I bring because 2 books does not last 6 hours, and neither does one snack, but it helps.
– Chillax. So I’m no good at this step, but the fact is our family could be the only people on the flight and I could have endless applesauce and peanut butter bars and the kids will still be bored. Because no one likes flying for 6 hours. Do your best, be as prepared as you can be and there is no shame in a glass of wine on an 8am flight because it will help you breathe easier for the next 6 hours. I mean, we’re headed east and it will practically be lunchtime there.
Good luck with your travels – I’ll keep you posted as our trip progress as to how ours goes.