Another week, another flight! This time we surprised my dad for his 50th birthday!!
By this point we do not consider ourselves experts, but with 10 one-way trips this year (all with kids) we know the ropes.
I previously wrote about how we flew with 2 kids, and now that Elizabeth has joined the club it is a whole new ballgame. Brian and I are outnumbered, so we put together a run down of how we make it through a flight with them all.
-Side note: These are tips to fly on Southwest. Brian is A-List and he has companion pass. There are also affiliate links throughout that I make a slight commission off of, but do not charge you anything extra if you choose to purchase an item-
I am typically in charge of collecting all the electronics (Brian gets stuck folding the laundry or doing the dishes or loading the car!). Our kids don’t typically get electronics while at home, so this is a huge treat. They aren’t bored with the games or shows and love to have control over what they watch or play during the trip. We have an iPad for each kiddo – one with just shows and toddler type games for Carson, and the other with shows and games to meet Paisley’s skill level. Each kiddo has their own headphones, so they can watch their show and we can have some peace and quiet. We download shows and movies from Amazon Video using their app. Once downloaded, you can view the shows for 48 hours from the first time they are watched – you can access Amazon Video with your Amazon Prime Membership
Paisley also has a LeapPad Platinum that has a bunch of games on it for her to play. Check the App Store on the Leapster for good deals for downloads. I recently bought 12 full games for under $100.
We found the cheapest, most old school ones work the best. They are easily adjustable and fit the kids ears. Our kids do not like the version that go inside their ears.
-Extra clothes for all kiddos
Even if your kids are potty trained, they might spill a drink or food on their clothes. It is always nice to have a back up set!
-Pack in separate carry on
My daughter has her own roller bag that she likes to be in charge of in the airport. All electronics and accessories plus a few coloring books, crayons and stickers go in her bag. We got her bag at Target. Her Lady Bug version is sold out, but there are a ton of different styles online!
I pack all the snacks (non-messy snacks i.e. fruit snacks, popcorn, pretzels, etc.) and toys (cars and books for Carson. Baby rings, rattles, etc. for Elizabeth)
I make sure my nursing cover, 2 burp cloths, extra clothes for Elizabeth, and extra pacifiers for both Carson and Elizabeth are in this bag. I found it is easier to keep toys/games separate from diapers and wipes. I know which bag I need to grab and I don’t fumble through searching for it.
-Child Restraint 😉
Carson is our adventurous 2 year old. He has a hard time staying in one place for too long. He hits his limit an hour and a half into a flight and wants to walk up and down the plane. When I flew solo with the 3 kids from California to Kansas City I bought this harness. It turns the airplane belt into a five point harness. Super easy to do and it keeps him in his seat. One good tip is to make sure your kiddo is NOT wearing slick pants. Carson wore slick basketball shorts and slid down the seat. I read somewhere to use shelf liner to prevent slipping. I will be sure to try that next time!
-Brian’s Carry On
My husband likes to be in charge of the documents. I take the kids and he checks us all in. Brian puts all travel docs in his carry on/backpack. We usually just use our passports and stuff the birth certificates in the passports, that way they are all together for check in and security.
-Allow 30 extra minutes
Kids come with a lot of surprises, so having the extra time allows for less stress.
-If you are traveling with a spouse, one of you parks the car while the other one stays with all the kids and your stuff at curb (hence the additional 30 minutes).
This eliminates some of the hassle and gives you a shorter walk to the check in counter with all your stuff! It is WAY easier to do this. Your other option is to park the car with everyone, drag your luggage and kids and carseats from the car, load them on the shuttle, unload them from the shuttle, lug them across the lanes of traffic and to the check in counter. We discovered the first version and haven’t looked back.
-Bring a stroller
We love our BOB Double Stroller. It fits through a normal doorway width, and acts as our pack mule. I wear Elizabeth, Carson is in stroller and Paisley walks with her carry on. Carseats and carry ons get thrown on top to get us to the ticket counter and on through the airport. At security, you have to empty everything out of the stroller and TSA will test it. We have not had any issues and just load it back up with all our items to get to the terminal.
-Buy carseat bags from Southwest ticket counter
Brian and I do not gate check the carseats, so we opt to place them in Southwest carseat bags ($17 at the ticket counter) and check them at the counter. The extra bonus is they are huge (this is also a downside – just ask Brian), but we typically can throw in “extras” that didn’t fit in the suitcase. We bought ours the first time we flew with Paisley, almost 4 years ago, and it has held up decent on all our flights.
Kid items do not count towards your bag totals (carseat, pack n play, stroller). But if you do not need them at the final destination I suggest you leave them at home! Just more junk to haul around.
We gate check our stroller, just so we don’t have to carry everything through the airport. Plus it keeps Carson contained for the critical time in security line and walking to your gate. I wear Elizabeth the entire time. I have the Lille Baby Carrier and I can get through security without having to take her off.
Brian leads our security line (he has all documents to show TSA at once). He has A List Status, so we all get to skip the long line and tag along with him. Adult will have to have empty water bottles, but kid cups are okay to have liquid – they just test them once you get through the security screening. If you are traveling with kids, you will most likely have your snack/diaper bag flagged.
Depending on the TSA agent and airport, you all can go through the metal detector as a family or they will split you up. Brian usually goes through the Xray machine, but myself and the kids go through the metal detector. Once through, Brian wrangles the kids and stuff while I get my hands tested (because I keep Elizabeth strapped on).
Once you get through security it’s smooth sailing. Breathe easy! You are almost there! If you gate check your stroller or any carseats, just go to the desk at your gate. They will issue you a tag for the items and you will drop them at the end of the walk way before boarding the plane.
-Boarding the Plane
Since you will be flying with kids (at least I assuming so because you made it this far on the post! ha!), you can board in between the A group and B group – as long as you have a child 12 and younger. If you were diligent and checked into your flight on time (24 hours prior to your flight!) and got A boarding group, then just board with the A group – obviously!
Brian has his fancy A list boarding pass, so he boards the plane first and takes his carry on plus another bag. He gets on and saves us an entire row, plus the aisle seat right across the aisle. We try to aim for a row closer to the front of the plane (de-boarding the plane goes quicker, and this is the time the kids are usually the most antsy). I board with the kiddos during family boarding (between A and B groups). There is no “line” for family boarding, just kind of gather by the check in station.
-On the Plane
Because Brian boarded before us, he has time to set up Carson’s harness. It just slips over the seat back (under the tray behind his seat) and has two holes where the seatbelt slips through. Once he is situated, we set Paisley up with an Ipad or Leapster. She is a flying champ! Literally all she asks for is snacks. Carson is our wild card – sometimes we whip out the Ipad right away, or sometimes he can handle just hanging out for a bit. We bring cars, building blocks or stickers to entertain him, too. Play it by ear and do what works best for you and your kiddos.
As much as it makes me cringe, we literally throw all “rules” out the window for flying. If the kids want to watch shows for the entire time, we let them. We bring extra snacks and some candy, in the chance they get antsy. I figure there are very few things that are more stressful than being the parent on the flight with the fussy kid (trust me, we’ve been those parents! It is NOT fun!). So instead of trying to win any “mom of the year” awards by bringing Pinterest worthy activities, we stick to what is easy! It makes the trip much more enjoyable for us, but also everyone else on board!
De-boarding the plane is a piece of cake compared to getting everything prepped for the trip. We just shove everything back into the bags, get the stroller and go. Balancing bags and carseats is always an adventure and challenge, but you have the worst part behind you…until it is time to fly home!
Have other tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them! Happy travels this Thanksgiving and Christmas Season!