I remember the first time I took Harlan on a plane by myself. She was only about eight weeks old and we were flying to visit MacKay in Manhattan. I was not only a new, inexperienced mother, but had never traveled with a baby before. In a nutshell, I was terrified.

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Now nearly five years (and three kids) later, I’ve traveled several times with the kids, both on planes and in the car. Most of the trips are by myself with the kids. Thankfully with each trip, I’ve gotten more comfortable and so have the kids.

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While I don’t consider myself to be an expert, there are definitely things that I’ve noticed that make the trip go a lot more smoothly, no matter how old your kids are.

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Here are some of the things that have helped me when traveling with little ones:

1. Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t wait until the last minute for anything. Try to pack a couple of days before your trip so that you aren’t rushing the day that you leave. If you are traveling by airplane, try to leave your house a couple of hours early so that you give yourself time in the airport. While TSA doesn’t require your little ones to take off their shoes, all of the “stuff” that comes with having kids does take a while to get through security. Some airports will allow you to go to the front of the line because they see you are traveling with small children, but other airports will make you wait with everyone else.

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2. Wear your baby. When traveling through an airport, chances are you have your hands full, not only with kids, but also with your luggage. If you have a baby or toddler, it’s very easy to wear them in a baby carrier so that you still leave both of your hands free to get you through the airport and even when boarding the plane.

3. Don’t overpack. I know it’s hard to resist packing all of those “just in case” items for your children, but know that you have to carry all of those extras with you. Pack just enough diapers and wipes to get you through the flight. If your children are okay with snacks from the plane, then rely on that. Bring only what you need for the duration of the flight and put the rest in your checked luggage.

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4. Bring a stroller. I never go to the airport without my stroller. A couple of weeks ago when I traveled with all three kids for the first time I had all three kids on the stroller for a little bit and was easily able to run from one gate to another when our gates were switched at the last minute. When I was wearing Macks and he wasn’t in the stroller, I used his seat to help me carry some of my carry-on bags.

5. Bring entertainment. I always stock up on new little toys that the girls can play with on the plane. They really love stickers, so I’ll go and buy a bunch of cheap stickers so that they can play with them. New coloring books and crayons always help keep them busy and they are a great place for them to stick the stickers as well. I also check out the dollar bins at Target for random things that I know I can give them while on the plane. I keep a basket in our apartment of my dollar finds and then pack a couple for when we travel. They love receiving new items and it helps keep them occupied just a little bit longer. The iPad and iPhone are always guaranteed to keep them busy and I’ll bring those out as a last resort.

6. Travel during nap time. No matter if you are traveling by car, train, or plane, book the trip during your little one’s nap time. I like traveling at night and having the girls in their pajamas before we go to the airport. Once we get up in the air and the lights are turned off and it’s dark on the airplane, they quickly fall fast asleep and I am able to relax a little bit.

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7. Ask for help. Traveling alone with kids can give you anxiety and is a bit intimidating. Make sure to always ask for help if you need it. I always have the headrest time at the security check point, but I’ve asked the people in line and TSA to help me go through and no one has ever told me no. Some airports are also willing to give a gate pass to an adult that you are not traveling with to help you get through. My dad did that when I was flying alone with the girls from Tampa. He had to give ID and go through security but was able to help me until my plane took off. It also doesn’t hurt to ask the gate agents if there are extra seats on the plane for your lap infant. I’ve been able to take the baby on with me with their car seat and have them sit in an available seat next to me. It doesn’t happen every time, but I always ask anyway.

8.  Nurse or bottle feed during take off and landing. If you are flying with a baby, try to feed them on take-off and landing. This helps equalize the pressure in their ears. Try not to make the mistake of feeding right as you get on the plane because as we all know, you could be taxiing forever and by the time you actually take-off, the baby isn’t hungry any longer.

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9. Relax. Traveling with kids is stressful, no matter what the age or how many kids you have. Everything will go more smoothly if you are relaxed along the way. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly, because it won’t. But be positive about the trip and both you and your little ones will do great!

What tips do you have for traveling with little ones?

 

{Disclosure: I am working with Playtex as a proud member of the Playtex Baby Mom Trust program, a virtual network where moms can find common ground and support each other through sharing stories, tips, product reviews, insights and unique experiences of motherhood. As always, all opinions are my own.} 

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