It takes a special amount of patience (and coffee and wine) to travel with children, I should know. After approximately 53 flights with a baby or a toddler or both in the last 4 years I have some advice for other parents looking to take on this challenge.
These are the top 12 items you should have in your carry-on or with you during the flights and layovers. Trust me. I've included links as friends have often asked which items we're using - so you can get all your kiddo travel items through this post!
1. Umbrella Stroller (single or double): this will save you so many headaches. Even if your kid doesn't always want to sit in the stroller, you can use the stroller to set push your backpack around or give your diaper bag a stroll. (Also comes in handy for long layovers if your toddler needs distracting, let them push the stroller. If your baby needs to sleep, the stroller has always worked like a charm to put ours down for a nap.) Bonus tip: At most airports there are special lines for people traveling with strollers. You can often save time with security and immigration if you have a stroller, just remember to smile a lot and look for the elevators.
2. Baby Carrier: If your baby can still be carried in the carrier, bring it. Sometimes it's easier to put her or him in the carrier and push your backpack in the stroller because sometimes your kids just want to be close to you. And carrying them without a carrier is way too hard and too much crazy as you're running from one end of the airport to the other. (I used to use a cheap one from Walmart as seen in the photo, but as she's grown I really prefer the Baby Bjorn that I linked above.)
3. Snacks: Bring all kinds of snacks that your kids like. We all know food can be a great distraction for kids and adults alike - use it! Our son had a horrible allergic reaction to something in the Dallas Airport when he was 14 months old - we still don't know what it was but his face looked like a little blowfish and was all red and all sorts of scary on our flight. Since that day, I've always preferred to give him snacks that I bring and we don't risk the airport food. Some of our favorite snacks are the organic food pouches as they are easy for travel, I put them all in one gallon size Ziploc as you have to take them out for security.
4. Books: Bring lightweight books (so you don't have to carry something too heavy). We like to bring "Search and Find" books for our 3 year old since it gives him something to do on his own.
5. iPad or tablet: This is ah-mazing once your kids are old enough to play with it. We tend to pull it out after we've gone through all our other distractions, books and toys as a "last resort". Download games for your kids before you fly and download your Netflix/Prime movies ahead of time. And definitely get a good carrier case to keep it safe from all the times it falls on the floor. You'll also want some baby/toddler headphones.
6. Diapers, wipes and extra clothes: This is hopefully obvious as these are essentials with little ones. But always bring at least one extra outfit for your kids as you never know when accidents will happen. For our 3 year old, who is already potty trained, we still put on a pull-up for the plane rides as you can never predict when he suddenly has to go to the potty. I don't want to be that mom caught with the seatbelt sign on and crying toddler who wet the seat.
7. 1 or 2 toys: You really don't need more than this for your baby or toddler. My baby normally prefers to play with the safety pamphlet in the seatback pocket than the toys I bring anyways. Make sure the toys are small enough to fit in your backpack but not too small that they will get lost when they fall or roll away on the floor.
8. Water bottle and/or sippy cup: Airplanes don't have milk on them. We always buy the milk as soon as we get through security before we get on our flight. These Miracle 360 cups are our favorite and the ones we use at home and on the road.
9. Breastmilk: You are allowed to travel with breastmilk on a flight. If you have a cooler, make sure your ice pack is frozen before you go through security. Also make sure your bottles are sealed well, they will check the bottles in a special machine when you go through security. But you are allowed to take it. (Even if you are traveling without kids but need to pump - you can easily travel with breastmilk.)
10. Blankie: We always travel with Max and Zoe's little blankies that Daddy made them. Having those gives them some security and helps them sleep on the flights.
11. Wear Layers: Bring your kids hoodies or sweaters when you travel. It's way easier to wear layers and figure out what temperature works best.
12. Essential Oils - We don't leave our house without our essentials - On Guard, Digestzen, Peppermint, Balance and Lavender are what we bring on the plane. You too can get some essential oils at a discount using this link and I love the travel bags that Walter made!
Hope this list helps you - stay tuned for future posts on traveling with 2 kids while on crutches, traveling with breastmilk but no baby and how to speed through security and customs when you have kids in tow.