Surviving The Airport With Littles
What a nightmare, right? Navigating the airport is stressful enough in itself, then add tiny humans with their big luggage on to that. We've been flying since my daughter was four months old. Her first flight was a long haul from Germany to the United States, and she's been on about twenty flights in her lifetime. We've done it all: stroller, no stroller, babywearing, infant in lap, and a car seat in her own seat. I'm a minimalist packer and my main goal when flying is to carry the least amount of stuff as possible. I will go ahead and say that even though they require more stuff, flying with smaller babies is way easier than flying with an insane toddler.
Getting through check-in and security:
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT check your car seats or strollers here! We'll get to that in a minute.
I usually just pack a carry-on backpack for myself and a small bag for Sydney, so we can normally just check in online and screenshot our boarding passes. It's also nice to get off of a flight and head straight to the exit rather than having to wait an eternity at the baggage claim carousel. If you have luggage that needs to be checked in, you'll have to do that at the check in counters.
Going through security is probably the most annoying thing on the planet whenever you have a stroller, carseat, or if you're just babywearing. You'll have to fold the stroller down, which means taking baby out to do so, along with taking off your shoes (unless your TSA pre-check), putting all your stuff in the containers to get on the conveyor belt; if you're babywearing, sometimes they'll ask you to take the baby out of your carrier, sometimes they won't. Either option is super obnoxious!
If you're carrying any type of food or drinks, they'll test it and you'll be good to go.
You'll have to carry your baby going through the x-ray machine.
I personally believe that babies/toddlers/young kids are so entertained with all of the hussle and bussle going on around them that they're decently behaved during this part of the journey. Take your time getting all of your stuff together once you go through the security line, unless it's close to boarding time, then you'll have to haul tail to your gate. If you're unlucky like me, your gate will probably be at the very end of the terminal. Haha *eye roll*.
Waiting at the gate/boarding:
This is a great time to walk around a little, eat some snacks and use the restroom. Most airports even have nursing rooms, which is great! Even greater than that, my husband says all of the men's restrooms have changing tables, so don't be afraid to ask them to change diapers. Try your hardest not to bust out any toys or books yet, we don't want the kiddos getting bored too fast. When it's time to board your flight, most airlines call for families with small children to board first, no matter what boarding group you're in.
Here is when you'll check in your car seat- if they're flying in lap- and/or stroller. They'll give you a tag to keep for ownership and they'll let you know where to put it (there at the desk, or at the end of the ramp to the airplane). Even though it's a pain in the tail to lug around a car seat, it'll receive the least amount of damage when it's checked in at the gate rather than the check-in counter. We personally use this car seat bag: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RXV4VTH/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s02?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ... It's carried like a backpack, which makes it easier to carry and keeps your hands free, but it makes it harder to carry anything else unless you can put your bags in the bottom of the stroller or hang them off of the strollers handles.
On the flight:
Your infant having their own seat is ideal just for the extra space and to have somewhere to put them so you aren't holding them the entire time (also them being in their car seats on a flight is where they're the safest) but let's be real: plane tickets are hella expensive. We definitely have milked using the lap seat option for as long as we could because once they turn two they have to have their own seat. For the sake of your sanity though, it's best to get them their own seats once they're mobile.
If you're on a long haul flight, make sure that you book seats extra leg room where they have bassinets for the teeny tiny babes. Those things are a lifesaver. For shorter flights I always try to put us in the back of the plane because 1. it's close to the lavatory and 2. it's the furthest away from the fancy people sitting in first class LOL. I'll never forget our flight to Mexico when Sydney was one and a half and she was literally screaming the ENTIRE flight. She was a lap baby and she was throwing a tantrum because she wanted her own seat, and she was trying to kick her dad out of his seat so she could sit there. I also cried the entire flight.
For entertainment, buy a new toy or book that's special just for your trip. That will *hopefully* keep them entertained for at least five minutes. That's about all we can hope for with a toddler, right?
Make sure you bring plenty of fun snacks and drinks.
Pro tip: have your baby/toddler suck on a bottle, sippy cup, or paci when taking off and landing to help with their ears. We've also been recommended to have the toddlers eat some type of gummies, never tried that though.
I would also highly recommend to bring a plastic grocery bag for any clothes that get puked or pooped on *yay, mom life* and an extra change of clothes for you and the little one.
Flying can be super nerve wracking, especially with littles. We're always doing our best to keep our babies happy and calm in public because no one wants to be the mom with the screaming baby on an airplane. But let's face it, sometimes they're complete turds no matter what we do. The trip is usually worth the hassle in the end. Just remember to put on your best RBF for the haters, and you'll be landing soon.