I can’t think of anything more challenging than traveling by air with your family: you never have enough hands, other passengers avoid you like the plague, and nobody comments on how cute your kids are.
No matter how much I prepare, I always overlook something during the airport obstacle course (usually resulting in having to throw out a very expensive bottle of hair product.) But enough, already. Here are five things I’ve learned from traveling with kids under 5.
In general, use the 3-1-1 rule: Each passenger is allowed one quart-sized zip-lock bag filled with bottles that contain fluids 3.4 ounces or less by volume. This bag must be separated from regular carry-on bags. However, medications, baby formula and food, breast milk and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces and do not have to be in a zip-lock bag. For more rules and information, visit tsa.gov.
Get there early
This is an obvious one, but bears repeating. You need to go up to the counter to check in lap-seat children – don’t forget some form of ID for them (vaccination records work). Older kids need bathroom breaks. At the very least, getting there early will give your child a chance to burn off steam.
Control the gear
Check in as much of your baby gear as possible. If you plan to bring a car seat onto the plane, consider using a wheeled attachment by Go-Go Babyz for your child’s car seat. Not only can it eliminate the need for a separate stroller at your destination, it’s a good way to keep your child contained at the airport.
Take time to organize your belongings before you get in line. Avoid wearing belts and metal jewelry, and dress everyone in slip-on shoes. Separate your plastic bags containing fluids. Leave kids in strollers until everything is lined up and ready to go through the X-ray machine. Try and collapse the stroller and put it through before the rest of your items. That way, it’s the first thing to come out, and you can quickly contain your child.
Personally, I’m a big fan of getting a new toy for longer trips and using it as leverage for good behavior. And, yes, I usually tote along a DVD player just to make the lives of everyone on the plane a little easier. Consider booking seats away from your spouse, so you can switch off seeking sanctuary among normal people. And always, always keep a pack of diaper wipes within reach.