So I recently had the pleasure (?) of flying from Nashville, Tennessee to Sacramento, California with my kids as a solo parent. My social media went as follows:
2 giant suitcases, 3 carseats, 2 carry ons, 1 double stroller, 3 kids and… 1 mom!
My kids are 6, 4, and 2… so this means two things: First, no one is really old enough to go to the bathroom on their own, and yet they are all old enough to afford a full priced ticket on the plane. And second, because they all require a ticket to ride, I am officially kicked out of sitting in the same row as my three kids. I’m across the dreaded aisle. This complicates things a touch.
So because of the hilarious responses and prayers I received via the insta and Facebook commentary of my friends and family… and unknown well wishers… I felt that I may want to compile a blog with some pro tips that I learned both the hard and easy way on my journey west. And because I sit in California as I write this, I’ll be implementing most of this myself on the return flight when the time comes.
Let me start by saying, YOU CAN DO IT! Moms… you gave birth to these tiny humans, surely you can fly on a plane with them. Believe me, I don’t say that lightly, but just like anything else in life, it’s all in the mindset. You’ve got to plan to win, and you’ve got to THINK it’s not really a big deal. Get those two things lined up, and it will be a- dare I say- relaxing trip! I was really astonished at how many people simply proclaimed to me on Facebook that they could just never do such a thing.
Well, of course you can!
You can do literally anything you THINK you can do. And if you think you can’t, and you’re okay admitting that you don’t think you can, let me ask you this: What will that cost you? Let me back up for a second…
My son is afraid of flying. The same son who is afraid of most anything else. But the flying thing, I get it. I’m afraid myself. I’ve made leaps and bounds in my anxiety control now that I fly pretty frequently, but I had to have a little pep talk with him as we prepared for take off- or blast off as he called it- because he informed me that he was excited but also scared.
“I’m scared too, buddy. I don’t like to fly either. But let’s think of all the places we’ve been able to go because we face our fears and get on planes. We get to visit Gammy Kay and Nana and Ba. We’ve been to Maui and Atlantis in the Bahamas,” I reminded him. His face was particularly lit up at the mention of the last trip we took to the Bahamas. “Just think of what our fear would cost us if we let it control us.”
He totally got it, and he didn’t cry- despite the threat of tears a few times- during take off or landing. He was a total champ. I had helped him reframe his fear, right? I had helped him, and myself, change my mindset around the thing that, at one point, neither of us really thought we would be able to do. Because when I say that I had some anxiety around flying a few years ago, I’m really underplaying it.
So as for the tips…
#1. Don’t freak out about it. You can do it! Will it be crazy? Probably! You’re in charge of tiny people who make bad decisions. And there are one million variables. But you’re their mom, and you’re capable of much more. And if you’re not willing to step outside of your mom comfort zone, you may miss out on some awesome experiences with your kiddos!
#2. Consolidate suitcases as much as possible. I brought one suitcase for me (and for homeschool stuff, because yes, I’m doing that too on the road), and I brought one suitcase for the three kids. I brought only what they really needed and it’s summer so nothing is bulky. But I did have to bring three life vests, so when I say two big suitcases, I mean that. Make sure they roll! And make sure you weigh them before you get to the airport! You don’t want to have to deal with one bag being 55lbs and having to open up both suitcases right there at the southwest counter when you’re already running a little late to repack. (Not that I know from experience). Oh, and you’ll want that double stroller… not JUST because you can sit two kids down and know where the heck you put them, but you can also stack one carseat across the top, and two booster seats in one of the seats, while your carry ons fit in the other seat. I’m telling you there is a method to my madness.
#3. Do not over commit to activities on the plane. Remember, requesting a bathroom visit is a 2 year olds favorite past time on a plane. It will take up at least half of the four hour flight. I brought one backpack loaded down with snacks. Snacks win over basically any other carry on item. Snacks can pass the time, they can also be used as a bribe for good behavior. So one backpack had snacks, my lap top and the iPad. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE SOUTHWEST MOVIE PLAYER APP BEFORE YOU TAKE OFF! I had the app, but it wasn’t updated, because my iPad is an original model (aka it’s OLD). So we passed exactly zero minutes watching movies. Movies are excellent time passers on planes, so make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row in this area. (Side note: You can pay for and will be charged for a movie, even if you’re iPad is too old to play said movie). Instead of a movie, we watched teenaged content on the Disney channel. And given that they couldn’t really hear anything that was happening over the engine noise, I would much have preferred a cartoon or something more visually stimulating. But hey, you make it work.
#4. Do not bring any beverages on the plane that do not have screw caps. For some reason I thought a drink with a straw would be easier. Reminder… there are no cup holders on planes. And when you get on the plane, your child can and will drop this beverage on the floor as soon as you choose a seat.
#5. I am not an advocate of fast food. Except when I’m traveling with kids on planes. When I’m traveling with kids on planes, as much food as I can get individually packaged and shoved into one bag, the better. Want fries? Here’s a little container of fries! Share it with your siblings. Want nuggets? Here’s a little container of nuggets! Share it with your siblings. Don’t offer dipping sauces. Just don’t get involved in that.
#6. When you are traveling with kids who probably won’t pee their pants, but you’re not fully confident and don’t want to call their bluff… you may have to get up when the fasten seat belt sign is on. Sometimes the sign is on… always… and you’ve got a choice to make. Potentially die in a freak accident, or be stuck with a pantsless kid for the rest of your trip because you don’t bring extra clothes for potty trained kids. To hedge your bets, put your youngest kid in a pull up just in case. Because hey, accidents do happen and you may not want to weight the odds every SINGLE time they request a bathroom break. Here’s the deal… your 2-3 year old is going to figure out that when they request a potty break, you’ve got to take them at least 1 out of every 16 times. This breaks up the whole ‘must sit in your seat’ thing. I mean, it’s just part of the fun.
*The flight attendants who announce to the whole plane that the seatbelt sign is on and that means that you must stay in your seats while it’s on… they just don’t have kids, or they’re just mean. Ignore them.
#7. Don’t count on naps. At least not on your longer legs. Don’t even try. Let them fall asleep as the plane starts to descend and just privately enjoy the irony. Hey, maybe you’ll get lucky and your kid will fall asleep in the last 30 minutes of the last leg of the long day, and they will stay asleep as you transfer them to the stroller, and then the carseat, and then the bed, and when they fall off the bed in the middle of the night, they’ll still think they’re on the airplane!
#8. You might get free wine! I ordered a red wine with a lid and a straw (because that’s totally acceptable when you’re on a plane with kids) and the flight attendant brought it quickly and didn’t even charge me. She said her machine was broken, but she was a liar. A liar and a good friend. Moms… it’s okay to have a glass of wine on a plane with your kids. You’re not flying the plane. It will all be okay. And frankly, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to drink.
#9. Teamwork makes the dream work. Set yourself up for success ahead of time and let your oldest child in on a little secret: There is money on the line if they are your biggest helper! If they don’t argue, keep peace, watch the littles, are agreeable, share their snacks and their drinks and their crayons and their best stories with their brothers… dollar. bills.
#10. Finally, laugh! Yep, they spilled the lemonade, and the baby then dropped his blanket and stepped on it so the lemonade absorbed in good and deep. Yep, the orange and the brown crayons are three rows back. Yep, the raccoon animal is on the floor and you’ve got to unbuckle to pick it up… again. Yep, another potty break. Another kick to the chair in front of you (SORRY!!). Yep, you’re a mom and these kids are kids. They’re cute though. And you’re probably on your way to have an awesome vacation, adventure, trip, visit… whatever it is… and they’re going to love it and you’re going to build memories together, because there are too few moments in this life when they’re young to do that. And if you can just laugh at the journey, they’ll probably impress the hell out of you on the plane, and you’ll probably feel like a freaking super hero when you land. So just enjoy it. Drink your wine with a straw and laugh with the guy sitting across the row because he’s probably been there. If he hasn’t, he’s seriously impressed with you.
So relax! You can do it! It might even be fun! Embrace the chaos and love the journey… just like anything else in life. Because moms… I don’t know if you realize this… but you ARE a super hero. You’re like a serious modern day super hero. You just want to be sure you pack your super suit when you fly! 🙂
BONUS TIP: When you have three kids, and they are forced to sit across the aisle from you, realize that the flight attendants will have to give your kids a very detailed explanation as to how to put on the oxygen masks should they need them. They usually just remind us, as moms, to put ours on before we assist the kids, but with a mask on, I’ll be pretty well tied to my side of the aisle. So she had to demonstrate this for the kids. It may freak them out and open up their eyes to the potential death and doom of flying on a plane- especially if you’re Merit. My tip is to lie. Tell your kids that we’ll only really need those if we decide to have a party on the plane and you didn’t bring your halloween mask in your carry on. They go on just like any other mask, so the kids are probably familiar. My kids totally liked this idea and decided that it wasn’t scary after all to wear the tubes and cups and O2 bag masks.