A month ago, I looked at the itinerary for our trip to the west coast, checked flight time and went, “Oh, it’s just six hours. That’s not so bad.”
Now, a normal person might think I was crazy. Our daughter’s first flight was at 4 months from Washington, DC to New Delhi, India via Newark. By the time she was 2.5, she’d flown over 26 times, including 6 flights between India and the US. With our son, however, we were based in the US and his first flight didn’t happen until recently at 15 months. We flew from DC to California and back again with him as a lap child. Traveling with two kids definitely ups it a notch, especially when having to haul 2 carseats, a stroller, and a framed hiking baby carrier along!
There are ten million travel accessories and must haves for flying with kids, but here is what we used and what we liked about them. These are affiliate links to Amazon, where I get a small portion of the money spent but it does not change the cost for you.
Getting Gear from A to Z
For hauling carseats, we were just introduced to the Go-Go Babyz Mini Travelmate which acts like a mini luggage trolley for your carseat. Attach the carseat to the travelmate with a strap, tighten, stick kid in carseat and wheel him away! Very quick to remove and attach for going through security. Can also collapse and carryon, or we stuck it in a gate check bag with our baby frame.
For the second carseat, we put it on top of our stroller. On the way there, we used this strap to attach the carseat around and secure it. It uses the latch straps from the carseat to go around the back of the stroller. I could have then stuck the preschooler into the carseat and felt secure enough, but I just piled my carry on luggage on top of that and made her walk! On the way home, I had accidentally packed the strap in our checked luggage, so I used the latch straps to hook directly onto my stroller. Not as convenient as there weren’t perfect spots and I would not have trusted it to put a kid in, but it worked for luggage hauling.
The framed hiking baby backpack I wore through the airport empty and then put into a duffle bag and gate checked it. I had no problem declaring it as a baby item and checking it for free. Headed out, I just said I had a stroller to check and hooked the gate check tag onto the duffle. On the way home, I told the gate agent I had the framed hiking backpack and she saw it and just said, “Oh, one of those, ok” and gave me a tag. I kept the duffle bag in the backpack seat area until using it. On the final, we ended up just keeping the carrier in the duffle and piling it on top of the stroller/carseat/carry on luggage combo for a tower of items. Watch out!
DD3 (remember, that means dear daughter age 3) is big enough to wheel her own carry on bag. She just got a new bag for this trip and we both loved it. Bright and pink and adorable fit her desires, and practical with lots of space fit mine. They also have a blue shark version and both owl and shark come in two sizes. We went for a large for room to grow and space for all the stuff long trips require. Plus, her little brother’s plane toys ended up in there too. She was able to wheel it no problem, and I could use the straps to carry it as needed. The large was too big for her to wear like a backpack, but she likes to wheel it anyway.
I recently got the eBags TSL Mother Lode Weekender Convertible bag and LOVE it. I’ve used it for weekend car trips and the 2 week west coast trip and it is great. So many great pockets and pouches with carry handles and backpack straps. No ability to wheel it, but I tend to want to wear my carry-on to keep my hands free. For the plane trip, I packed all the things we’d need on the plane, but a change of clothes for me and both kids, and some necessities for California if our checked luggage got lost.
DH (dear husband) just uses a regular backpack for his carry-on.
So logistically, to the check-in counter, I pushed a stroller with a carseat on top and my carry on bag on top of that, while wearing the baby hiking backpack frame. DD3 walked beside me pulling her carry on. DH wore his carry-on backpack, strapped his carryon bag across his chest, pulled DS1 in the carseat, and pulled my wheelie checked bag. Once we checked 2 bags, he wore his carryon and pulled DS1 and I pushed the stroller with stuff.
On the Plane
We gate checked the stroller, my son’s carseat (he was a lap child for the flight), and the framed hiking backpack. I put the carseat into a bag to protect it a bit, put the hiking backpack and the GoGoBabyz Travelmate into a duffle and just left the stroller collapsed. We brought our daughter’s carseat onto the plane.
Our plane had 3 seats, aisle, 3 seats. DD3 with her carseat was the window (carseats can’t block other seats), then DH, and then DS1 and I in the aisle seat. 15 months is in the hardest to fly with age in my opinion (that ranges from 12 months to 24 months when they are mobile, active, but not big enough to appreciate movies). Flying with him as a lap child was miserable as he just wanted to move and does not sleep well in my arms. Luckily for us, he has his own seat for our move and he’ll be in a carseat and I hope will sleep!
DD3 binge watched on movies the entire flight both ways. She has a kid pair of headphones. We don’t love them, so I’m not linking, but definitely get a pair that are sized for kids. We learned the hard way that our United flight was pay for entertainment there and had no entertainment on the return UNLESS you had the United app pre-downloaded on your phone or tablet. Luckily I did for the return flight and she watched movies on my ipad. We had to pay for movies to California, which was obnoxious considering what the tickets cost.
When DD3 has flown in the past and we haven’t needed to haul a carseat (such as flying to grandparents who have one), we put her in the CARES system on the plane. Small, lightweight, and adds some extra protection. On our move to Egypt, I plan on having DS1 in a carseat and DD3 (who will be DD4 by then!) in the CARES system. We’ll gate check a stroller.
When we are on the go, whether on a plane, in the car, or out and about, I like to carry DD3’s portapotty seat. It can sit on it’s own legs and you can hook on either official pee bags, or (as I do) stick a grocery bag and a few papertowels in it. We use it that way for potty breaks at parks without bathrooms or side of the road travel emergencies. Or the legs can spread and it can sit on a toilet to make it easier for small bums. We do that in airplanes, restaurants, etc. It folds small enough I can stick it in my carry-on.
Entertaining the Littles
Once DD hit 2, she started to like watching movies. They couldn’t hold her attention the whole flight, but they started to help. By 2.5 they really helped and on these last flights at almost 4, she watched movies the entire 6 hours each way. Left her seat once to pee and that was it. She was thrilled that there was no one movie limit from mama! Bring some snacks, some headphones, and let her watch away!
Younger than 2.5 is a different story. If the seatbelt light is off, we like to walk up and down and up and down and up and down the aisles. Hope for some sympathetic passengers who will talk to your kid each and every time. Our latest flight home we were literally surrounded by grandmothers who played peekaboo with him constantly.
Bring disposable toys-as in the ones that won’t matter if they get lost. DS15 months LOVED the silly putty I brought. He’d stretch it, I’d reform it, he’d stretch it again. And it didn’t matter when it fell on the ground the rolled away. Water Wow! is another fun, mess free toy. We’ve also used painter’s tape (rip, stick, make designs, and it peels right up), repositionable stickers, apps on the ipad, books, and little felt boards. DD1 spent quite a while just messing with my ipad. He’s too young to do anything really with it, but he likes to open and close the screen to play peekaboo with my photo background and move apps around.