Family Travel Prep : The Before

Full disclosure: I am a terrible flyer. I am very anxious the days leading up to a flight, and I have to really wrangle my thoughts once I am in that scratchy, narrow seat.

I have flown just once with a child - Brooks was 6 months when we went to Colorado with him. He did great, and honestly having him as a distraction was really helpful.

This time around we have Brooks at 2.5 years old and Vance at a squirmy 1 year old. I am optimistic that with the help of my old friend, iPad, Brooks will be fine. Assuming he doesn’t get motion sick…please hold to allow me to freak out about that.

Ok, back. The one I’m really worried about (other than me) is Vance That baby loves to move. Luckily, he also loves to eat so I’m hoping snacks will eat up at least half of our flight.

As a way to combat my anxiety, I prep. I make lists and change the lists and add to the lists. I literally make lists of lists. So here is what I have come up with to manage the chaos that awaits us.

Planes, trains, and automobiles are all the rage right now.

Planes, trains, and automobiles are all the rage right now.

The Airport

I have spoken to a lot of people about the best way to do this - stroller vs no stroller, baby carrier vs rolling car seat, etc. Here’s my plan:

Scheduling Flights

There are only so many flights to your destination. We prioritized having a direct flight over timing of flights. There are just fewer variables (flight delays, cancellations, running through unknown airports) this way. With that in mind, we did try to get flights that were close to their nap times. We are also already embracing the fact that their eating and sleeping is going to be totally out of whack. With the time change, we knew this would happen anyway so we are just getting a jump on it!

Baby Carrier

I will wear Vance in my Ergobaby carrier. We have two, but I will be using this one now that Vance is big and going on my back. It is meant for outdoor adventures, but with the amount that I plan to sweat I think this qualifies.

Since I don’t often wear Vance, I am wearing him around the house on my back a bit to get him more used to the positioning.

Car Seat

Brooks will be sitting in the chair as is on the plane. However, Vance is squirmy and just turned one. While he could sit in the seat based on his size, he will likely be more behaved in his car seat, so it’s making the trip too. He’s outgrown his infant seat, so we have to take out Graco 4ever 4 in 1 seat.

Most convertible car seats seem to be larger than airplane seats. Make sure to call your airline to see how strict they are about having armrests down at all seats before take off.

Car Seat Bag

Multiple people recommended this bag to carry the car seat throughout the airport. This bag has shoulder straps, so my husband will wear the car seat, and I will wear the baby. I’ve also heard that this is a good place to store extra diapers and wipes if you plan on checking the bag - things that can’t really get damaged when it’s thrown into the plane.

Carry On

The one roll aboard carry on that we plan on bringing will be packed with emergency essentials. I’m thinking a spare outfit for everyone, toiletries, and snow gear that the boys will need when we land. Hopefully, we won’t use it at all but should we need it, it’s there.

Let them Run

Once we get to the gate, we are releasing the hounds! They are going to be confined for so long. that I don’t care what havoc they wreak in the airport. Of course, one of us will be following and apologizing for them, but I’d rather do that and have sleeping babies on the flight.

On the Flight



I have been making a list of their favorite things for awhile now. Here’s what I plan to have as of now.

  • Bubbles (small so that they can make it through security)

  • iPad

  • Snacks

  • Wrapped Present (Brooks LOVES opening things)

  • Two small new toys per child

  • Post it notes

Wipe Everything Down

My mom has been wiping down her seat, tray table, armrests, etc. for years. People always look at us like we’re nuts. Now that I know how easily these tiny children can get the plague and pass it on to me, we are bringing sanitizing wipes for EVERY. DAMN. PART of our row.

I recommend not getting a strong scent. As someone with awful allergies, that would just set me up to hate you instantly.

Kill them with Kindness

There’s no doubt that people are in a rush this time of year. I am hoping that a nice smile from my husband and I and a generally friendly demeanor will help our fellow passengers give us a little grace.

If you’ve ever traveled with little ones, you know that the parents are trying. If the kids are losing it, so are the parents. Ask if you can help if you’re flying kid free. Or buy them a drink - preferably a strong one.

At Our Destination

Luckily, on this trip we are heading somewhere with a crib, changing table, washing machine, etc. so we don’t have to think about having the pack n play and all that includes.

Color Coding Clothes

We’ve gotten to the point where the boys’ clothes are so close in size that we have to read each tag to know what goes where. In order to combat this on vacation, any warm clothes that I’m buying for Brooks are blue and Vance gets green. If for some reason those aren’t options, Brooks gets as close to blue as possible. That way I won’t have to spend more of my vacation reading teeny tiny tags.

Do the Research

Especially if you are traveling to a destination with a difference in altitude or other major environmental changes that can effect your health, know where the nearest hospital, pediatric urgent care and pediatrician are located. In addition, see which grocers/Target are nearby and offer pick up. Download the app and have an order ready for pickup on your ride home. This is big for us since my boys love fresh fruit and dairy items. There is no chance that all four of us will be in the mood to shop at the grocery after a 4 hour flight and 2 hour drive.

Sleeping Arrangements

Vance is still rocking the crib so he will sleep fine in a pack n play or crib. Brooks is in a bed now and he is a bit of a wanderer. I know that I will have to clear out his room and he will likely be sharing a bed with his dad. That’s the plan for now. If no one is getting any sleep, we’ll fix it on the fly.

The point is - after all that travel, your kids will want a comfy place to rest their heads. Make sure that you have a plan and everything you need can be accessed quickly if you’re transitioning right from travel to bedtime. We usually have a two second strategy session as we park the car - You’ll do this, I’ll do that and we’ll meet in the middle.

And now the part that can be a struggle for me, just go with it. I have two small boys who haven’t really traveled before. They’re going to go stir crazy, want out of their car seats, and be a general mess at times. That’s what I signed up for. When it feels overwhelming, I remind myself that I am giving them the gift of travel. Vance is going to see snow for the first time and Brooks is finally going to “fly away airplane” as he’s been requesting for weeks now. That matters more than the dirty look that I’ll be getting from 24E.