Desperate for Travel
Without getting too much into our thoughts and feelings about COVID, I do want to share our first trip since the pandemic started. My husband and I have always been big travelers. Before becoming parents we would travel several times a year. So many people warned us “you better travel now before you have kids!” Honestly, I didn’t think it could be that bad traveling with kids, and I also loved defying the odds! Our first trip as parents was from Massachusetts to Arizona, a pretty decent flight for a 5-month-old. We did bring my parents along for the extra hands and help. And that was the start of all our adventures with our firstborn. She’s now 4 and has been to California and Italy, and a dozen other places in between. Our daughter has been an amazing little traveler, she has no trouble flying or staying overnight at different locations. We’ve had a lot of practice navigating the airport with one baby, and we planned to continue our love for traveling even when the second one arrived. Except COVID put a big delay on that one! So finally, just last month, with our second child already over a 1-year-old, we took off to Florida.
When I say we, I mean me and the two kids. Yep, I am that desperate to travel that I even went alone with two small children. I parked our car at a parking lot outside of the airport, which was actually quite helpful because the shuttle bus driver loaded and unloaded my luggage for me. That cut down the amount of time and distance I had to carry around all our belongings. For the three of us, I packed one large suitcase, one car seat, a carry-on tote, and a backpack. Normally I would bring a stroller but we were visiting family so we invested in a stroller to be shipped and kept down in Florida. So the worst part of the whole travel experience was getting the four items and two children up to the check-in desk. The best purchase you can make when traveling with small children is a car seat backpack. We have used this one for 4 years now, it’s the easiest way to lug the big car seat around and protect it. Once we checked in and left our large luggage and car seat behind, there wasn’t much left to it.
Now I’ve had my son strapped to me in a carrier since we left our car at the parking lot. He’s in a forward front carry and I have a backpack with all our inflight essentials on my back. Carrying one child allows me to then be hands-free to hold onto my daughter in one hand and our boarding passes in the other. I also have TSA pre-check (so worth it!), which makes getting through security a breeze. I’m able to keep my son in the carrier through the metal detector and don’t have to fiddle with taking anyone’s shoes on and off. Once we found our gate, I took my son out of the carrier for a short time just so he could stretch out a bit before being on a plane for 3 hours. And I always make sure my daughter uses the restroom prior to boarding in hopes we won’t have to use the tiny airplane bathroom (spoiler alert…we still had to use the tiny airplane bathroom).
Even before the pandemic, I brought travel packs of wet ones to wipe down the seat and tray. After all, kids literally touch everything, and before you know it their fingers are around their mouth, so it was something I didn’t mind doing anyways. Having two kids with me now I just made sure my daughter didn’t touch anything and my son was still in the carrier while I wiped everything down. The seatback tray, the tv, the armrests, and all over the airplane window because we all know how much kids love to look out that with their faces pressed up against it.
Our daughter is at the age where she loves to watch movies, so keeping her attention on the little tv for a couple of hours was easy. My son, on the other hand, needed more activity and variety in his flight entertainment. I packed little toys I knew would keep his hands busy, but also ones he wouldn’t be tempted to put in his mouth. I had a small truck, a plastic bathtub toy whale, and finger puppets. For my daughter, I had packed the water works pad, a pencil and notebook, and stickers. She loves drawing, writing, and playing with stickers at this age. Bringing a new toy is super helpful too because it will keep their interest longer.
I used an N95. My daughter had a fitted cloth mask with a filter inside and my son, being only 1, did not wear one. My daughter did need to remove hers for a snack and water on the plane. I just did my best to have her keep it on until after everyone else around us was done enjoying their inflight snack. But it would be hard to completely deny a 4-year-old food and drink for 3 hours. She did really well keeping her mask on as much as possible. The only time I had to take my mask down was at security where they check your ID and boarding pass.
Snacks & Bottles
Security won’t bother you about any snacks, as long as they aren’t liquid. You can pack anything from bananas to fruit snacks, whatever will keep your kiddo happy! And for the baby, you can bring breastmilk or formula. Previously, I’ve flown with frozen breastmilk. If you bring frozen liquids, security doesn’t have to open up the container. This time, I had packed a brand new sealed can of formula, figuring it would make it simpler to get through and not have to be tested. But they didn’t even bother looking at it at all, it remained tucked in my backpack. Having the baby and young child with me, I packed two sealed bottles of water as well and had no trouble with those. I truly needed the water to make a bottle for my baby, but also brought the second water along for my daughter. Top flying tip: Nursing or providing a bottle during takeoff and landing is the best thing you can do for a baby’s ears during the flight.
The Airplane Bathroom
Like I mentioned, I try to avoid using it but sometimes duty calls and that call won’t last too long for a 4-year-old. Timing would have it that my son was napping when she needed to go. I thought if I had a family sitting with me maybe I could have transferred him into the empty seat while I took her, but that wasn’t an option. So, I strapped him back to me in the carrier, which of course woke him, and we all headed up to the bathroom… packed in like sardines, I did my best not to rub up against everything. It was a tight adventure with lots of handwashing, but we survived. On our flight home, we had to use it again, but this time for the little guy. I pack disposable changing pads to place over the changing table. And pack 1 diaper for every hour of flying, that way I know I’ll have plenty in case there are any mishaps.
Not So Bad
All and all, I don’t feel like a lot had changed to be traveling post-pandemic, except that I personally had a SECOND child tagging along! We’re all pretty used to the whole mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines by now. I felt pretty comfortable on the airplane and I’m very comfortable traveling with children. I’m already itching to book our next trip, but it will be really nice to have my husband or family come along this next time around!