I remember boarding my first flight with a baby in tow just six weeks postpartum. Before the flight, I ran through every worst-case scenario. Then the day of the trip came and went with little fanfare. I wrapped my little nugget in his baby carrier where he stayed snug as a bug for almost the entire duration of the flight. Since then, we’ve taken off more than 50 times together — some trips smoother than others — and I’ve learned a whole lot about how to enjoy flying with kids in the process.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
- Check Details & Make Plans
Take the time to prepare for the flight well in advance. Kids will have accidents the night before, alarm clocks will be innocently silenced, and keys will get lost. So prepare! A few days before the flight start checking your flight status, double-check the time you have recorded on your calendar, coordinate a ride, reserve a pack-and-play at the hotel, and take a second to plan out the fun to be had at your destination! There is nothing worse than standing on a busy street corner looking for a lunch spot with four tired kids screaming about how starving they are!
- Prepare the Kids
If traveling is new for your child, make sure to prepare them too! I love putting a few airplane, airport, and travel books on hold before our trip. If the library has a book about our destination I make sure to snag that too! We’ve used youtube videos and podcasts to prepare our big kids for adventures. We also make sure to Facetime any relatives we’re visiting beforehand so our little ones can get reacquainted.
- Pack Smart
I will always vote for packing light. Packing light is a wonderful gift you can give yourself at every stage of the journey: fewer bags to keep track of, fewer bags to heave and haul about, and fewer items to find and stow at the end of your trip. Especially when flying with kids, it can allow more head space for important details, more energy for the fun to be had, and more peace of mind in crowded accommodations.
- Travel Day
On the day of your trip, wake up early and finish any tasks you can before the kids wake up! Whether you are leaving at 7 a.m. or 10 p.m., load any bags that are ready into the car, grab the phone charger while you’re thinking about it, and take a minute to actually play, talk to, and feed your kids! A little attention when you have it can go a long way on travel days.
At the Airport: Tips for CHS Airport and Beyond
- Allow for Extra Time
I like to get to the Charleston (CHS) airport with a little time to spare. I have found that no matter where we go, the airport and the airplane are always my kids’ favorite parts! Arriving early gives us plenty of time to take turns pulling the suitcase, stop to gawk at sweatshirts that “actually say Charleston on them! Mom, I can’t believe it!” and make sure everyone has filled up their water bottles a thousand times at the cool hydration station after security.
- What to Expect at CHS Airport
The CHS Airport is incredible. With a small footprint, you can easily find your gate and keep track of your kids at the same time. After security, you’ll find a few restaurants, coffee shops, and newsstands. My kids always love taking a second to sit in the classic blue rocking chairs found in the common area and watch planes take off. There are lots of great chairs throughout CHS Airport to set up shop with a laptop, nurse a baby, or rest your eyes. Single-room bathrooms, great for corralling kids and bags, can be found throughout the airport. Check out the mamava pod by the B gates if you’re looking for more privacy to feed or care for your baby. If you have a long flight ahead, make sure to grab some snacks for you and the kids to eat on the plane.
- In the Air With Kids
Planes are fun! Yes, they are loud and cramped, and that one thing you need is usually trapped in an overhead bin right when you need it. But the noise will lull almost any baby to sleep (eventually), your kids will love people-watching, and that one thing you need will surely slip from your child’s memory when a cool flight attendant magically appears to tell your child they can have any drink they want from her fancy cart. I don’t mean to say there won’t be hard times. There will be. But as a leader in your family, you can make sure to highlight the good times too.
My kids like to take their own backpacks on the plane. They usually take a light jacket, a tablet (charged and loaded with games and movies), headphones, a snack bag (filled with a variety of snacks they can access at whatever time in whatever order they want), and one or two small toys.
At Your Destination
Oh my goodness! Hooray! It is finally time to kick back and enjoy! My kids thrive with a little plan and an idea of what we’ll be doing each day. We like to schedule lots of downtime in, with at least one or two big things each day to look forward to.
If you’re traveling with a group, it’s likely they don’t know your child’s nap schedule, favorite food, or other special considerations in the same way you do; it may be best to just go with the flow for a few days or speak up for the most important needs before the trip begins.
Getting there was filled with anticipation, heading home can be a different story. We usually come home pooped! I almost always bring a stroller for those tired kiddos to use on the way home. While the CHS Airport is small, other airports may include miles of walking, trains, and stairs between gates.
Let your kids know that there will be waiting at the rental car counter, check-in, security, and at the gate. Any time I see a wait coming I make sure to point out where my kids can wait, “See these words? Stand right by these words while Mommy talks to the worker.” Or I may say, “See how these tiles make a square? You can dance in the square while I fill up our water bottles.”
After the Trip
Within a week of the trip, I like to unpack completely, delete and share photos/videos, and reminisce with my kids. There is no point in taking a trip if we don’t remember it. Taking a second to journal, finding a copycat recipe for a favorite new dish, calling Grandma to tell her how much we miss her already, and wearing a new touristy shirt can be fun ways to keep the vacation spirit alive.
Traveling with kids has been a highlight of my life. I love seeing new destinations through their eyes and am reminded every step of the way that there is true joy in the journey too.