While there are many similarities to train travel alone with two small children, it’s worth highlighting a few key tips and tricks to make your airport experience a little easier. Even though some aspects of air travel are painful — limits on liquids, arriving hours before takeoff, airplane changing tables that are smaller than babies — I generally prefer planes to trains because the kids can’t escape between departure and arrival!
One of the main reasons Matt and I moved to London was to take advantage of easy, cheap and fast travel around Europe. We really wanted to explore this side of the world, and we certainly couldn’t let a couple of babies get in the way! I firmly believe that travel is great for children. My kids are really adaptable to new rooms, new beds, new routines and new faces. Plus, they see their parents pursuing their passions.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was the amount of solo travel I’d be doing. Matt is usually away for business during the week, so to sneak in a weekend trip, I have to meet him at our chosen destination. That means getting myself, the kids and our luggage to the airport, surviving the trip, and arriving at the hotel/Airbnb… alone. I was honestly not sure I could manage that, but given the alternative (not travelling), I decided to try.
I have learned a LOT in the dozen or so trips that I’ve done alone with the kids. So, without further ado, here are my tips!
Getting to the Airport
I like to travel as light as possible to ensure that I can manage both kids and our luggage. I use a lightweight travel stroller, a carrier that either Auden or Tristan can ride in, and a large backpack or small suitcase.
I put Tristan in the stroller for two reasons: first, it’s easier to lift the whole stroller up the stairs with the smaller child in it; and second, the toddler sometimes insists on walking. I always wear the carrier on my back so I can pick up the stroller. Even when I’m carrying Tristan, who can still fit on my front, I need to be able to help Auden in the bathroom, and navigate my life without his grubby hands mashing my face.
Even though Auden is old enough to walk, she is still too young for those intense travel hustles. You know the ones, where you’re trying to run for your gate or squeeze your way into the tram because the next one isn’t for 8 minutes. Sometimes, you just need your toddler to be firmly attached to your body and moving at the same speed, in the same direction.
- Pack more than enough diapers for the journey, but plan to buy the main supply at your destination. I like to plan for one diaper every 2 hours because you shouldn’t need that many, but you really don’t want to run out. I buy a weekend supply at a local shop. Yes, it’s more expensive per diaper than the massive bulk packages I order online, but at least I’m not wasting half my carry-on space.
- Pack enough clothing for the kids to have 2 outfits per day, and carry on at least that many changes. Auden once went through 2 outfits in a single plane ride, and travelled the rest of the way home in a diaper and socks. I’m pretty sure everyone who saw me questioned the wisdom of my 8-months-pregnant belly while my 1.5 year old was nearly naked.
- Factor in at least 50% more travel time to get to the airport and to your gate. If it takes 30 minutes to get from your home to the airport, call it 45-60. If you usually take 15 minutes to walk from security to your gate, double that, too. You will always be able to get food or play a game in your spare time, but a missed flight will ruin your weekend.
- Find out if there is a children’s play area in the airport, and use it!
- Use wipes and hand sanitiser on the trays, armrests and children as soon as you get to your seats. The kids are going to touch everything and then they’ll want more snacks.
- Try to get a window seat. It’s more comfortable to lean against, and if your kid(s) do fall asleep, other people aren’t trapped in their seats. Plus, tiny children are always trying to escape into the aisle if it’s right there.
- Bring snacks and water. This always, always bears repeating.
- Request a baby bassinet for as long as you can physically contain your baby in it. Those seats have more room, so your older child can play, and you’ll get a break from the sweaty, heavy baby on your lap.
- Get a travel stroller that fits in the overhead bin or under the seat. When you gate check a stroller, it is not guaranteed to be delivered to the gate at the other end, so you might end up trying to carry both kids and your bags all the way to the luggage carousel. Checked items also get incredibly dirty, manhandled and germy.
- I have the GB Pockit, which fits under the seat. It’s the lightest and smallest-folding option on the market. This also helps when I’m carrying it up the stairs by myself. I often wish I had the Babyzen Yoyo for its smoother ride, larger sun shade and basket, and taller handles. Unfortunately, it’s double the price.
- If you can’t get a travel stroller, you definitely should get a protective bag. This applies to car seats as well. You know your kid chews on the straps and rubs their face all over the surfaces! I have the Gate Check Pro from Amazon (similar here) and it’s completely sufficient.
- For our family, the iPad is a special travel treat. Make sure you have enough episodes of your child’s entertainment downloaded and available offline, and that the device battery is charged.
- Buy children’s headphones (and don’t forget them, as I have done multiple times). Don’t be that parent with annoying kiddy entertainment on blast… if I forget the headphones, they watch on silent. Once Tristan starts getting screen time, my next purchase will be bluetooth children’s headphones so that both kids can pair to the iPad.
Take a look at my train travel post for other ideas, how I carry two small kids, and more pictures!