10 tips for flying with kids

We are not newbies when it comes to travel. We've flown on more planes than I can count and therefore have experienced our fair share of hiccups along the way. That old saying that you can never be too prepared? Totally true, especially in the case of flying. A few scenarios that we can add to our "learned the hard way" list:

- baby with explosive up-the-back diarrhea, running out of diapers and not packing an extra outfit thus having to dish out some outrageous amount of money for a 5-pack of Pampers and a scratchy size 2T "Welcome to Chicago" t-shirt from an airport gift shop

- getting stuck on the tarmack for over 2.5 hours with 2 kids under 3 due to a weather delay, then finally taking off 3.5 hours late making our arrival time at home after midnight

- potty-trained child falls asleep on the plane, waking in a puddle of pee on the seat. I dig through my carry-on, and find that the extra clothes I thought I packed were actually swapped out with a pull-up that I was going to put on him "just in case". With no time in between our connecting flights to search for an overpriced alternative, I remember that I wrapped a breakable item in my sons swim trunks. So, on a flight back to Kentucky in January, my 4 year old donned the cutest navy and white board shorts. And no skivvies.

Whether you are traveling with 1 child or 5, alone or with a helper (spouse, friend, mom, etc.), here are some ways you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully have a smooth travel experience with your kids:
  1. Pack extra clothes IN A CARRY-ON BAG for each family member. In fact, put each person's extra clothes into a large zip-loc labeled with their name. I know it takes up a lot of space but trust me, almost every time I've flown at least one person has needed to change. Whether it is because someone pukes, pees, poos up the back or spills something, it never fails. Better be safe than sorry. Then, the wet/soiled clothes can go right into the zip-loc bag to keep it from contaminating the rest of the stuff. I've found that it works well to pack the extra clothes in a squishable bag - that way you can simply shove it in the overhead bin during the flight and not have to mess with it unless you need it. Hopefully you don't :)

  2. Pack as if you might get stuck in the airport/airplane. There are so many factors that could delay your itinerary - weather, mechanical issues, maintenance issues (remember when my kid peed in his seat? I guarantee the next flight was "delayed" in order to disinfect...sorry people!), delayed incoming flights, personnel issues, etc. It seems that cancelled and delayed flights have become the norm. Most important/useful items: more than enough formula for the wee ones, batteries and/or power cords for kids gadgets, cell phone chargers, snacks, a small toiletry bag with toothbrush/paste, contact case and solution, glasses, deodorant.

  3. Bring a small backpack for each child. Allow them to fill it with a few small books, games, toys and snacks of their choosing. Keep in mind that you won't want to pack anything with a lot of pieces. Think chunky toys, coloring pads with a ziploc of crayons/markers (we keep a bag specifically for travel - some that aren't brand new that way if they roll down the plane behind you on takeoff you won't stress about leaving them behind...) again, speaking from experience here :) If your kids are big enough, have them carry it themselves. Whatever doesn't fit in that bag stays home.

  4. Bring a secret "back-up" bag of stuff for the kids. Use only when needed. Murphy's law seems to apply quite often when traveling. Their best and favorite toys that just-had-to-come-with suddenly lose all appeal the second they unzip their bag on the plane. Grab a few extras that you think they'll like and stash them inside your own carry-on. Your kids will think you're magic when you pull a beloved toy/book out of thin air. Bam!

  5. Invest in some kind of device that plays movies. Kindle nook, iPad, iTouch, kids tablet, portable DVD player...whatever you choose will be WELL WORTH the money. Just remember to load it up with movies/shows/books well before you are supposed to be walking out the door. And also remember to charge it the night before. And to bring the power cords (for use in the terminal before boarding) and some headphones. An empty, dead electronic device with no power cord does nobody any good. (Yup, totally been there!)

  6. Allow each child a "flying allowance" - a certain amount of money they may spend at the airport or on the plane. Maybe $5, just enough to buy a bag of candy or an upgraded snack on the plane, whatever it is will add a small amount of excitement to the trip.

  7. Bring some chewing gum. This seems to help with ear popping during takeoff and landing. If you know your kid has an ear infection, you may want to give them a dose of Tylenol about an hour before the flight too.

  8. Pack a fair amount of Wet-Ones (or other disinfecting wipes of your choice). I'm a mild germophobe and people let me tell you, airplanes are filthy. I don't let my kids touch a single thing until it's been wiped down and sanitized (the armrests, tray tables, windows, seat backs, seat belts, you name it).

  9. And on that note, bring some Air-Borne. I am not exactly sure what the stuff is or how it works, but it claims to keep the germs that are trapped in the plane with you for 2 hours from getting you sick. That lady that's hacking her lungs out in the row in front of you? Dis.gust.ing. If I could keep my mouth and nose closed for an entire flight I would.

  10. Pack some kids meds. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have been a little relieved when my kids wake up with a slight runny nose on the morning of a trip. Because when they do, I feel a little less guilty about loading them up with Benadryl. But it's also helpful to have some Pepto Bismol (for upset tummies), pain reliever (see #7) and Neosporin (to immediately apply to scrapes and scratches they might get on a germ-infested plane).

I hope these tips are helpful when you are planning your next trip with kids. Every flying experience seems to bring up some new challenge, so if you have any tips of your own, feel free to add them in the comments!

Happy flying!

Our "other" Christmas

To say our holiday trip was a whirlwind is an understatement. Here is a summary (and this is the short way of doing things...) I'm not exaggerating when I say we barely had a second to breathe in between each of the below activities:

  • Pack a bajillion suitcases and carry-ons and *just barely* fit them into the car on Wednesday night
  • Wake up at some insanely early time (2am) Thursday morning to get all family members dressed, teeth brushed, fed and loaded into the car to head for the airport where we are literally some of the first people there for our 6am flight
  • Fly Austin to Memphis - Memphis to Cincinnati - arrive 12:15pm
  • Surprised at airport by sister and her girls, picked up by my dad
  • Head to Nana and Grandpa's house
  • Unload our bajillion suitcases and escape for an hour to enjoy a kid-menu-free lunch (thanks to Grandpa for offering to watch the kiddos)
  • Hurry home, take 4 of the bigger kids to Santa's workshop at Newport on the Levee
  • Go back to Nana's and struggle to put 2 overly exhausted boys to bed
  • 9:30am appointment at Portrait Innovations to have all 9 "Pike" grand-kids photo taken (ages 5 mos, two 1-year olds, two 4-year olds, 5, 6, 7, and 9)
  • After 30 minutes and 2 separate attempts at trying to get all 9 to look! smile! quit picking your nose!, we choose the best of the worst and call it a success
  • Hurry home, get changed and ready for Hudson's baptism to be held at 1pm
  • Go to church for ceremony then to my sister's house for a little celebration
  • Send Ricky and boys down to his parents house in my mom's van - I stay in NKY at my parents for the night
  • Drive to Louisville with mom and sister for my cousin's wedding shower
  • Leave shower and get dropped off at my in-laws in Indiana
  • Change clothes and head back to Louisville for a friend's wedding
  • Get back to in-laws sometime after midnight
  • 9:30 am - meet friends and their kids at the Louisville Science Center
  • 11:30 am - meet Ricky's side of the family for lunch before our 1:00 pm appointment to have all 7 "Skees" grand-kids photo taken (ages 5 mos, two 4-year olds, two 5-year olds, 7 and 10)
  • Head back to in-laws to celebrate Ricky's birthday (a little early) and visit with 2 friends and their little girl

  • Christmas Eve! 
  • Go to church and then back to in-laws to hang with the whole Skees family
  • Exchange gifts for 3 hours (!), eat way too much food and way too much sugar, spend the rest of night praying my kids will pleasejustgotosleepalready...and then they finally do
  • Christmas morning!
  • Wake up super early, pack up our bajillion bags and drive my parents van back to their house in KY
  • Have brunch and exchange gifts with my side of the family
  • Help mom take down all Christmas decorations (they were leaving the next day for Florida for an extended period of time)

  • Help parents get on the road to Florida
  • Repack our bajillion bags and head to my sister's house for the night
  • Enlist the help of my sister's neighbor to get our family to the airport in the morning
  • Forget Aiden's glasses in my sister's bathroom - make my sister drive home, retrieve them and bring them to the airport before our flight departs (so totally NOT part of the plan...oopsy!)
  • Fly Cincinnati to Atlanta - Atlanta to Tampa
  • Get picked up by our personal chauffeurs - my parents
  • Drive 45 minutes to their condo in Clearwater Beach
  • Decide that Friday's weather looks more promising than Saturday's for our trip to DisneyWorld
  • Wake up insanely early and make the 1.5 hour drive to Orlando
  • Spend 10 hours at the happiest place on earth
  • Drive 1.5 hours back to the condo

  • Run errands with the kids while the guys watch football at a bar
  • Wake up insanely early and take Ethan hunting for shells on the beach - freeze our hineys off
  • Go to church
  • Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • Celebrate the boys' birthdays (a bit early)
  • Ricky and I make our escape -- we dump leave the kids with my parents and head for our mini-vacation 30 minutes south in Treasure Island...

  • Lots of relaxing, adult drinks, and quiet kid-free time...the rest shall remain between us :)

  • Get picked up once again by our personal chauffeur and head back to reality
  • Drop our bags at the condo and take the kids for a picnic lunch on the beach
  • Go on a 2 hour pirate ship cruise with the boys
  • Spend the rest of the evening packing our bajillion bags (and arrange to ship all our extra goodies we've accumulated on the trip back to Texas in big boxes)
  • Escape for dinner and a movie with my mom

  • Finish packing
  • Take the kids to Tampa's children's museum (it is AWESOME by the way)
  • Meet Uncle Kenny and Mary Alice for dinner - our first time eating Thai
  • Drive back to Clearwater Beach

DAY SIXTEEN - Final Day!
  • Eat breakfast, load van, head to airport
  • Fly Tampa to Atlanta - Atlanta to Austin
  • Take shuttle and our bajillion bags to our car in long-term parking, car battery deader than a doornail
  • Get the battery jumped and drive 40 minutes home sweet freakin' home
Yes, folks. That was our trip. We were happy to be able to see so many people and do so many things but MAN ALMIGHTY we are pooped. 

It's time to get back into a routine.

And to unpack our bajillion bags...


Christmas at "Home"

Since we moved to Texas, there was one trip that we knew without a doubt would be on our calendar every year and that was to head back to Kentucky and Indiana for Christmas. Ricky and I are both very close with our families and giving up the family traditions at this time of year wasn't an option.

As our family has grown, the traveling has become both more important (to get the cousins together and for our extended family to see the kids) and more difficult (flying and/or driving with 3 small kids in tow = stressful on our minds and wallets). It also means that we have had to adjust our own family traditions here in Texas to accommodate our traveling.

For the past 3 years we have made it work by writing a letter to Santa asking him to come early. We explain that we will not be at our house on Christmas Day but that we would love for him to visit us on some designated date that best fits our schedule. Having Ethan in Kindergarten this year has made it even more complicated but alas, the letter went in the mail to the North Pole and we counted down the days to our "maybe Santa will come if he can make it work" day. We try to keep an element of mystery to make it more fun for the kids.

So, on December 14th, we baked cookies for Santa, sprinkled reindeer food in the yard and listened to great-grandma's sorely missed voice read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (those Hallmark recordable books are a treasure I tell you). We snuggled the boys in their beds and told them that IF Santa could make it work, he would visit us that night. A full 10 days early. While it does lose some of it's magic for us, we have to do what we have to do I guess and the boys don't mind one bit.

I thought ages 3 and 4 were fun last year but 4 and 5 were even more fun this time around. The boys lists were more creative (and robust) this year and the excitement coursing through their bodies the night before and on "Christmas" morning was enough to power a small village. We try to emphasize the reason for the holiday, talking a lot about the birth of Jesus and making sure the boys understand that it is never about how many presents are under the tree. I feel comfortable saying that my boys "get it". But let's face it, the excitement that lives in their hearts at this age is all about the gifts.

Aiden was most excited about his new orange Razor scooter and Ethan loved his Polaroid camera (he kept telling me he wanted "one of those cameras that spits out a real picture right when you take it). The other loot included various Star Wars, Angry Birds and lego stuff. But I must say that I need to remember not to give away all the good ideas to my mom and mother-in-law, as it seemed they were more excited about the things each of them got them the following week!

I must have been a very good girl this year as I received a brand new laptop...although Santa got a little tied up and special delivered it a few days late via UPS but hey, I'm not complaining! It came just in time to have it stare at me from atop the box begging me to play on it as I scurried around packing and preparing for our 2 week trip. Although it did make it's way into my carry-on so I had some play-time while we were away :)

Of course the best gift I could have received this year came in a 6 lb. 11 oz. package back in July. Last year at this time we were just sharing the news with family and friends - after a year of trying and two miscarriages, we were finally going to be adding baby #3 to our family. As we visited with family last year, I remember saying "next year at this time we will have a 4 month old baby at Christmas". Fast forward to July and Hudson joined the world 4 weeks early. So instead we had a 5 month old baby at Christmas! What a blessing he has been. We truly couldn't be happier. I am one happy momma!

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas - whether you spent it at home, with family or had to travel to be with loved ones!