Airplane-ing with kids in carseats
March 18, 2023 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Family of 4: 2 adults, 2 3.5 yr olds. Haven't been on a plane together since right before covid, and they flew as lap-kids then. Going from US east coast to US west coast on Southwest soon( a 2 week trip to make it worth it, and then back), with one intentional stop half way-ish for running around/burning off energy, and could use all the advice/social stories for the grown-ups!

We have tablets, headphones, other entertainment and activities squared away for kiddos. We're aware we'll have to sit in different rows, kid in window, adult in middle. We've been reading/watching kiddo social stories and cartoons about taking a plane trip with our neurotypical kids for weeks.
We'll be parking at "the parking spot" bc they help w luggage and we've had great experiences.
We're checking a stroller at the ticket counter and using 2 gogobabyz w the carseats through the airport (we've practiced riding in them and they love them).
I guess I'm looking for step by step current advice re:
-bringing strawcups full of cows milk w frozen pack in soft cooler through security (is it like w breastmilk/formula?)
-If you think we'll have to take them out of gogobabyz thing to get through security, that whole experience today (I used to travel a lot for work and have blessedly avoided it entirely since covid so am entirely out of practice. We'll be bringing 3 laptops)
-Any southwest specific advice
-any advice being a solo parent on 2 2.5 hr flights to a still diapered kid (we're working on it). Bc were each basically that for the trip.
-anything else? I'm anxious I know bc I hate making a scene. (That said, I won't be handing out earplugs and candy or whatever. We paid for their seats and we'll do our best.)
posted by atomicstone to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Bring, or have available, some kind of cushion or pillow in case kiddo finds it fun to kick the back of the seat in front of them.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:18 AM on March 18

-bringing strawcups full of cows milk w frozen pack in soft cooler through security (is it like w breastmilk/formula?)
There's an exception for "toddler drinks" along with breastmilk but also remember you can just buy milk once you're through security - it might be easier than worrying about ice packs and spilling straw cups.

And yes the kids are going to have to come out of the gogobabyz to go through security - you'll most likely need to carry them in your arms through the metal detector. The gogobabyz will also need to be x-rayed.
posted by mskyle at 4:42 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]

You can also bring empty sippy cups or whatever through security and then fill them on the other side, which is easier. I don't know at what age the toddler drinks cut off, but that's what we did travelling with my kids at about that age. On a flight I was on recently I watched a mum get a warm oat milk at Starbucks at the gate for her child's sippy cup and I was like...genius.

Other tips:

- do you use the kid backpack/'leash' things? If so, we found that great for moments like repacking at security. Ours was a vest, so it could stay on through the metal detector. But only pack them if you will actually use them because the less you have the better.

- simplest possible clothing for everyone. With what sounds like twins you could probably get away with packing fewer changes of clothes.

- diaper change just before pre-boarding, change again one the seatbelt sign is off, again before landing. Even though it's wasteful it helped a lot for comfort and timing. If you're at pull-up stage that's a lot easier to handle in airplane washrooms. I had small scissors in case of number twos but hopefully pull-up design has gotten even better.

- tantrums may happen and if so, just remember - everyone on the plane was a toddler once even if they forgot to grow out of scowling at others having a hard time. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:59 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Lean in to the novelty and hubbub of the airport and watch the planes and machines. Take them out of the stroller (put some of your stuff in) and let them walk to tire them out before you get on the flight.

+1 to every internet parent recommending many snacks. Get milk on the other side of security.

Change diaper before boarding.
posted by paradeofblimps at 8:01 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]

More generally for short people not yet fully in control of their own physiology, don't stuff them full on the way up or cruising. Make sure they are hungry enough to chew and/or swallow reliably during the descent and final approach. Easiest way to ensure no ear discomfort as even at 3.5 they probably can't yet clear their own ears. Amazes when people feed a sleepy baby "on schedule" on the way up only to have the kid not interested in feeding while shrieking with ear pain on the way down. Best advice we ever got for flying with our kids...
posted by chasles at 8:06 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

If you don’t have TSA Precheck and have time to get it before your trip, do it! Not having to remove things from your bags (including laptops IIRC) and mess with shoes makes security way easier. Having to keep track of children, their stuff, your stuff, the stroller or car seat carrier (which will make its own trip through the metal detector) is plenty!

You will have to remove them from any stroller/car seat and carry them through the metal detector.

Just buy milk on the other side of security- any coffee shop can hook you up if they don’t have bottles for sale at the newsstands.

Flying with a 13 month old, I just changed his diaper before we got on the plane and then didn’t change him on the plane for a similar length flight. I would only change in the airplane bathroom if you absolutely have to, honestly. My sister in law actually recommended overnight diapers for the plane for more capacity and comfort.
posted by MadamM at 9:50 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Dress them cute, keep them clean.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:34 AM on March 18

Pack lots of activities. There are these coloring books that use water (example) that can serve as 20-30 minutes of entertainment for kids that age. Load your devices up with cartoons/movies, get some kid-friendly headphones. Lots of snacks as everyone said. They'll probably be fine, and as much as you can remember to manage your own stress and try not to let it through, that helps because they will react to you.
posted by ch1x0r at 2:45 PM on March 18

I'd consider checking the carseats and gatechecking the stroller for ease of transit. Convertible carseats are a beast to install on planes. I used a CARES harness with my kiddo at that age so I didn't have to lug it on. My kid rear faced at that age in the car but the harness made life so much easier. Bonus of checking the carseats is you can stuff extra diapers in the bags.

TSA will likely expect them to walk through on their own. I'm not sure at what age they cut you off from bringing milk on, but they are fine with applesauce and yogurt pouches if your kids like those. I would reduce what you are carrying on as much as possible to make TSA easier. You will have to take the laptops out at security unless you have precheck. My plan at TSA with precheck is always to put my backpack and pocket stuff through first. Still good advice without it.

Southwest has family boarding, so you will be able to board between A and B groups. Lollipops at takeoff and landing.

If they aren't potty trained by the trip, have twice the diapers you think you need, two extra outfits for each of them, and an extra shirt for each parent to be safe. If you're going to bring the carseats, put a pad of some sort (we had something called the car seat saver) just in case so there isn't a wet seat for the plane ride.

You can do this! I flew a lot with my kiddo preCOVID and now she handles her own backpack and suitcase in the airport at 6, which is pretty great.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:40 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for so much advice and soothing. We DO have precheck!
They are tiny little buggers (2%ilte, but always on their growth curve, yay!), and I don't trust them not to wiggle out of the TSA approved harness things yet (but I think theyre great for the future!). We have stripped down cosco sceneras for the airplane and the 2 week trip.
All this advice has been really helpful, especially re milk, and would love to see more if you want to give it.
PS:I plan to "award" best answers to most/all of you after at least our flight there. Seems more authentic lol).
posted by atomicstone at 2:17 PM on March 20

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