Flying solo for the first time with two kids was off to a great start. My husband drove us right next to Southwest’s curbside check-in where I was able to check my suitcase. One heavy piece of luggage unloaded! Before kids I would try my best to always travel with carry-on (one suitcase and my laptop bag). Now with kids, I’m still trying to be minimal, but it’s tough with a 2 month old baby in tow.
It took about two days to pack and prepare for our trip from Oakland to San Diego. Not a huge trip of course, but packing for three and my first time flying alone with them took some strategy. Here’s what I ended up with for our luggage:
My Suitcase – the size of a carry-on, but can expand. There is a zippered pocket section that I used to pack my newborn’s clothes. One suitcase for two people = success!
My 3 Year Old’s Suitcase – If you haven’t seen a Trunki yet, check it out! Yes, I could also check her suitcase at curbside, but her suitcase has wheels and she can ride it or pull it herself!
I’ve learned I can’t overpack a Trunki since they are a bit tough to close when stuffed. It comes with straps to keep clothes in place and then it shuts and locks on each side.
There is a strap that can be used as a shoulder bag, or you can unclip one side and pull it through the airport with your toddler happily riding along.
My Laptop Bag – aside from my laptop, I pack extra diapers, two swaddle blanket (I can use these on the plane if it’s chilly and to use when nursing on take-off), Sleep Sheep (my baby’s sound machine), and a few surprise items for my toddler to do on the plane (a new coloring book, stickers, and snacks).
Diaper Bag – aside from diapers (not too many since you can always get diapers at your destination), and wipes, this is where I pack the liquids that can be traveled with for babies. I packed a sippy water bottle for my toddler (you can also bring on water and formula to mix bottles), yogurt, and two pouches. As long as the pouches are 3.4 ounces or below, they don’t need additional checks at security. Most pouches are 4 ounces or more, so these will need to be vapor tested. After you go through security, you will need to open up the pouches and security waves a paper vapor stick over the pouch and then sends you on your way. Since I knew my three-year old would eat both pouches on the flight, opening them a little early was fine. I place all of my liquids in a ziploc bag and pull them out of the diaper bag and place them in the bin to go through security. This seems to save a bit of time. Otherwise, security can confiscate your diaper bag to have an agent go through it.
Aside from liquids, I packed a nursing cover, a change of clothes for my toddler, and two outfits for the baby, hand sanitizer, a travel pack of Clorox wipes (to wipe down our section of the plane – this is mainly for the toddler. My newborn is too small and sleepy to really be touching anything), a travel changing pad (changing a baby in the airplane bathroom is challenging – especially when you have to bring a toddler in there with you…I prefer to lay the changing pad in my lap and change her right there in my seat if I have to….sorry to the people sitting in the aisle seat next to us!), a birth certificate for the baby (this is required if you are flying with a lap child under the age of two years old). My last item is a small one, but very important when traveling with a toddler. A lollipop. Flying with a lollipop is a must. It helps on take off and landing with ear pressure.
Stroller – we have a Britax. This collapses down compact and is pretty lightweight for travel
Car seat and Base – since our newborn is only two months old, I kept the car seat attached to the stroller to go through security and then check it at the gate. I slid the base (this will go in the car upon our arrival to San Diego) in the bottom of the stroller. When our newborn is older I will definitely check the carseat and base at curbside do we don’t have to deal with it.
Two Red Gate Check Bags – these are nothing fancy, but they protect the carseat and stroller and they are bright and can be easily seen. When we traveled with just our toddler I never saw these in airports, but now I am seeing more of them.
Baby Carrier – this is a must with newborns in airports. You can’t wear your baby going through security or during take-off or landing (FAA regulation), but navigating the airport if they don’t want to be in the stroller, getting onto the plane once your carseat and stroller is gate checked, and once you’ve reached that cruising altitude, the carrier is so ideal. I use a Baby Bjorn, but slings are also great!
Once we had all of our gear situated, and one bag checked, my husband got back in the car, one final wave goodbye, and we were off to the next checkpoint of our travels – Security. Dun Dun Dun…This was the part that I was trying to strategize ahead of time. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
We showed our boarding passes, and emerged into the gauntlet of conveyor belts, plastic buckets, body scans, and pat downs. I tried my best to get in the line with other people traveling with kids, so I wouldn’t feel so rushed and also to see if I could find a new friend to help me. Two parties ahead of me was a family traveling with kids. We approached the stacks of bins. I put the Trunki directly on the conveyor belt, and pulled out my laptop. The diaper bag was on its way, as well as the car seat base. Ok, now the tricky part. I had to get the baby out of the car seat. I can’t put her in the Bjorn through security so that idea is out. I needed to have both hands free to detach the carseat from the stroller. Even with two hands, that proves difficult. And then somehow collapse the stroller and fling it upward onto the conveyor belt. I think I just spent too much time thinking. I looked over my shoulder. A solo male traveler was behind me. He didn’t make eye contact. I got the baby out and tried my best to one arm that carseat out of its stroller lock. Who am I kidding? This was going to be impossible without help. My toddler was already talking with a security agent getting a sticker badge. The family ahead of me was long gone to their gate.
“Sir. Excuse me sir!” the security agent called to the man behind me.
“Are you going to help your wife, sir?” she demanded.
I spun around with baby in arms.
“He’s not my…” I said back to her. The man behind me looked embarrassed as most people in earshot of us were looking at our scene.
“Sorry honey! There I go making life assumptions again.” she said. “I’ll help you out! How do I work this thing?”
My new friend the security agent helped me unlock the car seat and my assumed husband, I’m sure feeling a bit pressured into the situation, helped collapse the stroller.
We made it through!
Now, to gather all of our stuff and put it all back together again….
Thankfully my new friends still had my back and helped reassemble my gear.
We departed the security gauntlet and rolled to the next challenge…waiting at the gate to board.
I went straight to the gate desk and received gate check tags for both the stroller and the car seat. If you don’t get these ahead of time, you might cause a delay in your boarding line. This time, I went to seek out a friend to help me take apart my gear and place the car seat, base and stroller into my red gate check bags. When it was time to board, I put the baby in my carrier, and a new friend helped me with my gate check items.
We were on the plane, luggage stowed and were ready for take off. After all the logistics of packing, security, and gate checking, the flight was smooth. My toddler loves to fly and I think it has helped that she’s spent her first three years doing a lot of flying. She knows what to do. She even understands that the tray table isn’t a toy! After take-off I put the newborn back in the Bjorn and she fell back asleep for the remainder of the flight. As for me, I ate pretzels and peanuts for three.
Arrived in San Diego!