Just over a week ago my family moved from NJ back to FL. Things were a little more expensive this time moving to FL versus 2 years ago when we moved to NJ, so we opted to go the rental truck route and drive it down. There was no way we were going to make such a long road trip with 3 kids, especially the 2 month old, and keep our sanity at the same time. So daddy drove the truck down with a friend and I flew with the kids – All. By. Myself. Turns out, it actually wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be, but I was also prepared. Doing anything with 3 small children is difficult enough, and we often wish we had some extra support. There are many ways you can get extra support with the kids for the stressful times, including support from an au pair. Having an au pair in your life means you can relax while your au pair gives you a hand in dealing with the kids. Not only that, but being an au pair hands cultural exchange students the opportunity to learn valuable life skills in caring for children, which you can hold on to for the rest of your life. If you are a foreign student looking for a cultural change while partaking in your studies, you might want to have a look at the Cultural Care Au Pair program. Anyway, here’s how I survived flying alone with 3 small kids.
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The flight from NJ to FL was to last around 3 hours. From gate to gate it was a little longer than that, but we were only in the air for about 2.5 hours, which isn’t that bad. I knew the kids would be pretty occupied while walking through the airport, so it was just the actual sitting time – waiting to board and the actual plane ride – that I needed to keep them busy.
As for the baby, I knew as long as he was fed and content that he’d be fine. What I worried about with him, though, was getting through the airport and security with all 3 kids, and then how to keep myself comfortable while on the plane since I was holding him as a lap infant. Three plus continuous hours is a long to time hold a baby, so I had to think about how I could keep the both of us comfortable.
Here’s everything I did to manage it all and ease my concerns!
One of the first things I did was plan the number of carry-ons we were going to have. Whether that meant checking a bag or limiting what we actually took with us, I wasn’t going to stress myself more than I had to by having multiple carry-ons. Between the 4 of us, we had just 2 carry-ons and didn’t even check a bag, which saved time.
My son carried his backpack and I carried a bag that had enough clothes for us all for just a couple of days. Daddy would be there in time for clean clothes or we could wash what we had with us if we needed to. The only other thing I needed was baby supplies (diapers, wipes, supplemental formula, burp cloth). I knew I could buy more once we got there, so I only carried enough to get the baby through a day or so.
With just 2 carry-ons, there was absolutely no stress ensuring we had all our bags with us.
To get through the airport fairly hands-free with all the kids I opted to check my Doona car seat/stroller at the gate. Since the wheels literally fold up under the car seat, I was able to get my son out of it at the security check and with the help of a fellow traveler behind me (because I was holding the baby at this point), we folded the wheels up and put the car seat on the belt. Once through security I was able to release the wheels and put my son back in the stroller without a hitch. Getting through security was a big relief.
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Not only did the Doona help me through the airport, but because it can be used without a car base, it also helped with travel after the flight. I had originally planned on just traveling with our Lillebaby carrier, but then I started thinking about how we’d get around once we arrived. If I didn’t take a car seat with us, the baby would have no seat for the car. So again, Doona to the rescue!
Even though I took the stroller, to keep me and baby comfortable during the flight, I decided to use a sling carrier. I actually put him in the carrier before we boarded the plane and prepared the Doona for gate check. With baby already in the carrier, once we got to the plane my hands were free to fold the wheels under the car seat and give it to the staff. Then we continued right onto the plane and to our seats. I was able to feed my son while he was in the carrier and he rested well in it too. I did have to take him out for takeoff and landing (per the flight attendant), but aside from that he was in his sling during the flight.
You may be wondering why I didn’t use my Lillebaby carrier since I recently raved all about it. Since I decided to travel with the Doona, I wanted a carrier that fit in my carry-on without taking up too much room. That’s exactly what my sling offered. If I hadn’t been traveling with the Doona, I definitely would have opted for our Lillebaby.
We had 3 seats and as previously mentioned, the baby was riding along in my lap. I decided it would probably be best for me to sit in between the 2 older kids because they have their moments. I was not about to referee unnecessary kiddie arguments during the flight.
From there I felt better having my older son in the aisle and my toddler by the window. I knew she’d be a wiggle worm, want to stand, do this and do that, and if she were by the window I could at least keep her contained and not running up/down the aisle. This seat arrangement worked perfectly for us!
The night before we were to leave, I charged the older kids’ LeapFrog tablets and I even bought them 2 new games, figuring something new would keep their attention longer. And it did. While waiting to board and then on the plane, one kid was on the LeapFrog Epic and the other was on the LeapFrog Platinum.
Having flown before, I knew it gets pretty cold on the plane. So in my son’s carry-on backpack not only was he carrying their tablets, but he also had a jacket for each of them and a small blanket for their legs just in case. It just so happened that my son was pretty exhausted (our flight left around 5 pm and we didn’t sleep much the night before) so shortly after takeoff he fell asleep. He slept pretty much the whole flight and I actually had to wake him up just before we landed. He didn’t even wake up for the drinks and snacks.
Did you know when traveling with small kids you can bring your own drinks and snacks from home? We didn’t have any snacks left at home since we were trying to eat everything before moving, but I did have some small cans of apple juice. And you better believe I packed them in my carry-on. We then bought some snacks before boarding.
I was a little concerned about giving my kids too much to drink because that means more potty breaks. Being by myself, I’d have to take all 3 kids to the plane bathroom if someone needed to go, and just thinking about that is too much. I made sure everyone went, or tried to go, before boarding, just to be on the safe side. Luckily, my older son slept most of the flight and the toddler was pretty occupied with her tablet, watching the TV on the plane, and looking out the window. We made it through the whole flight without needing a potty break. Phew!
That’s it! I can’t think of anything else I did to prepare for what I thought was going to be a grueling flight alone with 3 small kids. This was my infant son’s first plane ride and he did great. The other 2 kids did great, too. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and think my preparation went a long way.