January 2, 2014

Getting Ready for Vacation: Preparing to Fly with Children

We'll be flying out of Cleveland straight through to LA.  Flight time is 5 hours and 17 minutes.  The flight on the way home is 4 hours and 33 minutes.

Transportation to Airport: My parents will meet us at our house at 6 am and drive my van to the airport, 1 hour away.  Then they'll drop the van back at our house and pick up their car.  They'll repeat the trip on the day we come home but luckily it won't be so early in the morning.  This saves us $ since we won't have to pay to park at the airport for the week.

Checking Luggage vs Carry On:  I learned the hard way that trying to carry everything onto the plane just isn't worth the $ savings when traveling with small children. 
  • What we'll be checking:
    • $25 - 1 large suit case - with mostly only my clothing, shoes etc.  But this will also hold all of our toiletries.  Full size shampoos, conditioners, tooth pastes, hair spray/gel, and so on.  All those little bottles of liquids add up, so instead of buying lots of little bottles, we pay the $25 baggage fee to check one bag and just use what we have on hand at home to pack.
    • Free - Car Seat Bag - I will only need to take 1 car seat bag this time which is great!  Both of the girls booster seats should fit in the 1 car seat bag.  It's free to check car seats and I can sneak a few extras in the bag if I need some extra packing room.
    • Free - Stroller checked at the gate - We have a double stroller that has 1 seat in the front and then a platform/ledge on the back for Big R to stand on or sit on.  This is also a great thing to have since we can pile all the carry on items onto it and just push everything instead of carrying it.  We take the stroller all the way to the gate.  When we give the airline attendant our ticket to get on the plane, they give us a tag to put on the stroller.  We then collapse the stroller and leave it buy the door on the plane.  Someone gets it, stows it under the plane and it's waiting for us when we get off at our destination.  We've done this many times and have never had a problem. 
  • Carry Ons -
    • Each girl gets a small back pack to put toys and entertainment items in that she can stow under the seat in front of her. 
    • They also each have their own small suitcase they can carry on and we'll stow in the overhead compartments. 
    • Mr. R might need his own suit case in which he'll carry on or else he can share mine.  We'll have a lot less luggage now that both the girls are out of diapers.
    • I also carry a book bag with anything else we'll need (this replaces my purse for the trip).  Snacks, magazines for Mr. R, my nook, antibacterial gel, lotion.  It seems like we still carry a lot on but we can stack everything in the stroller and push it.
Entertainment - If we have a plane that has the tv screens in the back of the headrest of the seat in front of us, we may purchase the TV for Mr. R to watch.  I don't remember how much this was last time, I think around $5.  For the girls:
  • Big R has a nook she just got for Christmas and a V-reader that she's had for a while.  Both devises have plenty of books and games for her to play.  She has some Christmas money so I'll help her pick out some videos, books and games to download before we go.  Plus I can add lots of books for free to her nook through the library.
  • Little R got an Innotab for Christmas so I will use some of her Christmas money to download games, shows and books for her.
  • The girls pick some small quiet toys to put in their book bags: crayons, coloring books, notebooks, cards.
  • Before we go, I'll pick up a few "surprise" toys from the dollar store or on clearance so when they get bored I can give them something new to keep them busy.
  • I'll have my nook and Mr. R will probably bring a book and a couple magazines.
Food, snacks and beverages:
  • Drinks are free which is great!  We'll let the girls get pop or something special that they don't normally get to drink instead of making them drink water.  This will hopefully make the trip more fun and enjoyable.
  • Because our flight is over 3.5 hours, we will have the option of purchasing food off the snack menu or bistro menu.  Here's some examples of what is on the menu:  EXPENSIVE!
    • Haribo Gummy Bears $3.99Hummus and pita chips $3.99
    • Classic Snack Box $7.49 includes applesauce, gold fish crackers, cheddar cheese spread, pepperoni, crackers, candy and oreos
    • Ham and Cheddar Baguette and other sandwiches - $8.99 each
  • We'll probably pick up burger king sausage, egg and cheese croissants on the way and get the girls French toast sticks.  We have an hour drive to the airport.
  • I also pack a gallon sized zip lock bag full of plenty of different type of snacks to have on hand.  I try to buy fun things that I don't normally purchase.  It helps keep the kids satisfied and Mr. R away from buying lots of food at the air port and on the plane.  I'll pack things like boxes of raisons, breadsticks with cheese dip packets, fruit snacks, suckers, gold fish crackers in fun flavors, dried cherries, beef jerky, etc.
It's a lot of work flying with young children, but with lots of planning it will hopefully go smoothly and be an enjoyable part of our trip for the girls.  I hate flying, but driving from Ohio to California is not an option.


  1. Great post! I've never flown with children but I would like to. What is a car seat bag?

    1. Car seat bags r basically a bag to put the car seat in. I don't think you have to have one but it protects the car seat and belts from damage. Plus I can add some extra luggage in with it and its free to check. The first one I bought was the cheapest basic one that just had a shoulder strap. It was still a pain to carry so when we needed a second bag for taking 2 carseats with us, I bought one that has wheels on the bottom and its more convenient.

  2. I had never heard of a car seat bag, but I guess it makes sense. Parents have to transport all of those things, but I guess I've never seen it on my travels, or wondered about it. When you are packing your food, make sure it is as simple and visible as possible, and put it in clear bags. All it takes is one spiteful TSA agent to make you throw your food that is wrapped in foil, or dips because they are too liquid, or gels because they are not clear and they can't see through it. If you are into crystal lights/propel/MiO, those are good water alternatives. You can carry empty water bottles with you, and fill them up once you're through security, add the powder or liquid water flavorant and you're good to go. Don't forget gum or hard chewing candy for the kids! I always seem to forget gum on my trip back, and my ears end up hurting for days. Also, tell them to yawn when their ears start hurting. That also helps release the pressure.

    1. I do use a clear bag for snacks. Thanks for reminding me about gum. I don't usually chew it but the girls might need it and they'll be excited to get it.
      I had a TSA almost take away one of my daughters toys once. It was a stuffed turtle that had water in its belly with sea creatures floating around. It wasnt very much water. My daughter was only 1 at the time. It never even occurred to me that it might not get past security. But the TSA asked for a second opinion and they let us through.