Traveling with little kids? Been there, done that, loved it. Most of the time. As for the other times, some of the blame falls on me because I forgot something.
We all do. A mother I know told me she once forgot to bring a ratty, old stuffed animal and paid the price. Toddler: "Where Pinky Pig go?" Mom: "Uh, he decided to stay home." This was followed by loud and lengthy opposition to the pig's staycation plans.
Lucky for me, my daughter's a teen now which means it's time to pass the torch and my trusty travel checklist to a new generation of young parents.
7 Things No Parent Should Forget
Keep this checklist (along with your packing list) inside your traveling bag.
1. Don't forget to check flight details
If it's been awhile since you made reservations, check your itinerary on the airline site. Usually airlines notify you about changes, but they don't always point out every single little detail and here's the perfect example.
An acquaintance was told by Airline X that a connecting flight had changed which meant she'd arrive in Atlanta earlier than planned. No big deal, she thought, until she figured out her brief layover was now 7½ hours long, and she was traveling with three little kids. Then she noticed Airline X could have put the family on an earlier outbound flight to avoid the long layover but they didn't do it. Luckily, our frantic flyer was able to switch things around with no fee penalty. Good thing she was on the ball and noticed these details.
2. Don't forget to check the seats
Sometimes airlines pull a seat switcheroo which you don't find out about until you board the plane (this can occur when there's an unanticipated change in aircraft). This also happened to my Airline X friend but she caught it in time to make a fix. If she hadn't, well, just picture 18 month old twins seated ten rows behind their parents (but also picture the haunted-looking passenger seated beside the little ones). Check your flights and seats, then check them again.
Note: On long flights with children, you might want to select an aisle seat for yourself. I'm thinking of all those trips to the restroom with little ones (don't knock it, it can tire them out).
3. Don't forget the paperwork
If traveling with a lap child, a youngster under the age of two who can fly for free if he or she sits on your lap, bring a copy of the little one's birth certificate. Chances are no one will ask for it, but it could come in handy if anyone questions the child's age and you need to prove it. If you can't, you could be stuck paying for another full-price adult ticket.
4. Don't forget the hardware
Did you borrow or buy an FAA-approved child-restraint seat for the plane? Good idea, just don't forget to bring it. Your airline might have a spare onboard but that's about as likely as the flight attendants suddenly deciding to offer free champagne in coach.
5. Don't forget the software
Real 'soft' stuff like pacifiers, blankets, much-loved stuffed animals plus candy and other treats as bribes for good behavior (yes, I've stooped to that). Also, please don't forget diapers. A former Pan Am flight attendant once told me about a passenger who gave her young child a 'newspaper toilet'; afterwards, the mother carefully folded it up and handed it to the flight attendant. Flight attendant was speechless. Bring diapers and do your own disposal work (and not in the seatback pocket).
6. Don't forget the electronics
Fun factoid: Most planes do not have screens for entertainment, not on the seatback or even on the ceiling. Bring a phone or tablet or a laptop for the kids if that's what it takes to keep them happy and quiet. And don't forget chargers and headphones.
7. Don't forget the rehearsal
Know how to jam up an airport security line real fast? All it takes is one frightened, screaming kid who doesn't understand what security is all about. Explain what'll happen ahead of time, and rehearse if you have to: Show them how to remove their little backpack and let them know that Pinky Pig will go on a conveyor belt but he will come back. The good news is children 12 years and under don't have to remove shoes or jackets before walking through the simple metal detector. If they know what to expect, they won't be afraid.
One last thing: Don't forget the fun. We parents forget what an amazing adventure flying is. Remind yourself and the kids by taking a moment with them to look out your plane's window. Enjoy the view.