Wednesday, April 10, 2013

four kids, five flights, happy parents and how we did it!

i hate to be cliche with this post, but i mean...

we flew to the midwest with four kids, nine suitcases, three carseats, on five flights between there and back and i lived to blog about it, so i must.

i have to totally brag - my kids, all four, were near perfect on every flight and every layover. to take advantage of an insane deal on five tickets to minnesota we ended up with three flights + one plane switch on the way there and two flights + a four hour layover on the way back. i can't even describe the look on peoples faces as we boarded the plane with our crew, i am sure they thought they were in for it! by the end of the flight? we were getting compliments left and right on how amazed they were with the kids behavior.

they even made new friends on the layovers when they would be extra sweet, courteous, and well behaved. people were handing over their treats like their life depended on it and i was scratching my head wondering...who are these kids?

the last thirty minutes of coming and going were the only rough times - rowan's legs got cramps and zoë got a bad headache from the pressure change on the way there and on the way home everyone was just fried from the long trip and long day of traveling.

arrive extra early, we're always running late so we just planned on being super early to the airports and we had time to adjust to the slowness that is our children. i swear you say go faster and they go slower. i also just realized that a lot of big airports (at least the few we were at) have play areas similar to the mall, where the kids could work their wiggles out before boarding. curbside check-in was awesome at sea-tac with no lines we got our passes and bags checked in matter of minutes.

in their bags, i packed leap pads and iPods with extra games. a new coloring or sticker book for each kid and a pack of roll up crayola crayons. i hit up trader joe's just before and stocked up on nuts and fruit leathers to stow away and everyone had one extra set of batteries. there was gum, books, and a light jacket for unexpected weather on layovers or a chilly plane.

carseats, first and foremost - check your carseat for the words AIRCRAFT APPROVED on a sticker somewhere on your child's seat. this is super important because it would suck to plan on keeping your little one in their seat and then being turned down at the gate. we have a britax marathon 70 and we had no problems. we chose to just bring stella's mostly for her, but we lucked out on three of our total of five flights, there were open seats so robin rode in it and stella just sat on a seat. for the one we brought on, we just snapped all of the buckles and used them as a handle. it was also great for our four hour layover, we buckled stella in, tipped it back and she instantly fell asleep for a nap.

ears, they all struggled a little with this but we tried our best to combat it with gum and yawning. when robin was awake i would just nurse him - the sucking helps adjust his ears naturally and other times he was asleep even before take off and we didn't even worry about it.

safety, i'm a worry wort so i wrote tim's and my name and phone number on a sheet of paper and tucked it in a un-obvious pocket of their bags. i went over with them where it was and told them when they should pull it out and who to show it too if needed, i took extra time with stella on this because, well obviously. i had them wear bright shirts so that i could easily spot them and i put zoë in charge of number two watch over stella in case i ever had to look away for a minute.

diapers and people, of course robin had a poo-splosion during our very first take off. tim and i got really good at minimal damage tray table changes. people around us were always willing to help too! one gal even helped me hold up a blanket so everyone wouldn't have to watch or smell what was going on. speaking of the people, don't assume people suck - every flight there was a handful of awesome people who were always offering to help us. while we usually didn't accept because we didn't want to impose, a couple of times it was nice to have even one more set of hands for something. whether it be the pilots wife flying standby who offered to help rowan walk the leg cramps out or the lady who helped me buckle while mid nursing session with robin, it was all so greatly welcomed and appreciated and god bless the lady who listened to rowan read her, her entire cupcake cook book between reno and phoenix.

seating and baggage, this isn't the case with all airlines, but we flew southwest where you choose your seats when you board. checking in you can do one of two things, you can either check in right at twenty-four hours for a good boarding spot or you can ask for family priority boarding when you get to the gate and at the very least get to go in between the first and second group. we always picked seats in the very back - this way if the kids went nuts, minimal people would suffer and we would be close to the bathrooms. speaking of southwest, they are two bags fly free. with six of us traveling for eight days the baggage was astronomical. could you imagine if we would have had to pay to check eleven bags (two were car seats)?

layovers, on our long layover we found a quiet empty gate and took up residence. we plugged in dvd players to charge and so the kids could watch a movie. stella got bucked into her carseat and we tipped it up against a wall and she instantly fell asleep. tim and i took turns using the bathroom with them, hunting down cheap meals, and bouncing robin. i was ok with letting the kids be nuts climbing over through and under the seats, this was going to be their last chance for the next four hours to really stretch their legs and gets some energy out.

lessons learned, next time after i pack the kids carry on/activity filled backpacks, i will have them wear them around the house. they were all a little heavy and there was a lot of whining between check points and while boarding.

as far as carseats - next time we will plan on gate checking robin's seat in case there are open seats for him on our flight. while it was great that he could ride in stella's, that left her to think she could be naughty when it came to staying put with her seatbelt on.

we should have planned better meal wise, when we hit arizona there weren't any affordable food options so we got stuck paying a lot for junk. by time we got to minnesota i was seriously craving something healthy after a day of eating snacks.

it was such a great experience flying with these kiddos! we won't even think twice before scheduling another trip with them after how great they did. not that i was worried, you just never know what could happen at forty thousand feet!
what are your flying tips? right before we left my friend summer posted a great list of tips from their recent trip to hawaii!


melissa rohr said...

An inspiration to us fellow parents! You rock! My husband and I flew to California from DC on standby with our 2 year old, I thought that was rough...

melissa rohr said...

Oh man are you brave! We took a series of awful flights when my now-2yo was only 7 months and again when he was 14 months. But he's grown out of a lot of the issues and his sister is more easygoing, so we're starting to think about it again. This post makes me think I'm not crazy to dream. And hooray for Minnesota! My childhood stomping ground. ;)

melissa rohr said...

haha, yea - i really went into it with no expectations. i didn't really think it would be bad (tons of long car rides under our belts) but i just didn't know. they kind of entertained eachother and were so enamored with the idea of flying they were just so excited. what part of minnesota? my husband is from cannon falls/northfield!

melissa rohr said...

Nice. "From" nearly everywhere, it seems. We lived in Maple Plain (Minneapolis suburb) until I was 9 , then Alexandria, then Hinckley and finally up near Thief River Falls area in Karlstad. It's a wonderland. I love visiting!