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Flying (solo) with kids - A Survival Guide

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

As many of you already know, I’ve spent more time with my children than I ever thought possible. I’ll admit that it’s the hardest job in the world and without a routine, you’re dead in the water. I’ve learned quite a bit and am still learning plenty. But recently I was able to do something that would seem challenging for any parent (especially a dad).

I traveled ALONE with three small children from Raleigh, NC to Orlando, FL.

To be quite honest, it was simple. Experience played a key role in all of this but I used some tricks I’ve learned along the way to make it that much easier. I’ll share with you what I did to make flying with three children comfortable, easy, and satisfying.

1) Stick to YOUR routine:

MY routine begins every morning at 6:30AM when Stephanie heads to work. By 8:30, I need to have all of the kids dressed, their teeth brushed, their bellies full, their backpacks packed, and I like to have the kitchen in reasonable shape. On the day I was traveling, we had to leave for the airport at 9:15. So, when I added in my shower (I don’t usually get to that before bringing them to school) cleaning out the fridge, and loading the van up with all of our travel gear, the extra 45 minutes seemed perfect. And it was. We were strapped in the van and ready to go at exactly 9:15AM.

2) Pack appropriately:

I didn’t care what was in the bags we were going to check. What I did care about what was going to be going in the diaper bag. With Stephanie’s help (She's a rockstar. See her post, 'Top Travel Tips with a 1-year old' here), I packed snacks, coloring books, pacis, an extra set of clothes for Rory, a few diapers, wipes, and other miscellaneous activities for the girls. I didn’t overdo it, but I certainly made sure that I didn’t forget anything. I thought about every single scenario and what would be needed in that event. 

I do this when I bring the kids to piano lessons, so really, this wasn’t much different than that.

3) Plan the nap for the little one:

Rory usually naps between 9 and 9:30 every morning. So at first, I thought he’d sleep during the half hour ride to the airport. But then I thought, 'well if he can survive the drive, I think he’ll keep himself entertained as we go through security and such.' It worked out perfect. I chatted with him the entire ride to the airport to keep him awake. Then as I had hoped, he was happy as a clam to be riding in the stroller through airport security. Once we survived security, I kept him occupied with my five-minute rule (I’ll get to that in a sec) and prayed he’d hang in there until take off. He did. Just as the wheels were coming off the ground at RDU, Rory fell asleep. And since he missed his morning nap, he slept the ENTIRE way.


Mission successful.

4) I used my 5-minute rule:

I knew the morning would be easy. I knew the drive there would be easy. And I even knew getting through security would be easy. (There is a lot to see in airports for young kids.) But after that, I was worried. How was I going to be able to entertain all of them while we waited at the gate AND on the plane before take off?

Insert my very own 5-minute rule! We had about a half hour wait before we were set to board so I had to think of something to do. So...we spent the first five minutes looking out the window at all the planes. Next, we spent five minutes in a nearby convenience store. I let each kid pick out a small treat. (I’ve learned over time these 'treats' usually only last a few hours. So with a two hour flight ahead? Perfecto.) From there, I grabbed a coffee at Starbucks. We then had fun riding the moving sidewalks, and five minutes after that, we hit up the family restroom. (I cannot emphasize enough the value a family restroom when traveling with three kids.) By the time we got back to our gate, it was time to board!



The five minute rule didn’t end there! This is where it got complicated. Rory lost interest in sitting on my lap after about 5 minutes on the plane. (Go figure!) So, I gave him a toy. When that got old, I gave him a snack. When he was finished with that I gave him his bottle. When he was finished with that, I gave him a paci.

Every five minutes, I literally did something new to keep him entertained and content for the twenty-five minutes until we were in the air.

Guess what? It worked.

5) You’ll feel better about yourself:

I was told by at least a dozen strangers that I was 'Dad of the Year.' I didn’t think so, but it sure was nice to hear. All. Day. Long. Talk about a confidence boost! So much so, I might even do it again!


And if you're still unsure, believe me. If I can do this, you can too!

Has there been a time traveling with kids that you felt unstoppable? If so, when and under what circumstances? I'd love to hear!!


Best wishes,

Ryan

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