Life Lessons and Lactation Cookies for New Moms

I flew ALONE with two kids and no checked luggage September 5, 2011

Filed under: travel — hardierlime @ 2:09 pm

It CAN be done! And just a qualifier – no checked luggage does not mean that I did not check the carseats. I went back and forth on that and finally had to “be real” as some of my colleagues like to say and not try to be a hero dragging those things around creation.

The Cast:

  • Me, mom of two, with two solo flights with ONE child and no checked baggage under her belt. One flight with the hubs and the girl-child, too. Also? Only 2hrs of sleep.
  • Em, 3yrs, 2mo. Three air trips under her belt.
  • Jacob, 6 months, no flight experience.

Here is  my packing list:

Kelty Transit Carrier 1.1:

  • My clothes – a pair of gauchos and a pair of casual slacks; 2 shelf tanks, 3 tank tops, 2 short sleeved shirts, pajamas
  • Em’s clothes – two pairs of shorts, 4 tops, pajamas
  • Jacob’s clothes – 4 onesies, two pairs pants, 2 sleep & plays
  • Flip flops for all three of us

Eddie Bauer Diaper Bag:

  • Undergarments, 10 pullups, and 44 diapers, package of 72 wipes
  • Em’s blanket, Elmo & Jacob’s Mr. Elephant
  • Toiletries, Learning Toys

NY & Co Black Leather Tote Bag:

  • Baby B’air
  • 4 diapers, 2 pullups, travel wipes container (with about 25 wipes)
  • Two extra infant outfits (1 romper, 1 onesie & pants) in quart sized baggies, 1 extra kid t-shirt
  • Wallet w/phone
  • GPS, phone charger
  • Infantino Front Pack Carrier

Jansport Toddler Backpack

  • Snacks, snacks, snacks
  • New Toy (Black plush horse with long hair)
  • New (Old) Toy (Mini My Little Pony)
  • Mr. Elephant

Sunshine Kids Car Seat Bag

It helped a great deal that Em was a big fan of Dora, so getting her to wear the backpack was a snap. The Kelty went on my back, the Infantino on my front. The diaper bag over my shoulder and my tote in my hand. The car seats in the bag, bungee corded to the hand truck. I held on to the hand truck with my free hand, and Em held onto it too, to “help”.

Going through airport security at 5:30am on a Wednesday was amazingly/alarmingly busy. Another mom traveling alone with two kids (ages 2 and 10 months) was ahead of me. She was traveling to LA, and then on to New Zealand. It made my worry/anxiety about two 2-hour trips each way seem like I was screaming about a paper cut.

I got in a lane, and carefully unloaded everything, removing my shoes and Em’s (Jacob was not wearing any). I removed the front pack, after removing Jacob from it. I removed my phone, GPS and toiletries. I allowed an older gentleman to go ahead of me. He let me know that he had three kids and he knew what it was like.

Our things went through the scanner, and my other fear – the body scanner vs. the pat-down choice – never came to light. There was one at my security entrance, but they were choosing people at random. I requested a visual inspection of my carseats, and security asked to remove them from the luggage carrier and put everything that could fit through the x-rays too. Sure! Em walked through the metal detector, and then I carried Jacob through.Then came the task of putting everything back together again. Another security guard held Jacob while I helped Em with her shoes. He let me know that he had two kids at home, and has had to do this too.

We were just steps from our gate, and 10 minutes away from boarding. I walked up to the gate agent, and requested to gate check the car seats. They asked “Do you want to just send your bag on to your final destination?” After all that I didn’t even need to think about it. “Yes, please!” Air Tran has the best track record in the industry for baggage handling – and the gate agents even assured me of it. I didn’t let on that I knew, but I was glad that they did. Another passenger (a mom with one kid) helped me stuff the luggage carrier into the bag.

We waited 5 minutes for them to call our zone, and off we went into the plane.

Em kept wanting to climb into whatever seat struck her fancy. I still had Jacob in the front pack, but trying to negotiate that narrow aisle with stuff is hard enough truly solo. Trying to do it while corralling stuff and a kid – not easy. I was banging into everyone until a flight attendant who was standing in the exit row offered to take the diaper bag. And so we made it the extra 8 or so rows to our seats, and she put the bag up above us, helped me with my backpack, held Jacob while I negotiated the front pack and pulled out the Baby B’air and finally seat belted Em into her seat.

The flight itself was uneventful, except at one point where both kids were having issues at the same time. In two hours, Jacob nursed no less than 3 times. Em was less than thrilled with having to keep the windows open. O_o Whatever! I specifically chose the two seat row so that no one would have to deal with our nonsense, and that was a good choice for the 5 minutes where I had two crying kids.

Reverse operations on the way off the plane to make it to the connecting flight. I hadn’t paused to use the facilities myself, and did not have the benefit of an adult diaper, so even though it wasn’t a great thing, I waited in the crazy line for the bathroom, and asked Em about 100x if she needed to potty, at the Atlanta airport. She refused. I’m kinda glad, since we didn’t have much time. I’m not proud, but I am a little. I didn’t take off my backpack or front pack, and we all fit in one tiny stall that was supposedly for handicapped usage (someone was nice enough to wait for the next stall when she saw me and all of our stuff and saw that was the one that had opened up for her). Jacob didn’t need a change. I used some antibacterial hand sanitizer instead of waiting for the same line for less sinks than stalls while hotfooting it to our gate because our connecting flight was already boarding as we were landing.

We still got a little help on that flight. It was nice of the flight attendant to stow all of my stuff for me. Wonders of wonders, both kids settled down (or were wiped out from being up at 4am) and napped together for 45 minutes after we were in the air. I dozed, but didn’t sleep. On the way out we had a different flight attendant helping us and he loved holding Jacob.

Can I just say that the White Plains Airport is the smallest airport I’ve ever been in? I’m going to assume that it is par for the course for a regional airport, but I was amazed. I walked out of the terminal and was immediately presented with the one baggage claim area. Our car seats were off first, and unfortunately, there was a tear in the bag. Not huge, but it was there. This was the second set of flights for this car seat bag, and I’d spent the previous one not caring and dragging it along the ground, so it shouldn’t have been unexpected. I strapped everything in and wheeled myself and the kids about 20 yards to the car rental counter. I waited behind one person, and walked another 40 yards to the rental lot. I guess that’s a good thing about a small airport – it wasn’t a big production to get from one place to another.

I took my time getting us settled into the car and off we went! I will do a separate post on logistics for our trip into Manhattan later in the week.

After the trip, what I discovered that I did not need in our bags:

  • The diapers – I really could have bought these, but we were trying to run out a size too small that we got too much of – just trying to be economical!
  • One shirt for me and Em and a sleeper for Jacob. My best friend generously allowed us to use her washing machine while we stayed with her, and we still never got to certain items of clothing
  • One of the learning toys – we only got to one

Let’s talk about the return flights.

See above. Go in reverse. Add at least an hour of wait time at each airport. Me checking in the car seats at the counter and not at the gate. Security flagging a toy. An attempt to use a learning toy to pass the time. And a nice mom who watched our stuff while I took Em to the bathroom. Considering that the waiting area at the terminal was in plain sight of the bathroom and security, it was probably not terrible of her to do so, and it was very welcome. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful. There were a couple of nice older Italian ladies across the aisle who were more than happy to make googly eyes any chance they could at Jacob.

At the Atlanta airport, some brainchild Air Tran employee, who I know was just doing his job, flagged me down carrying all of our stuff and thought that it was a brilliant time for me to decide to open a new credit card account and had a hard time taking no for an answer. This was counter balanced by a pair of nice 20-something married hipsters striking up a conversation with the 3 year old who was on the verge of melting down just as we were about to board.

On this flight we were in a row of three. I turned to the older gentleman next to me and said “Looks like you won the lottery.” He was unfazed, and asked how pricing and seating worked for the little ones. I asked if he was considering it for his grandchildren and he let me know that he was. I let him know that on all domestic flights that up to 2, the kids fly free, but over 2 its a full adult ticket. After that we politely did not speak and he seemed unfazed by me turning away to nurse. I might add that Jacob was polite enough to not have any crazy diaper antics on this set of flights either.

Both kids fell asleep, but Em was still throwing fits in her sleep and wound up slumped down in her seat by the time we landed. When I unbuckled her, she fell out of the seat and while we waited for everyone else to deplane, she got ready to explode. Just as I let her know that it was time to get off, she refused. Flat out and loudly. A flight attendant helped me put on all of my gear and literally picked her up and carried her off the plane and set her down on the gangway. Hey, it was midnight and he had places to be too. And the help was ever so much appreciated.

One would think that our (mis)adventures would be over here, but we had just one more. We walked to the automatic revolving door, and I saw my husband just beyond the glass before Em did. I sent her to walk ahead of me and the doors turned before I could get through with all of our packs. And she stopped walking. It took one more airport employee to help us out and encourage Em from one side while I cheered her on from the other to keep walking so that we could finally see Daddy.

Moral of the story? It can be done. People WILL help, WILL be courteous, WILL be polite and will NOT send you poison daggers with their eyes for daring to travel with your children. Or if they do, you’ll be way too busy to notice or care.

Like I said – a post on our trip to Manhattan to come and upcoming travel plans. Will I do this again? You betcha. Now the question is when and where…I’ve got some ideas, as well as a trip I really need to take, and one that I really want to take. Happy to answer ANY questions in the comments!


6 Responses to “I flew ALONE with two kids and no checked luggage”

  1. You are a brave woman! I flew with just my 7 month old recently, but I did end up checking a bag. I was glad I had since it was so hard getting on and off the plane as it was. I loved reading about your experience! Thank goodness for kind strangers 🙂


  2. tee2072 Says:

    Re: ‘crazy diaper antics’ When we flew with Adam to California, from Belfast, when he was 6 months he didn’t do a poo diaper on *any* of our flights, not even from London to California which is like 10 hours. I have a theory, totally unproven, that their systems shut down at altitude. :O)

  3. What toy was flagged? And Why? WE’ve never had that issue before, but plan to take more toys this flight as well have 3 kiddos instead of 2.

    We’ve flown several times with the girls and have had wonderful people help along the ways. But there’s always someone…One woman refused to move seats so my husband could sit with the girls and I (she’d still have a window seat, just up one row) instead I was 20 weeks with a kicking screaming toddler alone. Not fun.

    Glad things went well for you.

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