Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Traveling with 2 kids and 1 adult

Last summer I traveled the Vancouver-Stockholm route by myself with my kids, then aged 3 and 7. It went surprisingly well, partly because they're already quite used to air travel and know the rules (even if they don't always follow them...).

That being said, it is (not surprisingly) easier to travel by plane with two kids and two adults, than it is to travel with two kids and one adult. But it is totally do-able to travel with two kids as the only accompanying adult.

Traveling with two young children, especially if both are under the age of 8 or so, does present some challenges. (If you're one adult traveling with more than two young children, you have my sympathies and admiration!)

Here are some general tips that can make your life easier if you're traveling by yourself with two kids:
  • To minimize the risk of losing things, carry your most important items on you at all times. This includes tickets, passports, money, credit cards, cellphone and so on. Use a waist-pack or a neck-pouch, or just a small purse slung across your chest. Anything so that you do not ever have to put that stuff down anywhere, like on a check-in counter or in a bathroom where it can get left behind.
  • Let your kids bring their own hand-luggage. This is to lighten your own load, and make more room for stuff like toys and snacks. If they're old enough, get them a nice wheeled backpack, or some other kid-friendly carry-on.
  • Ask for help if you need it. For example, if you're traveling with an infant and a toddler (which can be a tough combo, especially if your toddler is a dawdler or likes to run away from you), consider asking the airline if they can help you with transportation at the airport between any connecting flights on your trip. Bringing a stroller can also be useful: then at least one child is going where you want them to go!
  • Preparation. As always, I highly recommend prepping your kids before a flight. Talk to them about the importance of staying close to you at all times during the trip, and that there are many places in airports where they are not allowed to go. Also try to make them feel included as your fellow travelers, making the whole thing an adventure where you're relying on them to be brave and responsible.
Potential problems, possible solutions
Certain situations when you're traveling can be especially challenging if you're on your own with kids. Here is my list of some potential problems and possible solutions.

1. Check-in
Kids sometimes run amok while you're waiting in the line for check-in because they are hopped up on adrenaline and travel excitement. Or they might cry and be sad because the other parent isn't coming on the trip.

One idea is to let the kids write/draw on the free airline luggage tags, but be careful with pens - pencils are safer. Or give them each a suitcase to be responsible for and bring up to the counter, but watch out so they don't run off with wheeled suitcases through the airport. Giving them a small snack to keep busy with can also help.

2. Lineups
Keeping an eye (and a hand) on your kids in all the various lineups at an airport can be a challenge. And with all the security and no-go zones, and with a plane to catch, it is often very important that your children not run around too much.

Explaining the importance of staying in line and waiting your turn as a family can help. So can some goofy finger-plays and rhymes. It's a good time for "I Spy" and similar games too. Talking about what's going on with scanners, x-ray machines, metal detectors and the like can also help hold their interest. Just be ready for lineup-boredom and try to deflect it by making them think about something else.

3. Seating arrangements
How you organize yourself on the plane depends a lot on your kids and what you know about them. My personal preference is to have the three seats in a row, with me in the middle and one kids on either side. That way they can't bug each other as much, and it's easier for me to assist them when they need it.

The only time I'd seat them side by side is if I had two seats together and the third seat across the aisle on the same row. I've never actually had to deal with that seating arrangement, but I think it would be better for me to sit apart from them. I'd probably put my son within closest reach since he is the one who has the most anxiety during flights.

4. Bathroom breaks
So you have two kids, one adult and one teeny tiny airplane bathroom. If one child needs to go, and needs your help in the bathroom, and the other one doesn't feel comfortable remaining seated while you're gone, then you might have to bring both kids with you. As long as you can wait outside the bathroom, this is ok. Trying to squeeze in three people, even if two of them are small children, is not advisable.

Turning on a good movie for the child who isn't coming to the bathroom can help keep them seated. Otherwise you just do what you have to do. This could mean changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom with another child in there too. Just make sure you bring your diaper supplies in a bag that is easy to take with you in the bathroom, and is organized well so you can find everything quickly. If your child is in diapers but is old enough to stand, use pull-up diapers rather than regular diapers if at all possible.

5. Mealtimes
Mealtimes can be tricky. You'll probably need to help your children get organized with their meals. Then your meal will come (kids' meals and other special meals are usually served before the regular meals) and if you're lucky you'll get to it while it's warm! Unless somebody needs the bathroom of course: getting up to go to the bathroom when all the tray-tables are down and full of food can make for some difficult juggling.

One solution is to try to get your kids to go to the bathroom before the meal, just so you're reasonably sure they won't have to go while everyone is eating. Also, try to get rid of any empty food trays as soon as possible: you do not want them on your tray-tables. Try passing them to someone in the crew as soon as you or your children are finished eating. You can also sometimes carry empty food trays, cups, and so on to the galley, where the crew works, and get rid of them there.

6. At the luggage carousel
When you arrive at your destination and you're waiting for your luggage, having two kids to keep safe from that luggage carousel is sometimes very hard. Kids just seem to be naturally fascinated by the conveyor belt, and all the various suitcases and bags.

It's a really dangerous place, with all those heavy suitcases and people pushing and reaching for luggage, and the moving mechanical parts. Not a great place for little kids' fingers!

If at least one of your children is small enough, this might be a good time to secure them in their stroller, or get a luggage cart and hope that it has a child seat in it. Then at least one child will be out of harm's way.

Try to at least get your children to step far enough back from the conveyor belt that they won't get pushed onto it, or are touching it. I sometimes ask my kids to step back and keep an eagle-eye out for our suitcases: this works sometimes, but not always. Handing out treats like lollipops, or some other kind of snack can pull you through this moment too.


  1. Thanks for sharing such useful information. To the degree that the body cannot immediately realign these rhythms, it is jet lagged.Its occurs while travelling.

    Jet lag remedy

  2. Excellent tips, much appreciated.


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