Air Travel with the Tots

CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain

This article kicks off a regular series from Susan Strayer who’s an inspiration to many with her Blog Mountain Mom and Tots.

Air Travel with the Tots

The tots and I just returned from a week out east, visiting family in Baltimore, Philadelphia and College Park, Maryland. Now, I don’t know about you but flying with two young children is not on my top ten favorite things to do list. Here’s how it went.

Before I stepped foot in the airport, I put a lot of thought into my travel choices. First, I chose a direct flight to avoid dragging the tots around multiple airports. Second, the flights I chose were in the afternoon, away from the morning business travel craziness. Finally, I booked an extra seat for little g even though at eighteen months she is technically a lap child. G and I both knew that she would never willingly stay on my lap for the four to five hours it would take to get to our destination.


Thanks to my preplanning, I felt pretty good. I was confident in my super mother abilities to entertain my children with games, stickers, toys and treats for the duration of our flight to Baltimore. We checked our bag (the fee is worth the lowered stress of not having to wrangle a carry on in addition to two kids, a stroller and overloaded diaper bag) and made it through security without too much stress. Thank you, TSA for allowing children under twelve to keep their shoes on.

When we arrived in our terminal, little g decided she no longer wanted to ride in the stroller. Instead, she wanted to push the stroller into the oncoming traffic of strangers’ legs and luggage. I gently redirected her and she loudly disagreed. By the time we got to our gate, I had little g under one arm, the stroller bumping around behind us, Big E wandering in front of people and the wailing of my baby to contend with. Hello, fellow passengers, this is what you have to look forward to! I thought.


Once we settled into our seats, and the plane took off I thought all would be easy. I had loaded my Kindle Fire with games, books and videos for Big E and he was content the whole time…at least until he had to use the bathroom. On the drive to the airport, Mountain Dad had enthusiastically told Big E about the vacuum toilets in the airplane. “They’re really cool, bud. You’ll love ’em,” he said. Big E was terrified. He refused to use one, choosing instead to squirm in his seat for the last forty minutes of the flight. Luckily we had a pit stop just before boarding.

Example of a packed plane - CC0 Public Domain
Example of a packed plane – CC0 Public Domain

While Big E was content to watch videos and play games, little g would have nothing to do with it. All she wanted to do was walk up and down the aisle, lean against random strangers and get in the way of the flight attendants. I wrangled her back to our seat several times, distracted her with toys and food, and even sang her favorite songs, but unfortunately, she had her own opinions of what constituted proper airplane etiquette. She yelled, and cried and wriggled away from me. I had chosen a late afternoon flight with the hope that she would fall asleep halfway through it, at her normal bedtime. Alas, instead of calmly dozing off in my arms, she got more and more hyper and refused to do anything except walk around in the aisle and run into people.


At 11:15 pm, we arrived in Baltimore and my phone was completely dead. My brother-in-law was waiting for us but there was no way to let me know we had arrived. I couldn’t even use a pay phone since I didn’t know his phone number without looking it up on my phone.


I did the only thing I could think to do. I took my over-tired kids to baggage claim, left them by the wall while I retrieved my huge bag and their two car seats, rummaged around for my charger and plugged into the wall. I now had a diaper bag, stroller, large luggage bag and two cumbersome car seats to carry. Not to mention I had two young children to keep safe and happy while trying to locate my ride.


There’s a moment in every day where the chaos of young tots threatens to drown me. It’s an out of control feeling that I hate. Normally it’s a moment when both kids are crying, something has spilled all over me, and me and the tots are in an embarrassing heap in the middle of a store. Staring at my stuff and kids in that moment I realized I had reached my limit. They luckily weren’t crying, but I still felt out of control. Any semblance of calm confidence I started the day with was obliterated after the hours of little g’s crying and the stress of trying to keep her contained.


In those daily chaotic moments my brain stops working. I become super focused on what options I have since it feels like everything is out of my control. Usually, the only option I have is to change the environment. That’s what I did that night at the baggage claim. I tied one car seat to the luggage and had Big E wheel it around. I strapped little g into the stroller, put the diaper bag over my shoulder and grabbed the other car seat. I had gotten a hold of my brother-in-law and knew he was waiting right outside, I just had to make it fifty feet or so. Thankfully Big E is a strong little four-year-old, and little g was too distracted by the pouring rain, and my one armed stroller steering to make much of a fuss.


We made it to the car, loaded everything in and gratefully left the airport behind.


The whole adventure was more stressful than I had anticipated. As an independent woman I try to do everything I can on my own, but there comes a point where it’s just so much easier to have another adult’s help. Was I able to fly across the country alone with my tots? Yes. Do I ever want to do that again? No.


Susan Strayer, author of is all about getting families into nature. She lives with her husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah and spends her time hiking, biking, skiing and camping as much as possible.

Air Travel with the Tots


jack-beckett is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival