24 answers

Crazy Mom Traveling Alone with 4 Young Children

Hi Gals - I will be traveling only with my children (1,3,4,6 years). I'm traveling on Southwest airlines to California. Does anyone know if I need to go or take one of the kids to the restroom on the plane can I ask a flight attendant to supervise for a minute? Since we obviously can't all fit in the tiny restroom and I don't want them wandering in the isle. I'm prepared for ear problems, snacks and have coloring, books, DVD player and small toys. I'd love to hear if anyone knows any surprises to whip out for entertainment! Also is it best for my two older children to carry backpacks or is that more stuff for me to keep track of? I will also have a car seat and stroller for my 1 year old. God help me! I'm going to look like we are moving in! I can't wait to see the faces on the other passengers when we board the plane!! That will be a priceless moment! What do I really need and don't need?????????? Thanks!

What can I do next?

More Answers

The best thing to do is check with the airline about what kind of help you can expect from the staff. Just giving them a heads up will help. Some airlines have individual movies and games each passenger can watch on a screen on the back of the seat in front of them, we had them on a transatlantic flight, I don't know if they are available on domestic flights. But, find out and maybe you don't have to pack so much.

If dirty looks from other passengers is all you get, you doing great!

Remember, it will be over at the end of the flight

On long car trips, I made sure each kid had new things to entertain them. Just the surprise of something new distracted them for awhile. I even found some of those old fashion handheld games with the little metal balls,etc.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I have 4 kids (10, 8, 6 and 3). I haven't traveled alone with all 4, but I completely agree with what Julie M said. My kids have carried their own back pack if it was physically possible and then they don't have to ask me constantly for their stuff. She had great advice which I second, but my only other advice is to ignore any dirty looks from other passengers. I have found flight attendants to be helpful sometimes in trying to distract an angry toddler, but I have REALLY gotten some dirty looks from other people who obviously have never traveled with small children, let alone, as a mother on her own. Ignore those stares, you don't know those people anyway and do your best. The plane will land (those seats facing each other are a great idea!) and then everyone will be happy.

On Southwest you can check-in up to 24 hours ahead of time on-line! I would check in at the earliest possible second on-line to make sure you can have first pick at those seats you want! My husband flew with 2 of our kids on Southwest and checked in about 18 hours ahead and was already in the second boarding group! Good luck and have a great trip!

1 mom found this helpful

You might want to call the airline and find out what you can and can not take on the plane. Good Luck!! I hope the airline attendants are helpful. We flew the first time with our children (4,5,&7) over spring break. One of the fight attendants we had on AirTran was anything but helpful. I wish you the best "Brave Mother".

1 mom found this helpful

Good luck!! It sounds like you have it under control. I flew to Florida with 2 of mine (16 months and 3) while I was 5 months pregnant by myself. It was a challenge, but doable. I brought our huge double stroller and just loaded everything-car seats, backpacks, etc. onto it. Then, just checked it at the gate. The flight attendants watched my little one when I took my oldest to the bathroom. Since then, we've flown lots with my 3 boys, and we always have them carry their own backpacks (I would have your 3 oldest carry one). That way they can put a few snacks, blankets, stuffed animals, toys, whatever in them--you'll have enough to carry, and anything they can help with is great! It's more to keep track of, but my kids love their backpacks and always keep them close by.
As for other trinkets, my kids have a blast with Dollar store junk--some of our favorites are magnifying glasses, pencil boxes, slinkies, flashlights, any type of little notebook to "write" in. Crayola color wonders has fingerpaint and all kinds of fun stuff that is non-messy and entertaining (but not as cheap as the dollar store stuff).
I would definately talk to the person at the check-in counter at the gate and explain that you're traveling with 4 little ones on your own, and you need those very front seats that face each other. Otherwise, you have one sitting on their own. Plus, once you're up in the air, you can let them lay on the floor and play. Chances are, unless it's a sold out flight, no one will choose to sit with you:)) (unless another mom is flying with her kids on her own--then you can help each other out.

1 mom found this helpful

Bless your heart, K.! Sounds like you've got it under control, as much as is possible! :} My advice is also wipes for the trays and little fingers and backpacks are great for the older ones -- and tell them it's THEIR job to take care of THEIR stuff. Make them feel big and responsible and tell them you need their help. (Of course, still keep 1/2 an eye on the packs, but it makes the kids feel good to be big kids.) One other piece of advice is find something new for each kid for the trip ahead of time. A coloring book, story, video, whatever and tell them they can have something NEW to do if they're good on the plane. Worked well for me!

It really is hit or miss with the staff. I've had some awesome people and some real stinkers. I usually give them a big smile, introduce myself, ask for their names and "apologize" jokingly up front for any craziness from my kids! I wouldn't think there'd be any problem asking the attendant to watch the kiddos while you take one to the bathroom, seeing as they wouldn't want them running in the aisles either! Lots of smiles! One other tip from my friend who's traveled alone with 4 kids, get cute! She found if both her and the kids are dressed well and looking put together, people keep telling her how cute her kids are and offer to help.

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I read some of the other responses and since Southwest changed their boarding policies a couple of months ago - you do NOT get to preboard unless you are handicapped or an unaccompanied minor. I flew with my 6 month old and 2 year old on Southwest a few months ago and was very thankful that I had found out ahead of time that I wouldn't get to preboard. They board all the A group and then you can board if you have small children - by then 1/3 of the plane has boarded. You can print your boarding passes 24 hours in advance. I was sitting at the computer waiting - I kept on clicking until it the time came and it took it. Both of my flights (to Texas and back) I was able to board in the first 10 or so, so it was worth it. I even double checked with the boarding agent and unless you get someone who does you a big favor - don't assume you will get to preboard. Good luck!! By the way - I also saw the post about chewable Dramamine - my oldest gets VERY car sick and I found liquid Dramamine (FINALLY!) under the brand name of Gravol - it comes from Canada and most of the Canadian online pharmacies carry it.

My husband and I have traveled internationally several times and we see families all the time with small kids. Most of the older kids carry backpacks with stuff to do and snacks. Airplane snacks stink now a days and they don't have a huge variety of drinks. Have them bring drinks in some sort of sippy cup or pop up top cup. Seems like you have everything else under control.
If for some reason a steward or stewardess cannot watch your children while you take the others to the restroom, then don't hesitate to ask someone around you. I have watched other people's children while they have done this and it really isn't a big deal. Most people are happy to help. Especially if they know it is just you.
Do bring lots of gum for take offs and landings.
Another thing you may want to do. Since airports are so crowded you may want to bring a rope of somesort for them to hold on to so you don't "lose" any of them. You could attach it to the stroller. This way you aren't constantly looking around to make sure you have all of them.
And lastly, you will be boarding first. Most airlines board people with handicaps and young children before everyone else. This way there are no complications for the parents and the people already on the plane. If the airline doesn't offer to load you first then ask them. I really don't know of any airline that has a policy that you can't get on the plane first.
Oh, if it is thier first flight, you can ask the flight attendant for thier wings. Some airlines even have a kids pack, sort of like you get at a restaurant. You can ask if they have something like that.
Do make sure you have plenty of tissues and wipes.
Okay, I think that is all I can think of at this time. Have fun and make a game out of it for them. I'm not sure where you are flying from but I know that from KC to California they usually show a movie. If it is something they can watch bring your own headphones. You can usually get on the website to see what the movie is and if it isn't appropriate then make sure they are busy with something else during that time.
Good Luck and God Bless.


I want to wish you luck in your flight. You did not indicate if you had to change planes or if it were a direct flight.

Most of your difficulty will be in the terminal, not the plane. If your children are prone to sleep when you travel by car, they will most likely do the same once the plane leaves the ground. Most flight attendants will not mind keeping an eye on your children while you take one to the restroom.

A word of caution.....everything you carry on with you, you have to carry off. You only have two hands. Fortunately, all of your chldren can walk on their own with the exception of the one year old. You could prepare each of them an entertainment backpack. Expect to wait to deplane last as people will be impatient and you will want to have each child put the back pack on before leaving the plane so you don't have to carry it. I would recommend getting the clear ones from Wal Mart so when they go through the scanner you won't haev to empty them. Check with the air lines to see what is permissible. I took some embroidery on a plane with me once and they made me throw away the small scissors I had with me!! Kinda defeated the purpose of taking the embroidery as I couldn't cut the thread when I finished a design! You might want to get a fannypack or even a backpack for yourself. I recommend the fannypack as your personnals will be at the ready and in a location where you can easily keep an eye on them (pickpockets and all at airports). You will no doubt have a diaper bag so you could put your personal items in the bottom of the diaper bag so you are only carrying one bag, they now make a fannypack diaper bag called a "bandlier" I think. It is large enough to carry all your essentials for a short period of time and might work perfect for this trip--freeing up both hands for children. :-)

I caution you on taking both a stroller and a car seat unless the car seat sits inside the stroller as you will have to carry both of those, unless you are checking one of them to have in California.

If you are changing planes at a terminal, I encourage you to get safety harness for all of your children so they can't wander far from you. I hate to say it, but a yound mother distracted with 4 young children is an easy target if someone happen to want to kidnap a child.

You will want to travel with the bare essentials and pack the items you need at your destination in your suitcase. Afterall, you will be able to get restocked as soon as you get your luggage at the airport. Keep the children's backpacks fun, but light so they WANT to carry them and suggest they put their favorite stuffed animal in it..it gives them extra comfort and security and if it has something they treasure in it...they will remember it as well.

I hope these tips help/ Have a safe and wondrful trip. Don't forget to pack some children's bendryl, just as soon as you leave it at home, one of you children will get motion sick from the flight! :-) Make a game out of their ears popping as the plane is taking off so they don't get scared. Lollipops are great!!

Good luck!

I traveled alone this fall with 3 boys (then almost 5, barely 2, and 6 months). Pray for God to bring you help for the flight. On the way there he brought me a granmotherly retired kindergarten teacher. On the way back it was an older couple who love kids.

***Southwest lets you sign in and get boarding passes on-line (I think 24 hours in advance), which you might want to do. We flew with them two or three weeks ago, and they no longer pre-board families with small children until after the "A" group (about 60 people ) has gone if at all (it was different on our 2 flights. I think one of the gate entrance people just had pity on us.) We were able to get our seats together fine, but in the middle of the plane, nowhere near the bathrooms! Also, they now have you line up in numerical order based on your boarding pass within the different groups.

Do you have any AquaDoodle pads? They make a travel pad with a handle, or the small notebooks but they don't work as well.

I know you can notify the flight attendants if a child is traveling alone and they will help out. Have you notified them of your situation? Tell them that the two older children are flying alone....they just will be sitting by you! lol Good Luck!

Hi K.,
I too am a crazy mom that travels with her 4 children. My husband is in the Air Force, and it is my only option for sanity at times :) I drive all over from GA to TX, Il to TX, OK to TX, MS to TX...etc all the time. However, there have been many times that I have also needed to fly also due to time constraints. My kids are currently 9, 5, and almost 3yr old twins...
It sounds like you have thought of everything I do to survive flying. Yes, you should be able to ask an attendant to help, but like another said, it is the luck of the draw when you get on. I have actually been asked...by a male attendant while struggling with carseats and other paraphanalia, "just where is your husband?" OH I came unglued and went off on him in the middle of the airplane b/c my husband was deployed over in the desert at the time....like it was any of his business anyway. But then I had very helpful flight attendants another time taking one of our cranky kiddos to the back of the plane so he could "move around" more while in the exploring stage.
You should not have any problems with them limiting you to only 2 children..there is not a limit on them that I have ever been told thru my travels, however, we found out with my twins that they could not both be lap children with me in the same row, because of not enough oxygen bags...there is only one extra on each side of the plane and in each row and there had to be another willing adult to help if needed...but the attendants should help set that up. So, we split up 2 kids on each side of the aisle, but same row. I just put one twin with my oldest.
Just FYI, your carseat and stroller DO NOT count against you as extra baggage because they are necessary, along with portable crib and diaper bags. You can also choose to check the carseat, or if you are not having the 1yr old in your lap, you can strap the carseat to the seat and then the child into the carseat. I have done both, and it is really your preference. You can ask for special seating on SW airlines...I flew by myself to TX this past fall on SW and they did the special seating first for those with exceptional cases...small children and handicapped. I was impressed b/c they had just started their new seating that week and it all went pretty smoothly.
All in all, it sounds to me that you have thought of things well ahead of time, and will do great. Once you are to the gate or even checking in, just make sure you ask for any help and don't be afraid to ask. Also, once on the airplane, don't be afraid to ask for help...that is what the attendants are there for, and as many people have wrote here, many are willing to help a fellow mom in need. And I have always felt safe in an airplane leaving my children with a stranger, although I wouldn't do it anywhere else, for the amount of time it takes for a potty break.
Good luck, and I will pray for a safe journey for you!
PS...my hubby is proudly serving a year in Afghanistan right now, and I will be in your position again in the next few months, traveling with 4 fun, lovely, children, being looked at like I am totally crazy and out of my ever-loving mind. :)

Hi K.,

Last summer I traveled with my then 1 year old and 3 year old, both boys. I took American Airlines. Everyone was Sooo nice. You seem to be well prepared. I took some toys and my 3 year old did have his own backpack; but I was only dealing with one backpack, not 3 backpacks. The flight attendants will help alot. I let my potty trained 3 year old go to the bathroom on his own. Where else could he go? It was so cute, he said Hi! to everyone he saw in the aisle and the flight attendant held the door closed for him. My 1 year old slept most of the trip. I carried a backpack as a diaper bag. The only problem was that during take-off and landing it had to be under the seat. with the 1 year old on my lapit made it hard to bend over and get anything out of the backpack. But you have a 6 year old who should help you with that. Good Luck! And remember to have fun, I did.


Backpacks for the older kids is a great idea. Show up early for Southwest as they don't have assigned seating. I traveled Southwest when my oldest boys were babies. You can try asking the flight attendants, but none helped me. I actually had more help from the other passengers. I thought I was crazy traveling with two and you're going with four! Good luck!

we just flew with our 2 year old, and when i was researching it, I thought I read that an adult could not travel with more than 2 under a certain age. have you verified that it is even "allowed"?

Laughing, I asked my hubby if he had any advice for you K., he travels a bunch for company business. He read your posting gasped a couple of times. Said oh my I don't have any advice except Don't GO....lol

Personally I think you are a mighty brave woman to be traveling with 4 kiddo's. Sounds like you have it covered pretty much. I think it would be ok to ask an attendant to watch your other little ones for a moment. Or maybe a friendly looking grandmotherly type close to you.

Don't forget special blankies in case little one fall asleep. Back packs could fit under a seat if they aren't to big.

K. you have to let us all know when you get back how it went. I give you Big Kudos's for doing this alone. WTG Mom!!

Have a wonder trip!
In His Amazing Grace
K. B
PS I forgot one big thing that will help. PRAY!!!! ;)

Just board the plane early, which they let you do with young children and sit near the restrooms. I can't imagine getting 2 people in there anyway so you can stand by the door and still see the others in their seats. I wouldn't count on Flight attendants for any help that requires more than a blanket, soda, or snack!

Two words CHEWABLE DRAMAMINE!!!!!!!!!!!! It works GREAT and tastes good and is safe for young children!!

When my twins were 6 months old I traveled to Lebanon (the country) with them and my then 7 year-old son. The flight attendants were very helpful. Fortunately the flight from NY to Istanbul wasn't completely full and that helped a lot. If it's packed they'll be busier. But attendant fed cereal to them while I went to rinse out bottles in the bathroom. Another passenger (his biological clock was definitely ticking) held my daughter almost the entire time and just played with her and made faces...he'd had practice on his nephews). As much as they're able they're happy to help out. You might also "practice" riding on the plane. Have them practice waiting for you to come back before asking for something, etc. It's one thing of the attendant offers them some juice or whatever, but they should try to wait and ask you instead, etc. I realize they're young and they'll forget but it couldn't hurt...especially with the "older" ones.

In my experience, Southwest is one of the most CHILD FRIENDLY airlines out there. They have the best "unaccompanied minor" policy and my kids (11 & 6) fly them all the time when they go visit their dad back east. As for check in, because you have children under 5, you will be allowed to PRE-BOARD. So do the 24 hour check in, but they will allow you to pre-board no matter what your boarding number is. WHen you get there remark to the ticket clerk at check in and at the gate that you've heard wonderful things about the SWA flight attendants and kids...a little flattery will get you a LONG WAY...and ask them if they can give you a hand once you're on board and may have to take the kids to the bathroom. They'll give the kids entertainment kits (crayons and coloring sheet) as well as "wings" so they look like pilots.

As for entertainment, I have used a DVD player with huge success. My recommendation is to get head phones and you can get a plug that allows for multi-users (i.e., I have a plug with four ports that I put into the earphone jack so four people can use headphones and watch a movie).

Have the two oldest use backpacks and fill it with toys and snacks...they'll love being responsible for their own stuff!

As for nasty fellow passengers...screw 'em...as long as your kids are well-behaved it shouldn't be an issue! Just remind your kids about good plane etiquette...don't kick seats, indoor voices, etc and it should all go well!

Have fun...good luck!

Hi K.,

I live in MO but my sister lives in Wichita, KS not to far 3 -4 hour drive, I drove. I have 4 kids 16 yrs, 7 yrs, 4 yrs, and then a 1 yr old. So here are my suggestions :
A backpack for the older ones in there you could put a small snack in a ziploc baggie, a coloring book with 8 crayons, a couple books to look at (ALL new that way they will have never seen it before. A small toy, and if they have it a small stuffed animal.
One thing my kids LOVE is the cd/walkman with headphones, we took these with us and got them both a new cd, I made sure I had extra batteries on hand also. We bought kid music so they could sing along.
Oh and a backpack for you pack light for yourself, you could put diapers, wipes, a snack for and the youngest, kleenexes a ziploc gallon size bag in there for trash. Put your drivers license/ insurance card/debit card in your pocket wear comfortable clothes like jeans and a t-shirt. Put your purse empty in your suit case so you have it when you get there.

Your no crazier then I am. I'm thinking of taking my kids to St. Louis by myself also and once again driving or I will go to Wichita again and see my sis.

Also 30 minutes before boarding take them to the bathroom and cut off all drinks until in air and half way there. With any luck the youngest will fall alseep.

Mine are 18, 17 and 15 now..but been there done that minuse #4. I never had issues with anything other then the 18 yo having an ear infection one time and not feeling welll an .... well using the puke bag LOL..luckily he was old enough to know what to do at 4....
We did mosty car travel as it used to be cheaper lol...but each of my kids from the age of about one and half had thier own backpacks with toys/snacks etc.....sadly now you can't take certain things on but mine always where self containted for entertainment/snacks/even a change of clothing.

I have to take my two and a half year old triplets to California every three months to see their father, and it is a challenge. I fly Southwest, and they are very good at assisting. The only thing is you cannot preboard, though. That's a bummer when you have so many kids and so much stuff. I take the carseats on, because it is a security thing for me - then they don't unbuckle and escape! Each child has their own backpack, but one thing I didn't see mentioned in the reponses you have recieved is stickers. I got a book of them at Wal Mart, and they kept my children entertained for a long time. Good luck!

You might want to look in to getting (or better yet-borrowing) one of those stroller/car seats. We borrowed one on a big trip and it was great. It looks and works like a car seat but when you pull out the handle wheels pop out and you can use it as a stroller.
Good Luck!

I don't have the answers but I will pray for you!

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