May 19, 2008,
K.S. asks from Leawood, KS on May 16, 2008
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!
A.K. answers from St. Louis on May 17, 2008
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.
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B.B. answers from St. Louis on May 16, 2008
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!
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C.M. answers from Kansas City on May 17, 2008
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".
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J.S. answers from Memphis on May 16, 2008
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.
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S.B. answers from Wichita on May 17, 2008
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.
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D.P. answers from St. Louis on May 17, 2008
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.
D.H. answers from Kansas City on May 17, 2008
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.
N.S. answers from Springfield on May 17, 2008
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!!