Traveling with 2 Kids--how to Manage the Gear?

Updated on June 09, 2011
T.H. asks from Davis, CA
22 answers

At the end of July, I'm going to be flying cross country by myself with my 14 month old and 3.5 year old. I will be staying with childless friends while away. I've already asked if they can find anyone to loan us baby equipment while we're there and they said they can't get a hold of any. At a minimum, I need two car seats and a pack 'n play. I plan to bring an umbrella stroller and an ergo for carrying one kid. My question is this: how do you recommend I get all the gear I need there? I'll be renting a car when I arrive and they are charging a whopping $75 per kid for renting a car seat for the week. It would also cost $25 each way to bring my pack n' play. Not to mention that I might be a wreck trying to manage all the gear and kids by myself in the airport. How do I do this without spending a fortune or killing myself with all the stuff? Do I buy a cheap-o crib when I get there?

I am also soliciting suggestions on how to survive a red-eye flight with both kids. Should I bring a car seat on board for the older kid or have him just curl up on the airplane seat? I'll have the 14 month old on my lap.

Pour out your mommy wisdom, ladies!! I know some of you super mommas have already done this!

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answers from Portland on

Having help at drop off and pick up is essential (as In have someone come in with you). Then you can manage the car seats. I don't know what kind of house your friends have, but if it's relativey safe, do you really need the pack n play? Mattress on the floor has worked for me in the past. Just make sure you have plenty of snacks and diversions for the plane ride. I've had many successful plane rides with both kids alone, and they're now 2 and 4. Most important, really ask yourself what you can do without, because the less stuff you have to lug around, the better. People will help, and you can always do a web search for a baby stuff rental company in your destination. Usually quite affordable.


answers from St. Louis on

The best place for your baby on an airplane is in a safety/car seat. They are much better protected from turbulence, emergency landings, etc in a safety seat.

With regard to charges for your items, I don't think there is any way around paying for the car seats. Try to negotiate a deal since you have two kids.

I wish you luck, you brave, brave soul!!!


answers from Washington DC on

I would get each child their own seat - I traveled ONCE with a 9 month old on my lap and NEVER again - especially when you don't have your husband there to help you.

Have your friends or ask them - to go to a thrift shop and pick up a pack and play for you...or even buy one on Craigslist or ebay and have it shipped there so I only had to worry about my backpack with their toys. Your friends can donate the item to charity when you leave and give you the donation ticket.

When I have traveled with my kids in the past - I have boxed up their stuff that was a "must have" diapers, wipes and their clothes and shipped it ahead...Granted - I was staying with my parents so it was easy for them. I also packed my clothes so the ONLY thing I had to worry about was my backpack with their toys...making it as easy as possible.

Take the car seat with you. The airline should allow you first access to the plane so you can get situated as well..

As to a red-eye? I thought like you that the kids would be awake -nope - zonked out the WHOLE flight.

It will all work out.



answers from San Francisco on

Why are you doing this? This just sounds like way too much for any mom to handle by herself. Unless someone is dying, I would not do this trip at all. Let the childless friends come to you. Know your limits!



answers from San Francisco on

there are companies around the country that rent the gear and will deliver to where you are staying. If you need the car seats upon arriving at the airport you will either need to bring your own or get them through the car rental company.I stayed at a friends when my son was about 18 months and I shipped my pack-n-play out ahead of time along with a booster seat for the table. They received it before I arrived and I asked my friend to ship it back after we left and I paid her for the shipping. That worked out pretty well and wasn't as expensive as renting the gear for a week.



answers from Amarillo on

If you can, ship all the items that you would need to your friend's house (UPS) so that you only have to deal with the stroller and car seats. When it is time to go back ship them back. Otherwise do the Craiglist thing.

Good luck and enjoy your visit.

The other S.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi T.

I feel for you! I have been there and done that. Take your own car seats and check them. the plane will carry them, not you. It is less cumbersome on the plane for the 3 of you to have two seats without the car seat there. I don't know what the ergo is (I am older than you) but if it is like a sling, bring it too on the plane to put the 14 month old in it. that way it is as if he is strapped to you in case of turbulence. It also holds him in place so that you can both fall asleep without him falling off your lap. See if you can find a cheap crib on line that can be delivered to your friend's house, otherwise bring yours (again, the plane will carry it, not you). I don't know if airlines are also charging for baby gear these days... Good luck, and I hope your friends are eager to see and help with your kids!!


answers from Kalamazoo on

Send the carseats thru with checked bags. Make sure your friend knows that you will need serious help when you arrive at the airport. Maybe she could find a used pack and play at Goodwill? on Craigslist? something like that. Also, there might be a place in her area that rents them.



answers from Los Angeles on

1. Check baby gear rental companies

2. Check your car seats and ask the airline for their own safety seat to use on flight .

3. Tip porter(s) to help with luggage/gear @ airport


answers from San Francisco on

I suggest letting the older one curl up on the airplane seat. When I flew a red eye with 2 kids (they were almost 3 & almost 4) they both curled up on a seat on either side of me and slept....unfortunately I was unable to sleep, but they were both fine.
As for carseats and gear, I can't help much because we visited my sister who has kids and let us borrow carseats, etc.
I wish you lots of luck and patience!



answers from Dallas on

never never never never never check a car seat with your checked bags. equally never never never never rent a car seat! you never know the safety history of a rented car seat, and there are SO many things that can go wrong with checking one(damage - they are NOT gentle with your things - and some damage can be invisible to the naked eye, but can still affect the structural integrity of the seat - or, what if your baggage is lost/delayed - how are you going to leave the airport????). carry on the seat for your 3.5yo to sit in, and gate check the other seat(unless you get lucky and there is an empty seat next to you when you board). i travelled alone when my boys were 1.5 and 4.5 - i carried on a britax regent and britax boulevard. those are two HEAVY seats! i used a gogokidz travelmate to turn the boulevard into a stroller, and i basically rigged up backpack type straps for the regent and carried it on my back. i put the 1yo in the boulevard "stroller" to get through the airport. the regent had to be gate checked, it was too large for the plane, but i brought the boulevard on board(with the travelmate still attached during flight) for my 1yo to sit in. if you are in the market for a new car seat anytime soon - look at getting one sunshine radian for your older son, then fold up and have carry straps for travel - then look into a gogokidz, especially if you will be travelling again - to attach to your younger child's carseat. buy an umbrella stroller when you get there for $10. see if the airline will send your pack n play through as "baby gear" for free. anyways, i'd pull the gogokidz with one hand, carry the 2nd seat on your back, carry a diaper bag/large purse on the other arm, and hold your 3.5yo's hand with your free hand. the chaos is cut down in a MAJOR way if you can have an adult escort you to the gate(yes, TSA will allow that) and meet you at the other gate, if at all possible. good luck :)


answers from Pittsburgh on

Rent the pack n play and stroller at your destination. There are plenty of stores that do that and you should be able to set it up long distance. Many will deliver the items to wherever you are staying. Get a gobabyz to attach to one car seat It's basically luggage wheels for the set. Rent the second car seat with your rental car. The 3-1/2 yr old can walk at the airport. I found the red eye is an easy flight for DS because he just sleeps. It's better to bring your car seat on board than check it, so you might as well use it. It's a long flight with a lap child. If you can afford it I would buy them both tickets. Check all your luggage except your diaper bag (change of clothes for the kids, books for the kids, toys, underwear for you), the Ergo and the car seats.



answers from Salinas on

Have your friends posted this request on their facebook? They might be surprised how many old classmates and co-workers are willing to loan items to them. Someone might be saving the infant seat for their next baby and a grandma might have an extra pack-n-play. they may even find an extra stroller for your use. Or you could post on your facebook and see if a friend of a friend is in the area you are going to be with the needed items. even with the child in your lap, you are still allowed to bring his/her carseat incase there is an available seat. once you get up to the plane they can check it incase the plane if full and give it back when you are walking off the plane. Not sure how many connections you will have though.


answers from San Francisco on

A couple things: I've never done a red-eye, so I have no advice about the car seat question. However, if your 3.5yo is going to sleep most of the time, I might break my #1 rule and bring it. Airplane seats are VERY small, especially if you're not flying Southwest! Just be prepared for the situation where it's hard for one or both to sleep. Usually the white noise of the plane helps kids, but it never helps me because I'm too focused on my kids and making sure they don't fall off the seat, etc (which might be lessened with the car seat and Ergo).

I would take my own car seats (if you have them). They fly free as checked baggage on most airlines, and I thought pack n plays were in the same boat (baby equipment), but I guess I'm wrong about that. We flew to Edmonton a few months back and took our seat with us (only 1 kid with us) instead of renting. You never know what you're going to get when you rent, or if they'll even have the correct seat. Last time we had to use an airline seat, it was technically illegal for our son to sit in because it was belt-positioning, not harnessed (they were out of the other).

Ergo and stroller are a must for me! I always take my bigger stroller, though, so I don't have to carry the 2 bags we always take with us (or the pillow for that matter). I also always take a pillow with us for nursing and sleeping (I have a 4.5yo and an 18mo, and we fly San Fran to Detroit/Cleveland at least 4 times per year).

I love the idea of craigslist, though! You may even be able to post a want to borrow and see how many responses you get! I also like the Facebook idea :)



answers from Boston on

Ask your friends to post on Freecycle in their area for a pack n play, booster seat (for feeding little one), and maybe some kid toys (might be nice since they don't have children). They can give away whatever they get after you leave.
I traveled (husband was with me) with my 2 boys in March (18 month was on my lap, it was fine) and my 3.5 was not in car seat on plane and was fine...watched movie and fell asleep, but an umbrella stroller is absolutely necessary in the have to remove their shoes, etc... and you need a place to "put" the little one...
Good luck!


answers from Richmond on

You're brave ;)

You could ask your childless friend if there are second hand kids consignment shops in the area... you could probably buy most of that stuff used for cheaper than you would rent it!! Then donate the stuff or sell it back to the store.



answers from Sacramento on

I would look online for that area and see if you can't find their equivalent to Child Action. Call, email or write to those folks and explain your situatioin and see if they have equipment your friends could borrow for you, and bring to the airport. That way you won't have to worry about packing all the stuff along, and you will have a pretty good guarantee that the stuff you borrow is good quality and safe. You might want to call a Child Action office here and ask if they have a listing of their equivilant agencies in the area to which you are traveling.



answers from Chico on

Hi T.! I flew from Sac to DC when my kids were 2 (just barely) and 4, and I would recommend not taking the car seat on the plane unless your child REALLY loves it!! My kids have never loved theirs, and sitting in the seat curled up on my lap was the seat of choice for my 4 year old. I also recommend getting a seat for your younger child if it's an option, because a cross-country lap seat is so restricting. When I went, they didn't charge me to check the car seats and stroller. As far as once you are there, I wonder if your friends would be willing to go on Craigslist or Freecycle for you to get a pack-n-play? Then you could give it away again when you are done. $50 and the pain of hauling it around makes me think that even buying a new one and donating to a shelter or something when you are done with it (or leaving it with your friends for your next visit?!) would be more cost effective than taking it. Another option might be for you to search the net (or ask your friends to) for a mother's group in their city/town. Maybe one of the local moms would be willing to lend you gear?

When I flew with my kids it was just me and them going, and my husband (their dad) joined us for the flight back. It was easier on the way there :o! I hope it's a pleasure trip that you are taking and that you have fun! Happy travels.


answers from St. Louis on

I would not take the pack and play for $50. You can always just build a soft bed on the floor for the kids. If you MUST take two kitchen chairs and lay them on their sides and make a make shift area that is harder for your LO to get out of. The 3.5 year old should be able to sleep with you or on the floor. As far as the car seats I wouldn't pack them on the plane with you just check them and get them back once you get there. If the plane crashes chances are a car seat won't help them. Rent a cart when you get there to help lug your stuff around the 3.5 kiddo should be able to sit on the cart and our airport has carts with kids seats attached for the 14 month old. Hopefully it won't be too bad for you. I took 3 kids by myself to L.A. to meet up with my parents and had to lug three car seats, stroller and a pack and play (long ago before they charged) and the cart was a life saver!

You may also look into mailing the pack and play ahead of time to see what it would cost. Another idea is to buy one from Wal-Mart use the $.97 shipping to the store closest to them and them return it when you are done with it. I know kind of wrong, but so it charging $50 for a pack and play on an airline.



answers from San Francisco on

CRAIGSLIST!!!!! I have used the rental companies before and most of the time you pay more than you would for the item on craigslist (obviously depending on how long your stay is). Is someone dropping and picking you up at the airport? If so have them come in to the ticket counter with you to help carry the car seats. The airlines do not charge to check them in and they will go into baggage so who ever picks you up can come in and help you too or you can just get one of the carts.

As for where they will sleep I am all for rolling up blankets on the floor to create your own make shift crib. Take a comforter and fold it until it creates a nice cushy bottom. and then use pillows or rolled blankets to surround the comforter. The kids will love it.

I traveled with one child three times (1, 18 mo, 2) and that was not easy. I would recommend asking for an extra seat when you get to the airport. If they have one they will gladly give it to you. Also pay the extra $$ for the upgrade to bulk head seats. No one is in front of you and they can play on the floor. It's also a great place for them to sleep. My doctor suggested Benedryl for the over night but I never had to use it. Depends on how well your children sleep trough noise.

Less is more when it comes to gear and make sure your stroller is easy to open and close since your hands will be loaded down with kids & carry ons.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi there! Good luck on this trip!
I think I have two products (find these @Amazon) that will make your trip:
1. Gogo kids for the larger car seat- basically a carseat carrier modeled after a luggage carrier. This doubles as a stroller during the airport portion and allows you to use the car seat until you board!
2. Cheeky Monkey Pac Back- straps that enable you to carry a carseat on your back. Note, child cannot ride in the carseat while it's on your back, Ergo up front?
Those products get you the two carseats to the plane so you don't need to borrow or rent. That leaves you with the stroller and PNP to acquire by craigslist or loaner.
By the way, another mom recommended wearying the baby during the flight- they did not allow me to do this last summer. In the event of turbulence, the baby would be smashed by the momentum of my body. (the alternative that the baby would fly about the cabin was not good either... But it is airline regulations- look into it, because flying with a lap child is cheaper but has trade-offs).



answers from San Francisco on

first off, congrats on this adventure! you are an amazing M.. i would never think of traveling solo with the kids! i would try to have your friends get as much stuff as they can before you get there. it's tough traveling with kids let alone all the gear. i would pay the extra money for the plane seats, get the 14 month their own seat. then rent car seats when you rent the car. we did this on our last travel and it made it much easier at the airport, changing flights, and then traveling to and from airport. good luck!

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