Letter to Fellow Traveling Parents

Dear mother and father in the airport who I have to assume are homeless and so need to bring all your material possessions with you,

You are STRESSING me out!  Not because you're physically bothering me in any way, but because I see you bogged down with your deluxe mega-strollers and overstuffed diaper bags and stuffed-to-the-brim luggage for each of your kids and car seats and gear for all 4 seasons and it starts to give me anxiety.

stroller at airport photo: Kids in the stroller 4e2d173a-f456-414f-a0b7-f7c1616d4333.jpg 

 You see, I am a travel minimalist.  The less I bring with me from home, the more I can focus on the exciting new place I'm going.  It doesn't take me an extra half-hour to sort out what I'm checking and what I'm not.  I don't get a headache (well, not much of one) from figuring out how to fold down the pram and jam it through the x-ray machine.  And I don't feel the most stress at the end of the jet bridge because the line is backing up while I figure out how to unload  the same mobile contraption of it's accumulated coats and shoes and snacks and children so I can check it at the gate.  

Please know that I am not judging you.  Every person has to do what makes a situation best for them.  I just wonder if I might be able to suggest something you hadn't thought of before...

Leave it at home!

Or at least check it, please.  I know sometimes you'll need the carseat and stroller on the other end, but if you could make the stress of flying a little easier, wouldn't you want that?  Here are a few of the ways my family makes getting through the airport a breeze...

Carry the Baby:  There is a lot going on in an airport, especially if you have kids in tow.  You need to have your hands free.  Put the baby in your front or back carrier of choice instead of strapping them in a stroller.  Wearing them means never having to worry about where they are, and while you do still have to take them out to go through security, it's a much smaller and less questionable piece of equipment to send through the screening machine. With baby attached, there's no figuring out how to safely leave them in the main flow of traffic while you grab a water and magazine from the cramped gate-side kiosk.  And if you're clever, you can stash your i.d. and boarding pass in next to baby instead of shoving them in your bag and looking frantically for them later.  

Don't Carry Your Kid's Things:  At age 2, B & P started carrying their own backpacks, which they pack (with a little supervision).  If they want it with them, they keep it with them.  Toys or coloring books and sometimes even the snacks go on their backs and they LOVE it!  It's gotten to the point in our house that if they see the backpacks out of the closet they instantly know it means we're going on a trip.  Once we're at the airport, they feel grown-up having their own items to be responsible for.  The adventure starts for them long before we leave the ground as they jump on and off the moving walkways, watch for jets taking off or landing, and try to guess where everyone is going.  

Trust the Airplane Seat:  I have never taken a car seat on the airplane with me.  I honestly don't even know what the requirements and rules are for doing that.  In all my years of flying I have never been on a flight where the turbulence was so bad that the regulation airplane seatbelt would not have been enough to keep my child safe. Knowing that until age 2 most small children ride on their parents' lap with no belt makes me even more confident that the odds are very small something catastrophic is going to happen to throw my older child out of his seat.  And while I'm on the topic of seats, trust the lavatory seat as well.  I was on a 3-hour flight once with a family that took their young son to the bathroom every 15 minutes, carrying his dirty portable potty seat up and down the aisle.  No one in close quarters with recirculated air wants to see and smell that while trapped at 32,000 feet.  

Consolidate, Consolidate, Consolidate:  Flying with children comes with an automatic stigma.  Any person who sits down next to you is going to have a moment of dread and regret as they imagine your unruly kids behaving badly.   If the two hours  in the airport leading up to a flight are full of juggling bags along with those kids, the stress level is going to be close to overflowing.  Why feed into the stereotype by also needing 3 overhead bins to cram in what you could quite possibly have left at home?  If at all possible, I implore you to only bring on the plane, what you're going to need on the plane.  Snacks, diapers, one emergency change of clothes?  Great.  Your Sunday clothes, swim rafts, business ledgers, cooking utensils?  Not going to need them for quite awhile.  And if you can, be considerate of your fellow travelers-keep your bags at your feet; because no matter how good we all know our own kids are, they might actually be a little annoying.  If you can avoid adding to that by not getting up over and over again, it'll only benefit you in the end.  

Please, moms and dads out there traveling beside me, know that I am so happy to see you out exploring the world with your family!  I don't sit in my seat at the gate mocking you or snickering at your method of packing.   But if there's a way to make your next trip to the airport a little less hectic, I hope you'll try it!

What are your tricks for flying stress-free with children?