The first time I flew alone with the kids, I was terrified. So many things can go wrong with a 16-month old and a 3-year old. It was a successful first trip and we have had several more so I thought I would share the things that worked for us.
Two sleeping babes on the plane! It was magical!
Find the play area at your airport. Get there early so the kids have time to play and get energy out before they are expected to sit for hours on end. Also, if you have a layover, make it one that is long enough to allow them to play and eat. Our layover is usually at least two hours. This way, the kids can play, eat lunch, play some more, we can all use the bathroom and then head to our gate for the next flight.
2) NEW TOYS. I make a trip to Target a few days before our flights to get things from the dollar sections. I just buy simple, small things that easy to store in my diaper bag but will also keep them busy for a little bit. This includes stickers, window clings, new coloring stuff, etc. I also buy a new DVD or two since that keeps Brayden occupied for a long time. This last trip, since he's been obsessed with Paw Patrol, I bought a Paw Patrol DVD and a new Paw Patrol toy for him. The kid was in heaven!
Don't freak out if you forget headphones. I forgot them on our last trip but the plane is so loud that people around you can't hear the DVD player anyways.
3) STROLLER! The stroller has saved my life. We have a layover every time we fly because there is not direct flight. I carry Madison in the Ergo and Brayden goes in the stroller and the diaper bag gets strapped on there too. This completely saves my sanity. On my very first flight my stroller didn't get brought to the gate at my layover. It was disasterous. I had to carry Madison in the Ergo but also carry my 30-pound diaper bag and Brayden's small backpack and then hold his hand because I am a freak about being in crowds with my kids. It was completely miserable! I have learned that you must check your stroller for your layover destination, not your final destination.
4) EXTRA CLOTHES. This is especially important if you are traveling with an infant but don't underestimate your child's ability to ruin their clothing even if they are 3-years old. On our most recent trip, Brayden decided he needed to pee as we were starting take-off. This resulted in my trying to catch his pee with one of Madison's diapers. It worked pretty well but some still got on his shorts and dummy me didn't bring extra clothes for him. I learned my lesson!! Extra clothes goes for Mommy and Daddy too. Infants will spit up, breast milk will leak, your toddler will vomit, etc. Just bring and extra shirt and thank me later.
5) BOTTLE OF PATIENCE. Oh wait, you can't buy this. Just remember that you're doing the best you can. Your infant may have a fit. Your toddler may have a fit. You might want to burst into tears. Take a deep breath and remember that kids will be kids and you cannot control how they react in particular situations. You can, however, control how YOU react and that will have a huge impact on your child. If they are having a meltdown, hold them and take deep breaths with your chest pressed against their chest. Sing a song. Ask a flight attendant for some juice or an extra snack. You've probably heard horror stories of people being so rude to a mother with a crying child but I can say that is not the norm. Every time I have been on a flight, the people around us have interacted with my kids and actually made our flight easier. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Lastly, just remember that this is one day and you're surrounded by people you don't know and will probably never see again. Who cares what they think! (If you're an essential oils user, your bottle of patience will be lavender with wild orange! I bring a roller bottle with me and put it on before we get going. Totally helps to calm me down and since the kids are smelling it too, they become more calm as well. Just put it on before you board the flight since not everyone wants to smell your awesomeness!)
This is all we bring for a two-week vacation at my parents' house. Granted I borrow clothes from my mom when I don't have what I want and we have access to a washer and dryer. It would look much different if we were going to a hotel!
We are flying again next month and I feel like I finally have this "flying alone with two kids" thing down pat. Which means it will probably all go terribly wrong. Oh well! This is the last time that Madison will be traveling on my lap since she will turn two just a few weeks after we get back. That means for our next flight (after this one) each kid will have their OWN seat! I can't even tell you how excited I am to not have to hold Madison for the whole flight.
Feel free to add additional tips in the comments of what works for you when traveling with kids alone!!