I did it. I didn't think it could be done. But I did it. I flew nearly cross country with 2 kids under 2. The flight out had me reading and researching all that I could about flying with children, I thought and over-thought EVERYTHING. I've lived and learned and now I'm sharing what I would do again and what I could do without.
Do: Read Your Airline's Policies For Flying with Kids
I flew American Airlines and I knew their policies like the back of my hand. I knew exactly how much luggage we could have between myself and my child (who had a seat) and I knew how many "assisted items" I could fly with for free. For AA, at the time of my flight it was 1 stroller and 1 car seat per person.
Don't: Assume the Gate Agents Will Know the Policies
I read on the AA website that flyers with children would be allowed to board first, much to my surprise the gate agent told me that she didn't know about that policy but was willing to allow it. I don't know if she really didn't it know it or if she wanted to make me feel as if she was doing me a favor, but either way I knew what the website said at the time of my flight and I was really surprised she was saying something different.
Do: Book a Seat For Your Almost 2 Year Old
It costs more (obviously) to purchase a ticket for a child you can lap BUT it will help in the long run to have the almost 2 year old sit in their own seat. I found my baby was content being held but my little toddler needed to be buckled in or else she would have been running up and down the aisle.
Don't: Bother Purchasing a Seat Covering
I'll admit, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I saw an article that mentioned purchasing a seat cover for your child's airplane seat to prevent "airplane germs" from getting on their clothes and I thought that it was an amazing idea! I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it, was I that bad of a mom? I needed to save her from the "airplane germs". It was something extra I had to remember to pack in a bag that was going to be easily accessible when I got on the plane and honestly, by the time we even got to our seats my toddler had already touched every row on the way there. It was a great concept, and perhaps I didn't buy the most expensive one on the market but it did feel like it was a waste. I was (from what I could see) the only one using one, so I did feel a bit silly.
Do: Purchase a Bag For Your Stroller & Car Seat
From what I read some airlines are able to provide giant plastic bags to cover your stroller or car seat when checking them at the ticketing counter. I also read that they did not always provide them and it was better to have your own bag to cover your items. There are a ton of bags on the market and they get really pricey if you want cushions and wheels. I purchased drawstring style bags that were a thinner material but were no less protective than a plastic bag. On the trip out one ripped slightly but it still got the job done on the way back.
Don't: Assume Your Flight Will Have a TV
I'm not a frequent flyer but whenever I have flown I've always had a TV screen on the seat-back in front of me. It never even occurred to me that a flight with my toddler wouldn't have one. It became fuzzy when I saw on the AA website that they allowed you to stream directly to your own device and it became fuzzier still when the employee on the phone couldn't say for certain our plane had TVs. It turned out that our flight out had TVs but our flight back did not.
Do: Bring an iPad and Download For Viewing Offline
Again, not a frequent flyer so when I heard there was wifi on the plane I assumed my apps on the iPad would work. OH HOW WRONG I WAS. Apparently the wifi is only good enough for the airplane's own app. Luckily ahead of our flight, the Netflix app asked if I wanted to download anything for offline viewing. I was able to download episodes of Trolls, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Dr. Seuss Knows A lot About That and PJ Masks!
Don't: Overthink Flight Times
I was certain I had it all planned out. We would take off in the morning and we would be in the air during nap time. The toddler would obviously go to sleep at her regular time and then when we landed she would be refreshed. You can laugh at me now. She stayed awake the ENTIRE FLIGHT. I couldn't believe it. When we flew back we took a redeye, thinking since it was night time she would have no choice but to fall asleep and she did, for less than half of the flight. The baby fell asleep on and off between feedings and generally did very well. So book the flight that works best for you but don't bank on your toddler falling asleep, look at it as a bonus if they do.
Do: Pack LOTS of Snacks!
My toddler ate almost an entire bag of Goldfish during our flight out. She just kept shoveling them in. But as long as she was awake, and happy she could eat as many Goldfish as she wanted.
I am happy to report we made it on and off the flights without incident and while nerve-racking and stressful I am happy to have gotten their first flight out of the way. We can only plan so much when it comes to these types of things but I will say I've learned from the experience and definitely feel more prepared for our next time in the air!