Courtesy of our guest blogger, Shannon Van Heest

Mixing military life and rearing small children can make one desperate enough to try anything.  Like flying cross-country with two babies under three to visit family or driving 30 hours for Christmas break because flights are too expensive.  My husband and I have done both and lived to tell about it.


I flew solo for the first time with both girls when Meggie was barely 2 and Alice Virginia was about 8 months.  I was terrified and intimidated.  The layover! The luggage!  And where would I put the breastpump? But.  I hadn’t seen my family in months and we were preparing for another big move where we’d be even farther away from them…on both sides.  Desperate, you know?


Some tools and tricks in particular helped us survive.


Pack Lightly/Creatively


Instead of packing diapers, formula, medicine, etc, I mailed a box of the essentials to myself at my final destination.  I also gave my mom (and Kyle’s mom when we went to Michigan this summer) a list of things to have on hand.  Like a particular brand of eczema cream for the girls and rice milk for Alice Virginia’s allergies. That way, I only carried the amount of diapers I needed for the travel day on the plane (1 per each hour, plus a few extras).


Ziplock bags were essential.  I packed extra changes of clothes in them along with a diaper.  Then, when I did encounter a diaper explosion at higher altitudes, I had something to stick the dirty clothes back into.  It helped to have a large, absorbent cloth (like the kind you stick under crib sheets) to use as a makeshift changing station in the tiny lavatories mid-flight.


Before the FlightShannon Travel Blog2


As much as possible, we tried to choose flights or driving times that corresponded with routine sleep times.  Before the flight, I had them expend extra energy by running around an empty gate close by and playing peek-a-boo in between chairs. I’ve also taken them to empty terminals (when we’ve had enough time) and played tag or “I spy” out the window.


My girls love water fountains, so we also made a game out of finding as many as possible.   Along the way, I gave them turns pushing our stroller.


Pack a Goodie Bag for the Flight


Shannon Travel BlogA day or so before the trip, I had Meggie and Alice Virginia choose a few things that they wanted to take from our house.  This activity helped them feel personally connected to what’s in their bag, and they looked forward to unwrapping those items on the plane.


My girls also love “toys” that are not really toys.  Like a rubber band ball that a friend gave us before our flight this summer.  Meggie was occupied for a majority of the flight by unraveling it.  I’ve also packed non-toxic wipes for them to “clean” the seat and windows, and band-aids, which they like to un-peel and stick on everything.  Play doh and new coloring books are great ideas, too.


In the goodie bag, also, are snacks.  Individually packaged crackers, pretzels, or fruits and vegetables do well for us.  Again, the Ziplock bags.  I also packed small lollipops or fruit snacks as a special treat.


Family Videos


One quirky thing that’s saved us many a time on delays or during car rides is family videos.  We load up our laptops or portable devices with videos that we’ve taken on our camcorder at home.  The girls love watching themselves and other members of the family over and over, laughing at all the same parts.


Family Band


When driving, like on our 30 hour car trip over Christmas, we loaded music on the stereo (we did Christmas Carols and classic kid songs) and made up motions for the words.  I passed an “instrument” out to each family member to form a band.  Jingle bells, recorders, and whistles work well for this task.    We ended up laughing with each other and passing hours of time this way.


Plan Stops at Rest Areas


We’ve found it helpful to plan our stops at rest areas along driving routes.  Not only does this save money (we pack at least one meal per day on the road), but it gives the girls a chance to run off some energy.  We’ll pull into the rest area and take turns playing tag or going on nature walks around the rest area’s grassy sections.  It’s like a reset button for their patience and good attitudes on the road.


These tricks have really helped us on the road, but I’d love to know: what are some of your favorite traveling tips?


Shannon is a Navy wife of six years, mama to two daughters three-and-under with a third baby girl on the way, blogger, and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling.  She’s a lover of simple things like farmer’s markets, barefeet, and bluegrass music. When she’s not tickling sweet toes or chasing toddlers, you can find her reading a good book and sipping sweet tea.  For more, follow her at:


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