We got on a plane with three children under the age of five. Five people, four seats. It was awesome. Okay, not so much. But here are a few tips for getting to the plane without the hassle.
Drop the luggage (and your spouse and children) off at the curb.
Unless you are taking a cab to the airport or getting a ride, you have to figure out a way to get all your luggage and all of your family onto that plane before it takes off. I remember (before Ethan) when Derek and I each had a roller carry-on bag and his and hers laptops. We made it from the front door of the airport to the plane in under 20 minutes without fail. Then we had a baby. Didn't that all change? Now we have 3 huge bags, car seats for the other end (and to be honest, a way to strap down Nate on the plane) and whatever else we manage to find that we just HAVE TO HAVE with us on our trips.
From our first trip after Ethan's birth (when he was 7 weeks old), our policy was that the driver dropped the passenger, all the luggage AND THE BABY off on the front curb. The driver then drove to the parking lot that seemed to be miles away. The dropped-off person can either choose to transport said child in a backpack or a stroller--dealer's choice. When it's me, I prefer the backpack because I like to have my hands free. A stroller means you are going to get stuck pushing with at least one hand. Either way, this is better than the alternative. On one trip, I watched a family of five try to get their luggage onto and off of the parking lot shuttle bus and it was not pretty. That's a lot of carrying that you wouldn't have to do if you had just swung in front of the terminal before going to the parking lot.
Pay the nice porter for curbside check-in or use door-to-door baggage delivery. At $2 a bag for cheap people such as ourselves, that $8 can really put a dent in the old wallet. Of course, instead of trying to lug a baby, 3 bags and car seats into the airport, you never have to pick up your luggage again until you reach the other side of your journey. Well worth the $8 to me. Another option is door-to-door baggage delivery. For some airlines, this service starts at $79. It seems like a lot but since nearly all airlines charge per bag these days, your convenience and reduced hassle might be worth the extra.
Leave a little extra time so you can make your children walk. If you are going on a long plane ride, there is going to be plenty of sitting time. We always try to get to the airport early enough so that after we pass through security, we let Nathan walk the rest of the way to the plane. It may take a while to get to our destination but the little ones are guaranteed to be all tuckered out by the time we get there. It certainly raises our chances that someone will take a nap at some point on the plane or that the kids will be content to just sit.
Get on the plane last. That five hour flight isn't going to seem any shorter if you are the first person to board. Sure you want to guarantee room in the overhead bins for your things and you don't want to rush, but extending your plane travel time just might send your kids over the edge. We send one parent on at the beginning to install car seats or pack everything away. The other parent waits until final boarding call and then corrals the kids down the aisle of the crowded plane to the last seat. That way you also get an opportunity to see the sheer panic on other people's faces that yes, you are bringing a baby on their flight. No backing out now.
These tips have saved me either lots of time or lots of stress. Do you have any more to add?