I recently flew cross-country for five and a half hours with not just one, but two seventeen month old toddlers. And I lived to tell you about it.

The truth (because I want to be completely and utterly honest with you all), is that I stressed myself out beyond belief about the travel. I mentally backed out multiple times. I actually backed out twice. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it went. But I was well-prepared for the worst, which did ease some of the stress.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when traveling with a baby (or babies):

Part One: The Airport

1. Get there early.

Sometimes TSA will let you cut to the front of the security line. Sometimes they won’t. Prepare for waiting. If you have liquids like formula/milk/juice/medicine with you, you’ll need to let the TSA agents know. This will result in a longer time at the scanning machines. Also, plan for what you are wearing. Shoes that can be easily removed, less jewelry and belts, and a neatly packed carry on will make things go much smoother.

2. Pick one: stroller or car seat.

I learned this lesson the hard way the first time we traveled. If you buy child seats on the plane, you can take your car seat aboard. I highly recommend purchasing Go-Go Babyz. These were the BEST thing we bought for our last trip to SF. Basically they attach to your car seat and turn it into a wheeling stroller. The kids loved being in them and thought they were on an amusement park ride. We loved being able to check the stroller at curbside and only schlep the seats. If you are planning to hold your baby on your lap, I would take the easiest stroller to fold/assemble. (We love our double City Mini because it folds in a cinch. But don’t be madly in love with your stroller. There are no guarantees that the airline attendants will treat it with TLC.) A friend of mine uses a bungee cord to make sure her stroller doesn’t open once she gate checks it. You will wheel it down the jetway and leave it right before boarding the flight. Then it will be there when you deplane (usually). Make sure you don’t have anything in the stroller that can fall out. I always vote lightweight over fancy. Some friends use a stroller bag, but make sure you know exactly how the stroller fits in (sometimes you have to take the wheels off which is a process). This leads me to my next point…

3. Practice makes perfect.

Before our last trip I put Mr. C through an Apache Relay of baby assembly. We tested attaching and detaching the car seats from the Go-Go Babyz. We tested taking the car seats out of the car and putting them back in. We tested zipping the stroller into its carrying bag. I pretended to be an angry and impatient flyer waiting to take my seat on the plane, stuck behind the twins. The point is, make sure you know how all of your gear operates. At home, we almost never take our car seats out of the car. We needed to be ready. Prepare, prepare, prepare. I can’t stress it enough. Also check and make sure any new electronics function properly and are fully charged.

4. Stock your pantry.

I like to think of preparing for travel with kids like preparing for Armageddon. I try to be ten steps ahead. What if the flight is delayed? What if we can’t get our luggage right away? What if the rental car takes hours to arrive? So I always have lots of food, snacks to be exact, and water. Mason didn’t make a peep the entire flight home from SF. That is partially because he took an unprecedented two and a half hour nap. It is also because every time he looked like he was going to make a peep, I popped a snack into his little mouth, and he behaved perfectly. Have lots of snack options. We like fruits and veggies cut up into pieces, crackers, cheerios, puffs, string cheese and cut up sandwiches. I bring it all in a cooler bag and I have lots of bottled water too. I also have R + M’s {rice} milk ready to go and ready to soothe, no matter when they usually consume it. Sippy cups, bibs, little spoons: check, check check. Being prepared to feed means having all of the feeding accouterments. When R + M were smaller I always brought the bottles of ready to use liquid formula. I didn’t want to be mixing and shaking formula mid air. Just stick the nipple on and you are good to go. Be sure to have some extra plastic baggies to put the dirty items in, so you can clean them when you arrive at your destination. I always keep a bottle of travel dish soap with me as well. You never know where and when you need to clean.

5. Stock your toy chest.

Bring things like blankets (I love aden + anais ones because they are super soft and lightweight), pacifiers (and pacifier wipes), your iPad/portable DVD player loaded with programs (we loaded up on Sesame Street DVDs and episodes on our iPad), an extra charger that gives electronics a booster, baby headphones (hilarious but practical), books and small toys. One of my friends suggested wrapping several small toys (something brand new your child has never played with before. Your child will think that the wrapping is a toy in and of itself. R + M have an affinity for tupperware and empty water bottles, so we are pretty much our own recycling company. Don’t forget the usual items in the diaper bags, especially a change of clothes for the kids and a change of shirt for you (you’ll thank me for that one if you have an infant with reflux).

6. Take off and landing

Make sure to have your child{ren} suck on something during take off and landing. If they use a pacifier, that works. If not, try a bottle or sippy of water or juice. It will really ease the strain on their ears. When R + M were smaller, I would save “feeding time” for take off to ensure they were sucking. Then I would mix a small bottle for landing. Now we use the sippy cups. I kept a bottle of water near me to show them that drinking was good.

7. Changing woes.

Changing a baby’s diaper on an airplane is not an easy feat. After you do it once, you will feel uber accomplished, like you can do anything. Could you climb Mount Everest? Sure, I changed a baby on an airplane? Could you run 100 miles in a day? Easy peasy compared to changing a baby on an airplane. You catch my drift? There is not easy answer-all. It sucks. You just have to do it sometimes. BUT, here are two ways to cut down your stress:

a. Before we get on a plane I change both kids into an overnight diaper (we like Huggies). These are way more absorbent. You can even go up a size if you need to. That way, you will only need to change for you know what. Thanks to my friend Rachel who shared this tip with me. It is gold!

b. Have a “kit” ready to go for a quick jaunt to the restroom. That means changing pad, diaper, wipes, hand sanitizer and cream ready to go and neatly wrapped together. Take that into the potty. Not your entire diaper bag. Have it on top of the bag and easy to find. {Love SkipHop’s “Pronto” by Jonathan Adler}.

You can do it. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. {And when in doubt, buy a round of drinks for everyone seated around you.  A sense of humor goes a long way.

You are ready to go and make memories now!