I've flown alone with the girls more times than I can count. When your family lives all over the country, it's sort of a necessary evil. I've gotten traveling with kids down to a science. My main two rules are: over prepare and start early. We're leaving a week from today for a trip to my in-laws in Florida (woohooo!!) Here's how I do it.
I start by organizing everyones clothes/belongings into piles on my bedroom floor. We have a large open space so this works best for me. If your room is small you can organize on your bed. I put each type of clothing into its own pile. A pile of bathing suits/cover ups, a pile of pajamas, a pile of shirts, and so on, ect. Once I have everyones piles organized, I take half and put it back. I've gotten so used to packing for myself that I really only have to do this for the girls. I never pack more than two pairs of shoes for each person, plus whatever pair they're wearing on the plane. (I always wear flats when traveling, easier to slip off and on when going through security - yes that means bare feet in the airport, oh well.)
If I'm traveling alone I pack my purse and bring a backpack. Hands free all the way. The Big One has her own backpack and I use my Joovy Caboose Ultralight stroller, which makes traveling through the airport a lot easier on everyone. I pack IDs/Birth certificate in their own compartment in the front of my backpack for easy reach. A ziplock bag of baby/kid medicines goes into the backpack as well a ziplock bag for me of lip balm, hand sanitizer, a small can of Evian spray, Rescue Remedy, and hand cream. When the Big One was little I had a ziplock bag for her pacifiers too. If I'm traveling with my husband I usually bring a large tote-type bag instead of the backpack.
I always bring a ton of snacks and two empty sippy cups. We usually fly Jet Blue (hurray free tv!!!) but if we don't, I bring a portable DVD player and a few movies. I sometimes will pick up a new $5 movie from Target that they've never seen and hide it away. Each girl gets a new toy (something little, that I also hide in my backpack) The Big One helps me decide a few things she wants to bring in her backpack and then I usually hide something new in there too. Polly Pockets tend to be a big hit. I always bring stickers (lots!), crayons, color wonder markers/paper, a travel doodle pro and a few small books. I pack an extra outfit for the babe, a bunch of overnight diapers (she travels in them too) and a travel pack of wipes. Forget packing a book for you for the plane or buying magazines. Not gonna happen. At least not when they're this little!
This is going to sound ridiculous, but dress your kids in their most comfortable and absolutely cutest outfits. Seriously. At least if they look cute, their craziness doesn't seem as crazy or loud or annoying.
Try to check in at the curb! So much easier and worth it, even if you have to pay a little more money per bag.
The most important tip, kill EVERYONE with kindness. The person checking you in, the security people, the people at your gate, the people around you, the flight attendants, the captain..you get it. The nicer and calmer and easier you seem, the better everyone around you will feel about having you and your brood around.
And if all else fails, have a drink.
p.s. The Big One ate a fortune cookie this morning that was leftover from our dinner last night. This was the fortune. Sweet!!!!
What travel tips/advice do you have?