YES, I took my 3 children solo to America for 3.5 weeks... #callmecrazy #notjustbrave
Now before I get into the nitty gritty of how I managed to survive travelling SOLO with 3 young children (Myla-5 in June, Azalea 4 in September and Elsie 4 months) to America and back- I thought I would give a little back story as to WHY half my family live there!
So heres a long story short:
x2 of my sisters live in America with their American husbands (they both moved there for work purposes in 2010 and eventually met and married their husbands and have stayed living there.)
My mother lived in AUS, but travelled back and forth between my sisters and I. In 2017 she met a tall Texan man with a very impressive moustache, who whisked her off her feet and in 2019 asked her to marry him. (not sure why I dove into his description so well, but lets flow with it)
So towards the end of March this year, I had x1.5 plane tickets booked - My own + Elsie as an infant with me. We were going to go to the wedding alone and stay in the USA for 1 week. And then.... for some foggy reason, 2 weeks before we were leaving - I had a crazy idea to take my two other children with me and stay for almost 4 weeks instead! This crazy idea was supported by my mother and sisters and after a little bit of convincing - hubby agreed for us to go without him (he had to work). And so it was set. 1 Crazy Mama with x3 very excited children (ok, Elsie had no clue what was going on).
Our trip plan was this:
23 days. Travelling from Brisbane - Sydney (3hr stop) - Dallas and Return the same way.
ON THE WAY TO AMERICA:
Our flight was at 9am from Brisbane, which meant we had to leave the house at 5am. I had 2 large and 1 medium suitcases. Plus the girls carry on TRUNKI's, my 'Alf the label' ARI backpack and a spare little bag also (will show more at the end in the 'products that saved me' section.)
Lewis helped us check in at the airport and we said our goodbyes at the gate. It was pretty hard to leave him- harder then I thought it would be actually. We have only ever been 2 weeks max apart and that was over 6 years ago! The girls haven't been more than a few days.
I put Elsie in the REDSBABY SKIP travel pram, and the two girls dragged with trunkis. MY alf bag was attached to the back of the pram with pram clips and extra bag under it. Going through security was relatively easy. They make you take the baby out of all carriers and prams - which is a pain but only a few minutes bother. On the way there I had help with one of mums friends who was also travelling for the wedding. Though she had her own gear and sat elsewhere on the plane, but it definitely helped me throughout the airport!!
Our first flight to Sydney went well, Elsie slept on my lap using one of the airlines little pillows, and the girls happily played with their KOOSHYKIDS activity sets. Before we knew it- we were landing again.
Going BETWEEN the airports on a shuttle bus was another story! We had a short amount of time and the airport was packed! I found the staff in Sydney USELESS and not helpful at all! (the Shuttle bus man however was very lovely and carried my pram to the bus for me and let us go up the lift around the busyness of people). we RACED around the airport to get to our gate - only to see that our plane to Dallas was delayed. It wasn't such a bad thing though as it gave us time to use the bathrooms, grab a coffee and get organised (mentally prepare) for the long ride ahead.
We were able to wheel our pram up to the ticket section at the gate- but for some reason (more rude staff) they made us fold it up and carry it down the long passage way. I put Elsie in my VIXSA ring sling and the girls continued to pull their trunki's- this is where the TRUNKI were amazing for the trip- it allowed the girls to sit and wait on them as we went down the line. A lovely American man offered to hold my pram for me (it has a great shoulder strap) until we made it on the plane, which was VERY helpful.
We DIDNT get on the plane first - which was a big mistake as I felt rushed to get into our seats and get organised. (definitely recommend asking to get on first). But once we where in, I settled the girls in their seats and pulled out everything I knew I would need to access easily and put it in their seat pockets. We were in the front row with a bassinet, so we had plenty of room. I had our MENTOS ready for take off in my pockets (ears), their activities and water bottles in the pockets in front of us, as well as Elsies nappy clutch, bunny and wrap.
I got Elsies seatbelt on straightaway with me and she fell asleep before take off (I didn't find any issues with her ears) and the girls chewed on MENTOS for their ears.
Overall the flight was great. It was a mixture of watching TV, playing with the channels, doing activities and sleep. We tried to stick with what the flight recommended sleep wise and the girls slept really well half laying, half upright in their sleep (QANTAS wouldn't allow KOOSHYKIDS KOOSHION), but we had our TRUNKIS out for our feet to rest on when we needed it.
The staff on the way there weren't amazing, some were quite rude... but overall the girls handled everything amazing! NO tears the entire trip and very minimal complaining. I think they were so excited by the adrenaline of it all, it kept them busy. Elsie- well she pretty much fed, slept and looked around perfectly the whole trip.
Jetlag was FINE! We had a few really late nights the first week, and because of the daylight savings, and being out and about- they ended up going to bed most nights around 8-9pm (home bed time is normally 7pm), and they slept until between 6:30-8:30am - the first week it was late sleep ins which were great. Keeping busy is the biggest deal to fix jetlag and that we did!!!
The trip itself while we were there was pretty much normal life, with lots of fun activities involved. I took my travel pram and VIXSA carrier with me EVERYWHERE, and my Alf the Label backpack was a life saver- I alternated between backpacks and side carry depending what I did that day.
The return trip was much the same- except we flew out at 10:30pm- which was so super nervous about with the 3 kids having to keep them awake soo late at night- but they had a nap in the car on the way to the airport and once again the adrenaline kept them busy! The staff where WAY nicer on the way home (no idea why!?!?) and helped out sooo much. I learnt my lesson and told EVERYONE I was travelling SOLO, so I received soo much help from staff and strangers. I had to get our bags in Sydney and drop them off at another section for domestic, which was a major job, but I had a lovely lady help me push the pram and trolley with all the bags all the way to the drop off zone. On the shuttle bus I had 3 men help me with our bits and pieces and the staff let me skip lines and on the planes first too! One moment had Elsie screaming getting onto the domestic flight home (super over tired) - which the staff helped me get my bags into the overhead and hold elsie while I settled the girls.
Jetlag returning wasn't so kind! Its taken 2 solid weeks for the girls to not wake up randomly at night - the first few nights they woke at 3am asking why it wasn't morning yet! Elsie has been even harder, waking up constantly all night and wanting to feed a lot too! But we are finally seeing the end - 3 weeks later, and its getting easier...
The trip was amazing. While I am EXHAUSTED- it was well worth it, and honestly- I WOULD do it again #yepiamcrazy.
Heres the major tips and details of the trip I suggest:
REDSBABY SKIP travel pram -
This pram was a lifesaver. It folds small enough to fit into the overhead of any plane. Super light weight with a shoulder strap to carry, and comes with a carry bag (you MUST have the bag to put in the overhead). Great sunshade vizor that comes down so low, I never used a wrap to cover her for darkness to sleep. It lays almost completely flat, with adjustable to completely upright, great length. 20kgs hold and 5kg bag room. My Alf backpack sat well in it or attached on the back. It turns amazing and strolls on even rough terrain quite well (I had it at the farm everyday!) - to be honest, I use it a lot at home still, and know Ill probably make it my main pram once Elsie gets bigger.
PRAM LINER by Audrey n Me (custom made for this specific pram!)
BAG- Alf the Label- ARI TAN SPOT BACKPACK
I LOVE this bag. Leather, with cowhide...its just soooo LUXE! But beyond the look, it is so incredibly practical. I needed something I could throw on my back when I needed it (the whole time during travels at the airport etc) but also if I felt like having my 'handbag' look on the side carry. It also attached well to the back of the pram using their pram straps. I didn't want just a baby backpack- I LOVE style and fashion, so this ticked every box. It also had soo much room, I could fit everything I needed in it, and as very easy to find things with some many sections on the inside. I also had their SPOT TOTE which came most places with us on our day trip to have spare things in, or really just to throw in random stuff we consumed out and about and in the car.
Our travel suitcases for the girls! The cutest little designs (we had Flossy Flamingo and UNA Unicorn), on wheels and with both hand straps and a long strap which can be used to carry on the shoulder or for the kids to pull behind them. The girls could pull them, ride them or sit on them and they fit everything they needed for the plane in them (including spare clothes/nappies).
Kooshykids have the best ULTIMATE travel packs- filled with so many fun activities catered to your kids age. The girls used these on both flights and at home while we were away. I would probably say they could have shared one pack or like I did on the way home- split it into two where they have half the activities on the way there and the other half on the way home as it was probably a bit much for me to carry and they watched a lot of tv and slept alot too.
They also had wireless headband headphones and sleeping KOOSHIONS - but unfortunately QANTAS doesn't allow these and I didn't have iPads for the headphones (bluetooth). But we will be using these for other trips for sure!!!
I took two carriers with me to hold Elsie-
VIXSA Ring sling- which I use the most as its so small to keep with me and super easy to pop her in for a nap without having to put her down.
ZARPAR BEBE - This a a WRAP CARRIER and was perfect for when we went to the theme parks, and around the farm when I wanted extra hold and she also could sit outwards and watch facing forwards or inwards to sleep.
CARRY LIGHT: I definitely recommend carrying as LIGHT as possible. On the way there we had an extra bag to take on board and it was definitely a juggle. I had a backpack (see products) which was able to strap onto the pram but also sit under it. This gave me so many quick options when going through different security sections.
CARRY/MOVE AROUND: I found it best to have Elsie in the pram as much as possible. It gave me my hands completely free and moveable easily. It meant I didn't have to juggle taking her out of a carrier at the security checks and just pick her up to carry her through. As much as I LOVED having the carrier with me, I only used it when getting right onto the plane and off it again. Though it was AMAZING for when Elsie was feeling clingy and needed a nap. The pram then was a great use to throw ALL the bags (the girls trunki's included) onto for quick movability.
I questioned whether I should have backpacks for the girls or wheel suitcases-I am SO glad I took the TRUNKI's- Even in the very few moments I had to carry them- they were super easy.
I also used attached straps (I made them) to the pram for the girls to hold onto when I needed to keep a better eye on them. This worked GREAT on our entire trip in carparks and busy areas too!
ASK FOR HELP:
Tell all the staff that you are travelling with young children. REQUEST to board FIRST and take them up on ANY offers they have to help out (hold baby, hold bags etc). You have to let go of 'super woman' moments and take any help you can get. Boarding first allows for more time to get on, first spots in the overhead and more time to unpack and be settled with the kids.
Use the toilet for yourself and the kids, nappy change etc just before you board.
Have a snack at the airport so the kids aren't asking for food mid take off.
We all wore normal clothing to the airport- comfy with jumpers. We packed our PJs and got into them when the plane prepared for 'bed time'.
ON THE PLANE:
Take MENTOS or similar to chew on for take off (for the ears), Feed Bub or use dummy for ears and encourage kids to YAWN (really helps).
Put the SEAT BELT on kids and baby early, and set them up with easy to reach things while the plane preps for take off. Don't let baby fall asleep in a carrier or on you until the seatbelt is on (so annoying to wake them to do it).
The girls were great when one of us needed to go to the toilet. I timed myself to go when I knew Elsie was fast asleep, and the girls were either also asleep (I always let the hosts know I was going so they could watch them), or happily entertaining themselves- thankfully they were happy for me to go and enjoyed chatting with the airhosts.
I changed Elsie Nappy in the toilets on the change tables and just used my change mats- she was fine.
The plane will organise sleep the best according to JETLAG, so try your best to stay awake until they do dinner and dim the lights. The girls fell asleep before the lights both times and woke before 'wake up' but not by much which was fine.
I packed a lunch box for the girls, but honestly they didn't eat much from it. They both had a 'seat' so therefore they were given kids meals and snacks. They plane always had fruit and biscuits/crackers which you could have anytime too. Domestic also gave out a snack too! The food was fine, and they ate it without complaint-maybe wasted a bit as they were big.
Like mentioned eariler- we wore normal clothes on board and then when it was time to 'sleep' I got the girls dressed in their PJs. I treated it like bedtime and took them to brush their teeth etc (Elsie slept...like so much, the few times she wasn't it was fine, but once I did get a airhost to hold her which was fine).
They provide blankets, eye masks, toothbrush/toothpaste and little pillows. These were more than enough and though I did bring my neck pillow which worked for my naps.
I packed a BLACK muslin and laid it over the bassinet when Elsie slept which blocked out the dark, I left it open at her feet for better air and for me to see if she was moving around. I used the plane blankets (they have nicer ones for the bassinets) for her to lay on and to go on top of her also).
I packed SLIPPERS for the girls which were GREAT for them to put on to walk around/bathroom etc instead of worry about their shoes + it was cold.
and ... No...I didnt sleep much on the plane AT ALL. Even when the girls all slept at the same time, you're too aware to check on them to sleep deeply. Plus its just loud and busy and I was high on adrenaline too. Movies were great- I would just keep one ear phone off my ear to listen out for Elsie or the girls talk etc.
WHILE WE WERE THERE:
We stayed with my mum and sister while we were there. I decided it was way to hard to carry cars seats and porta cot etc even though the airline allows it. My mum organised to borrow these things from friends which was a life saver. I would recommend especially if you have multiple kids or are solo to HIRE these things if you aren't visiting family who can't borrow things for you.
The girls shared a double bed at Mums house and also blow up mattress at my sisters. Elsie slept in a porta cot at both places.
I only packed enough for travel and then bought it all when I go there (Or mum actually got some before we arrived, as well as snacks too).
BABY SLEEPING WHILE TRAVELLING AROUND:
Both my mum and sisters house was 15-35 mins to the closest town to explore things. I tried my best to plan Elsie sleeps around napping in the car while driving. We did ALOT of driving and she got over it a lot but I tried my best to keep her entertained as soon as we got out of the car and awake until the next drive- otherwise I usually put her to sleep in the pram or if she was a little clingy-in the carrier :)
I took x2 large suitcases, x1 medium and the girls two TRUNKI's on the way there. - America is super cheap and we did alot of shopping- plus the girls were SPOILT by family, so I ended up having to borrow one of my sisters large suitcases for our return trip- this worked so much better then squishing everything into what we had and freaking out about weight!
The girls shared one suitcase, I had the other with shoes and toiletries and the 3rd was with all the random stuff we took as well (the girls nightlights, straightener, laptop, wraps, camera...etc)
I used one of the KOOSHIKIDS headphone zip bags (clear zipper one) and put adult panandol, baby and kids panadol, bandaids, hay fever medicine, pawpaw, and cream for sores in it. This meant the security could see it easily and I had it on hand anywhere I went- I put it in my backpack and never took it out.
So thats about it- overall, I think we travelled pretty well. A few little things I would change and learn for next time (which I learnt just from the first flight) but overall, It all went pretty smoothly!
For more little details through our video stories etc, see my Instagram highlights TRAVEL TIPS, and USA <3