After surviving our fourth flight with three kids, I thought I would pass on a few tips (Lindsey B. take notes).
First of all, when travelling with three small children it is imperative that you not try to be a superhero and go it alone. Such foolishness will most likely result in casualties and as you would be grossly outnumbered, you would be the first to suffer. If you absolutely have to travel alone, however, make sure you are well medicated ahead of time. I hear Xanax works well, or a Bloody Mary an hour before flight (thanks for the tip Carol).
Second, think ahead of time and have all your bases covered. Have shoes untied, put the children in Crocs if you can, have the stroller unbuckled and the computer and video camera out. While still in line, place all shoes and electronics into the empty car seat and carry it up to the table, then quickly toss all contents into the rubber bins - one bin for shoes, one for electronics and small one for keys and change. This is where things can get hairy if you're not careful. Lee and I have this down to a science - we don't even need to speak, we communicate through glances and nearly indetectable hand movements. If someone were to videotape us and play it back in slow motion, it would be a ballet worthy of the infamous Moscow Bolshoy Theater. Yes. We're that good.
What you do is place the above mentioned items on the winding belt, along with the kids rolling back packs, your own carry on, your husband's carry on, the stroller, the car seat and the car seat base and shove them all through as quickly as possible. If you can time it to do this as the baby is starting to melt down from extreme hunger that's ideal - anything to garner the sympothy of the security guards and get them to usher you through. Once you give each child a light but firm shove through the metal detector, you hustle them to the end of the line and motion for them to sit and wait, something they will likely not do. Then, you and your husband in perfect synchronization grab the computer and zip it back into it's bag, place the camcorder in a second bag. At this point your husband should know to duck as you begin tossing shoes over his head into a neat pile where the children are supposed to be sitting. With a swift sweep of your eyes make sure they are at least within your sightline and aren't about to board some random flight to Pheonix. Still holding the fussy baby in your left arm, grab two bags and spin out of line, gracefully coming to a stop at said pile of shoes.
Arabesque and freeze.
Once all children are dressed again and you have your unlaced shoes back on your feet, drag everything to your gate and plunk yourself down for a breather. You'll need it. The flight is to come.
The final recommendation is this: If at all possible, try to get your husband to sit in the aisle with the two older kids and you take the baby. Again, if you've timed this correctly, the baby should eat as you take off then fall asleep shortly thereafter giving you ample time to relax. Try not to laugh at your husband when he gets up to take the kids to the bathroom after only 20 minutes in the air. But when he makes his fifth trip to the bathroom you can go ahead and let out a good chuckle, because it's really kind of funny. Oh and if you sit directly in front of him and the kids, you can get a few more laughs as he tries to juggle drinks, snacks, toys and meltdowns and you will benefit from the cover of the seat so he will not see your laughter. When you follow these simple tips, you are sure to enjoy even the most hectic of trips.