Monday, April 15, 2013

Traveling with Toddler

We somehow ended up with 4 trips in 7 weeks.  3 of them involve flying.  All of them include an 18 month old.  Sound insane?  It is, absolutely, but has been totally doable with some preparation and forethought.  Here are some tips I've amassed on traveling with a wild little one:

1)  Don't expect your kid to sleep on the flight.  This means not scheduling a flight during regular naptime or in the evening post-bedtime.  The downside is you will likely be entertaining them the whole flight (but if they happen to fall asleep, yay).  The upside is they won't be an overtired disaster because they are unable to fall asleep in your lap, and you won't be stressed out about trying to make them fall asleep.  We made this mistake when we first flew with Noah at 4 months old.  He cried for about 2 hours.  We almost killed ourselves.

2)  Plan on your kid eating on the flight.  Even if this means skimping on their prior meal.  Snacking/eating is a great way to pass time.  The sticky placemats don't work on the trays, but take paper towel/tape or a little plate.  Small things that they can eat slowly work well.

3)  Don't forget your f'n iPad.  No matter what your opinion is on tv, video games, blah blah blah, let it go for your sanity and the greater good of other passengers.  Download a movie they like before you leave and make sure their fave apps are on there (if they don't use iPad regularly, show them bits of a movie or apps prior to the trip so they will be excited to play w/ them on the plane).  This doesn't buy you a ton of time when your kid is under 1, but it still helps as part of the rotation (see #5) and only gets better as they get older.

4)  Toys:  dont bring ones that make noise, but ones that take some dexterity/time to use.  A big book of stickers and a couple sheets of paper work well.  Books, crayons, an empty little box to take stuff in/out of, kids' laptop turned on low volume.  Variety is key.

5)  Switch between #2-4 constantly.  So eat for 30 mins, then do toys for 30 mins, then iPad, and then repeat.  Don't start it until you are in the air, because until then they can be quite entertained with what's outside the airplane window.

6)  Bring 2 or 3 changes of clothes, and one for you/your spouse too.  Out of the 12 flights we've taken Noah on, only 2 were total disasters (not bad, right? but the bad ones were epic).  The first I mentioned in #1.  The second was on our way to Texas this past Thanksgiving when Noah conveniently began to show signs of the stomach flu on our way to the airport and threw up all over himself and the car seat we were taking with us on the plane (see # 7).  So, because I was SO prepared (ha!), I had a second outfit handy and did a quick change at the airport.  Then he threw up again ON the plane, all over his second (and last) outfit and me.  We had to change him back into the first outfit because it was less pukey (but still pukey, mind you) and I had to rinse my jeans off as best I could...all in the wonderful confines of the airplane bathroom.  So....yeah....third outfit.  Maybe a fourth. 

7)  Keep packing SIMPLE -- Rent a car seat with your rental car when you get to your destination, and buy a cheap light umbrella stroller for travel.  If you go to a destination often (like grandparents' house), keep a pack n play, car seat and high chair there so you don't have to bring any of it.  We usually just check 1 big suitcase and just carry on 2 backpacks full of #2-6.

8)  Be reasonable about your plans.  If you are traveling w/ a baby under 3 months or so, a driving trip is great because they can sleep on and off much of the time (we drove to Nashville at 6 weeks with 1 overnight stop in between and it worked fine).  If you have a toddler who can't sit still for very long, don't think that a long flight will be smooth sailing.  Be careful about scheduling trips with layovers.  3 hour non-stop flights have worked well for us so far, and since we're centrally located we've still been able to go to a variety of places like Texas many times, Florida a couple times and Maine.  There is plenty of time for longer trips.

9)  When you get where you're going, chill out and go w/ the flow.  Let them be off their schedule if it works out that way, know that they may not sleep well while away (again, this gets better when they're toddlers), let them eat ice cream at night, just don't stress about any of it.  It will all go back to normal once you get home. 

Even if your little one does great traveling, it's never easy.  Don't be too embarassed if your kid cries on the flight, anyone around you with kids will understand.  And the ones who don't will be listening to music with their noise elimination headphones while reading on their iPads - God that sounds like a vacation within itself.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! All great tips -I especially love #3. Anyone traveling with a toddler needs to read this.