Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tips on Traveling with Toddlers

 All last week, before our trip, which entailed a six hour flight with a nineteen month old, I searched the Internet for some sort of tips on traveling with the demon possessed, I mean toddlers, and found very little that was of any help and all the while, just a couple weeks ago a very famous mommy blogger wrote her own post about going on planes with little ones. I was excited. Until I was disappointed. Here was her advice: sync your phone and your iPad and oh, look at my pictures from my free trip to Hawaii, and oh by the way this was a sponsored post aren't I lucky? I wanted to smack my head on a dirty tray table. I was like, come the f on woman. You can do better, especially if you're getting paid. So I decided to actually do better myself, come up with my own ideas (and some of my sister's) and I'm doing it without being sponsored and with having to pay for my own damn vacations like all of us normal people with nasty looking hair.

How to Travel With a Toddler (on a plane or elsewhere)

Before You Go

1. Don't forget your kid's birth certificate. I did this. It almost got ugly. I now remember it. If you're going abroad, your baby needs a passport and you'd better remember it.

2. Make sure you do the advanced baby check in on your airline website. We forgot to do this one time too and that time it really did get kind of ugly so we remember now. Airlines like to know ahead of time when babies are flying and they don't want you to just show up and be like, yup, we're going to make your flight a living hell. Hi!

3. Never fly Spirit Airlines. Really. Even without a baby.

4. Pack as far in advance as is humanly possible. It will save you a lot of last minute stress.

5. Check the weather reports at your destination and pack accordingly. Living in Florida this is a big deal because our climate is so different from everywhere else's.

6. Get a good night's sleep before your trip and don't eat anything crazy that will upset your stomach or your child's. I try to eat pretty bland stuff when I'm going to be on a plane or car trip.

7. Red-eye flights are your friend. If humanly possible, schedule your flights at night or during nap time. A sleeping child is a not screaming on the plane child. Our flights were both late evening flights and the one time we scheduled an afternoon flight we both wanted to jump out of the emergency door mid-flight.

8. Dress in clothing that is as close to pajamas as you can get. I wear yoga pants and tees layered with a cardigan and dress the baby in something that will make diaper changing easy and efficient. Airport and airplane bathrooms are gross so you want to be fast and you don't want to be wrestling with the ridiculous snaps on onesies. You want to be comfortable and able to move freely yourself in the event of God knows what and plus, when you're comfortable you're less irritable.

9. Attempt to scam the airline or if you're rich, get the baby his or her own seat. I wish I could afford that, but alas, I can't so we choose our seats in advance. We pick an aisle seat and a window seat in one of the back rows, assuming that no one else will choose the middle seat in the back of the plane unless they absolutely have to. If you're flight isn't overbooked you can get lucky and end up with a free seat for your child. We did this on the way to LA and had the whole row to ourselves and it was glorious. We tried it on the way home and the seat ended up being given to a stand-by passenger. It might not work, but it's worth a try and if it works out you'll be thanking me.

Pack Your Diaper Bag Wisely

Here's what to include:

1. Change of clothes for the child.

2. Change of shirts for you and your partner. Trust me. You might thank me on this one.

3. A couple wadded up plastic grocery bags. Many possible uses, trust me. Toys are not one of them though. Do I need to tell you that? And jeez, who plays with grocery bags anyway?

4. Diapers and lots of wipes.

5. Anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning the armrests, tray tables and whatever else looks grimy. No, it's not OCD. Planes are filthy. I actually read recently that 20% of people on every flight get sick from germs on the plane.

6. DVDs. Even if you don't let your kid watch TV, let him or her watch DVDs on the plane for everyone's sanity. I hate Dora. I would like to crush her over-sized, goggle-eyed head but on a plane? Te Amo Dora. Te Amo Mucho. Our favorite DVD is by far Milo and Otis. Baby Lawns watched it in awe and there went a whole 90 minutes, just like that. A silent, contented 90 minutes. So don't forget to charge up your laptop before you go or download the movies onto your iPad or whatever technology you're using.

7. Books. Books are kind of heavy so choose books that will get you the most entertainment without taking up too much room. Anything interactive is great with flaps or pop-ups or things the child can mess with. My daughter likes these finger puppet books and I can entertain her for a while with them. 

8. Crayons and Paper. I prefer rock crayons for toddlers but anything will do. If your child won't color, another idea is for you to draw pictures for him or her and tell a story to go along with the pictures.

9. Snacks. I like to bring treats on trips that we don't usually have at home so the trip feels special and exciting. On planes we get to eat cheese puffs and goldfish. I also take familiar items and healthy snacks like cut up fruit, nut butter and wheat crackers, baby food packets in her favorite flavors, string cheese, yogurt cups or whatever it is that your family likes to eat. Please don't say Slim Jims, Flaming Hot Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Those are not ok.

10. Your child's favorite (small) stuffed animal. Really make it a big deal that the animal is coming on the trip too. Pretend like the animal is real and take pictures of it and really get silly. Little ones love this kind of thing.

11. A Puppet. I have this ridiculous sock puppet that my toddler goes ape you know what over and I'm sure the other passengers on the plane think I'm insane, but who cares, it works. I make it talk, pop up behind the seats, the tray tables, whatever. The child loves it and it's a sock so it doesn't take up any room in the bag. IKEA also has some really cute and inexpensive finger puppets that I'm in love with.

12. A Pashmina. This works as a blanket, a cover-up, a pillow if you fold it, a nursing cover, a stain-hider. It's a miracle item. I roll mine up and stuff it in a side pocket.

13. Stickers. Stickers are another life saver. Give your child some stickers and go completely wild. On my last flight I ended up with stickers all over my chest and on my shoes but I didn't care because it kept the toddler monster at bay. We like animal stickers and Hello Kitty stickers.

14. Doodle-pro mini. This thing is great and it's small, flat and light. Basically it's an etch-a-sketch sort of thing with a magnetic pen to draw with. I love it. Baby Lawns loves it. If she doesn't want to draw with it, I draw her pictures and tell her stories with it and she stays entertained and not climbing over the seats foaming at the mouth.

More Ways to Save Your Sanity

1. Switch shifts with your partner. If your child is really getting on your nerves and it's not your shift you can pretend you have to poop and go sit in the bathroom and calm down for a few minutes. I'm not joking. Pretending to poop has saved me from many meltdowns.

2. Carry your child around and show them the plane and the people if possible. This won't work if your kid is freaking out and don't let your child act like a lunatic and bother people. Obviously.

3. Games on your phone, iPad etc. My daughter loves an app on my phone called Animatch which is a memory game with animals on the cards and the animals make a lot of noise. She also loves the skee ball app for some reason.

4. Take pictures and videos. The other blogger said this and it's sound advice. Baby Lawns loves taking self portraits and videos and then watching them repeatedly. Loves it. She loves looking through the pictures on my phone and if you're visiting relatives a good way to familiarize kids is to show them lots of photos of the relatives (hopefully you can find some on your phone or facebook) and teach your child their names. That way the relatives won't seem like strangers when you arrive. This strategy worked great for us on this most recent trip and Baby Lawns was friendly and familiar with relatives she'd never met because she saw so many photos of them.

5. Planes sell wine. For you, not your child. Don't get your kid drunk on the plane, or yourself for that matter, but a glass could certainly take the edge off.

6. Some parents I know have drugged their children. Never do this without checking extensively with your pediatrician first. I shouldn't have to tell you that obviously. I've never given Baby Lawns anything, but I know someone who swears by an herbal remedy called Baby Valerian. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR. 

7. Chamomile tea. You can bring some tea bags and ask for hot water. Chamomile is soothing for you and your wild-ass child and is pleasant tasting. Just cool it down. Please don't scald your baby on a plane for God's sakes. And while I'm at it, you can bring a variety of foods like cup o soups and instant hot cereal cups that you can add hot water to and enjoy a halfway decent meal on the plane. There are several brands that make healthy and organic instant soups and cereals in cups so you don't need to worry about eating the processed, sugar and MSG laden garbage.

These tips have all worked for me and have helped us to arrive safely and sanely at our final destinations. I hope they can help you too the next time you travel with a little one. If you have any travel tips that you swear by, please let me know in the comments. Any new ideas are more than welcome as I'm probably traveling again in a couple of weeks.

Now if I can only figure out how to deal with toddler jet lag...


Nana said...

The most important one: Give Baby something to drink during take-off and landing. Swallowing helps prevent stress on the ear and even out the pressure. When I hear a child screaming on take-off or landing, I feel so sorry for everyone. [says the mom who travelled extensively with 2 under 4]

Anonymous said...

I second Nana's advice, in fact had she not given it I was going to.

Anonymous said...

"Swallowing helps prevent stress on the ear and even out the pressure."

I heard that sucking on something (a pacifier if you're a baby or trying to revive a 1990s rave scene trend, a hard candy if you know how to not choke on it, etc.) helps too, whether or not you actually swallow something. Of course, I only *heard* that so don't take my word for it, ask a doctor or nurse!

Living in Muddy Waters said...

I used to carry very small (wedding reception token size) bubbles when E and I traveled by plane. No flight attendant ever stopped me and E loved to watch the bubbles hit the back of the seat.

Melanie said...

Excellent information. Have you checked into the possibility of selling an article like this to a magazine or something? Seems to me that it would be worth some ca$h.

Anonymous said...

Evening flights never worked for us. Our kids didn't sleep, and neither did anyone around us. For kids who have a hard time sleeping on the plane, do everyone a favor and fly during the day. At least you won't be interrupting everyone else's shut-eye.

rosie-b said...

Excellent, excellent advice. I hope this gets past around. I've traveled overseas by myself with the kids at all stages of development and this advice is spot-on. :)

The trick with the nap-time/ red-eye flights is for it to be a bit past bedtime by take-off. The excitement of the trip always delays sleep by at least an hour or two.

And what is it with that skee-ball app? My son loves that too. If you want others, the apps done by Duck Duck Moose are really good. Need some headphones so the songs don't drive everyone else nuts though.

Almost American said...

Excellent advice. I used to figure out how many diapers I'd need for the length of the flight and then double or triple it. My kids loved the mini magna-Doodle thingy - kept them entertained for ages.

On our last flight, I thought it would be easier as they were 7 and 10. No such luck. They not only did not sleep on the overnight flight to Europe, but they waited until the parental units were asleep and asked the flight attendants for coffee.

Maria de los Angeles said...

LOL on the mommy blogger sponsored post intro ... :-)

Chris from said...

Preparation is certainly key to traveling with kids. It can be a real challenge but at the end of the day, it will be a life changing experience for the whole family.

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