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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Traveling with The Toddler

So we're embarking on a journey back to the motherland (North Carolina) tomorrow, what's normally a quick and pleasant 2 hour flight has me in a complete panic because we've never done it before with a toddler.  After spending the last two weeks prepping, over packing, and scouring the internet for advice, here is my list of the top 10 travel tips I've picked up from anyone that has done it before and lived to talk about it:

(1) Don't stress.  The toddler can smell your fear, you will want to emit an aura of calm and hope just a little bit of it rubs off on your travel companion(s).

(2) Buy the toddler a seat and if possible bring an FAA approved car seat.  While I don't want to start a debate about the safety of flying with a child in your lap, because honestly, in the even of  a plane crash I'm somewhat skeptical about how much a car seat is going to help your kid, I do think when it comes to toddler comforts you will find having the extra room helps quite a bit.

Our kid is GO GO GO 24/7, she doesn't sit still ANYWHERE much less on our laps for more than 2-5 minutes so I wouldn't expect her to sit quietly on my lap for 2 hrs on a plane either. However, when she is in her car seat in a car she seems to go into "car mode" as if she knows she isn't getting out of it anytime soon so she just sucks it up and behaves.  I'm hoping bringing a car seat onto an airplane will have a similar effect.

(3) Dress everyone comfortably and conveniently.  Taking a flight with someone still in diapers means potential diaper changes in airport, or dare I say it, airPLANE bathrooms.  Tight, unpredictable areas with questionably cleanliness.  You are NOT going to want to fight through 3 layers of clothing on a squirmy toddler.

(4) Pack snacks.  One of the best ways to get my toddler to be quiet is to stick food in her mouth.  While I'm probably not going to win any mother of the year awards for this advice, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Be SURE to bring plenty of your toddler's favorite snacks to have at the ready.  Just make sure none of them are liquid or gel in larger than 3 ounce containers.

(5) Pack bribes.  At this age most of my bribes are food related so this is generally covered by #4 but I'll be packing about 45 packs of fruit snacks and chocolate chip cookies (you toddler moms know what I'm talking about...those fruit snacks are GOLD MINES)

(6) Don't underestimate the power of engine noise. While engine noise has never really worked as "white noise" to lull my kiddo to sleep it is a very effective sound deadener, even though my toddler might be fussy, it would take an all our cry/temper tantrum for the rest of the plane to hear her over the roaring plane engines.

(7) Prepare for security.  Make sure you have all of your liquids and gels in proper containers and bags, make sure your laptop is easily accessible, make sure your shoes are easy to remove etc.  You don't want to be the family stuck in security with a fussy toddler and a guy asking you to strip down and bed over.

(8) If you have a device to comfortably wear your toddler, USE IT!  We have a Boba 3G and a few wraps and while our toddler has mostly outgrown being worn for standard things like dishes and laundry its still the best way to get her to calm down and settle while trying to pull 4 suitcases around a busy airport.  Its hard to push a stroller while rolling 2 other suitcases, wearing your kid keeps your hands free and the toddler happy.

(9) Breastfeed like a BOSS!  If you are still nursing your toddler (even just occasionally before bed) its still a great way to calm him or her down in stressful or weird situations like take off and landing, not to mention the airline makes you hold your kid during these times anyway.

(10) Don't necessarily board early unless you have a reason too.  Most airlines allow families with young kids to have "priority boarding" which they define as allowing you to board early.  If it were up to me that would mean they would take your stuff early to ensure it gets a good spot in an overhead bin but that you dont have to board until the end this is because you don't want to have to keep a toddler happy an quiet in a confined space for even one minute longer than you have to.  Wait until the end and board last, the worst case is that they make you gate check your carry on's that don't fit in the overhead bin.

(11) BONUS TIP!  Make sure you pack all of your toddler "during flight" essentials (toys, snacks, etc) in a single small bag that WILL fit under the seat in front of you so that there is NO chance they try and make you gate check it if the overhead bins are full.

Enjoy your trip and don't be afraid to show off how adorable and awesome your toddler is to EVERYONE on the plane!

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