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Monday, December 16, 2013

Traveling With Little Ones

As we prepare to travel yet again with our gang, I thought I'd write up a few tips for everyone who is traveling this holiday season with little ones.

If you're not traveling with small children, please enjoy your leisurely stroll through security, a tasty uninterrupted snack from an aiport eatery of your choosing, and sitting still with noise cancelling earphones while you wait for your plane....I'll be the woman behind you screaming and chasing toddlers. Please ignore, but feel free to trip my kids to slow them down so I can catch them. I kid. Sort of.

This will be our 4th cross country trip with more than one kid. That's what happens when you start out with more than one kid I guess...but I've found each age so far, from newborn to 2, has had it's own unique challenges in traveling.

Please note: while you have to carry a TON of junk with you while traveling with a newborn, I'm sorry to tell you but I think that will be your easiest trip. It only goes down hill from there.

I'm actually excited because I think this might be one of our easier trips. I say that now and of course, it will be awful, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we've reached a level of toddlerhood where my children will be slightly manageable. Or the last trip was just so awful that I don't see how it could get any worse. Either way. Here are some of my top travel tips for traveling with toddlers and infants and all the joy that the experience will bring to you.

Image courtesy of digitalart /

1. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Seriously, go into the experience feeling rested, hopeful and ready to be a super mom. But expect that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Pack food, food, and more food. That snack that your kids love but you hate to admit to other moms you give your kids (marshmallows and fruit snacks? I'm not judging you)? Pack 3 times the amount you'd need for your worst meltdown day. Chances are, you'll land with enough food to feed your entire plane, but you never know when you're going to need it. A fed baby, is a manageable baby. Plus, they can't eat and scream at the same time, so the person in the row in front of you says thank you. Fruit snacks, cereal bars, goldfish, lollipops, applesauce pouches (yes, they can go through security), pbj sandwiches, apple slices, clementines, are just a few snack ideas for airplanes. Individual wrapped snacks are great to travel with!

2. Bring a few empty sippy cups and fill them up with various beverages after you get through security. This will get you through that pesky liquid rule, keep the messes to a minimum, and you can stock up on your kids favorites (chocolate milk, juice, again, there's no judging for long trips. Any food is fair game for a day). Grab a few different drinks to spice things up.

3. Variety is the spice of life. This applies to toys/food/drinks/life. I hit up the $1 bins at target and smuggle crayons from restaurants. Save those little toys you collect at birthday parties and events. Having a good arsenal of entertainment makes life better. A rundown of our goodies: Coloring books, boxes of crayons, stickers, small computer type toys, small cars, phone toys. We take one absolute favorite comfort toy, but the rest we stick with things we won't miss if they get left on the plane. Then you only have to keep track of 1 key item, if you leave a pack of crayons on the plane, life goes on. I keep all my goodies I stash in the top corner of a closet so everything they get for the trip is new and therefore, super exciting. A kindle/ipad/computer/dvd player with a few new and favorite movies is always a great idea for a trip and you can snag some fun kids headphones that will make them more excited to watch.

4. Give your kids some independence, but not TOO much, it's an airport for crying out loud. Our kids like to carry their own backpacks. We put the majority of their small goodies in there. We love THESE backpacks. We load up round 1 of snacks and drinks and a variety of goodies for them to carry around with them. They like that they can carry it themselves and it frees up some room in your bag. They also enjoy pushing the baby in his stroller and being "helpers". This keeps them entertained and from running off to some flashing light nearby. They also get a kick out of going through their goodies on the plane. It's a fun little thing for them and easy for you to do.

5. If you buy your toddlers a seat, for comfort and safety, I recommend using their carseat. Now don't go cussing me out because now you have even MORE to carry. Check your umbrella stroller and let your kiddo ride in their carseat for the trip using this fun contraption (they've thought of everything haven't they!). I don't know how your kids are, but mine are more comfortable in their car seats. I noticed when we traveled last time with 2 lap infants and a car seat, the child sitting in the car seat was by far the most well behaved. This trip, we'll have 2 kids in car seats and only have the baby our lap, since he can't really sit in an airplane seat by himself anyway.

6. Speaking of babies....carry your baby with you the entire time in a comfortable baby wrap. Note: you don't have to unwrap your baby to get through security, you'll just get a little extra feel from the security folks (stay calm, they just swipe your wrap with their little wiper thingy). They were VERY helpful at security for all of our trips in making sure we had everything out of our bags, in the right way, and helped us get the kids through the metal detector with minimal meltdown. While some people are grouchy, there will be people out there who are willing to help and make your life a little easier, so just smile and stay calm. You do have to unwrap the baby for take off and landing on the plane, but I used those chances as a good time to nurse the baby (good for their ears anyway) and unwrapped the baby and nursed until I could wrap him back up for the rest of the trip.

7. Know the airlines rules and plan accordingly. Research the security rules, know what you need to bring and call the airline to find out the best plan of action to bring that item, pack your bag well knowing what you need to do. You can not possibly overplan for an airline trip with small children. You DO NOT want to be fighting with someone at the check in desk for 30 minutes while your children run amuck. Of course, things still will manage to go wrong, but make sure you know the rules so you can plan as best as possible. Pouches of soft food ARE allowed through security, they just need to be packed separately. Pack all of your liquids, pouches, electronics and put them on top of your diaper bag so you can quickly separate things at security. Make sure you wear the right shoes to slip on and off quickly and easily while juggling a small child. Make sure you know exactly what you're checking or carrying on. Get the right tags for all your bags or label everything before you leave so you aren't trying to fill out a tag while hanging on to your toddlers shirt to keep them from running off. If you're not a planner, pre-trip is a great time to practice your planning skills. Seriously, you're never too prepared for this trip!

8.  If you have any fears about your child's safety, especially at the age where they can run but they don't listen, no one will judge you at all if you consider a toddler leash. We've never had to use one, but I wished on our last trip we had one. Kids need to stretch their legs especially on a layover or before a flight, so you want to let them move around a bit, but keep them safe in the rush of people loading and unloading planes at all the gates around yours. My son lacks focus and would wander off quickly. In a crowded airport, this is terrifying. It is better to know your child is safe then to worry about 1 day of cramping their personal style or being an over controlling parent. Do what works best for you, safety should be your #1 concern.

9. Make sure you have something for your kid to suck on at take off and landing. Dum dums are great. Pacifiers, bottle, or nursing are great options too. Depending on the age, plan accordingly.

10. Just worry about you and your kids, their comfort and safety, maybe your spouse a little but ideally, he can take care of himself. DO NOT worry about everyone looking at you, judging you, mumbling under their breaths that they hope they don't sit near you. This will just stress you out for no reason at all. You can't change their attitudes, you can only improve yours. So smile and be friendly, but don't care at all if people give you mean looks. I traveled with 3 children under 2...I got many a mean glare. I stressed for awhile, hoping we'd sit next to people who were understanding, hoping my kids would behave, hoping I made it through the day alive. Just do the best you can do. If your kids are going to scream, they're going to scream, don't stress over it. I will probably look at you and laugh if you're standing in the middle of the airport with a toddler screaming, but know that I'm laughing out of love and understanding ;)

I hope everyone who is traveling has safe and easy travels! I know it's the most stressful part of the holidays, so try to stay calm ;) and how excited are your kids to see planes?? ;)

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