I know the title of this post may be a joke to some. After all who in their right mind would travel with a toddler? It could be the equivalent of traveling with a pack of monkey’s. I know there is another post out there that helps “prepare” expecting parents for parenthood that also makes this comparison. I may be a glutton for punishment; but I also love to see my family and friends. It is most economical and time saving for us to travel via plane from DC to Charleston, South Carolina. So this week A and I will be traveling solo from DCA to CHS, and yes, prayers are welcomed. I’ve taken this trip solo many times and I can say without a doubt it’s HARD WORK! If you have an infant, GO, you have NO IDEA how nice you have it! (i.e. not for lack of sleep but the fact that your child is not mobile!!) If you have a toddler, PREPARE! I have always been that mom that had the diaper bag full of what if’s. As A has grown, so has my knowledge and experience on what you really need and what can stay at home. So today I am sharing with you my Essentials for traveling via plane with a Toddler.
GOOD, no GREAT travel/umbrella stroller. I opted for the UppaBaby G-lite version for A. Mostly because it was an insanely good deal. Tip for all stroller purchases, just like cars, shop the season/model year end sale. I purchased the outgoing year model from BuyBuy Baby last fall. It has been a GODSEND! Super easy to open and close, light, has built in carrying strap, and the turn radius on this puppy is AMAZING! We also have the UppaBaby Vista stroller and I did take that when A was really little. The downside to the Vista was that you have to take the wheels off the stroller to fit it through security screening. While it is quite easy to take the wheels off, it is an un-necessary added complication, when trying to get one-self through security line, without shoes and a baby. So yes, two strollers are really justified!
A little side tip someone gave me: If your toddler/infant is sitting up but not walking. Take one gray security bin and put your baby/infant in said bin and slide it along the floor while you are trying to stack everything on the belt. It will contain baby and you don’t have to put them on the floor. Just realize that your child will be exposed to the floor of various public spaces on this day and yes they will survive. Not much you can sanely do to prevent that. Just make sure to wash hands before eating and just think of all the ways you are improving their overall immune system!
2. A Gate Check Bag – I decided on the J.L. Childress Version of the Umbrella Gate Check Bag. So you’ve invested in a good/GREAT travel/umbrella stroller, now you should probably give it some protection. Let’s face it, the wonderful staff that helps load and unload baggage does a good job majority of the time. Why not help contain and protect your stroller and make their job a little easier? This lightweight and collapsible bag is terrific at protecting the stroller and easy to carry to the end of the gate. Most airlines are pretty accommodating to parents traveling alone with kids.
3. Motion sickness Medicine – Bonine. I get motion sick. That is all.
4. Car Seat Check-Bag Carrier – We chose the J.L Childress version to house our Britax car seat. One the joys of traveling with your child is that they will let you check a car seat with no-charge. So see comment above about the great staff that loads and unloads, but again a lot can happen when you are dealing with conveyer belts and luggage moving, etc. Car seats are no-kidding an investment, so you really should protect it. This version is awesome, it is padded to protect your seat and has a large set of straps (like a book bag) so that you can carry your car seat, luggage, all while pushing a stroller. Yes, you will look ridiculous, but let’s face it you probably will already have throw up/milk/apple sauce on your shirt/pants/hair/face. So what is a giant book-bag/car seat carrier going to do to your “look”?
Another side note: So we all know what is one of the heaviest items in your checked bag? DIAPERS and WIPES! They are of course essential unless your little one is potty trained. A little trick I learned when I got to the airport and our bag was over the 50 pound limit. Take the diapers and wipes and stash them in the car seat bag. You are welcome.
5. Dress in comfy layers. I plan to wear my favorite Zara soft wrap huge scarf! I will share one funny story of my last trip with A. I can laugh now, but during the voyage, there was not a lot of laughing. DCA to Charleston, learned that I was getting a very cheap upgrade to First Class. I was traveling with a lap child (A was under 2). I thought I was going to have it made. I am not a tiny girl and the thought of having more space, especially since, I would have a 1.5 year old on my lap, sounded like HEAVEN! Boarded the plane, only two of us in First Class, had A strapped into the seat next to me. Then HELL opened up. The flight was over-booked and they started seating people in First Class. Ok, well that wasn’t the end of the world, because I would still have plenty of space. Tantrum one occurred. A did not want to leave her seat and sit on mommy’s lap. A very nice young lady sat next to me, I think she was probably college aged and was very amenable to the tantrum. I apologized profusely, my child had never really thrown a tantrum until this moment. Finally calmed A down and got her interested in a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode I downloaded on
her my Kindle Fire (see #7). We take off, A is not bothered by the take off, so I think we are in the clear for the hour and a half flight. Boy was I wrong! About thirty minutes into the flight, a rather large lady in front of me, turned and asked if I wouldn’t mind sending my daughter on the floor under her seat to look for the cell phone she dropped. I had to pick my jaw off the floor. I of course said no but was secretly saying something to the effect of: No CRAZY WOMAN, I am not sending my toddler, who just finally calmed down from a tantrum, that you most certainly heard and made smarky comments that you thought I didn’t hear, on the floor to look for your cell phone. I mean really? Tanturm two began…. Let’s just say, I offered to purchase drinks on me, but thankfully the stewardess was really helpful i.e. we were in First Class. I kept apologizing as the tantrum really didn’t end until the end of the flight. So my public service announcement is this. One, let sleeping dogs lie. If you see a parent traveling with a small child and that child is behaving, don’t try to help or ask them to do anything stupid. Two, If you see a parent whose child is having a tantrum, don’t necessarily blame the parent. Tanturms are not always caused by action, but rather lack of understanding and communication. Just say a prayer for that parent who is going through their own personal HELL at that moment. Three, dress in layers. It could be 10 degrees outside and you want to be warm, but it is amazing how you can go from freezing to sweating in a matter of seconds, especially if you are traveling with a small child.
6. Get a good Cross Body Bag – I am sorry I cannot embrace the new fanny pack trend, dispite their complete function. But a good large cross-body bag will do the trick. I have a bag very similar to this HoBo Bag. It’s large enough to carry wallet, cell phone, tissues, wipes, diaper, snacks, etc. etc. etc.
7. Kindle Fire preloaded with your child’s favorite shows/movies and few good games/apps. We do not let A use the Kindle Fire unless we are traveling. I try to reserve this for “special occasions” so it’s novelty does not wear off and she is really interested in it AKA occupied throughout the whole travel process. Ours is uploaded with Frozen, Madagascar Two (which she calls, Dat Dat Dadda Dadda Dat Dat – AFRO CIRCUS) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Sophia The First Episodes, it also has Doc McStuffins app and a couple of drawing apps.
8. Kid Bookbag – This is where all of her stuff will go. I try to make her feel as much like a big girl and part of the planning and packing for our adventure. It is small enough to fit into the basket of her stroller and small enough that if I have to carry it along with A, then it’s not that bad. She has a few but her favorite at the moment is her Owl from Skip Hop.
So these are just the essentials that work for me. Don’t worry, I still travel with my be-prepared motto, but manage to keep all of that in the Checked-Bag. I’ve found that Ms. A feeds off my energy when traveling. If I start getting anxious, which I do flying anyway, then she starts to get anxious and the tantrums ensue. So keep calm momma’s and daddy’s and realize that this is just a part of your journey and hopefully your destination will be worth all of the hassle and unpleasantness of the getting there part.
With all of this said, please say a little prayer for us, the flight crew, the security crew, the fellow passengers on our flight to CHS Thursday! For me the destination and the friends and family are definitely worth the hassle and unpleasantness of getting there. Just think of the alternative, 8+ hours in a car with a screaming toddler. No, thank you. You can do just about anything for an hour and a half. Also, if your little one is acting out, a really nice, but not required gesture is to offer a drink to your neighbors, it lets them know that you recognize that you feel their pain. Just remember, someone is always fighting a different battle than you. I try to live my life with the motto, you get more with honey! Life is too short!
Happy and Safe Travels,