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Traveling with Toddlers? Totally Possible

by verdemama on August 30, 2010

I was a little nervous about flying solo with Orion on our recent flights to and from Ohio, but to my delight he was a total rock star on the plane. He’s already becoming a seasoned traveler, having flown to and from Ohio three times now, as well as a couple trips to Seattle, not to mention some long road trips to the Bay Area. By the end of this year, he will have added two international flights (Prague in September and Mexico in November) as well as two more domestic flights (New Orleans in early November and then Ohio again for Christmas). Although he’s naturally a pretty well-behaved little dude, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to make traveling with a toddler a bit easier. Check ‘em out.

Use the right luggage. I was pretty psyched to get a new suitcase just in time for this trip (see above!). It’s bright red, making identifying it at the baggage claim a little easier; it has multi-directional wheels, which means I can drag it any which way I need to; and it’s HUGE. I was thrilled by the size of it, and was excitedly packing everything I own into it for this trip when I realized that it was about 25 pounds over the weight limit for the airline I was flying. Damn. The moral of this story? Most airlines these days are super strict about how much they let you bring onboard (although they’re happy to charge you an exorbitant fee for a few extra pounds in the suitcase) so don’t think because you’ve got a jumbo suitcase that your packing problems are solved. You still have to pack wisely.

Pack less than you think you need for yourself, and pack more for your kid. Pack versatile clothing for yourself that can be worn in different combos over the course of your voyage. (Maggie at MightyGirl.com is brilliant at packing a few items of clothing and wearing them 101 ways. Check out her “Packing Light” posts for inspiration!) The same is not true for kids. They are messy, accident-prone little creatures, and they can go through several outfits a day, so you need to save luggage space for their clean clothes and other necessities. Bring an extra outfit for the little one for the plane ride, just in case there’s an accident.

Borrow/buy the essentials at your destination, if possible. Because on this trip I was just going to my mom’s house, this was easy to do. She got a hand-me-down car seat, stroller, and toys and books for Orion to use while we were there, so I didn’t have to lug around any of that stuff. I ordered our Nature Babycare diapers and Seventh Generation wipes via diapers.com and had them shipped directly to her house. I realize this isn’t always possible if you’re just jetting off to a random city (although you can buy diapers, wipes, food, etc. at your destination), but if you’re going to visit friends or family, it’s definitely worthwhile to work out some pre-arrangements for those bulky but necessary baby items.

Lose the diaper bag. Maybe this is a necessity for parents with younger babies, but I haven’t touched my diaper bag since Orion was about nine months old. Instead, I carry a larger purse stocked with a few diapers, wipes, toys, food, etc. And voila! One less bag to worry about.

Wear your baby. My Ergo carrier was essential for getting around the airport with ease. If you’re traveling with another adult, this might not be necessary, but when you’re a solo parent, it’s a lifesaver. I simply strapped Orion on, grabbed my two carry-ons, and raced from terminal to terminal like a total track star.

Bring “new” toys. Borrow or buy (used preferably—it’s cheaper and greener!) toys, books, videos, whatever, specifically for travel. Make sure it’s stuff your toddler hasn’t played yet with and gotten tired of. The novelty will keep kids interested longer—although I did bring a few of O’s favorite toys for a “comfort” factor. DVDs to play on my laptop were also critical.

Stock up on snacks. Domestic airlines no longer offer free food, the food they have for sale is terrible and airport food is crazy expensive for what you get, so come stocked with snacks for the young’un. There’s nothing worse than a hungry, screaming toddler. Your fellow airplane passengers will undoubtedly agree.

Offer snacks/pacifier/boobie/bottle on takeoff and descent. You know how the change in cabin pressure makes you feel like your head is going to cave in? Yeah, not a pleasant feeling, especially for a toddler who doesn’t understand what’s going on. I nurse Orion on takeoff and often it knocks him right out. Boob = magic for this kid. (I wear a nursing tank when I fly, and it’s so discreet that literally no one, except for maybe the person right beside me, knows I’m nursing. No boob flashing here.)

Etc. Check into your flight online the day before you depart and make sure your seats are ones you’ll be comfortable in (relatively speaking—we all know airplane seats are the devil’s torture device). Remember to put all your liquids (in my case, my 10 million lip glosses and balms) in a clear plastic baggie before heading to the airport and wear shoes that are easy to get on and off (for both you and the kid) so you’ll get through security as quickly and as easily as possible.

Any useful travel tidbits I’m missing here? I would love to hear your thoughts. Happy flying!

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