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Traveling With A Toddler

Yesterday we talked about traveling with
infants who are not yet mobile: babies who have not yet started
crawling, cruising, walking, etc.

In short, kids you can still muscle around and dominate relatively

Today we’re going to cover the munchkins who have, shall we
say, a will of their own and a way to go about exercising it.

First off, routine routine routine. Try as
much as possible to follow the general outline of their natural
routine. When we fly with Maddie, we make an effort to fly during
her nap time, right after lunch. This way she’ll be hungry on
takeoff, which means she’ll eat and pressurize her ears, and
the vibration of the plane will lull her to sleep so she’s
not whining about being pinned down for several hours. I know
people who have flown at the crack of dawn, hoping the baby will go
back to sleep on the plane; they’ve had mixed results. I
suppose it all depends on your child’s temperament. Even when
we go for long car trips, we let Maddie wake up naturally and then
hop in the car; it’s simply what works best for us.

Speaking of routine, try to reinforce it before you leave, and find
ways to get back to the familiar while on vacation. Maddie knew
that every day after lunch was bottle, book, and nap time; she
looked forward to that familiar snuggle in unfamiliar surroundings.
Dial down your sight-seeing or family get-together expectations and
you’ll find everyone has a better time.

If you’re going to be in the car, pace yourself and accept
the fact that you’ll cover less ground in a day. A restless
toddler will be much happier with regular stops. Driving through
and eating on the go will save you half an hour, but taking the
time to get out of the car, eat a meal, and give kiddo some
run-around time will mean the car time is that much easier to

Remember that whether you’re in the car or on a plane,
toddlers have a short attention span and require entertainment.
Bring a fair amount of small, quiet toys for them to go through. My
girlfriend Abby recommended two items – the Richard Scarry
target="_blank">Best Word Book Ever
, and a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FOhio-Art-66000-Travel-Doodle%2Fdp%2FB0007KN7PI%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fqid%3D1163127821%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dtoys-and-games&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
target="_blank">travel magnadoodle
. Both are small and
silent and were miracle workers for Maddie while traveling. The
word book, which I personally don’t get, held her entranced
for several minutes at a time, while the magnadoodle was a pad of
paper and crayons without the mess.

Soft, squishy toys such as Maddie’s href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FThe-First-Years-LC97328-House%2Fdp%2FB0007MHD60%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dtoys-and-games%26qid%3D1194579305%26sr%3D8-17&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
are lightweight, portable, and
easy to play with in a hotel or airport waiting lounge. Favorite
stuffed animals and books are also important when we travel. The
best rule of thumb for distracting a toddler is New, New, New.
Anything new or exciting is guaranteed fun. Before you run out and
buy all new toys for a trip, though, remember that kids this age
have a very short memory. A week or two before we travel, I start
“hiding” all Maddie’s favorite toys and books one
by one. She never really notices, and then when we’re in the
air or a hotel room and she’s bored I pull out her dolly and
Voila! New toy! One caveat – don’t bring ‘em out
all at once, but space them out over the trip.

One of the hardest parts of a travel day for me is planning food. I
pack plenty of non-perishable snacks – the whole Just
Tomatoes line (now available on Amazon!) of dried fruits like href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FJust-Tomatoes-Strawberries-4-Ounce-Tubs%2Fdp%2FB000P3JGVG%3Fie%3DUTF8%26m%3DATVPDKIKX0DER%26s%3Dgrocery%26qid%3D1194579776%26sr%3D1-1&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
target="_blank">Just Strawberries
really saves my bacon,
and I again make a point of not serving these foods a lot before we
head out so Maddie’s not sick of them. Never knowing what (if
anything) the airline will offer us for a meal, I try to bring food
for kiddo with me. A grilled cheese keeps at room temperature a
long time! You can also take advantage of the baby food allowance,
even if your child’s outgrown baby food. Baby applesauce is
identical to regular applesauce; it’s just smoother. I bring
a couple jars of baby applesauce on the plane and Maddie’s
got one of her favorite snacks. You can usually buy yogurt at the
airport, and little tubs of veggie booty or cheerios round out the
traveling snack bar.

As far as drinks go, you can bring an empty sippy cup through
security and fill it with water or juice you purchase in the
waiting area. Or you can buy this set of href="http://clickserve.cc-dt.com/link/click?lid=41000000022986116"
target="_blank">bottle toppers
I found; it’s a set of
four valve-type lids that adapt almost any water or juice bottle to
a leakproof, toddler-friendly drink. I’ve yet to find a
bottle that didn’t work with one of these; I just travel the
lids in her diaper bag now. Every time we fly, I have parents stop
me and ask where I got the lids.

Let’s talk about seating arrangements. I feel very strongly
that if you’re at all able to squeeze it financially, you
should buy the toddler his own seat. This way, you can bring your
car seat on the plane and strap him in. He’s much more likely
to go to sleep in the car seat than in your arms, and you’ll
more than likely spend the entire flight trying to keep a squirming
kid from getting down and running up and down the aisles. Invest in
one of those pillows that attach to the car seat straps and your
child will sleep comfortably. If you don’t need to bring a
carseat, the FAA has approved a new safety harness for kids 22-44
pounds; here’s a href="http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/"
with more info and some good tips on
flying with toddlers.

Buying your child her own seat has a couple other advantages
– one, you get a bigger baggage allowance and if you’re
bringing a pack n play you’ll need it. Two, you can carry the
car seat on the plane and not have to count it as part of your
baggage. Of course, bringing the seat on the plane means someone
(Daddy) has to carry it through the airport. We found the most
amazing href="http://clickserve.cc-dt.com/link/click?lid=41000000022986138"
target="_blank">car seat backpack
, which straps the car
seat to your back and leaves your hands free. You look like a pack
mule but it’s so much easier than lugging the seat any other
way. Again, every time we travel it we have half a dozen parents
ask where they can buy one. The seat goes in and out of the
backpack thingie very quickly and is well worth the money. Trust

As you book your flight, it pays to search the airline’s
website for fine print regarding flying with children. I discovered
that there are several rows on a plane that toddlers are not
allowed to be on, and had to reserve seats accordingly. If I
hadn’t done my homework, we’d have shown up to a packed
flight and been unceremoniously dumped in the back of the plane.
And if you’re flying on a small commuter jet, be forewarned.
There are only a couple rows on the entire plane your toddler can
be on. Why, you ask? Because those are the only rows with life
preservers. Nice, right? Also, if it’s a plane with one seat
on the left of the aisle and two seats on the right, baby
can’t be on the left side of the plane, either in a car seat
or held on a lap. Why, you wonder? Because there are no oxygen
masks on that side of the plane.

Wish I were making it up.

Most airlines are pretty much the same service-wise, though
we’ve found Jet Blue to be exceptional with kids.
They’ve got tubs full of crayons and coloring paper at each
gate, they hand out wings without pins in them, they let you
pre-board and don’t rush you, and in general are very helpful
to new parents. And they’ve got competitive prices.

Speaking of money, I’m a firm believer in traveling less
often but spending more money when you do. Buying a toddler her own
seat is one example; hotel arrangements are another. If your child
is used to sleeping in her own room, I beg you to consider how you
can continue that on the road. For just a few dollars more than a
traditional hotel room, you can get a suite at a place like a
Homewood Suites or a Residence Inn. You’ll have a small
living room where you can set up the crib, a small kitchen for
breast milk or snacks, and most important, you can retreat to your
bedroom after baby goes to bed, watch t.v., etc., without
disturbing your child. Otherwise, your bedtime is baby’s
bedtime, and you lie in the dark trying to go to sleep at 8 p.m.
Either that, or you put the crib in the closet and watch the
television on mute with closed captioning. Fun times.

Shop around at a site like Travelocity and you’ll find plenty
of suite hotels for a comparable price. Once you narrow your
choices down, look for perks like free breakfasts (great for
stocking up on single-size Cheerio boxes), kid-friendly touches
like high chairs, fridges in rooms, and more. When booking, call to
make sure their portable cribs are pack n play style and not the
ancient rollaways. When you check in, try to get a room near the
elevator so you don’t have to schlep all the gear as far.

Just as with infants, make sure you bring all the gear for a good
night’s sleep. Bring some toys from baby’s crib, bring
lullaby music with an MP3 player and portable speakers,
baby’s favorite sleep blanket, etc. And for heaven’s
sake, don’t forget the lovey. We always travel two, just in
case of an emergency.

Have I loaded you up with gear? Good. Because here’s the
dichotomy of traveling with kids:

Don’t be afraid to travel big. Bring those favorite toys,
books, foods, etc. We carried Maddie’s stuffed Elmo on the
plane, and checked the Dance N Shout Elmo. She was happy to have
both, which means we were happy to have both. At the same time:

Try to travel light. See what you can borrow when you get there.
Rather than bring a booster seat with us on vacation, we bought one
for $20 at a Wal-Mart and left it at the house we borrowed for
future toddlers to use. If visiting friends of family, see if they
can scrounge up a pack n play, etc. If you’re trying to
borrow a stroller or car seat at your destination, you may want to
consider something like the href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=ur2&tag=1mother2anoth-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&path=tg%2Fdetail%2F-%2FB0006UF43M%2Fqid%3D1136912455%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fref%3Dpd_bbs_1%3Fv%3Dglance%2526s%3Dbaby%2526n%3D507846"
target="_blank">5 in 1 Sit N Stroll
for the trip.
It’s a car seat and a stroller – not a great example of
either, but will do the job for getting through the airport and
during the flight. I’ve also seen href="http://clickserve.cc-dt.com/link/click?lid=41000000022986156"
target="_blank">this new product
– it attaches to
your existing car seat and turns it into a stroller. Its function
is identical to the Sit N Stroll, but works with your own car seat.
And from what I’ve read, you can use it as a car seat on the
plane with the stroller part still attached. Definitely worth a

Think you’re ready to head out? Great. Just remember one more
thing –

Your child will have a meltdown. In public. You will wish you never
planned the trip, and vow to never leave your house again.

My secret weapon for a kid who’s melting down in his car seat
and screaming to be let out? Massage. Rub their neck, between their
shoulder blades, their feet, etc. A firm, gentle touch will help
distract and soothe them.

My secret weapon for the beleaguered parent?



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