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Entries in air travel with kids (3)


School's Out For Summer: Top Tips For Traveling with Toddlers

Just like the seasonal change (is everyone as happy as I am that it's officially summer?!), my life is undergoing a few transitions right now that have kept me very busy so I thought I'd share this once again timely post about preparing for summer travel. I can't wait to share my good news soon, and I can't wait to have a healthy hand so it's easier to type and post stories! Enjoy a sunny Monday, Friends.

School’s out for summer! And you know what that means? Yep, parks, plunge pools, popsicles, and…vacation. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel and enjoy a great getaway with the fam but you hate the idea of planes, trains, and automobiles. Okay, I really only dislike the former—air travel might as well be characterized as cruel and unusual punishment with $100 bag check fees, Cruella de Vil flight attendants, and unfairly judgmental passengers, making it that much more difficult for families with young children. Who needs the additional stress piled on top of the car seat, stroller, carrier, toys, snacks, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, travel crib, oh, and your own luggage and carry-ons?

On a recent cross-country flight—one that was supposed to be a manageable five-hour jaunt but turned ugly when thunderstorms made it the ten-hour trip from hell—my seasoned little traveler lost his s#*! and suffered a nuclear meltdown during the last thirty minutes before touching down. We were finally those people, with the inconsolable toddler, deflecting the nasty glares of snakes fellow travelers on the plane (empathy, anyone?). Finally, after what felt like an eternity but was really five minutes of tears, my husband calmed down…just kidding…although he, like our Little Dude, was none too pleased to be stuck on a plane without ample leg and play room, ventilation, or adequate sustenance way past our estimated arrival time.

Mom, please get me out of my seat...Pretty Puh-Leeeze!I guess crappy service, major delays, and meltdowns should be expected when one takes 15 flights with a baby-turned-toddler over the course of one year. So, it’s with this experience under my belt that I can share my top five tips for making traveling with your tot as painless as possible.

1.     Plan Your Travel Times Around Naps and Bedtime. Every parent prays that his or her tike takes a loooong snooze on the plane, so book flights that take off just before your child is known to nod off to sleep. To help to your toddler sleep on the plane, emulate his or her sleep routine as best as possible. When prepping the Little Dude to catch some Zzzz, we snuggle with a light blanket, read three books, and end with a nightcap of milk in a sippy cup.

2.     Get the Wiggles Out. My son is a very active one year old, so it is near impossible to keep him in his seat for the entire duration of any flight that is longer than two hours. So we do our best to wear him out before we board the plane—we let him loose in the backyard before packing up and heading out in the car; we walk the terminal and explore new people/places/things (this is the perfect time for a game of I Spy); and we find empty gates to use as a makeshift playground (score, if the airport has an official play area). Once on the plane, we’ve hopefully secured a seat in the bulkhead where the Little Dude can safely sit and play on the floor under our watchful eye instead of obstructing the aisle.

3.     Pack a pantry. On our most recent flight, the parents of two wee ones who sat adjacent to us packed an entire backpack full of gumdrops and other sweets to keep their toddlers quiet throughout the trip. The kids definitely didn’t get the memo that candy is only given in exchange for silence. Just because you’re traveling, don’t throw your eating habits out the window. Kids will be much happier campers if they are fed with healthier snack options, especially protein. Great options are crackers or apples with natural peanut butter, grapes, Plum Tots or Trader Joe's fruit mashes, yogurt that has been frozen and thaws by eating time, string cheese, and milk (this famous drink will also encourage sleep). Finally, pack two times the amount of food and drinks that you think you will actually need in case you get stuck on the plane for ten hours.

4.     Toy Story. Although your child may have to sit passively, it doesn’t mean that they can’t remain actively engaged. In addition to packing a few of my son’s favorite books and small toys, I also surprise him with a couple of new items in order to hold his attention. Great travel toys include: a mini doodler; mini puzzles with travel case; lift-the-flap books; and Tegu travel blocks.

5.     Sit back and relax. You’re summer travels will be a breeze (positive thinking, right?) if you prepare your brood in advance for the airport and plane. To help you with your travel planning, check out these great Web sites stocked with tips and tricks of the trade to make your vacation the best one possible:

What about you? Do you have any tried-and-true survival, oops, travel tips? Let's share them over a drink with an umbrella. Sound good?

~ The Other Sarah

PS - You might also like these summer posts on Summer Travel Must Haves, Beating the Summer Slide, and Summer Lovin'.


{Guest Post} The Unfriendly Skies  

Forgive me, but I was one of those people. I gave you dirty looks when your kid excitedly ran around the flight boarding area, worrying of stepping into a small enclosed space with that ball of energy. I was the one who rolled my eyes when your child kicked my chair for the fifteenth time and thought to myself (and may have accidentally also muttered aloud) “what kind of parent allows their kid to behave that way in public, much less a plane?”.  

I guess that is exactly what the captain and flight attendants were thinking when they kicked off a family from a flight because their child was unhappy with his seat assignment.  And that prompted the family to be removed from the flight, find a hotel room, and wait until the next day to leave an island far from home with their two kids.

Before you glare at me through your computer/phone screen and send me looks of hate telepathically, let me explain my reasoning. Growing up, my extended family all lived on the east coast. My family made trips to New York several times a year, sometimes almost monthly.  We had a system.  Dimetapp still had the stuff in it that helped kids go to sleep (my mom’s secret for all travel experiences involving kids).  

And flying was so much more civilized.  Your shoes never came off until you got on the plane, the space between rows was large enough my younger siblings could sleep on the floor, and the airlines always gave us bulkhead seats if we were flying coach.

Those days are long gone.  Now, bulkhead is reserved for only the 100,000-mile+ travelers, people are packed on planes like sardines, and the process of flying has become so grueling people would rather drive or, ahem, take a train (we all know Americans don’t take trains, right?).  Some airlines don’t even allow families with small children to sit together unless they agree to pay a large fee, and even then it is not guaranteed!  One mom had to call her senator in order to get a seat next to her autistic child, really now?

Regardless of how awful the flying experience has gotten, I still remember how much my siblings and I loved to fly. We got wings before we even boarded the plane, the airline always had us playing cards, and it was an experience.  And we behaved.  Never once did any of us have a tantrum or meltdown on a plane.

Fast-forward to today, parents must arrive at the airport at least a few hours early to try to figure out how to get those little bodies from the car to the airplane without losing toys, bottles, diapers, breast-pumps, strollers, carriers, a Boppy pillow, take out their computer, take off everyone’s shoes, convince the TSA folks to let you carry you baby through because he is a baby and cannot walk.  

Let the TSA officials swipe and wand your stroller even though you spent ten minutes taking off the wheels and making it fit into the machine, only to further disassemble it to make it fit into its special $90 bag (that comes with a full warranty in case your stroller breaks, which I highly recommend).  Feed the little one, then feed yourself.  Go to the bathroom.  Find a place to pump (good luck, that’s kind of like playing Where’s Waldo when they accidentally forgot to put him on the map!).

So I understand now that by the time a kid gets on the plane, he or she has already been through an adventure course rigged with booby traps and other hidden catastrophes waiting to happen.  And their parents, well parents have to hold everything together to make sure the entire system does not break down.  

Did I mention how excited I am to fly with my little one for the first time by myself in a month?  I have already delayed my trip twice just because I don’t want to be that mom with a baby having a meltdown (or better yet have one myself).  

I have flown with my little man five times so far, but that was when he was under three months, I had another pair of hands, and he slept the entire flight.  I was prepared for each flight with free drink tickets, huge smiles, and of course I dressed my son in his polo onesie so that he looked like a respectable baby.  Now that he is eight months and wants to explore the world, I stand little chance to repeat those experiences!  Don’t worry, you can find me on the back of the plane, in the baby ghetto, far away from most of you.

So to all of the parents and kids I judged, criticized, and rolled my eyes at over the years while traveling, I apologize.  I am now wearing your shoes, and I only hope you will understand if and when my little one becomes unhappy in this adventure.

As for me, I would never, even in my most selfish, narcissistic college days, want an entire family to be removed from a plane just because a toddler was unhappy that he had to sit in a real seat instead of being held.  Now for the 71% of 60,000 voters that Today.com agreed with the decision to remove the family from the plane, please save your judgment for them!

~ Rachel Burris Pitzel is one of the founding MomMes of Club MomMe, a club to help women experience the transition from me to momme together, in a supportive, educational, fun, and social atmosphere designed to build a community of expectant and new(er) moms.  A reformed attorney, Rachel loves cooking, researching the latest baby products, pilates, yoga, and the beach.  In her spare time, Rachel loves to travel with her husband and spend time volunteering with the Junior League of Los Angeles.


The Goods: Melissa & Doug 

Melissa & Doug creates playful and imaginative toys for babies 6 months to 10 years old, ranging from wooden puzzles, blocks, play food, magnetic activities, and so much more. Started 23 years ago (in a garage), then girlfriend and boyfriend Melissa and a Doug had a desire to make a difference for children and caregivers by creating toys using classic play patterns that did not use technology to entertain. Kids use their imagination when playing with Melissa & Doug’s open-ended style toys. Now married and six children later, they have a successful business and, even though generation shifts cause what is known as “traditional” to change, Melissa & Doug are standing strong in keeping their company toy designs the same.

My son has numerous Melissa & Doug toys, and lately I started noticing they are they only toys (besides books) that he chooses to play with.

He has a Trunki which is a suitcase and a ride-on toy all in one and it is perfect for traveling because it holds and organizes all the other toys that we need to bring on our trips. Then, when trying to get through the airport he can ride on the suitcase and be totally entertained by the ride!
We own two Melissa & Doug magnetic hide and seek boards: one is a farmhouse with different farm animals located behind each hinged door, and the other one has nine “doors” which have the likeness of an object that holds things. The best thing is the pieces are magnetic so if the puzzle gets knocked over, or kicked, or thrown or...they don’t fall out and make a mess.
My son can easily play with the Melissa & Doug jumbo knob wooden farm puzzle because the large knobs are so easy for his little hands to hold. The pieces are large and durable and easy to decipher the different farm animals. Oh, and this past week he was able to do the whole puzzle all by himself (proud Mama here)! 

The Melissa & Doug musical instrument sound puzzle is not as easy to play with, does not sound like the instruments, and the Old McDonald song playing over and over again is a bit annoying to me. It also randomly plays late in the night when not being touched and scares me to death (boo). But, my son loves this puzzle especially the guitar piece, or “tar” as he calls it, and pretends to be a maestro when the music plays. 

We do not own these last two items, but I think they are extremely cute. The Melissa & Doug wooden sushi comes with shrimp, tuna, salmon roe, and egg pieces, as well as proper sushi condiments ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. The chopsticks have Velcro to help hold the pieces together, too. A perfect gift for when my son turns 2 (hint, hint). The Melissa & Doug shopping cart is made of sturdy metal (not wood) and has pivoting front wheels and a folding seat. It is just like the real thing but a mini version. I think both these toys are perfect for pretend food play and great for imagination.

 ~ Kristin Strange of My Strange Family