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Entries in best toddler travel toys (1)

Monday
Jun252012

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'.