We are preparing for a trip to New York City this Friday and it has gotten us thinking about different travel tips we have heard and tried. Now I'm not an expert, and my kids are far from easy going, laid back travelers (here's a post on their delightful behavior while away and with company), but here are some things that have worked for us on the day of travel with our two daughters.
|Some well traveled car seats.|
First of all, the actual traveling is always easier than I expect, so try to put those fears aside. With some planning I think it can be fun (most of the time) for everyone. I find airplane travel to be easier than car travel. On an airplane you get to sit together and can do things together such as read books, color, play games etc. Plus, you can even walk around and use the bathroom (some of the time). I find car travel a bit trickier because generally the parents are in the front and the kids are in the back, and when they start getting antsy the adults have to debate how soon to stop yet again. I think trains are the best mode of transportation of all, but sadly they often aren't an easy option for our destinations.
Suggestions for the Airplane Carry-on Bags
We bend the rules on travel days to have some fun treats, but try to include a pretty healthy mix to keep everyone on an even keel. We have had experiences with getting stuck places, so I bring a lot of food. Probably more that we could eat in one day, but if you get stuck in an airport hotel over night it will be nice to have some baby/toddler/preschooler food on hand.
For our plane trip in June we brought organic baby food pouches, a mix of steamed veggies cut into small pieces, bananas and some cooked beans for the eleven month old (she wasn't eating grains, nuts, tomatoes or eggs yet). For the Two (almost 3) year old we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, grapes, apples, gold fish crackers, pretzel sticks, roasted seaweed, cucumber, carrot and red pepper sticks with hummus, and individual packages of trail mix. Mom and Dad had some sandwiches and shared the kid snacks. All of these things make it through security no problem.
We still eat at the terminal when we have layovers (especially when they have local specialties) because I don't want to deplete our emergency rations too much. I know. I'm so dramatic, but I feel much better with a food supply on hand.
2. Water bottles or Sippy Cups
Bring them empty to get through security, and then fill at a drinking fountain or with bottled water once inside.
3. Activities for Kids
My mom had read a tip to wrap up some of the kids' things as presents. I thought this was brilliant! We wrapped some of the favorite books, toys and finger puppets that we planned to bring in tissue paper. Unwrapping the "presents" was an activity in and of itself. The baby would just happily play with whatever she opened. The toddler would comment, "Oh, this is just like one that we have at our house," and then would also happily play with whatever she had opened.
Keeping the 11 month old and 35 month old in mind, we brought about 5 board books, 5 story books, each girl had a dolly and a stuffed animal, some finger puppets, stacking cups, paper, crayons, stickers, and a couple of other things.
One of the things that was the biggest hit was a present from our good friend. She had cut three strips of stretchy fabric in varying lengths and labled them headband, belt, and fishing line. Our toddler and Dada played with those for almost our whole second flight (about 2.5 hours). They dressed up dolly, Dada, baby sister, Mama and the stuffed animals with them. They became horse reins fastened around the hook on the back of the seat, and so much more.
We did also bring some DVDs and a laptop in case things got ugly, but we never used them.
4. Two-three days of diapers and underpants for each child
You would think that those convenience stores in the airport would carry diapers, but they don't necessarily have them. Or if they do, they might not be in the size you need. If you get stuck in an airport or airport hotel for the night, it can be really hard to get out of airport circle to get to a drug store without a car. Bring diapers - maybe a whole carry-on worth!
5. Three-four changes of clothes for each child
There is nothing like being away from home and having a child eating on your lap to make a big mess. Between messy meals, diapers leaking or who knows what else, several changes of clothes are nice to have on hand.
6. One change of clothes for each grown-up
Last year on our way home from Vermont, we missed our connecting flight and had to spend the night in Detroit. Luckily I had all the snacks, activities, diapers and children's clothing I could possibly need, but I had packed all the grown up clothes in the checked luggage (to save space for kid stuff). I thought that because we were on our way home that if our bag got lost it wouldn't be a problem because we would be at home. Ha, I didn't think about a night in Detroit along the way. Now I always pack a change of clothes for Mama and Dada because it was bad enough to stay in a hotel when you are looking forward to your own bed, but if you have to wear yesterday's clothes too...not fun.
7. Baby Carrier
I have found it really helpful to have a baby carrier (we have an Ergo) for getting through the airport and helping little ones take naps on the plane. Our 11 month old had been walking for a while hadn't been in the Ergo for some time, but she found it comforting amid all the commotion.
8. Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes
A flight attendant friend suggested this one: Squirt hand sanitizer on a baby wipe and generously smear all over the tray, arm rest, and any other hard surface your kids might be able to reach. It's great peace of mind that you at least tried to minimize the germs.
Suggestions for the front seat of the car
The same snacks, water bottles and activities that you would take on a plane with all of the other items on the list easily accessible in the trunk.
We start the trip with piles of snacks and activities in the front seat, and as the trip wears on they all get passed to the back. When we stop for a break, Mama and Dada move most of the stuff back to the front so that we can repeat the process.
It's amazing how music can calm fussy babies and help toddlers and preschoolers give you a break from the relentless questions. I recommend finding some that you all find tolerable. Two of our favorites are Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkener.
If you relax and plan for the unexpected, I'm sure you and the kids will be able to enjoy your adventures.