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Monday, November 4, 2013

Awesome Tips for Flying with Toddlers: Part 3

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

I am wrapping up this series on flying with toddlers by covering just basic tips to help you survive when you have to fly with a toddler.  In Part 1 we talked about entertainment, and in Part 2 we talked about food.  Let me know if you have any other good ideas I can add to my list!

Sometimes survival looks like parking your sleeping toddler
under the booth at the airport Chilli's while you eat.
1)  Research

Read the TSA information online about traveling with children.  There's stuff you need to know, like that children under 12 don't have to take off their shoes to go through security, and that you can carry them through the metal detector.  You are allowed to bring extra liquids in your carry on bag like applesauce, milk, yogurt, or whatever else your child needs for the trip.  You can also bring a diaper bag in addition to your carry on and personal item.

It helped me a lot to know what to expect ahead of time.  In fact, I printed off the pages from the website and had them in my purse in case I had to fight some TSA agent about how they treated us.  That turned out to be the farthest thing from what happened.  In fact, everyone was super nice to us.  On the way back home, we even got pulled out of the line and brought to the front, just because we were with a baby.  That was the best, 'cause it was a really long line!

2)  Essential Oils

I am not one of the people who believes that essential oils cure everything from stubbed toes to cancer, and I am not a huge fan of expensive MLM brands of oils.  That being said, I do think that essential oils are very useful in many areas, including using them to help alter moods.  On one of my flights, the worst one, Cricket was so exhausted, but she refused to go to sleep, so she just screamed for most of the flight.  The lady across the aisle from me was really nice and offered me a roll-on applicator with lavender essential oil.  She said sometimes it works on her kids and sometimes it doesn't, but it's harmless, so it's worth a try.

It did work.  I put some on Cricket and some on myself, and we pulled out the iPad to show her pictures.  She calmed down almost immediately and looked at pictures for a while.  It was great.  So yeah, I'll be traveling with some of that next time, for sure.

3)  Travel Potty Seat

This thing wins the award for the single most used piece of equipment I brought.  It's not perfect, and I like the potty seat I have at home better, but this one folds into fourths and stows in its own little plastic bag, which slips easily into a diaper bag.  It was great to have because it made all the potties feel the same to Cricket, which gave her a little comfort in strange bathrooms, and it allowed her to sit by herself, which she prefers, rather than my having to hover her over a toilet awkwardly.

A side note for flying with potty trained toddlers:  Put them in diapers while you travel.  I was hesitant to do that because I didn't want her to regress, but it was totally worth it.  On the trip up, she never had an accident and we changed back to panties as soon as we got there, but on the trip back, when she was tired and upset all day, she refused to go to the potty most of the morning, and of course had a couple of would-have-been accidents.  Also, a lot of toddlers are not potty trained while they sleep yet, and when you are traveling, you never know when they are going to go to sleep, so it's best to already have them in the diaper.

Yes, we had some accidents the first few days we were back home, but she got back on track pretty quickly.

4)  Don't Overdress

I tend to layer my clothes when I travel, because you never know what the temperature will be, but I can say this:  I was almost always hot and I was never cold.  The airports and the airplanes all seemed to be set at 75 degrees at least, so especially hauling all our gear and my toddler, I was sweating most of the day, even though it was cool outside.  Bring a jacket for you and your toddler, but dress in short sleeves.

5)  Don't Overpack

I think this is kind of unavoidable, but let me explain.  On our last flight, apparently the airport was short-handed, because they told us as we got ready to leave the plane that our gate-checked items had been sent to baggage claim instead.  That meant that I had to carry my purse, my backpack, my diaper bag, Cricket's backpack, our coats, and of course, Cricket herself, from the gate all the way to baggage claim without the help of my trusty umbrella stroller.  The moral of the story:  Don't overpack.  As cute as it was, Cricket didn't need her own backpack.  If you can get away with putting a spare change of clothes and the potty seat in your backpack, don't bring the diaper bag either.  You never know when you'll have to carry it all yourself.

6)  Walk the Aisles

When that fasten seatbelt light goes off, you get up and start walking.  Actually, wait until the drink cart has gone through, or else you get trapped.  But yeah, let them walk up and down the plane.  It's annoying, because the aisles are approximately two inches smaller than most women's hips, but just kinda crab walk at an angle and remind yourself that your child is happy for a few minutes.

7)  Sing Songs

When in doubt, trying singing.  It worked for Cricket several times.  Usually toddlers are all about the personal interaction, so songs, silly faces, games of "Where's my nose?" or whatever else your child likes can fill a few minutes when they are bored with all their toys.  I'm pretty sure I sang the Elmo Song for 20 minutes straight on one of the flights, but hey, it worked!

8)  Leave the Carrier at Home

Some people swear that a carrier like an Ergo or a Bjorn is the absolute best way to transport a child while travelling, but I don't see it.  I took my Ergo all the way to Portland and back and didn't use it once.  I can see if you have a young baby that it would be helpful, but for a toddler, the effort of getting her on my back, and then having to carry my bags somehow just wasn't worth it.  Two of the four planes we used were the "Express Jet," which is airline language for "Tiniest Plane We Are Allowed to Use."  Those planes didn't allow rolling luggage as carry ons, so I had to use a backpack, which meant an Ergo was pretty much out of the question.  Not to mention, it's not easy to store and takes up a lot of room.

Even once we got there, I never used it because I have never figured out how to manage it while carrying a purse and a diaper bag.  It takes longer to get her in and situated than to just throw her in a stroller.

Don't get me wrong, I loved using the carrier when she was little, and I still use it around the house quite a bit when she gets clingy and I need to do dishes or vacuum or whatever.  I just didn't see it as very practical for traveling with a toddler.  Others might have different opinions, which is great, but that's how it was for me.

9)  Prepare Your Toddler

Social stories are pictures and videos that go through detailed steps of ordinary life events, like going to the dentist, how to get ready for bed, or going on an airplane.  They are often used for children with special needs to help prepare them for events that are out of the ordinary, but they are really useful for all children.  Several weeks before our trip, I started talking to Cricket about going in an airplane, teaching her words like ticket, pilot, and airport.  By the time we actually left, she could tell you that and airplane goes "up up up in the sky!" and that we were going to "see the clouds!"  I used a great presentation I found on this site.  It was long and detailed, and Cricket asked to watch it again and again!

10)  Prepare Yourself

It is super important to go into this with a good attitude.  And I say that as someone who literally thought she was going to vomit on the way to the airport.  The more excited and positive you are, the more your child will pick up on it.  The more nervous or upset you are, the more your child will mirror that as well.  We used the word "adventure" a lot while we were travelling, and we tried to see the best in each situation as much as possible.  Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn't, but we tried.  So tell yourself that this will go well, prepare to be flexible, and you at least won't be defeated before you start!

Like I said before, let me know if you have any travel tips that I haven't thought of!  I'm always on the lookout for new genius ideas!

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series!

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