While not necessarily just a TCK issue, I wanted to share some of the my thoughts on how to travel with kids under three more easily. I have spent countless hours reading blogs, forum posts, and scouring books for tips on how to make life easier for my kids, and by extension me and my husband, when we travel. Each kid is different. Some tips and travel gadgets have worked, while others have been a total waste of money. What follows is what I have found most helpful in my children’s travels. [Note: I am not a paid promoter for the products, I am just a mom trying to make traveling less onerous for everyone]
To start is a suggestion that almost every list will include. Bring more diapers and wipes then you ever think you will need. I always think of my good friend who was taking a short flight with her toddler. The airplane left the gate and never took off. It sat on the tarmac for hours and hours. Meanwhile her toddler came down with a case of diarrhea. NIGHTMARE! She ran out of diapers very quickly. Be prepared for the worst case scenario. Be sure to include changes of clothes for both you and baby, plastic bags to hold any dirty clothes and some hand sanitizer. I always like to include a couple of changing pads that I could put down on a diaper changing station or wherever you might need to change your little one. I prefer disposables when traveling so I don’t have to worry about carrying dirty ones.
The car seat/stroller conundrum
Airlines generally allow your child to travel on your lap for the first two years. You can also request the bulkhead row and possibly get a bassinet onboard for your child. Every mom has a different opinion on whether or not to bring the car seat for traveling and there are many blog posts devoted to this topic. So here is my 2 cents:
If you have the option to purchase a seat for your child, bring the car seat, for no other reason than safety. Car seats can be cumbersome, but they are simply the safest way for your child to travel. That being said, my kids have traveled with and without the carseat. They have lain in the bassinet mounted on the bulkhead, lain on an empty seat next to me, been strapped in with a child-lap belt, and when the airline doesn’t offer the lap belt, I have simply held them in my lap. Some of these worked better than others, but the only time I feel at ease is when my child is in their car seat.
For infants, I think the infant car seats are great. I have used a Graco and a Chico and I think they both were convenient. I leave the base at home and travel with a Snap and Go Stroller. I gate check the Snap and go and it’s waiting for me as soon as I land. There is most likely a youtube video of how to install the carseat without the base if you have never done it.
When my 1st child outgrew the infant seat I switched to a Cosco Scenera. I can’t recommend it enough for travel. It is easy to install, light to carry, and it is affordable (around $50), as far as carseats go. The safety ratings are good, as well. In the past, I strapped the car seat to my stroller with a bungee cord but on our most recent flights we used the Go Go Babyz Mini. It was awesome. My son loved it and it made our lives so much easier. One caveat: on long trips, I don’t think it is as comfortable as some of the more expensive carseats on the market.
Since I bought my Scenera, they have released the Scenera NEXT. I haven’t used it but the NEXT looks comparable.
Also, keep in mind your car seat should have an FAA approved sticker on it.
If I was going to recommend one stroller specifically to make travel easier it would be a McClaren because they are light, don’t take up much space and are durable. They are expensive, but I found one on Craigslist for $25. I used to take my large Phil & Teds stroller but because of it’s weight and the way things get tossed around when no longer in your sight, I think there is a greater risk of damage. I have met many people who have had their strollers destroyed somewhere between checkin and baggage claim. Many have been reimbursed by the airline, which is great, but it doesn’t change the fact that you arrive at your destination without a functioning stroller.
To Bulkhead, or not to Bulkhead?
Personally, I don’t like the bulkhead. The extra legroom is amazing, especially if you have a crawler or walker but there is no storage under the seat which is a deal breaker for me.
Entertainment Under 6 Months
I find that babies under six months can be easier to travel with than energetic toddlers. Hopefully yours will sleep the entire flight. To reduce issues with the ears popping: nurse, give them a bottle, or use a pacifier with a clip attached to their clothes (learned that the hard way).
Freddy the Firefly was pretty much the only toy either of my kids used before 6 months. He is a well travelled firefly.
Entertainment 6 Months and Beyond
I have read so many lists of what kind of toys to bring to entertain kids and have tried a number of things. Some worked, most didn’t. It’s all going to depend on your kid, where they are developmentally and what their temperament is. Here are a few of the things that have worked for us.
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks- Bring many, offer often, have a variety. Travel days for me are about survival. My son now associates getting on a plane with eating a donut. I am not proud of this but it has made my life easier, so if I see a donut shop I’m stopping. We also always bring a water bottle that we fill before getting on the plane.
Reusable Stickers- Melissa & Doug Habitats Reusable Sticker Pad: The stickers in these are great. I don’t actually bring the sticker pad because they are quite big but I take a small Ziploc bag filled with them and we stick them on the airplane window.
Books about Planes- We read travel books the night before we travel and throughout the trip. Here are our favorites: My Plane Trip by Cathy Beylon, Airport (it’s dated but the illustrations are great) by Byron Barton, Planes Board Book by Byron Barton.
Balloons- Cheap, portable, endless fun, never leave home without them
Traveling with little ones can be challenging and nerve wracking, just remember to take deep breaths and that you will eventually make it to your destination.
What are some of your travel trips?
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