I love to travel. I dream of treks to Macchu Picchu, train tours of Eastern Europe, and zip lines through jungle canopies. My husband loves to travel. He dreams of someday returning to his old stomping grounds and volunteer sites of Benin, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
So, as parents, we are determined that our children WILL love to travel too. For now, the adventurous travels through rugged parts of Africa and hikes through South American countries are on hold, at least until diapers are a thing of our past. Instead, we fly around the country visiting relatives, and explore the varied possibilities for easier family travel.
Recently, with tot in tow, we boarded a plane at Denver International Airport for a 4 hour flight to Florida. I assessed the challenges we faced flying with a 13-month-old: A wriggling toddler unwilling to sit still in our laps, on day 6 of antibiotic treatment for a sinus infection, with periodic diarrhea due to the medication. Yep, we faced much potential for a screaming child, a leaking diaper, a weeping mommy, and a baffled daddy.
Yet… the flight went well! In retrospect, it is clear that we took many steps to avoid the possible meltdowns. Instead of all the things that could have gone wrong, I began to notice the things we did well:
1. We were well supplied. In addition to Cheerios and other small snacks, we packed several baby food pouches. Have you discovered these marvels yet? Where were they when my oldest was little? What a fabulously easy way to feed the kid, especially when traveling and confined to the small space of an airplane seat. No spoon and no mess!
2. We were knowledgeable and informed. Having done our research, we knew what would and would not be permitted through security. The baby food and the bottle of liquid antibiotics were fine, as long as they were out of the carry-on bags and ready for inspection. All documentation, IDs, and boarding passes were readily available. We may have looked like a group you wouldn’t want to get stuck behind in the security line, but we breezed through easily and quickly thanks to our preparedness.
3. We avoided rush and panic travel. My husband and I both prefer to be early. Always. We feel stressed out when running late, which makes an argument and bickering more likely. So, we learned early on to leave plenty of time for things, especially for travel. By arriving at the airport exceptionally early, we were able to relax and just enjoy the time together.
4. We were prepared to entertain. We presented toys one at a time and we provided paper for little fingers to shred. The biggest hit though was the stickers. Small, light-weight, and taking up very little carry-on space, they provided endless giggles as we stuck them to her toes and arms and she stuck them to my nose.
5. We took turns. It can be exhausting trying to entertain a toddler for 4 hours. So, we alternated. We took turns being the parent-in-charge, so the other could have some time to sleep, read, or just relax.
6. We flew Southwest. Okay, so this had nothing to do with easier travel and everything to do with finding the cheapest tickets. However, we discovered a definite perk to flying an airline with no assigned seating. As a family with a small child, we boarded early and settled ourselves into an empty row. With the little one in my lap, our row had one extra seat for another passenger. Yet, for some strange reason, nobody wanted to sit with us and our little angel! Instead, we were left with the entire row to ourselves.
So there you have it: our successful travels with the tot. Perhaps we just got lucky this time around, or perhaps we really do know what we’re doing sometimes. Hmmm… maybe South American jungles and African wildlife aren’t such distant dreams after all.
Do you have any additional travel tips to share? What has worked well for you when traveling with little ones?