May 31, 2013

traveling with kids

Several of you have asked if I would share my tips on traveling with kids, and I am finally getting around to entertaining that request.  But before I delve into what works for us, there are a few things you need to know and remember...
  • I have never traveled with the girls on my own.
  • We have never been on an extra long car trip, only flown to our destination.
  • We almost always are visiting my parents house, where almost every baby gear item I use at my own home is available to me.  And my parents are pretty much the bomb, super helpful, and will do almost anything to make my life easier.
  • I am a notorious over packer.
Ok, with all that out of the way, here is how we survive traveling with a toddler and an infant.  I tried to make it really organized, but, um, I quickly start jumping from one thing to another.  Good luck following a long :o).

photo 1(8)
say hello to the bag lady.  and my underwhelmed toddler.

Do what works.
First and foremost, do what works for you.  I used to try and pack books, coloring pages, crayons, toys, etc, to keep Ryann entertained.  But the truth is that the iPad and snacks go a long way.  A LONG way.  So I gave up on my urge to have Ry utilize as little technology as possible, and just keep her quiet with the iPad and snacks.  Lots of snacks.  And headphones for the iPad.  She is so content to sit and watch Dinosaur Train or play games, that she doesn't make a peep for the majority of the flight.  And she has just gotten used to the fact that we can't use the iPad at the beginning or end of the flight, and if she is fussing that is when I break out the food.  But stickers, a new coloring book, or one of these travel aquadoodle mats are all relatively portable and would be a good distraction too.

This past trip the only reasonable flight time for us, left us stuck on a plane for five hours over lunch time.  I used these Easy Lunchboxes to pack food for Ryann and I.  They're great.  I'm also a huge fan of the Zoli Sumo Snack Stack.  You can pack a lot in that thing.  I usually put fruit (grapes and blueberries) in one compartment, nuts, raisins and oatmeal squares in the next, and some sort of cereal or cracker she usually doesn't get in the bottom one, to break out if she is starting to lose it.  The only downside to packing in these kind of containers versus disposable baggies, is that you don't lose any bulk as you finish food.

photo 2(8)

In regards to a drink on the plane, I just pack an empty kid's Camelbak, buy a big water after I go through security, pour some into Ry's cup and drink the rest.  Also, during take off or landing, or both, I'll give Ryann a squeezy pouch.  It helps her ears pop, and I know she is getting some veggies in her.  Oh and someone asked if the girl's ears seem to be bothered?  Usually only on the way down.  Ryann has told me that her ears hurt.  Usually when she seems uncomfortable or tells me they hurt, mine are popping or bothering me too.  So I tend to use that as reference.  If my ears start to twinge I encourage her to drink some water or pass her a squeezy pouch.

Getting through security.
Alright so you've got everything but the kitchen sink packed in your bags and you've made it to the airport, but now you have to get all that stuff inside and yourself through security.  My first piece of advice?  Bring your stroller.  Your full size stroller.  Your giant double if you've got it.  Yes it can seem like kind of a pain, but the ability to strap your kids down while checking in is vital.  And when you do decide to let them out, you now have a vehicle to carry all your crap.  I just check my stroller (and my infant seat) at the gate.

I have never brought a car seat on the plane.  Neither of my kids likes to sit in one, so it would be more of a hassle to lug it with me and keep them happy.  As I mentioned above, I check my infant carrier at the gate.  Though it is controversial, I check my convertible seat with my luggage.  So far we haven't noticed any damage to the seat, but some claim checking your seat is like it being a car accident, so to each their own.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  To protect my seat a bit, and help me lug the dang thing around, I got one of these backpacks.  Frequently I am traveling with my mom, and there is just no way either of us could actually carry the seat in our hands.  There are some products that would put your car seat on wheels so you could roll it around, but for me having a diaper bag with a cross body strap and the car seat on my back was more effective.  It leaves my hands free to push the stroller and pull a suitcase.

When we get to the front of the security line, I leave the kids in the stroller while I unload all of our bags on the belt.  I have to pull out my laptop, my plastic baggy of liquids,  and my baggy of squeezy pouches.  Then I take off my shoes (wear something you can slip on and off without your hands!  flats, flip flops...).  Once everything is on the belt, I get Elsie out of the car seat, Ry hops out of the stroller, and whatever adult is with me gets those items either on the belt or pushed up to be hand checked.  The infant carrier will fit through the scanner, my stroller frequently does not.  I usually just tell them it won't fit and they hand check it without issue, because otherwise it gets really beat up trying to make it fit.  So far only once have they made us take the stupid stroller completely apart and fit it through the scanner piece by piece (we have the City Select).

Now if your infant likes to be in a carrier such as the Moby, it might work really well for you to have it on when you get to the airport so you can transfer baby from the car seat to there, and still maintain use of your hands.  Elsie doesn't much like the carrier so I avoid it for the most part.

photo 3(2)  

Your Carry-ons.
In regard to the bags I carry, I generally travel with the car seat, a suitcase for me and one for the girls (it's a lot, but we are usually gone a week or more), the diaper bag (I recently got this one and love it!) and my Kelly Moore bag.  The suitcases and the car seat get checked at the desk, the other bags I carry on with me. 

The Kelly Moore bag holds my camera, a lens if I take an extra, my laptop, phone, iPad, Ry's headphones, some snacks and my wallet.  In the diaper bag I keep all of the baby essentials (diapers, wipes, nursing cover, change of clothes, etc.).  Make sure to have at least one change of clothes for each child (I bring two for Elsie, sleepers or rompers so I don't have to carry multiple outfit pieces) and it isn't a bad idea to have an extra shirt for yourself.  Diaper blowouts, leaks or a pukey baby are bound to happen, and you don't want to be left wandering the airport in a poop stained shirt.  Pack your extra clothes in a plastic bag or a wet bag so that you have somewhere to put the soiled clothing if you need an outfit change.  It's also a good idea to have a plastic bag on hand (or one of these) for any diapers you have to change while on the plane.

Speaking of changing diapers, I came across a travel pad that I love.  It is called the Ah Goo Baby Plush Pad.  I won't lie, it is bulky and takes up a lot of room, so I won't keep it in the diaper bag on a daily basis.  But some of the airports diaper changing areas are a rock solid counter top, so the memory foam in this thing is great.  It has little elastics on each end to keep it rolled up when it isn't in use which is nice.  And it came in handy when we had to change a diaper on the plane, as well as when we were just sitting around during our stop.

photo 5(1)

We also make sure to bring a blanket and a lovey for Ry.  For the most part we don't have to get it out anymore, but it came in handy helping to convince her to take a little nap on the plane.  And she always surprised me and up until this trip, pretty much always took at least a 30 minute nap on the plane.

Sleeping Arrangements.
I was asked about how our sleeping arrangements work on vacation, and again, this is an area that I have some luxury in.  My parents beach house has plenty of bedrooms, so Ry has always been in a separate room.  When all the rooms needed to be occupied, my parents let her sleep in one of their small room sized closets on an inflatable mattress.

Nearly every time we've stayed at a hotel, we've gotten adjoining rooms with my parents, so that we could put Ry down in our room, leave the door cracked, and hang out after she went to bed.  Adjoining rooms are also super helpful at nap time.  We used to bring our pack 'n play for her, and at Christmas we put her on the fold out chair with a pillow fort all around her to keep her from falling out.  This past weekend in Nashville, Ryann slept on the inflatable mattress in my parents room and Chris, Elsie and I were in an adjoining room.  Chris and I slept in one bed, and we put Elsie in the dead center of the other double.

Keeping their schedule.
For the most part, while we are on vacation, I still try and stick to Ryann's schedule that we keep at home.  If there is something we want to be out and about for during nap time, we do it, she is relatively flexible.  But usually in Georgia we are just hanging out enjoying the weather, and it isn't tough to bring her back in to rest for a bit.  I've always tried to keep her on central time (so we eat lunch at 1 instead of 12, quiet time at 2 instead of 1), but again, she doesn't really seem to notice if we do things a little different than the norm.  Toddlers can't tell time :o).

To aid with rest time and bed time, we bring a sleep buddy with us wherever we go.  She is starting to care less and less about following it, but it is still a great indicator of when she should be quiet and resting.

photo 4(2)

Beach Tips.
Kristin asked for some beach tips on facebook, but I'm sorry to report that I don't really have any good ones.  My parent's home is literally steps from the beach, so we just lather up with some sunscreen and drag our beach toys down there.  When we get bored, someone has to pee or gets hungry, we just walk back up to the house.  I have yet to try the baby powder trick (I have no idea why) but maybe next time.  I would suggest not bringing a bag or towels you use on the regular, because ohmygawd sand EVERYWHERE.  EV.REE.WHERE.

Not sure if that covers what people have been wanting to know, but hopefully it helps!  Traveling can be really stressful (I still get incredibly stressed out, because I'm ALWAYS running late), but remember the situation probably isn't as bad as you think, and if your toddler is tormenting the other passengers on the plane, well, you probably will never see them again :o).  If you  have any other questions feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer them!  


Jenny said...

That first picture? Awesome. =) If I saw you walking around like that at the airport, I'd buy you a cup of coffee or something.

I would really strongly encourage you to NOT check your carseats at the counter though. A lot of seats require replacement after the tiniest of fender-benders even, which is WAY less than what the baggage handlers are going to do to your seat. However, if you must check it at the counter, you can protect your seat by packing it back up in all of the original packaging (if you still have it), the way it was shipped to you/the store.

In your specific case, if you were me (and I know you're not, so I don't mind at all if you take this with a grain of salt;) ), I'd buy Ryann a new seat. If I recall correctly, she's already been turned forward facing, so you could buy a combo seat that's harnessed for now, but can eventually be turned into a booster. You could save her current seat for use as just a seat to take with you when you travel. Even though it is "crashed", at least then it wouldn't be your every day use seat. And I'd buy a new convertible for Elsie when the time comes (instead of handing down the "crashed" seat).

Sorry, can you tell that carseat safety is my soapbox issue? ;)

Unrelated, your City Select looks totally awesome.

Marianella Benavides said...

Love the pictures!!! Its always nice to read your post, both inspiring and helpful :) Do you get to board first since you have children with you???

Kristin said...

You look totally b-a with that carseat strapped to you! We will be staying in a condo right on the beach, so hopefully we won't have many issues either. I cant imagine having to commit to a full day at the beach with a little one. Eesh!

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