The last time I travelled with my child, she was a baby who could easily be contained and managed. I recently took her to New Orleans for a few days and discovered exactly how different it is to travel with a toddler than a baby.
Here are my tips for
enjoying surviving your next trip with a toddler:
What to pack
Pack at least one outfit a day, and then add spares. Your child will inevitably go through more pairs of pants than you think. Hotel rooms are often overly air conditioned, so bring warm pyjamas regardless of the season. Consider taking the car seat – it’s a royal pain to take through security, but taking it with you means you can easily grab taxis to and from the airports, which can save you a lot of money on hired cars.
This is usually one of the biggest stresses of travel for us. Being prepared makes it less painful. The stroller needs to be folded and passed along the screening belt. The car seat needs to be removed from its cover to be manually inspected. Your child’s shoes can remain on, but yours must come off.
You can take a water bottle and milk bottle (both containing liquid) into the flight (just remember to show them to security).
Your child will not be allowed to carry anything through security, so take away their toys or lovies (even pacis) in advance to prevent the meltdown that happens when Dolly is ripped away and send into the black hole that is the security scanner.
Squeezy pouches are permitted onboard – just seal them in a large ziplock pouch, and only take aboard what you need, plus a few spares. Security gets suspicious of large quantities (sorry I can’t tell you the exact amount that puts you in this category!).
What works best for us is taking a flight close to nap time. Often we can’t choose the time, but when we have choices, we like to pick a flight that is an hour or two after her usual nap. This usually ensures that she crashes pretty quickly and sleeps most of the flight, while my husband and I get to relax somewhat. She will either sleep on us, or in her own seat if we’re lucky (we did get lucky on this trip and she fell asleep in her own seat on take off! Score!). A lot of people swear by evening flights. Because our toddler is up at the crack of dawn, we prefer day flights where possible, so we can get to the hotel and then to bed at a reasonable time.
This trip we also packed a lot of things to entertain her, once the novelty of being on an airplane wore off. I bought a few new toys, books and stickers, and packed crayons and a small coloring book for the flight. These, combined with a few videos we’d downloaded to the iPad, entertained our toddler for the rest of the flight when she was not napping.
Snacks are another must. Bring plenty of whatever your toddler’s fave foods are, and ask the stewardess for extra pretzels or cookies. Flight crews are also happy to fill a milk bottle if you bring an empty one aboard.
Be prepared for tight, cramped, smelly spaces in the airplane bathroom when it comes time for a diaper change. Besides grinning and bearing it, there is little you can do to get around this unpleasant aspect of flying with a toddler, save for bringing a changing pad and lots of disinfecting wipes. Yuck.
Ahead of time, request the necessities. A crib! A high chair (if they don’t have them, consider taking a clip-on high chair with you if your toddler is still using one). Think of the sleeping arrangements when booking your room. Where will your toddler sleep? Do you need a room with a separate living area, walk in closet (that can fit a crib) or extra bathroom in which your child can sleep (Don’t judge, but we have good friends who put their toddler to sleep in the extra bathroom in their room.)?
At the hotel, child-proof everything before your toddler gets into the mini bar and grabs the mini vodka bottles with glee. The easiest way is to move everything to a higher shelf. This includes anything in the room at toddler-reaching height. Pens, phones, lights – move everything so your child can’t hurt themselves, or anything expensive in the room.
If your child still drinks milk in the morning, try to buy a carton of milk from a nearby grocery so that you don’t have to order room service every morning just to fill a bottle (unnecessarily expensive plus the wait is just too long).
If you plan on going out at night, find out in advance if your hotel uses a reputable babysitting service and if so, contact the service to help find a babysitter that you feel comfortable with. If they do not have a service, websites like sittercity.com are great, and do background checks on all of their sitters. Call a few sitters, ask for references, and the like. I like to ask the sitter to come a little earlier on the first night so that we can meet her and get a general “not creepy” vibe.
Deadlock the front door every time you enter the room if your child, like ours, is a Houdini who enjoys escaping and also, locking the whole family out when you go into the hallway to chase her.
It may or may not be necessary to child proof power outlets, depending on your child’s age. Depending on your child’s sleeping habits, you may need to bring a night light. We have this Hippo night light, which can go into the crib. Simply remove the bulb from the belly and charge it in a wall during the day.
The hotel staff
Make nice with the staff when you arrive. As a general rule, just look apologetic and act grateful, as your toddler is sure to ruin something while you are staying at the hotel. Ask the concierge to recommend kid-friendly activities in the local area, and also potential restaurants where your little one will be welcome. And if you make yourself known, they will likely dig up a special treat or two (crayons, a special coloring book) for the kiddo.
Take lots of photos and enjoy your trip!
By Christine Knight
Christine Knight is co-founder of Brunchwithmybaby.com, a site featuring kid-friendly places to eat, play and explore in New York City. Catch up with the Brunch With My Baby team on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Follow Christine on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.