Saturday, October 12, 2013

Traveling with Toddlers

some of you may have seen my exhaustion on instagram the day I traveled. 9/2013
Ok, I admit, that is a little dramatic. It was hard. As noted in my previous post, Carl is in school so I was left to lead the crew on a 10 day escapade to the golden land of California. Ezra was a little over 3 and Vivienne was 17 months. My flight was direct from Milwaukee to San Francisco (4 hours) and due to schedule circumstances, I was at the airport for 3 hours before boarding.

MKE play area. Another independent mother there quoted it as a "God-send." Ditto. 
We are fairly seasoned travelers for a family of four, though I've never traveled alone with two toddlers. There were moments where I felt triumphant, "I am woman, hear me roar"-esque and moments where I looked at strangers pleadingly with a twitching eye, silently begging for a hand, but in the end, we all survived. Here are my thoughts and "advice:"

1) check in everything except a back pack for yourself, which will hold necessities for the day- snacks, diapers, change of clothes, liquids in ziplock quart bag, etc and of course keep your stroller to check in at the gate! I used a double stroller, but Ezra would walk part of the time. I recommend a stroller that is easy to maneuver and fold and unfold quickly. I like using a back pack because it won't fall off your shoulders when snatching up your children as they run away quickly. It was nice to only have my backpack and a reusable grocery bag (kept in the stroller basket) which would hold Ezra's backpack when he was tired of carrying it, jackets, and a few toys. I could easily hold Vivienne at the gate or on the plane and I've taught Ezra to hold my shirt or bag when needed to stay close.

2) put your phone away and watch those kids! No time for texting or social media, make sure they are always in sight! While waiting for our flight, MKE fortunately has a play area that covered 2 hours of our time until a kid sat on Ezra and he wanted to leave. I don't blame him. We then waited for our flight next to our gate after checking in the stroller. I think this was the hardest part of the trip. The kids had a huge terminal to explore and their favorite things to do were go opposite directions, behind the chairs and on the ledge near windows. I really did not enjoy running behind other passengers and I really did not enjoy apologizing to the passengers whose heads were rubbed by my kids. Toddlers are not built to sit in one place for a long time- which brings me to my next point:

3) bring tasty distractions, a LOT of them, especially if they are your toddlers' favorites. I brought a huge bag of tricks- basically, I went to the dollar store and spent $10 on coloring books, dry erase boards, little toys and some jelly beans. Turns out the only thing my kids wanted were the jelly beans. Fortunately for my kids, I also brought a huge amount of snacks: applesauce packets (lifesavers, plus they are omitted in the less-than-4-oz rule since it's "baby food"), bags of grapes, raisins, goldfish, veggie straws and two empty sippy cups to be filled with 50/50 apple juice/water on board.

4) in regards to toys, I let my son bring two race cars and my daughter her baby doll. I also had my "bag of tricks" that I surprised them with at the airport. I had my phone which I loaded a movie and some TV shows on there before leaving the house. Tough item for the kids to share, but I basically let Ezra watch an unlimited amount of shows until he was bored with it. If I could have one extremely distracted toddler, it would make it much easier to watch the younger, not-so-easily distracted one. I just cycled through the toys and activities I brought until we would eat or arrive at our destination.

5) expect tantrums. They are toddlers! Ezra had 1-2 tantrums when Vivienne tried to take the toys he was playing with and Vivienne, well, Vivienne had many, many tantrums for many, many different reasons. I prefer my kids to be a little sleep-deprived on the plane ride so that they usually take a nap each, but that has its consequences- every parent knows tired children are a recipe for disaster(s). I just held my chin up and ignored the many stares I got when either of my kids freaked- whatever, we were all children at one point, right?

It's hard, but it doesn't have to be terrible. I had to get used to not having my man around to share the load- no time to read my book, play a game on my phone, browse the on-flight catalog of junk to buy, or even talk to other passengers. It was straight business (of the parent variety), but it was survivable and you know what? I'd do it again. Parents, have you found the golden "thing" that eases your travel worries? I'd love to hear anyone else's experiences!

passed out coming home to WI

FYI, my travel outfit:

chambray shirt, black leggings, strappy sandals easy to take on and off through security

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