A few weeks back I wrote a post about getting ready for spring break travel. There were lots of great comments in that post including ideas and what's worked for other families traveling with kids.
This trip for me was a little different as I was traveling solo without Chris to aid in the corralling and entertaining. To be honest I was really nervous before we left about how it was all going to go.
Luckily, and maybe somewhat do to my obsessive planning, it went better than I anticipated. My biggest fear was delays (those things that are obviously out of our control which have happened to me many, many times before when I've been traveling without kids). Even with three separate planes on both the way there and the way home (traveling on miles), it ended up being really smooth and both kids enjoyed the adventure.
Keeping in mind that one of my kids is two and the other is nine, here's what worked and what I'll adjust next time:
- The small toddler backpack from REI was perfect. She loved having her own pack (we all wore backpacks) and she wore it on and off the plane. In her pack I put one board book, a small Dora doll, her sunglasses (I carried the rest of the things I brought along for her).
- Headphones + videos/iphone. I ordered these headphones - Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids - they were just right at the smallest setting for her head. She watched a bunch of Dora videos on my computer and played toddler games on my iphone. Her favorite iphone apps include: Peekaboo Barn and Peekaboo Wild (both from Night & Day Studios) and Monkey Preschool Lunchbox.
- 4 new small board books. We read these multiple times. They pretty much just became part of her rotation of activities.
- New coloring book with a new set of washable thin markers and crayons. She colored in this one Dora coloring book on the way there and on the way back. I love that she likes to color.
- Water bottle. I filled this up after going through security.
- Pacifier and suckers for her ears. Currently she uses a pacifier for her nap and at bedtime. For flying I let her use it on the plane and it worked okay for her ears. She definitely still cried a bit. On the way there I offered her a sucker and she put it in her mouth for just a bit before giving it back to me. On the way back the sucker worked much better and seemed to be more of a distraction from the pain she was having in her ears.
The biggest thing for Anna was having a variety of activities. We cycled through each of these activities multiple times. She took a nap on the long flight each way just by laying down between Simon and I. She did awesome sitting in the seat by herself and we talked a lot about the pilots and how the pilot says "buckle up."
- A new Dot to Dot. This is a favorite travel activity for Simon. I found a couple on Amazon that are more advanced and are a nice break between movies. Here's one I ordered: The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Book in the World, Book 1.
- New small lego set. LEGO Police Dog Unit 7285. This was small enough that he was able to build it on the tray table. I brought along extra ziplock bags and poured the pieces into the ziplock bag - he was able to hunt them out of there before adding them to the truck. This was a surprise - that went over well.
- Movies. On the way over he watched part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which was the movie on our San Francisco to Chicago flight and also watched some Dora with Anna. Having the splitter was awesome for the times when they wanted to watch the same thing. Having both the laptop and my phone for when they both wanted to watch their own thing was great too.
Simon really loves traveling. He gets excited and his behavior is really pretty great all-around. He did get antsy and tired on the way home (especially during our longer layover and when I wouldn't let him watch Yo Gabba Gabba again). We also had a talk the night before we left about him being my "helper" with Anna - he seemed to like that idea and took it very seriously.
- I ended up not taking Anna's car seat on the plane like I've done before. This was a big change from our past travels but I'm really glad I didn't have the extra bulk. I love the car seat but it's big and heavy and awkward and hard to handle when I'm the only adult with both kids in tow. Instead I took along an umbrella stroller (a must have for corralling and when you need to get somewhere faster than two-year-old-legs can move) and gate-checked it on each plane. The gate-check part is one of those things that makes me nervous because we did have to wait a bit each time for someone to bring up the stroller - since our flights were all on time it wasn't an issue but it would have been if the timing had been tighter.
- I was really surprised that I was actually able to read a bit in both my book and magazines. I didn't take either with me on the way there thinking I'd be in entertainment mode full time but it ended up that there were times when both kids were happily engrossed in watching something on the computer/iphone that I was able to read. That was a pleasant surprise.
SNACKS | Both the peanut butter crackers and the fruit snacks were well-received. I also bought a box and a sandwich on our longer flights. Anna ate part of the turkey sandwich and Simon ate crackers. We also grabbed lunch once we arrived in Chicago before boarding our plane for Charlotte. On both travel days Anna was really not that hungry.
WHAT I'D LIKE TO CHANGE
- I still ended up with two carry-on bags. One backpack and one computer/camera bag. The backpack I carried does have a compartment for a laptop but with all the other things I had in there (change of clothes for Anna, snacks, Anna's books, headphones, medicines, etc) I just couldn't keep it to one bag. I probably could have fit all of it in one rolling carry-on, but that's not as convenient for being able to store under the seat in front (my preference for easy access to the bags).
- Less stops. Free was a good price for these tickets so I'm not complaining too much. Also, Simon loves getting excited about each city we land in - "We're in San Francisco! We're in Chicago! We're in Charlotte!"
- I need to drink more water and take some Advil before the headache arrives. I did this on the journey home after not taking good enough care of myself on the flights over.
- My sister usually pops popcorn the night before and packs small bags of that for the plane. I'd like to try that one next time.
- Next time I'll have some special activities that are just for the layovers. I found the layovers (waiting for the next flight) to be the toughest. I wish that all airports had a kids play area where it's more appropriate for them to run around. We did some walking up and back in the terminals, but that's not really that fun for anyone. Not sure what those special activities will be - maybe it will just be me thinking about it a bit more in advance and knowing that was a tougher spot this last time.
Overall, very good travel experience. It's really fun to be able to take the kids places and have them be excited for the adventure.