What I learned during my travels with a toddler

Olá! I recently got back from a trip to the Azores with my husband and his family. Three weeks of vacation on a beautiful, lush island. Sounds great, right? It pretty much was, but there was one downside; the getting there with a very active toddler. We live on the West coast and the Portuguese islands are in the middle of the Atlantic. It’s usually an 11 hour direct flight, but add in airport waits and a layover, and by the time you leave the house and get picked up at your destination, it’s already been 20 hours. And you have a toddler.

I had never done much traveling with Gabriel (our little) prior to this vacation, except for a weekend at a beach house 2 hours away, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I was taking a child who didn’t much care for the carseat, hated sitting still, and only took 45-90 min naps, on an experimental adventure.

The trek? Two hour drive to the airport (3 hours before he usually wakes up), two and half hours in the airport before we board, a 5.5 hour flight to Boston, a 4.5 hour layover, followed by a 4.5 hour flight to our destination.

So how was it? Actually, not horrible! I was surprised about how smooth it actually went.

So what did I learn?

toddler traveling

  • Carriers AND strollers are good friends – You can carry your baby in a carrier through security, not the stroller. But when Boston’s air condition unit goes out and you are walking from one side of the airport to the other, an umbrella stroller is a lifesaver. We utilized both the carrier and stroller at different times and it worked out wonderfully, even though Gabe really never cared much for the stroller before. All the excitement around him made it easier for him to sit in it, I guess.
  • Layovers can be a sanity saver – Besides saving money, a layover allows your toddler to run around like a crazy person and get some of his energy out before having to sit still for long periods of time. It also gives you a chance to buy over-priced items you need, but forgot at home.
  • Snacks are essential – Other than preventing a complete hangry toddler meltdown, food is also a great distraction. Security is a little more relaxed for families – you can bring sippy cups (or bottles) of liquid. You can bring fruit on nearly any flight (bringing fruit to some protected agricultural locations may be prohibited), too. Though I never buy “baby snacks” here at home, I bought a few of those puffs (did you know Gerber’s “sweet potato” puffs don’t even contain sweet potato! And the baby graham crackers have more sugar than the regular graham crack squares); Gabriel can be kept still if you feed him those little things, and I was okay with that.
  • You never know if the plane will be hot or cold – The last time I flew, the plane was super cold. This time around? All the planes felt like they didn’t have air conditioning. That being said, don’t forget to dress comfortably, and in light layers. I tied a light-weight blanket to our carry-on for easy access.
  • Some things are just unavoidable – Gabriel decided to cut 4 molars and 4 other teeth during our travels, starting the night before our flight. Be prepared as much as you can: pack teething rings, teething tablets, Tylenol, or whatever you use for a teething baby. Similar situations include colds and flus and skinned knees.
  • Try and be flexible with nap times – Mostly, try and hold off nap and bedtimes until you get on the plane. Nap time waiting in the airport means an awake baby on the flight, which for some babies is fine, but Gabriel is not a fan of sitting down, so getting sleep on the plane was important.
  • New is fun – I picked up a handful of books and small toys from the Dollar Store and introduced them one at a time on the flight, when Gabe was starting to get restless. Peekaboo and animal books were favored, as well as airplane-shaped kazoos that were in the party section.
  • All hands on board – We were lucky to be traveling with lots of family, so there was other people to hold Gabe when he got tired of one of  us. It gives you a rest, even if it is only 5 minutes.
  • Change diapers before you board – self-explanatory. Those bathrooms are tiny and I don’t think any baby is a fan of laying on a hard surface feeling all the plane’s vibrations.
  • When booking tickets, try the bulkhead seats – Bulkhead seats don’t have any seats in front of them and have much more leg room. Some airlines even have special baby beds for those particular seats.
  • Put on your patient pants – Go in hopeful, but try to relax and not freak out over the little things. Apologize to those around you ahead of time and keep a sunny disposition. Most guests around you will be understanding.
  • If you can, buy the baby a seat – When your baby has his own seat, you can bring the carseat and strap them in. Gabriel was on our lap the whole time and it would have been easier if he was strapped into his seat; he would know he can’t get out of the carseat, versus our lap. It is also safer and perhaps he would have slept in his seat and saved our backs, too.

What have you learned when flying with little ones?

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