5 things I learned traveling with a toddler
There are few moments in parenting where I feel like we deserve a gold star, successfully traveling with a toddler is one of them!
For Christmas my husband and I decided to get out of LA and head east to the cold snowy blizzard. Why you ask? Well that is a great question! But seriously, we needed a break. Now that may sound odd considering this isn’t a relaxing holiday to the Bahamas for two. What I mean by a break is having family around to help out and take the edge off of parenting for a few days.
In theory it sounds like a great idea! However, the part we didn’t consider was all the additional travel time or even the unexpected weather delays! We thought, how hard could it really be?
We could not have fooled ourselves more! Parents - prepare yourself for non-stop sensory overload!
For one, there is the car ride to the airport. Then there is the time you have at the airport before you take off. Then the five plus hours on the airplane in crowded seats. Leading up to waiting on the luggage in baggage claim. And finally back into the car for ride to your final destination. I mean this is exhausting even for adults, right!?
And worse, it doesn’t even factor in the unexpected bumps, like weather delays or even cancelations! This is exactly what happened to us, on our planned return trip home to LA.
So what did I learn? Here are five things I found helpful during our trip that I hope you find useful as well.
Use your imagination
All the games, books, toys and videos in the world will not occupy the mind of your little one during this type of journey. This means, you must use your imagination!
In fact, the moments where Aiden seemed the happiest was when I asked him to go on an “adventure” with me! We would walk around and I would ask for his help to find certain things that I knew he could point at or recognize. He loved playing this detective type game and I loved hearing him giggle in response. Others would find it fun too, and many people would join in on the fun. I mean who can resist a baby who is in awe of everything!?
Seek out other parents
You are in this together! And you will only need one look to acknowledge that. So join forces. Kids like to be with other kids. At one point we were at JFK and stranded for several hours before learning our flight was canceled. Luckily there was a great play zone sponsored by Jet Blue and Amazon. We spent at least 2 hours playing with other kids and climbing the playhouse. Not only was this good to occupy his time but it also wore him out! Obviously this meant nap time for the little guy and down time for mommy and daddy!
Do not fight it, accept it
This is probably one of the biggest lessons for someone like me who tends to want to be in control. The truth is, we are really at the mercy of our little one. This doesn’t mean they get to rule the show, what it means is that it is important to have empathy and understanding for what they are going through.
Children like routine so when things get out of balance, the only way they know how to react is to act out. In these moments, it can be very difficult to get them to do what you want at the exact moment you want. So what do you do?
One trick that worked for me was to distract Aiden with something I knew would interest him until I had his attention and he was in a calmer state. Then I would ask him to do what I needed him to do. In most cases, this worked. In the times it didn’t, I would give him time (as much as possible given the scenario) before asking him to comply.
Ironically, I was watching this Instagram story of this amazing woman, Ralphie Jacobs, that you must follow @simplyonpurpose! She talks about compliance and asked us to think about a time when at a dinner party and the host asks the guest to make their way to the dining room for dinner. How long does it take? If you pay attention, you will probably notice that it takes a lot longer than it does for your toddler to comply with your requests.
I thought this was a great example to illustrate how everyone needs time. We expect a lot from our little ones, especially when the situation is not very clear for them. Therefore, letting go and accepting that it may take longer than you would like, helps move the process along. The more you fight it, the less likely you will get the result you want or you may get what you want but not without a big loud fuss. And is there really anything worse than a tantrum in the middle of a public place?
Luckily, we avoided any break downs! Maybe letting go is not so bad after all!
Food and hydration
I know this one sounds like common sense. But I just want to remind you that you cannot have enough snacks or drinks for long or short travels! It is better to be over prepared than under. And thank goodness for pouches like Earth's Best Organics which makes it so much easier for our generation to travel with little ones and still provide healthy snacks on the go.
Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate more! Luckily, Aiden loves water and we don’t really have to force this upon him. Whatever your little one likes to drink, make sure you have that on hand. Even as adults, the plane ride is dehydrating and this can make us feel very uncomfortable. The more hydrated the happier you are! I found the Jet Blue staff to be very attentive with this and always available with more water or juice.
If you are lucky enough to have a partner with you on this long journey, I highly recommend taking turns. Getting down time is important for your happiness which will have a great impact on your little one.
If you are traveling alone, my best advice is to be sure to take advantage of naps to rejuvenate yourself. Or even ask a stewardess to help out, so you can go to the bathroom in peace. In fact, even though I was traveling with my husband, one of the Jet Blue stewardesses asked if I needed help. I thought “wow, you must be a mama!” Thanks Jet Blue!
Let me know what you think and leave comments with your tips! Thanks for reading what this everyday mom has on her mind.