Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Traveling with a Toddler


Hello!!! We just got back from a magical Disney vacation and I'm not exaggerating when I say...it was REALLY Magical!

This was the first time I had traveled by air with LW. I always seem to underestimate his uncanny ability to adapt to any situation and any environment. I will save how amazed I am by him for another post (perhaps) but just know that I learned a lot about myself as a mother and a lot about my son as a toddler on this trip!

Now, onto the goods. We were in Disney for 5 days, 4 nights. We did the parks 3 of the 5 days - the first and last days we reserved only for travel and visiting relatives. Here are some things I learned:

Baby carriers are priceless.

I babywore throughout the trip, but particularly for flying, wearing LW in the Ergo was absolutely invaluable. I didn't worry about chasing him through the airport or even have to take him off of me to go through security. I simply walked through the metal detector (since there's no metal on the Ergo you can wear it through) and was on my way with him. We own the Ergo Performance and I strongly suggest every current or expecting mama acquire something from the Ergo line. On the plane, I was able to wear him for take off and landing, which was helpful since he was asleep for part of the trip home. 

I also used my home made ring sling a thousand times throughout the trip - while waiting in lines for rides (and on the rides) especially. This is an easy carrier to shove under the stroller and it's super breathable. It wasn't too warm at all to wear him and he goes in it very easily. The ring sling evenly distributed his weight across my back, shoulder and hip and gave me two free hands so I was able to comfortably stand and rest or enjoy the rides without worrying about keeping a hand on him. He was securely fastened to me and the rides amazed him so much that he sat very still every time. 

Don't plan for naps, just take them as they come.

LW was a champ at napping on the go this trip, which he's never been great at before. I think he just got so tired he realized he better catch some Zzz's when he had the chance. He took several ring sling and stroller naps. In the stroller, we made sure to have the canopy open, his hat on (when he'd allow it) and a personal fan blowing on his face. Because the weather in Florida while we were there was extremely hot and humid, I wanted to be sure he was as cool as possible. Also, we took up every opportunity to visit an air conditioned attraction at the parks.

Let toddlers run. And SWIM!
Our first day was spent traveling to arrive to our destination and because of the extreme change to routine, LW was really good about clinging to me and sitting in the Ergo. However, this meant he wasn't out and about exploring on his own two feet the way he usually is at home. I learned the hard way by his lack of sleep the first two nights that this kid needs time and space every day to run around. Of course I didn't let him more than a few feet away from me at any time but anywhere I found a nice, quiet wide-open space, I let him run around and explore. 

Another thing we learned that helped wear him out was swimming. Every day we took about an hour to teach him to swim. He had to blow bubbles, reach to "swim" to someone and kick his feet. When he had enough every time he would put his arms up and say "Done!". This was a great, fun way to help him burn off a little steam, teach him something, and stay cool. 

Don't have any expectations for sleep. 
LW never sleeps with us at home, so I naturally expected travel to be the same. However, he proved me wrong immediately the first night of our trip. I thought for sure he'd be exhausted from all the travel, but instead he spent most of the night squawking and being a tyrant. I brought him in bed with me and was able to get a few hours of sleep, but it wasn't very restful...it was actually really frustrating for me. Once I let go of the notion that he "had" to sleep in the provided pack n' play for his usual 12 hours per night and just followed his lead, the nights were much more restful and enjoyable for both of us. 

There is no such thing as too many toys, diapers or snacks on a plane. 

The flight down we got lucky and he was just occupied enough by the two figurines and one book we had for him....in addition to my wallet, the Skymall magazine and safety brochure for the plane. During the trip, we made sure to acquire little things everywhere we visited and kept them in a secret bag until we were on the plane. I filled my regular diaper bag with toys and books he'd never seen before so the entire plane ride home he was entertained. When he seemed disinterested in one toy, we rotated to a book and when that got old, we went to a snack. Toy, book, snack, repeat. He was an angel on the flight...except....

I didn't expect him to need so many diapers on the flight. I changed him 3 times in 3 hours and it wasn't enough. "Things" had gotten a little "irregular" for him while we traveled and he opted to make up for it while 33,000ft above sea level. I will never make that mistake again! We decided that everyone in the party must have at least 2 diapers and a small pack of wipes in their bag at all times throughout the trip. There was one other time on our trip where I had no more diapers with me and he had to go commando on the ferry ride out of Epcot because I didn't want the dirty diaper to irritate his bottom. OOPS! Luckily, he held it together and didn't have any accidents sans diaper. 

Don't be shy about changing diapers.
Don't get me wrong, we were discrete every time but when you're traveling to/from Disney World...nearly every person around you has children with them so no one is offended by changing diapers. I changed LW on my lap or on the floor almost anywhere we were. In the parks there were bathrooms at every turn with nice changing stations but in the airport or on the plane? Forget it. I whipped a diaper change out right on my lap or on the floor in the terminal and no one minded. I made sure to ask, "Are you offended if I change my son's diaper right here?" to those around me but everyone laughed and said, "Not at all.". It was a courtesy to ask, and I was relieved to hear no one minded a bit. 

Umbrella strollers are a necessity. GOOD umbrella strollers. 
Traveling is one of those things that you hurry up and wait to hurry up again. An umbrella stroller is one of those things I had but never really used because I love my "Escalade" (aka Graco Trekko) so well. On this trip I learned how important a really good quality umbrella stroller is because you can't always bring your super stroller with you

I'm not talking the little one you got from your registry. I'm talking....do your research and get a pimp-ass-mack-daddy-bitchin' umbrella stroller. Because the canopy on the some umbrella strollers isn't wide enough to cover baby in the sun, some seats do not recline enough to accommodate a nap and the wheels have a mind of their own....not to mention, folding flat in the time between running to catch the tram and the tram leaving without you is e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l. I saw many a parent get left behind because their strollers were stubborn. Not cool. I will be doing my research and saving my pennies for one of those "pimp-ass-mack-daddy-bitchin' umbrella strollers" for the next trip. 

Car seats: Bring your own!
Having my own car seat with that I knew how to install myself and how to adjust was a beautiful thing. A friend let me borrow her car seat bag for the flight and car seats are free to check. On the way home I was able to fit my actual luggage (I travel very light) inside the car seat bag so I had another hand free. Unfortunately, the airline definitely drug the car seat bag without using the wheels provided on the bag, so I will be replacing my friend's bag as there are now holes in it. The good news is, because I had my luggage in the bag as well, the car seat had an additional layer of protection and didn't get any wear from the trip. 

Now, I know many prefer to purchase a seat for their child on the flight and fly with them in the car seat. This choice is purely your own to make. For our family, I felt what was best was to travel holding LW. However, when it is time to buy him a seat after he is 2 years old, I will most likely have him fly in the car seat for comfort alone. He knows his car seat and is very comfortable in it. We have the Combi Coccoro and it was the perfect seat to travel with. Super compact and lightweight. It fit with plenty of room to spare in this car seat bag and in the rental car, which was a VW Jetta.

There it is! Sorry, I know it was a beast but these are all things I hope will help other parents travel a little easier with their tots! 
Have a Magical Day :) 


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