A few years ago when I went to visit my family in NJ alone with Suzanne, I found a ton of great advice. In 11 days, I will be boarding a plane with both kids (I did a 7 hour train trip alone with them this summer), a motherload of childfriendly food and a bagful of random toys...for better or for worse. Now a seasoned with-child-traveller, I want to give some advice back to the virtual world.
Am I excited to go "home" for the first time in almost 2 years? YES!
Am I excited to do a real Halloween and to do trick or treating with my best friend's little girl? YES!
Am I excited to see all sorts of friends? YES!
Just don't ask about the plane trip, PLEASE! I am dreading it and have been ever since Air France took my credit card information.
I have a half-dozen different lists going on at the moment:
- toys I need to buy for the plane
- food I need to stock in my bag
- emergency medine I may need in flight (this is where I have a flashback of having to put a suppository into my feverish toddler half way over the Atlantic).
- gifts I need to buy
- things I need to bring back
Here are my personal tips for travelling with babies/toddlers:
- do not let the kids get out of their seat. Once they taste freedom, they will be off and annoying everyone around you. Max (14 months) will literally be strapped to me in a babycarrier the entire flight. This worked well for my daughter around the same age. My 4 year old will be belted all the time. If she needs to use the bathroom, I will carry her there.
- Get the bulkhead. It's sometimes hard but try, plead, cry if you need to. At the end of the flight, you will be happy to have had the extra room on the floor to spread your stuff out without having to worry about saving space, your kids won't kick people, and they can sit or stand in the extra space if they are loosing it.
- Two words: junk food. If you're kids are like mine, you can easily tempt them with special treats. Favorite travel items in our household are lollypops, pretzels, chocolate covered mikado cookies, character cookies you usually refuse to give to your kids and chewing gum (for the older kids of course). I also pack tons of pom'pote (drinkable apple sauce) which keeps them quiet.
- When in doubt, feed. See list above.
- Bring some of their favorite toys from home but don't over do it. Let them pick the toys out.
- Playmobiles are great for older kids (from 2 1/2 on depending on your kids). They have lots of pieces, are imaginative, and if you buy a relatively cheap one, you won't care if you loose a flower or a kitten on the floor. Suzanne's favorite one was the playground. It kept her entertained for 3 hours!
- Viking toys makes a great line of affordable and cute vehicules that Max loves. Vary the colors and vehicule type. These are great for chewing on as well.
- Finger puppets are great for older and younger kids. Ikea has some affordable and fairly cute ones.
- Books books books. Some of our favorite travel books are Charlie and Lola stories with stickers, Usborne's Going on a plane sticker book, Langue du Chat (French lanauge adaptation of Priddy books or DK books) with vivid colors and pictures like Le Zoo (which infants can easily manipulate themselves and chew on!) or Les Bébés Animaux, Richard Scary's A Day at the Airport, Priddy Books Slide and Find series, Where are You Going Maisy?. And if you can find it, the Rainy Day Activity Book by Richard Scary has tons of things to cut, color, glue and will occupy your kid for hours
- Give in. As a "special" treat, I bought Suzanne a special "encyclopedia" about princesses and fairies in the Kididoc series. Kididoc is a great series for kids (in French). They are encyclopedias with lots of pop-ups, flaps and cool information..
- One thing per hour. This is my friend A's advice which seems to work. She wraps up new toys and the kids can open a new one every hour. I've tried this and it actually does work. I end up having extra things at the end.
- and last but not least, don't hesitate to ask the doctor for something to help the kids sleep. But test it beforehand! I am not pro-medicine, but for your peace of mind, and so the trip isn't completely terrible, you may need to knock your kids out