Let me first express my loathing of “travel” blogs — the ones you encounter staring for the millionth time at that barren white wall in your office on a freezing, dreary winter day. And in my case with a cramped hand from grading papers. Such blogs are filled with little travel wisdom but abound in rather long self-congratulatory lists of restaurants, hikes, sunny hotels, and majorly posed images. That makes me, amid a busy academic calendar (and an educator’s take-home), yipe “I wish; thanks for making me miserable, yeah, right.” And so on.
But here, attempting to not make you jealous or broke — let me share a few tips for travelling with two children under three years.
Trying to make use of my extended leave (and my parents’ generous enthusiasm for their grandsons), we took two trips that while giving us some lovely memories also had enough mildly disastrous elements — little sleep, meltdowns– that we almost didn’t take the third.
In Philly, each night I turned into a ping-pong ball bouncing between each kid’s pack and play. I virtually single-handedly brought back the family bed. In Florida, each kid somehow got the worst cold ever and even puked — so long white sea shell collection.
Right before we left on a recent trip to Palm Springs, it still seemed ALL forces were working against us. Running at an indoor pool, Ian spilt open his chin and got six stitches (bye-bye California pool hopping dreams) and then our Uber pulled in front of another car when turning from our street. We unpacked two kids, two grandparents, two massive car seats, many bags, and my fabulous hat box, all with no one hurt or ornery, and made it to the airport just in time.
So here are my tips for the impossible — travel and how it finally worked.
- When flying on a plane, board LAST. You may feel like a crazy person — my baby finally gives me Zone 1 high-status boarding privileges– ha, ha first class! But be smart: refuse these privileges. There is so much more to look at and places to run outside the plane. Minimize those painstaking on-board minutes walking the aisle, playing with the little paper puke bag, or strumming through the magazine snack options.
- Bring a bag of fun disposable toys. Run to some horrible kitsch Party Store, grab the “party favors” for all of 30 cents each and bring them out in timed increments. Balloons are my absolute favorite. They can be chased, kicked, laughed at, and easily disposed of.
- Also, although I’m basically anti-television for babes, bring an iPad with loads of (innocuous) downloaded shows.
- When super fussy with the seat belt sign on, lift the baby over your head–or give him one of the beverage cups to play with.
- Before flying, grab a drink: our Florida flight was delayed several hours. It didn’t bother us too much b/c we had a mimosa and just chilled out. One liquid tranquilizer is all it takes.
- For a baby, get an aisle seat; for a toddler grab a window seat and bring a blanket so he can lay on the floor. An airplane is just too stimulating for naps.
- Sleeping: rent cribs (every city has loads of crib rental places). Ian is too long for a pack ‘n play but spooked by a big bed (thank you, Tiffany, for turning me on to this). We also rent high chairs, so there is little change in meal routine. Keep them contained, please!
- Keep sleep environments as similar as possible. Before leaving, I pull the sheets off their cribs and stash noise machines and black trash bags plus tape to reproduce their “homey” dark rooms (credit here to Taking Cara Babies).
- When travelling, Duncan sleeps in the chamber known as a bathroom, most of which provide space for a crib, darkness, and quiet. Call AHEAD, though, to make sure a crib fits in said bathroom. In Florida, Duncan’s crib didn’t fit in spite of the massive house we rented, and he was up often most nights.
- If possible rent a house that allows putting your kids on its opposite ends, or at least not sharing a common wall. These conditions allow much more room to throw food on the floor, eat a snack, take a real nap, and have space to play.
- Also, if possible, bring grandparents (see their adorablility?). Brian and I were able to escape for drinks, hikes, and, gasp, sit and read.
Admittedly, most days I don’t leave my burb, let alone street. Kind friends and amazing family know they have to come to us. Going as far as a neighboring suburb is to me at times overwhelming and exotic — I don’t do well with missed naps, meals, etc. Some children travel effortlessly, sleep anywhere; mine do not. But wising up and trying a third time, Anna Quindlen proves a prophet: “The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” Thank you, California for “adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.”