Yesterday I traveled to Coastal Oregon with my toddler and infant (plus my mom, dad, and sister). I hate to break it to all of you who have yet to take your summer vacations, but it sucked. The day started out ok, by the time we were halfway through our second plane ride, in a 30-seat propeller plane, and over open water, I think we were all about to have a nervous breakdown. Throw in a rough landing in 40 mile an hour winds and now I feel like I need about six Valium.
I found a lot of information on the internet about traveling with children. These sites offer up “helpful” tips like, “Make sure you pack extra baby wipes.” And, “Don’t forget to bring an extra change of clothes.” Listen, any seasoned mom who has been away from the house for more than five hours could tell you that. What I was looking for was the hard-core, tell-it-like-it-is information. So, my dear friends, here is my version of what you need to know.
1. Start making a packing list one week in advance. This may sound like a lot of time, but trust me- time is your friend. Begin with the basics: clothing, toiletries, etc. Then wait. I have a theory that your brain continues to work on things even when you aren’t thinking directly about them. I’ll bet you that all week long little thoughts will pop into your head like, “Oh, I better make sure to pack extra pacifiers,” or “I need to remember the baby’s medicine.” Write it all down. Even if you think it’s the most obvious thing in the world- DO IT. This is how people forget to pack their underwear and toothbrushes.
2. Take a Tylenol PM or a sleeping pill the night before your trip. There is zero chance of you getting even five minutes shut-eye at the airport or on the plane. This may be your last chance at a decent night’s sleep and tomorrow you will need all the strength and energy you can get.
3. Don’t fly too early in the morning. It will take you at least three hours to get everyone fed and dressed and to pack up any last minute items. Unless you enjoy starting your day at 3am, try to schedule your flight for late-morning or early afternoon. You will be lucky if you make it out of the house with your teeth brushed.
4. In conjunction with #3- Throw out the idea that you should try to fly around your child’s naptime. In my not-so-humble opinion, a sleeping toddler on a plane is an urban legend. Much like the Chupacabra or a mortgage rate reduction, I have yet to see it for myself.
5. Bribery and distraction are your best friends. They will get you through the tough times. You will want to stock up on essentials like lollipops, Oreos and dollar toys from Target. You can get back to the good old food pyramid tomorrow (or the next day, week, month….) – whenever you have recovered from the journey.
6. Try to travel with as many childless adults as possible- preferably your own parents. Instruct them that they are not permitted to bring any carry-on items for themselves. You will need all the extra overhead space you can get. All free hands will be devoted to baby holding, snack distribution, and countless rounds of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
7. Seating charts are not just for wedding receptions. This is the ideal arrangement: Place the toddler in the middle seat. Accompanying grandparents should flank each side of the child. Place yourself at least five rows behind them. Sit back and enjoy the show.
8. Last, but not least, hang in there. The best part about this day is that it will eventually be over. You may arrive at your destination covered in barf, poop, and tears (your own), but you will get there. Excluding any tragic accident, of course. Remember: This is war. Only the strong will survive. Good luck and God speed.
Sidenote: you may notice that I make no mention of the baby. First, I lucked out and got a mellow one this time. Second, in between all the schlepping of bags, constant stream of snacks, saint-like flight attendants and baby-cooing passengers, she had plenty to keep her occupied.