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Toddler Travel Essentials

Entertaining busy hands is the name of the game when traveling with a toddler!

  1. Snacks: try to choose snacks that take TIME to eat.  You can make single serving snack packs with cheerios, animal crackers, grapes, apple slices or cheese cubes.  You can also buy single serving packs at the grocery store.  Ask your kiddo to try to open the package themselves—it’s all part of the time killing strategy—and play a counting game as they get the snack out of the bag.  Don’t forget to pack extra snacks for your flight home (I usually put these in my checked bag or make a grocery store run the day before our flight home)!

  2. Milk: bring it with you because you will rarely find WHOLE milk at the airport.  We put milk in bike water bottles so that it doesn’t leak and pack it into FB’s lunch box with ice packs.

  3. Toys: go to the dollar section at Target or the dollar store.  Buy a bunch of junk that won’t make a huge mess then hide them until you get on the plane.  If you’re an overachieving parent, you can wrap the toys.  If you’re like me, you can just put them in brown lunch bags or just throw them in the luggage.  Anytime your kiddo starts to get antsy, bring out a new toy.  Favorites in our family are army men, rubber lizards, crayons, Mickey Mouse figurines, trains, toy cars, and stickers.  Beware of puzzles, play doh, and anything with small parts that fall under the seat!  Parents magazine posted a great article on entertaining kids on airplanes.

  4. Kid luggage: We got FB this small, rolling suitcase and he LOVES it.  He is so proud when he rolls it down the airport terminal to our gate.  I try to divide our bags up so that we have toys/games in FB’s puppy luggage, food/milk in my backpack and medicine in my husband’s bag.

  5. iPad: Download some new toddler apps and a few TV shows.  My favorites are listed here (new post with favorite apps)

  6. Headphones/Speaker: There are great kid headphones on the market like these.  Although they don’t make headphones for toddlers, most kid headphones work—just make sure they aren’t too heavy!  I recommend “practicing” with the headphones in your car before your trip.  Inevitably, your toddler will want to remove said headphones and play with the cord, eat the earpiece, adjust the height, etc.  That’s fine.  It’s another way to kill time on the plane.  However, if your kid is like FB, he will reject headphones outright after a few nibbles and you will need another solution.  The regular sound of the ipad isn’t loud enough to hear over the airplane engine so I recommend getting a small external speaker like this one.  I like this one because it’s rechargeable and you can twist the speaker down to make it even quieter and smaller.  Technically, these are not allowed during your flight.  However, I’ve found most flight attendants and passengers turn a blind eye if your kid isn’t crying.

  7. Stickers: stickers provide toddlers with endless entertainment AND they are great for developing fine motor skills.  Foam stickers are great for younger toddlers because they’re easier to peel the backs off themselves, but all stickers are winners!  Use a copy of sky mall as your sticker pad and you don’t have to bring separate paper!

  8. Lollipops: I’m not usually an advocate of candy for kids, but lollipops come in handy on flights in two ways—1) they help with pressure on kids’ ears during take off and landing and 2) they occupy kids for awhile during the flight—I HAVE used candy as a bribe during a flight.  I’m not proud of it, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

  9. Car seat: We do not usually take our car seat with us on airplane trips because for a small fee you can add a car seat to your rental car.  Every car and driver I have booked to take us from the airport to our hotel has also had an option to add a car seat.  I’ve seen parents who strap their kids into a car seat on the airplane and I know it’s free to check a car seat.  It’s probably a good idea and definitely safer.  I just don’t have it in me to carry anything in addition to the gear I’m already schlepping.

  10. Umbrella Stroller in a Gate Check Bag:  We have the MacLaren Volo I like it because it weighs only 8.8 pounds and folds easily.  It does not have some of the perks our other stroller has (reclining seat, storage, play tray) but it’s small enough to fit in the trunk of any car and it’s really easy to fit in the xray machine when you go through security.  I always bring a gate check bag as well.  These bags protect your stroller, but they also allow you to shove extra stuff in them if you need to.  I’ve been known to shove jackets, life jackets, larger toys and even xmas gifts in the gate check bag before we board the plane.

  11. Change of clothes:  If we had limitless space in our carryon, I would honestly recommend you bring a change of clothes for everyone flying with you.  These days, it’s usually my husband or I that end up with play doh smooshed into our pants or (the worst) sticky medicine on our shirt.  But I always pack an extra change of clothes for FB.  I consider it a kind of insurance—as long as I bring extra pants, he won’t have an accident.

  12. First Aid/Meds: My medical travel essentials include: Tylenol, Advil/Motrin, Benadryl, a thermometer (learned that one the hard way), TONS of hand sanitizer.  FB has really bad allergies so I like to have the Benadryl on hand in case he has problems.  And yes, I’ve given it to him before on the plane to help him nap.  I’ve read it has the opposite affect on some children, making them wired and jumpy but it makes our little guy extra sleepy.

  13. Diapers/Wipes: Duh.  Bring 2 more diapers than you think you need and plenty of wipes.  You never know.  I also like the disposable changing pads.  The airport bathrooms are germ cesspools.

To flapjack or not to flapjack, that is the question.

Pancakes always create a bit of anxiety for me because I never know quite how to classify them—are they a main course or a side? Do I treat them like a quiche, for example, and order pancakes as my entire meal or do I instead treat them like toast and order them in addition to my eggs and bacon? Typically the former leaves me feeling a little carb heavy and the latter makes me feel like a fatty. Usually my internal debate goes something like this:

Fatty Foodie: “OMG pancakes sound so good. They are probably just the run of the mill flapjack, but what if they are extra fluffy or extra thin or something I’ve never even seen before. I should probably try them.”
Fit Foodie: “Pancakes are essentially sugar and carbs topped with fat and more sugar. Do not order them. Get the egg white omelet with veggies.”
Fatty Foodie: “You owe it to your foodie family readers to investigate what could possibly be and likely IS the best pancake in the entire universe. Look, it’s called a griddlecake. That means it’s something really special. And it has at least one egg in it so that’s protein. It’s essentially health food.”
Fit Foodie: “She has a point with the egg. You can go to the gym later. Do it, but get a side of fruit.”
Fatty Foodie: “Good idea. Get a side of fruit and a few eggs. Pancakes are really just bread. You need protein. You can only eat half of the pancakes if you get too full. Oh look, this place already has a menu item consisting of eggs, bacon and 2 pancakes. That means pancakes are supposed to be ordered alongside other food. Get that meal. It’s totally normal and socially acceptable.”

Clearly, the Fatty Foodie side of my brain paid attention in law school while the Fit Foodie side was checking out hot guys. Shit. Saturday morning I was in Oklahoma City for a conference and I ordered the “griddle cakes” (with a side of fruit) from room service at the Colcord hotel. These pancakes were fluffy, flavorful, HUGE and amazingly delicious. I ate half of them (and none of the fruit) and felt like I couldn’t breathe for the rest of the day because I was so full.

When my husband suggested I make pancakes for breakfast the next morning my inner fit foodie cringed. I decided I would make pancakes, sans the side (or main course) of eggs but I would try to make them a little healthier. I added ground flax seed, bananas and blueberries to the pancake recipe I usually use and voila-I had a fiber, fruit and protein(ish) rich meal in one simple flapjack. If I had oats, I would have added them too and maybe even chia seeds or granola.

My Sunday pancake wasn’t as big or fluffy as my Saturday morning rooms service griddlecake, but it was pretty darn good. And I felt better after I ate it too. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it.

How to travel with infants

The trickiest part about infant travel is the unpredictable nature of both babies and flights.  If you try to time your flight around your baby’s nap time or bedtime, the flight will inevitably be delayed or your baby will have an off day.  We all dread that deep breath on the plane that means your tiny baby is about to emit a chorus of wails and screams much louder than you ever thought humanly possible for such tiny vocal chords that will make your fellow passengers hate you.  It might even make you hate yourself a little, but you know what?  It shouldn’t.

Even though it may seem like your baby is crying for an hour, he’s probably not.   And if he really is crying for hours, you probably have much more important things to worry about (your own sanity) than other people mean mugging you from across the aisle.  Some mommy bloggers recommend that you bring small bags of candy and ear plugs to place on the seats of passengers sitting around you with a note explaining that your baby is on a plane for the first time and asking them to have patience with him.  I bet these mommy bloggers spend hours on Pinterest (the website invented by Satan to show women like me how much we SUCK at being a good/creative/crafty/patient/organized mom).  If you have the time and the room in your carry-on to craft goody bags for complete strangers, go for it.  If you’re feeling like you’ll be lucky to get on the plane with your teeth brushed and two of the same shoes on like me, read on.

Here are the best things you can do to make flying with your baby a breeze:

  • Wear your baby: We prefer the baby bjorn infant carrier.  In fact, we used it until Foodie Baby was practically kicking our knees because his legs were so long.  It is really important to have your hands free and your baby contained at the same time while your traveling and people will probably judge you if you try to stuff your baby into a piece of rolling luggage.
  • Dress yourself and your baby in comfortable clothes.  Do NOT wear white.  Do NOT wear heels.  Do NOT wear a fabric that will absorb stains.  My husband has started trying to dress in dry fit from head to toe, not because it wicks sweat but because it repels stains.  The baby vomit and spilled milk just rolls off you.  I usually wear black leggings and dress in layers on top, including a wide scarf.  The scarf can double as a blanket or a nursing cover in times of need.  I try to wear slip on shoes so that I don’t have to mess with tying and untying them at airport security.  For

    babies, I prefer one piece, footed outfits.  There aren’t any shoes to lose and they have easy access for diaper changing.  Bring at least one extra change of clothes for your kiddo.

  • Nurse or bottle feed at take off and landing: the sucking will help ease the pressure on your baby’s ears.  You can bring breast milk and formula through airport security.  Read about airport security and kids here.  It might have the bonus side effect of putting him or her to sleep which is the best possible way to pass the time when flying with a baby.
  • Bring extra diapers…and wipes (duh).  I like to bring disposable changing pads as well because airport bathrooms are germ cesspools.
  • If your baby is eating solid foods, bring “squish foods”.  These little packets of organic fruits and veggies are great for travel.  You don’t even need a spoon!  Just squish them into the baby’s

    mouth.  Foodie Baby loves Ella’s Kitchen and Plum Organic.  I actually wish they made these for adults.  They are healthy, portable and the they taste pretty good (for baby food)!

Hope this helps as you travel.  Good luck!