I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It takes a lot of trickery, preparation and just and being the best damn parent you can be… just kidding. Parenting books will never say this but it really is the luck of the draw. Sometimes, your child wants to be a shit head and other times they’ll surprise you. Here are some of my tips in traveling with a toddler…
1. Buddy System - Not for the baby. You’re gonna need someone you can pass your baby off to when they are being, as I like to call it, a shithead. Husband, baby daddy, mom, sister or anyone who will hold your baby for 3 minutes so you can chug a glass of wine in peace. It just might be your row mate who’s been google-y eyed over your LO since the start of the flight.
2. Carrier - I’ve never really been a carrier person. I prefer stroller-ing as I find the carrier too bulky and cumbersome to put on day to day. Don’t get me started on the upper back buckle. I feel like I’m going to pull a muscle every time. But after our recent trip to Asia (13 hour travel one way and another 20 hours back), we could not have survived without our Ergobaby 360 carrier. Now the regret is sinking in of all our missed opportunities, in-flight or not, that it could’ve came in handy.
Back when I was a wee wittle pup myself, my mom used to backpack us using a podegi, the OG Korean Ergo as I like to call it. My mom swears by it and any chance she gets she’ll sling Loki on her back and BOOM! Within in 15 minutes, he’s out. Loki loves the backpack position in the ergo because it's similar to the podegi and with out fail he falls asleep. While I was on our first 12 hour flight, something clicked and I decided to give it a try. Couldn't hurt right? 10 mins in he was out and fell asleep for a good 4- 5 hours. Not sayin this will work for all babies but if your baby is a tummy sleeper or falls a sleep easily in a car ride, it might be worth a shot.
3. Splurge - If you have the money or the points, I think it’s worth it to splurge on business class seats on transcontinental flights. The fully reclining seat, extra space and legroom will be clutch when your baby can sleep comfortably for a greater duration of the flight. On our Korean Air flight, the seats were long so I could stretch out my leg straight and still have room for Loki to sleep. On our Singapore Air flight the seats were wide enough so I could seat him next to me and still had plenty of room. Of course, the optimal time for these seats is from 0 to when your child starts being mobile. After that they don’t want to sit still and will constantly wants to be moving around and get into everything. For those babies practicing tummy time, sitting up or loves napping it’s definitely worth the investment. I've learned once they start walking, it’s a whole different ball game.
For domestic flights, unless it’s a larger airbus with fully reclining seats and flight time is 5+ hours, I don’t really see the value in shelling out 5-10x the cost of economy. However, I do think opting for the extra leg room, exit row seat will be worth the extra $25. For short jaunts (i.e SFO>LAX), people are reluctant to pay that extra fee for a few hours of travel so the back rows usually gets filled up like sardines, leaving the exit row seats pretty empty. This is where spending the extra $25 is worth it because it’s will be likely seats next to you will be empty, which means your child basically will get a free seat. Think about all the possibilities! You can feed more comfortably without having to worry if your child’s leg is kicking someone in the face, disembark faster and grabbing your luggage is easier bc you won’t be climbing over people or afraid your luggage will hit someone on the head. Did I mention, if they are being a shithead you can just plop them down in the seat next to you. Insider tip, I hear if you don’t pay for the upgrade you can kindly ask a flight attendant and they will usually let you sit there for free. If you take the risk and the flight attendant doesn’t generously allow you the comfort of more legroom you can also pay for the upgrade on the flight.
4. Snacks- When Loki was still nursing, for take off and landing I just put him on the boob and it worked flawlessly every time… well… mostly. Now that he’s gotten older he wants his big boy snacks. He wants it all and he wants it now. There is one cracker in particular that was my favorite and can be found at any korean market. A bbongtegwi is 7-9 inch rice cracker disk that would take him forever to eat. 1 disk could last about the 1 hour flight depending on her age. The key is to have a snack that’s big enough for them to hold and won’t require replenishing every 5 seconds.
5. Screen time - Your doctor suggests not introducing screens til age 2. You can follow doctor’s order or have a bit of sanity. You choose. If you want to introduce screens earlier than that, more power to you. I’m not judging. With Loki, I tried introducing him to Youtube a month before our flight. He wasn’t really into it. He’d be interested for a few minutes at a time and then get distracted by something else. I know it does wonders for other children but it didn’t quite work for us on our flight. Now, if I turn on the Trolls movie he's stuck to it like glue. Maybe it's the funny characters or all the colors but kids seem to be drawn to it.
6. Flight times - We once travelled to Hawaii on sort of a red-eye, departing at 7pm and arriving at about 10pm. In PST, we would’ve arrived at 2 or 3am. The travel there was rough. We were trying to handle him on our laps while he was being squirmy and whiney. It was uncomfortable for everyone. If I knew then what I know now...I would’ve strapped him in the ergo on the back for 20 minutes, where he’d to totally be content and watch him fall asleep. I recommend, if there is not a huge cost difference, opt for a flight that's timed around their nap or sleeping times. If naptime 12pm, I recommend booking booking an 11am flight. If bed time is at 7:30 pm, a 6:00pm would be ideal. This allows you time to board, settle in and then take off.
7. Let it go - If you are the OCD mom, you have to come to terms that your baby will lick the bottom of his shoe, drop a snack on the ground, pick it right back up and eat it. The person that this is the hardest on is mom. For your sanity, things are going to happen and things are going to get messy. Just wipe it off and let it go.
8. Music- Loki has the natural gift of dance. As soon as Bruno Mars comes on the music takes control, his arms begin flailing and, my favorite perhaps because he takes after me, when the beat drops so does he. He gets low! On one of the shorter flights we were on, he was being a bit fussy which led to crying, which led to me stressing out and getting frustrated. Then at the brilliant suggestion of our friend we turned on some Bruno. As soon as we did, his mood changed and he started to dance and was fine after that. Luckily it was a an 1.5 hour flight so we didn’t need to keep him entertained much longer after that. Sometimes all they need is a distraction from their pissy mood to get out of it.
9. Navigating the airport. If you plan on using a stroller throughout the airport, I recommend checking everything in, even a carry-on luggage. If you are traveling with a buddy (please refer above to 1. Buddy System), then keeping the carry-on is fine. If you prefer using the carrier, check in the stroller and car seat. Carry on is good to keep on because the carrier allows you to have free arms. With the baby, the less you’re lugging the easier it is on you and your body. Also, if you don't already have one, a roomie backpack will be your best friend. Nothing is easier on your arms, back and shoulders as the backpack. I also know it's hard having to reach back around every time you need to show your ID and boarding pass so I can't reiterate enough how much I love my fanny pack for this. I keep my lipstick, card holder, passport/ID, cellphone right at my hip which makes reaching for safe and easy. The same can be said about a small crossbody bag or a wallet on chain but I still prefer the fanny pack because the chain/strap is doesn't get in the way of the backpack.
10. In Flight necessities - I'm going to let you in on something... those things baby manufacturers keep pushing down your throat. You don't actually need all of them. I'm sure most of my generation grew up with 1/10th of the toys that we throw at our children now. And guess what? We turned out fine. If your child is one that needs all his toys then chances are he'll survive being apart from them for a couple days or weeks. If you think of it, it's really a means of distraction so we can find some peace and quiet but how long does it really keep their attention? By all means, if you have a toy that can distract your child for 2 hours, I call that a necessity! Otherwise, leave the Bumbo, silcone mats, play gyms and their 5 massive toys at home.
All the things you need on flight and while traveling are: diapers, wipes, moisturizer, sunblock, weather appropriate clothes, lovey (security toy/blanket), snacks and clothes. Everything else is a luxury.
Airlines have toys, stickers and coloring books for tiny travelers which help so much. I hear tape/stickers keeps kids entertained for hours.
11: Car seat - This was the top question on my mind before we started traveling with Loki. How are we gonna get to and from the airport? Up until then I thought the only way to drive with an infant car seat is to click them into the base. I was wrong. From then on it's gotten quite easier. Going through it once will help you with the ins and outs. Here is what I've learned.
Most countries require car seats whether they enforce this is a different matter. Taxis don't require a car seat. Ubers are suppose to require one since it's a private vehicle however most of the drivers are young so I don't think they are aware of the laws especially if you're only traveling a short distance. Car rental places do offer car seats but with an additional charge of course. If you plan on doing a road trip or being in the car for a great distance it might be worth it to bring one along.
Infant carseats are easier to travel with since they can click in to the stroller. For convertible car seats, we recently got the Evenflo Tribute which is super easy to buckle into cars and the GoGo Baybeez travel mate to strap on to the car seat to wheel him around. He loves it so that when we had the car seat in his room, he'd just want to go sit in it all the time.
I'll share my more favorite traveling gear and baby items in a separate post.
12: Think about the destination. If we go to Kansas, where my husband is from then we don't bring a stroller. It's a driving city that is often too cold or too hot, its unlikely we will be hanging outside. We will drive, park and walk about 50 feet into some establishment. Same with SoCal unless we plan on visiting Disneyland. If we go to Europe, we will likely be walking a lot and jumping into to short Uber rides which would make a stroller necessary. If we go to Chiang Mai, where the sidewalks are a bit rough, then we will ditch the stroller and use the carrier. If we go to Korea or Japan, it's a toss up because the subway systems are so good but often times lacking elevators for anyone using a wheelchair or stroller. If we go on a beach holiday, we really won't need a stroller unless we decide to head downtown to shopping center. Since he's a toddler now, we would probably let him walk more to tire him out.
Something tells me this post will be constantly updated.
I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of info. If you have any awesome tips please share them below. I always love hearing more tips.