6. Travel during nap time. If that isn't possible, fly when your young traveler will be well-rested and happy. On our flight out to Seattle, we synced with nap time and Tye slept most of the flight. For our return trip, we flew in the morning, the happiest portion of Tye's day. Both trips went amazingly well. (By the way, remember when I confessed I was a bit nervous about nursing Tye as a toddler on a flight back in December? Well, I nursed Tye on one of our flights this time. She's a much older, bigger toddler now, and I'm pregnant, but we still made it happen. And I don't think anyone had a clue!)
5. Pack light, but check it anyway. When Tyler and I travel together, this rule doesn't apply as much, but when it's just Tye and me, I make sure I can check my bag. I'm already running around an airport chasing a toddler, carrying my huge carry-on bag overstuffed with activities and food. To me, toting my luggage isn't a realistic option.
4. Check for play spaces. Before your trip, look up any airports and see if they have play spaces available for children. O'Hare Airport in Chicago has a huge play space designed by the Chicago Children's Museum. Tye loved the opportunity to climb around, and I was glad she wore herself out before the flight.
3. Pack a variety of activities. We brought books that lend themselves easily to expanding upon the story, including Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider so we could talk about barnyard animals and their sounds as well as picture books with items to count, a favorite activity right now. Tye's favorite pastime on the plane was playing with stickers. We started out with the cheaper stickers I found (stars, flowers, smiley faces) and when she slowed down, I brought out the big guns- trains, cars, and Elmo. We put all the stickers in a little spiral notebook so Tye could revisit the stickers and label the objects later. Though we were prepared with Sesame Street episodes on the iPad, we honestly barely used it because everything else was so engaging.
2. Pack novel foods. A trip to Whole Foods searching for healthy treats supplied us with Annie's Organic fruit snacks, dried cherries, trail mix, organic raisins in miniature boxes, and single serving-sized bags of Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies. Even if only the packaging was novel, the concept worked on Tye, who was excited to eat all these new goodies. Our bag of enticing treats reminded me of Halloween. For the ultimate emergency (picture screaming, inconsolable child mid-flight), I was prepared with organic lollipops. I figured Tye couldn't scream with one of those in her mouth. Fortunately, we never resorted to them, but knowing I had a plan was priceless.
1. Take care of yourself. Be absolutely sure to get enough rest the week before your trip, especially the night before. Eat appropriately before and during your trip- before you're hungry and blood sugar levels plunge. Traveling with a toddler is potentially very hard work that requires lots of patience, something we all have more of when we feel good. Most of all, go easy on yourself and resist the pressure of other travelers when you need to. While being considerate of other travelers is polite, at the end of the day, you're going home with your toddler, not them. Be true to your parenting style no matter where you are and you'll all be happier at the end of the day.