Before I get back to our regularly scheduled program of fabric and fiber, I wanted to take time out to write a blog post on what works for my husband and I with traveling with our toddlers. I’m not an expert (yet), but with 5 international trips under our belts, I think we’ve found what works for us.
As our boys are older than 2, we now have to purchase seats for them. However when we traveled to Ireland the first time with them, they were still under two and they could have been “lap children.” Because our flights were so long, I requested that we purchase seats for them and bring the car seats so we’d be able to have a break from holding them for 8 or so hours. We utilized the car seats for the first trip here to Ireland and for our trip back in October. In order to not have to carry the car seats through the airport, we purchased these wheels to help make things easier. The wheels have a capacity of 60 lbs for child plus seat, so we were able to utilize the carseats as strollers as well. Well worth the investment! It is a bit of a nightmare to buckle in carseats to airline seats, so for our most recent trip we decided to make a change.
I don’t remember how I found the next product, but it was worth it’s weight in gold. Bernie and I wanted to make everything as easy as it could be for this trip, so we decided to not bring the carseats with us and rent some from the rental car company. We ended up purchasing this next product for our trip, and I can not say how much I love it! The CARES Safety Harness is worth it’s weight in gold. Instead of struggling with installing (and removing) a carseat, the harness takes seconds to install in your child’s seat. And the best part? I was able to disconnect and stow it away in its bag before the door was opened on our first flight. There’s even a tab sewn into the belt that goes around the seat that makes removal a cinch. The boys didn’t have a problem with the new way they were restrained, and having these made our trip so much easier. Money well spent!
Decide What’s Right for YOUR Child
The next consideration you need to make is what’s better for your child a longer flight with a shorter overall travel time or shorter flights with more layovers and a longer travel time. We’ve done three routes with the trips we’ve taken. With the first trip we traveled from Portland to Boston then Boston to Shannon Airport in Ireland. It was less expensive overall to do this, however we had to drive about 2 hours from the Shannon airport to Cork. With our October trip, we decided to fly through Dublin, as we’d be able to go through immigration there and avoid doing it upon landing in Dulles airport. Traveling from Ireland was fine–we woke up early and got the boys loaded up in the car for the 3 hour drive. They ended up falling asleep during the car ride there. It was upon our return where we ran into a problem. Malcolm was so overtired that he was unable to fall asleep until he cried for almost 45 minutes. It was then I told my husband I didn’t want to do that routing ever again unless we spent the night in Dublin the day of our arrival so the boys could recover. Our last trip, we decided to fly out of Cork airport. No long car ride, as the airport is about 20 minutes from the house. The problem is that for the flight back, there’s no quick layover. We had to have a layover in Amsterdam that was 12 hours long. We decided to spend the money on a hotel room so we could all have a good nap. Overall, I felt that the last trip was the smoothest. Whether this is due to the boys becoming better travelers or the better routing, we won’t be able to tell until our next trip.
This is another area where I’ve learned a lot during our trips. With the first flight out here, I brought a lot of stuff. Books, crayons, paper, stickers, toys, you name it! I’ve been able to pare down everything to a standard backpack. With the last trip, we brought along three iPads. One for each of the boys to use, and one for a parent to use. We don’t really let the boys spend too much time in front of the TV here, so having the screen time during our flights is a treat for them. We have the iPads all loaded up with their favorite movies: Cars, Cars 2, Planes, Planes 2, Finding Nemo, and Thomas and Friends. Malcolm, who favors Lightning McQueen watched Cars almost on repeat, and Nate, who loves Dusty Crophopper had Planes nearly on repeat. We haven’t really gotten them into apps on the iPad yet. I’m going to research what’s available for their age when we go on our next trip in September. The last time I looked, things were either too baby-ish or too advanced for them. We also utilized the in-flight entertainment system. Delta has a kids section that we turned on that had movies like Planes, Big Hero 6, and A Bugs Life. I noticed there was a parental control that could be switched on, but we didn’t need to utilize that.
Prior to our October trip, I had my husband pick out some headphones for the boys. I wanted to find something that he’d like (he’s an audiophile) that would also be good for the boys. We ended up getting these headphones, but in blue. I always make sure to do an audio test of whatever is being watched before handing them over to the boys.
Have Realistic Expectations
I don’t expect my boys to be on their best behavior for the entire trip. That’s impossible to expect from them at their age. They both had their fair share of tantrums. One was while we attempted to get them to nap on the flight to Portland, but the most spectacular one occurred when we arrived in Cork and had to stand in line for immigration. Nate was THAT toddler on the floor screaming and crying despite my best efforts to calm him. I just decided to let him have his tantrum for a few minutes. I just reminded him that we had to go through immigration to get into Ireland, that everything was ok, he was tired. Ultimately he did calm down, enough to be in a good mood to give the immigration officer a wave goodbye and a high five! I expect everyone in the family is going to be tired and have a short fuse. You just need to roll with the punches. Overall I’m very lucky to have the boys I do–they are VERY good travelers for their age!
Did you have any questions about my experience? Let me know! I’d love to chat about what else worked for me.