(version française ici)
Since she is 3 months old, I traveled a lot by myself with my daughter between USA, France and China. Lynne already flew thousands and thousands miles and she is at ease with planes. She is a good traveler. To follow up my post on how to travel with a baby (in French, but you can use Google translator), I share here my experience about long distance travel alone with my 2.5 years old toddler…
Key is organization
A good organization is essential if I want to avoid stress. If you can, ask some friend or family to drive you to airport and to stay with your child while you deal at the counter to check in. I am fond of the moto « A place for everything and everything in its place« . I usually use a small pocket hung around my neck, easily available, with the most important documents (passports, tickets, phone and wallet) that you have to take out several time during your trip.
I plan to have enough time during transits. If you have to go from one terminal to another with your child and luggage, thinking about pee/potty/diaper stops… you rather avoid to have to run. For me 1.5 hour is really a minimum. If you have a lot of time, you can think of the flight companies lounges (not in all airports). It cost some money but it may worth it as you will feel probably more relax, quiet and there is food and beverage available.
At 2.5 years old, Lynne has now her own seat. So it gives a little bit more space. I ask aisle seat all the time to be able to move in and out easily during the flight. I also still try to get whenever I can seats in a front row (the one where you can install baby cots). They are closer from the toilets, there is more space and at least you do not disturb your front neighbors (kids love to kick or grab the seat in front of them). But they are not always easy to obtain. Oh, check also that your seats are side by side. Computer separate our seat in our last trip to France… Really ? A 2.5 year old by herself ?… if it happens, just go to counter before boarding and they will find a solution. They even might upgrade you for free… 😉
I do not take any push chair as Lynne never stayed inside (I use mainly baby carriers, see here). But if you take one, the company will let you take it for free. If you want to keep it in cabin, it has to be a small one. In small airplane, the push chair will be taken and put in trunk just before getting in the plane, they will give it back just when you get out. Some compagnies will ask you to check your push chair in but they will provide one in airport during transit (Émirates for exemple). At 2.5 year old, I still take a Tonga (very light sling) to carry Lynne just in case.
Lynne’s trunki suitcase
If you are just by yourself, you need to keep in cabin with you only the lightest and smallest items you can. You can check in around 50 pounds per person even for your child. I keep with me a bag pack that include an inside pocket for computer and my pocket with documents, hung around my neck (see above). And for Lynne, a small suitcase. I noticed the trunki suitcase a while ago. Trunk is a British company that creates children travel items. Their main product is a very convenient suitcase. You can find numerous posts of other blogger mums on the internet. Here are briefly my own observations. The main idea is the suitcase can also be use and rolling seat to carry your child (up to 110 Ib). 4 wheels, 2 horn grips to hold on, 1 strap that can be used to pull your child or to be pulled by your child. The strap has a name tag and the key of the suitcase attached. Inside, one side has a belt. There is a small pocket (not really useful or convenient I must say, for now). The wheels and the place for the seat make the inside shape a bit weird, but it is ok. It is very light and can be carried on the shoulder by an adult (the strap can be attached to become a handle). It can be taken as a cabin luggage in plane, no problem. You can choose an existing model or make your own. I made our own on a panda theme. I still could not customize the eyes the way I wanted, but Lynne loves it just as it is anyway. This is HER suitcase and she is very proud to pull it during the trip. Very Montessori this suitcase, as it value child’s autonomy and independence.
- If designers read me, that would be great to add another inside belt on the other side. My tip to avoid things to fall every time I open the suitcase is to use big storage bags (2.5 gallons). I use a lot of Ziploc bags to travel. It is very convenient to organize belongings, to put bottles, food, to be use as bag for busy bags, trash bag, vomit bag and put dirty clothes…
- Add something to rest the feet of the child. My tip to avoid tired legs while pulling Lynne is a band of resistant cloth I sewed. Very simple and Lynne can put her feet inside the band. See pictures.
The travel potty
Some of you might think it is a bit too much, but I assure you our travel potty is really convenient. We started toilet learning 1.5 months ago and I tried to make toileting easy while we are not home and I found this : potty travel 2 in 1 de Oxo. I take it everywhere (shopping, danse class, travel, restaurant…). It is very convenient, easy to storage, quick to set up. You receive it with a storage bag.
- You can use it as a potty seat on toilet (in or out the house)
- You can use it as a potty with disposable bags.
I highly recommend it. It is not extensive and really worth it, especially when you think about how the toilets usually look like in transportations…
I also take a lot of spare cloches in case of spills, pee accidents and wipes to clean up. In any case, it is very important not to go back to diaper once you start potty learning. It is too confusing for the child. Lynne decided to stay diaper free during the night 2 days before our travel… I was wondering if it was wise to stop now, but I followed her. And we did not have any accident. When the child is ready and decide for herself, that is the right time and things go rather smooth…
The squirrel method
During the travel, snacking keeps you busy and can reset a situation in case of tantrum. I try to make it as much as possible healthy. Plus, the food served in plane is not always very tasty. If you have ordered a child meal, children will be served first . That leaves you a bit of time to make your child eat before you get your own tray. Otherwise, things can get quite complicate in term of space and movements. Snacks are usually very sugary in planes. So I take with me some fresh fruits or veggies already cut and storage in small bags (you can find some in grocery stores), some dehydrated fruits, some breakfast cookies, some dry yoghurt snacks. You can ask for milk. Quality won’t be great be that still something. But remember to take your baby bottle if you need it.
When you pass security gates, liquid for children are usually permitted (milk, water, juice). Security agents might ask you to drink a bit to make sure they are safe. Or they might analyze your bottle in a machine. Keep in mind that this process can take few seconds or much longer if the machine find your organic milk weird….
Remember to make your child drink often to avoid dehydration.
Daydreaming and busy bags
We are agree, better plan something to keep your toddler busy… but no need to over load her with activities. Quiet times, daydreaming or even getting bored are very good for the brain. Your child will already be over stimulated by the trip in itself, new places, a lot of people, time difference, stress…. no need to push more. I am quite reluctant to use screens for children. So I take some books and I prepare some busy bags. I do not give them if it is not necessary. I mean, as long as Lynne does not ask, I let her free to wander around or be in her own mind. There is so much to see during the trip. And it is important to just « be », not always « do ».
If you leave home some members of your family it is nice to take with you some pictures of them. I printed and laminated some pictures of Lynne’s dad, as we leave for 1.5 month. I gather them with a ring. Do not forget lovy, favorite blanket (convenient as it can get cold in planes).
You can see on Mr printable website many good ideas to print for free (paper dolls, finger puppets, fans…). And here are some ideas of busy bags for my 2.5 year old toddler that I did not use much anyway during our last travel to France :
1. mini zebra stacker – 2. play rough – 3. Hair curler to play with – 4. paper ans crayons (plan to but sole triangular crayons, so they won’t roll far away) – 5. Stickers (reusable, so you can decorate your seat) – 6. Flash and plat cards (I made a hole and attached them with a ring) – 7. Maching cards (printed and laminated) – 8. paper straws to thread – 9. Animals heads/bodys/legs to match
I keep all the activities in Ziploc bags. Very convenient. When you child is older and can deal the activities by herself, you can make some lovely bags, like this one here. I also take with me a piece of waterproof tablecloth. Lynne uses it as a floor mat. It helps to create her personal space (and remind her her Montessori way of working). The tablecloth is light, washable and to not take a lot of space.
The question of the jet lag : good luck
No way to escape. If the time difference is big, you will be jetlagged and your child will be too. We need time to recover from tiredness of trip and adapt to new schedule. Children usually need between 3 to 5 days to recover. Even if it is hard, we need to keep calm and be patient. Usually I do not let Lynne get up during the night, but I allow her to read some books when she becomes too wide awake. Your child may ask you to eat. When you have been awake for a while and your stomach is on another schedule, you might get really hungry. Eating a banana or a bottle of milk can help her to go back to sleep.
Voilà ! Good luck but most of all have a good trip !
Please, feel free to share your experience and tips or questions.