Sunday, August 06, 2006

Top 10 Toddler Travel Tips

When we brought our toddlers to France nearly 6 months ago, it was with very careful planning and a well-rehearsed mantra of "this too will pass." It actually didn't go too badly and, as it is summer travel season, I thought I'd give a list of the top 10 things that saved us- or, perhaps more to the point, saved me- from a complete meltdown at 30,000 feet.

1. Tide-to-go: Bless the Mom who came up with this portable stain remover. It is as perfect for the melted candy bar as it is for the spilled red wine. Bring one in your carry on and an extra in your suitcase for long trips.

2. Velcro: If you pre-cut a strip of velcro into small squares, you can apply it to anything that might roll away (i.e. crayons, markers, balls, etc.) before they have a chance to get away.

3. Baby wipes: I know this sounds a bit obvious, but it isn't just for diaper changes, anymore. Use it to wipe off the tray table, the pacifier that fell on the ground or your child's hands that just discovered cool black goo under the chair.

4. Anti-bacterial hand cleanser: Follow up on the now-clean hands by killing any bacteria that were thriving in the yet-undefined black goo. Then clean your own hands for good measure.

5. Crayola ColorWonder: No smell, no stains. Need I say more? PS- As previously noted, this isn't available around the world, so pack an extra ColorWonder coloring book for the trip home.

6. Inflatable beach ball: This one isn't my idea, though I don't remember where I first heard it. It is small, lightweight and you can blow it up during the layover. It can't hurt anyone, won't go through a window and is easy to find if it gets sent down the concourse.

7. Outlet safety plugs: This may sound a bit strange but every quiet corner I've ever found in an airport has an open outlet. While this is good for business travelers, it is not good for toddlers running off steam during a layover. Inevitably, the kids will try to fit the cute pipecleaner animals into the perfect, small holes. Not good.

8. Dark, thin blanket: The local craft or fabric store will sell black fleece by the yard. It is perfect to sit on during a layover, to block any unnecessary light when you're trying to get your child to sleep on the plane (in which case it can be used in conjunction with the velcro!), and then later to prop up your own head.

9. Sippy cups: My all-time favorite. Sippy cups do as they are told, even when everything else is going wrong. Perfect and dependable. What could be better?

10.Child-size backpack: The kids can carry their own carry-on starting at 2 (at least that's when I tried it). I'm not big on making kids pull their own weight, but this seemed to make them feel like an important part of the team and saved me from multiple carry-ons. 6 months later, they are packing their own toys and putting the backpacks on themselves.

The last one didn't make the top 10 because it depends on your trip. Like most parents, we went out and bought the best-of-the-best carseats when our children were born and, unfortunately, that means the seats are large and expensive. What that means for travel is they won't fit in a standard airline seat, and we wouldn't want to ditch them mid-trip only to replace them when we got home. In the end, we purchased new, inexpensive car seats specifically for the trip. We used them when we needed them, and left them when it became too complicated. It worked beautifully.

Best of luck with your summer travel plans. Bon voyage!