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Have Toddler, Will Travel: 6 Tips for Mastering Air Travel with Tots

I am thrilled to have a guest poster today – remember Jen from the Real Mom Chronicles (our US Army Corps momma living in Germany)? Well, I was able to convince her to come back for more MMB fun, as she is truly a travel expert with little ones! I hope you love her tips, tricks, and insight for Air Travel with Tots, especially as the fun holiday travel period approaches!  If you have tips and tricks that you would like to share with other MMB readers, please let me know. I welcome reader guest posters…especially as I am back in the clueless new mom stage for a while:)

More about the author: Hi, I’m Jennifer Aldridge. I’m a full-time mama, public affairs and social media professional, health nut, runner and yogi. I love writing and connecting with other moms and dads all over the world. Feel free to contact me via Twitter:@GermanJenn or Facebook: jennifer.aldridge.77

Have Toddler, Will Travel: 6 Tips for Mastering Air Travel with Tots

It used to be so easy. The night before a trip, I would haphazardly pack checked and carry-on bags. At the airport, I would wheel my luggage from the car or taxi, without breaking a sweat, and check in for my flight. I will admit the security line has been a hassle since 9/11. But taking off my shoes or jewelry was a minor inconvenience, a small price to pay, for a trip to a fabulous, kid-free destination like Hawaii, Spain or Costa Rica. After passing through security, I would grab a Starbucks grande, skim, vanilla latte and a trashy magazine before boarding. In-flight I would watch a movie, read or sleep until I arrived at my final destination – refreshed and ready to explore.

 

The best part of my pre-mama travel days, the part I never appreciated until my son was born, was the vast majority of my trips were hassle and drama free! Now, with my almost-two-year-old son, travel is a bit more complicated, a bit more planned (did we pack enough diapers?), but certainly not impossible!

 

Living in Germany, we have flown back to the U.S. with our son three times since his birth – at 3 months, 9 months and 22 months. The first eight-hour, trans-Atlantic flight I braved alone. My little guy was practically a newborn and I was a wreck. When I exited the aircraft in Philadelphia I didn’t look my best, nor was I clean (there was a spit-up incident), but my son and I made it safely.

 

Almost two years after the trip I remember two things — the fear I experience leading up to the flight and the confidence I gained after it was over.  By taking the plunge and traveling with my child for the first time, I was able to introduce family and friends to my little angel, host my sister’s baby show and grow as a new mom.

 

So, for my fellow Mastering Mommy Brian readers, I would like to share 6 air travel tips and tricks to help you and your little ones keep calm and travel on.

1.     Check in early to take advantage of empty seats.

  • On my first trans-Atlantic flight my son and I arrived at the airport three hours early. This meant we were among the first passengers to check-in. Although I had not purchased a seat for my infant, the airline representative was able to move us to an empty bulkhead row and offer an extra seat for free. When the check-in counter first opens, the staff has more flexibility to give an empty seat or move a family to a more desirable place. As more passengers arrive, empty seats become scarce and seat changes are more difficult to make. So get ahead of the pack and approach the airline staff before others have a chance to sour their moods.

2.     Consider gate checking must-have travel items.

  • If there are items, like a stroller, car seat or baby backpack that are critical to the success of your trip, identify them in advance and gate check them. There is less of a chance that the airline will lose or leave your stroller behind if it is checked at the gate. We had friends who were very disappointed to arrive in St. John, with their one-year-old daughter, sans stroller. They purchased an umbrella stroller as a backup, but it was difficult to cart their child to and from the beach with a stroller not equipped for sand.

 3.     Pack a light carry-on bag, but prepare for delays.  

  • This tip may sound like an oxymoron but let me explain. When a parent is traveling solo with a child, or gasp, children, it is beneficial to pack light. The solo parent needs both hands, and wishes he or she had more than two, to carry kids, push the stroller, hold small hands, grab tickets, etc. Packing one, neatly-organized bag allows a traveling parent to find what he/she needs quickly and prevents belonging from being left or lost. Like an overstuffed purse, a diaper bag or backpack that is jam-packed makes it difficult to locate a desired item before a meltdown.
  •  Although it’s best to keep the carry-on bag light, it is also important to pack extra essential supplies — diapers, wipes and formula/food — in case of unexpected delays. Imagine frantically running through an airport to find diapers because your child ran out during a layover! It makes me sweat just thinking about that scenario.  

 4.     Remember, you are stuck, toys are your friends. 

  • A flight, especially a long flight is the perfect time to introduce a new toy, or toys depending on the duration of the flight. We bought our son a small Playmobile trash truck and gave it to him on our last flight to the U.S. It was a huge hit and afforded us almost an hour of peace and quiet. A new toy is also a great way to reward good behavior during take-off or in-flight meals. So are videos and T.V. shows while we are on the topic. Even if you don’t allow them at home, airplanes might be a good place to make an exception for “Elmo” or “Cars”.

5.     Give the gift of thoughtfulness.

  • Some may call it bribery, but I choose to call it kindness. If you happen to be traveling on an overnight flight with a baby or toddler consider handing out earplugs and sleeping masks to neighboring passengers. This gesture may preempt unwanted, negative attention if your child(ren) keep others from sleeping. I know I would be pleasantly surprised to receive a gift to help me snooze.

 6.     Adjust to a new time zone quickly.

  • Jet lag can be extremely difficult on adults, let alone children who can’t comprehend why they are feeling sleepy in the middle of the day or understand the difference between Central European and Eastern Standard Time zones. A few ideas to combat jet lag for kids and parents are: drink lots of water during the flight and after landing – dehydration makes jet lag worse; spend plenty of time outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight upon arrival – last summer when we touched down in Virginia, we went straight to a splash park and playground to keep my son awake until it was time for his adjusted U.S. bedtime – he was a zombie but it worked ; shift schedules immediately – eat meals and sleep at times that make sense for the new time zone; and if possible, follow the same daily routine. For example, my son takes a bath at 7:00 pm and goes to bed at 7:30pm in Germany, so in the U.S. we also bathe him at 7:00 pm and put him to bed at 7:30 pm EST. While this is six hours off his normal schedule his routine remained unchanged. We have found that it works best to start the adjustment on the first night in the new destination. It can be tedious, with many wakings, but the effort makes the rest of the trip more pleasant.

 

I know these 6 tips are just a start to the list of Mastering Air Travel with Tots!  Do you have others I missed? If so, please share them in the comments sections. I would love to hear from other traveling mamas and I am sure Dana would too!

 

Happy travels, or in German, gute Reise!

-Jen

 

 

Christina - September 30, 2013 - 12:21 pm

Great list, I’m guilty of the overstuffed diaper bag vs. a well packed carry-on. I’d add use a carrier (ergo,bjorn etc) to get your little one through security. It frees up your hands to deal with getting all those bags, strollers, and other stuff screened.

Jennifer - September 30, 2013 - 3:36 pm

Christina, I totally agree that the baby carrier can be great for security. Of course the TSA folks always seem to find a way to make things challenging for parents – requiring us take our kids out of the carrier and conduct a full pat down, while baby cries. This happened to my husband!

susan - October 1, 2013 - 1:58 am

Great post! I will add breastfeeding is a traveling mamas best friend! It is the main reason I nursed so long– 32 hr travel time to SIngapore, 22 to Middle East….

Jennifer - October 1, 2013 - 3:53 am

Susan, great point! A breastfeeding mama will never forget her supply. Also, be sure to snag plenty of water before boarding, or kindly ask the flight attendant for a full bottle if you will be feeding your baby on a long flight.

Morgan - October 1, 2013 - 4:29 am

I love this list…some other things I did when I travelled with my children were bring lots of healthy snacks. Airlines are getting better, but they don’t usually have a ton of options. Those packages of applesauce, dried fruit, cheese sticks, etc. We then had a very small cooler to use on vacation. I learned this after my daughter ate a bunch of junk food at the airport and on the plane and got sick! In that carryon, I would say at least a change of clothes for your tot, and a different shirt for you too

admin - October 1, 2013 - 8:32 am

WOW! Those are some very impressive trips. I have heard that nursing helps a poor baby’s ears during travel as well…I am sure that this definitely helped save you during those trips!

admin - October 1, 2013 - 8:33 am

Oh wow, I have not heard about having to take the kids out of carriers during security check ins (I guess this makes sense though)…definitely good to keep in mind. I was kind of counting on that to make my upcoming trips easier…

Jennifer - October 1, 2013 - 9:26 am

Morgan, healthy snacks are a must – your right! We packed the squeezable, organic fruit/veggie pouches on our last trip to the U.S. No mess and my son loves them. We use the Happy Tot brand. Also, nuts are great if your child is old enough and not allergic.

FRED SYTH - August 7, 2014 - 12:40 am

Appreciated the opportunity to read this thoughtful article!

Crock Pot Orange Chicken

Orange ChickenDuring the fall, the crock pot seems to be more of a staple in my cooking rotation. I always have a hard time finding recipes where the meat doesn’t fall apart, the chicken isn’t too dry, and the food looks appetizing and not like a bowl full of mush, because there is no way I can convince my kids to eat mushy nonsense. I feel like the crock pot is coming more important than ever during the nights where I am managing the “witching hour” and trying to keep 2 kids happy. On the weekends, we also have sports games, birthday parties, and all of that fun stuff. I am doing anything I can to make dinner easier – and between the crock pot and freezer meals, things are getting pretty good!  Today’s recipe for Orange Chicken is a keeper. The flavors are great, the chicken is moist (ew, I so hate that word, but sometimes you have to use it…), and it is low on the mush factor. Even better – it can go in the freezer. We made the dish – served half for dinner (with a lunch serving of leftovers for mama), and put the other half in the freezer. What could be better than that?!

Crock Pot Orange Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: entrée
 

Ingredients
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ cup barbecue sauce
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • ⅔ cup orange juice
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger root
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions
  1. Place flour in a large bag. Add the chicken, and shake to coat. Transfer to the crock pot.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, marmalade, orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  3. To freeze: cool chicken mixture, and freeze in a freezer-friendly container. To use, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Microwave until heated through.

Enjoy!

Celebrating Childhood Toys – Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary

Disclosure: Information on Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary provided by JAKKS Pacific

Did you have that toy growing up….the one that you couldn’t live without? The one that you took with you everywhere? The one that you had at bedtime and checked for when you first woke up? For me that toy was the Cabbage Patch doll.  The chubby cheeks, the yarn hair,and that birth certificate saying that doll was all yours.  To say it mildly, I was obsessed with Cabbage Patch Kids from the moment they came out…. all 7, yes 7, of them pretty much went with me everywhere I wanted to go.My poor mother had to do a “doll count” every time we went places!

The summer after my daughter had turned one, we went to my parents beach house. They had converted their porch to a playroom, and the toys from our childhood were all there to be enjoyed by my kids, as well as my nieces. Watching my daughter play with the dolls from my childhood was like a glimpse to 30 years ago, when I was enjoying those same dolls:)

Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary

My daughter can be pretty convincing, because she talked grandma into letting 2 of the 7 dolls come home with us for a “vacation.” The vacation turned into forever…and I have to say, it was a good thing, because that biotch Sandy (of Hurricane Sandy fame, took the other 5 dolls off to Toy Heaven. My daughter is loving her 2 dolls of my past, but I am anxious to add to her little CPK family:)

With the Cabbage Patch Kids 30th anniversary, the iconic toy brand, JAKKS Pacific will introduce several new CPK Products…I am looking forward to checking these out for this years Christmas gifts!

Cabbage Patch Kids® Celebration ‘Kids (SRP $34.99, Ages 3+).  Dressed in fun, playful, party themed fashions with brightly colored hair streaks, the ‘Kids™ are ready to party!

This fall, Cabbage Patch Kids® Babies (SRP $24.99, Ages 3+) come with either a magic disappearing-milk bottle or food bowl with spoon, removable bib and fashion. Of course, each baby has a unique name, Adoption Papers® and Birth Certificate®. The original baby-powder scent of Cabbage Patch Kids® can bring memorable smiles for generations.

The Cabbage Patch Kids® Cuties (SRP $9.99, Ages 3+) are even cuddlier this fall!  The adorable Cuties come in a variety of precious animal themes including bear, bunny and kitty with a new thumb-sucking feature. www.cabbagepatchkids.com

Did you have a favorite toy from your childhood? Were you a Cabbage Patch Kid fan as well?

Meghan - September 26, 2013 - 6:57 pm

OMG!! This makes me SO excited! Cabbage Patch Dolls were my favorite childhood toy as well & I too have a few too many that I saved for my girls… but I LOVE the idea of getting them each their own new dolls (to pass down to their kids)! I cannot wait for them to come out! I will be on the lookout! Thanks for the post! :)

admin - September 27, 2013 - 1:23 pm

I will definitely keep you updated as I hear anything :)

[...] other week, I shared a bit about my favorite childhood toy, my cabbage patch kids and the 30th Anniversary Cabbage Patch Kid Celebration. As I mentioned, my daughter has totally [...]

Potty Training and Mommy Brain Part 2

We are gearing up over here to embark, once again in my least favorite periods of parenting – potty training. I am pretty sure my daughter is ready…she knows when she has to go or when she has gone, and shows “interest.” I think that no matter how ready a child is, I feel like I always hear about some accidents, setbacks, and frustrations.  It is one of the most challenging mom times though, because honestly – can you really control someone else’s bladder? And since you can’t, hellllllo laundry!  Selfishly, I would like to also have her be trained before we head deep into the winter months (more clothes on = more laundry to do), and before I head back to work in December.

I mentioned this past weekend to my daughter that soon, she would be wearing underwear. I showed her the cute Cinderella, Minnie Mouse, and Bubble Guppie sets that I found, and she seemed pretty excited. My son walked in, and said…”you know, if you go on the potty, mommy will buy you some awesome stuff” – as previously mentioned, my son took more bribing than any child on the planet to finally get to be potty trained. So with that my daughter looks at me with a determined look on her face, and says, “purple dress for my dolly.” And just like that, with the potty prize determined, cute undies in hand, and a mommy that is ready to be more patient than ever, we were set to start on potty training next Monday (because all good things start on Mondays, right?). UNTIL…this email came from one of my readers:

 Talk about mommy brain…I’m embarrassed to say that after the first successful day of potty training (woo hoo!) on Sunday, I forgot to put a diaper on my daughter before bed. It was completely unintentional. My husband texted me at work on Monday morning to let me know that she had peed in her big girl bed. Of course she did – duh, mama!


Oh goodness…that made me reconsider. In the midst of newborn mommy brain, am I really ready for this?!!?

 

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Fall Dips – Caramel Apple and Pumpkin Dip

During the fall, I love to incorporate anything apple or pumpkin into my life. Honestly…ANYTHING…I have apple blossom hand soap at my kitchen sink, my pumpkin pie candle burns every night after the kids are asleep – its kind of ridiculous. I knew that I wanted to share my favorite fall dips featuring….Apple and Pumpkin flavors!  The timing worked out perfectly, because I brought this dish to a friend’s house last night. A couple of people there were asking for the recipe, so, why not make it easy and share it with everyone. I like to have easy recipes ready to go for the fall, because I find that we are invited to a lot of gatherings between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and football Sundays.  These two fall dips have quickly gone to the top of my list as “must makes” as they are a hit with all age groups and of course, super easy to make.  I like to make both dips together for the perfect fall flavors combo. As you can see in the picture - I serve both dips with nilla wafers, and apples.

Fall Dips

Pumpkin Dip

I originally received this recipe after my Sister-In-Law made this for our annual fall barbecue and had everyone there asking for the recipe! Honestly, people have RSVP-ed, and in the same email, asked if the pumpkin dip would be there. It is THAT good.

Pumpkin Dip
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 12-15
 

Ingredients
  • 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups of confectioners sugar
  • 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions
  1. Blend the cream cheese and confectioners sugar until smooth; I usually use my stand mixer – it ensures everything is blended well.
  2. Blend in pumpkin, and then the cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Ah yes, the perfect spices of the season.
  3. Chill for at least 1 hour.

 

Caramel Apple Dip

This dip I found on Cooks.Com forever ago, and it has been in my “favorites” folder ever since – yes..this was even before Pinterest! I like to think of this as the non-messy way of getting the caramel apple taste.

Caramel Apple Dip
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8-10
 

Ingredients
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
  1. Mix sugars together first, to ensure that they are well blended.
  2. Place your softened cream cheese with the sugars. Again, I use the stand mixer – it is just easier!
  3. Add vanilla and blend all ingredients together.

Anne - September 24, 2013 - 9:55 am

Love these recipes! What a delightful file box I am getting!