There’s no less than 9 literary journals in my suitcase, but not even my thin and beloved litmag made the top-10 for my carry-on on this family trip. Occupying that precious space, instead, is an arsenal of sly snacks meant to pacify, occupy, and null-cry. These treats are meant to inspire curiosity and copious amounts of chewing, otherwise known as not-whining, not-biting, and not-screaming. Because the world of travelling-with-toddler IS purely dualistic, where almost every minute falls into the category of okay or evil. If I find a micro-minute of buoyant, observant, equilibrium, it will sound a bit like this in my head:
“Oh my god. The baby has been successfully constrained in a semi-reclining position and is almost closing her eyes. The toddler is hidden, and quiet, in the “tent” underneath our legs. This is it! A moment of peace, descending upon me this very second! Is it truly happening? Has it happened already? Oh no, it’s almost gone! Wait, it’s still here….”
Then the piercing screech of a near-sleep baby as the toddler pushes the baby’s errant leg out of his way. Needless to say, peace has fleeted.
When the stewardess passes, she dares ask me if I’d like something to drink. I briefly wonder what about my situation looks like it should have a top-heavy, precariously placed, plastic cup (with spiky spinning instrument) on top of it. And then I catch myself being impatient and rude, and politely decline.
There’s a balding man in front of my husband’s seat who clearly has no children, nephews, nieces, neighbor families, or pets. While I’m not the type to pass out prim packages of ear plugs with thank you notes, I am exceptionally aware of and sensitive to the discomfort of those around me and am quick to put on my extra friendly and apologetic game. But this man has turned his head around ten times before the plane has even departed, in suggestion of his disgust with the not-silent and not-still children behind him. My children are standard-bad, but not more than that. “Yes!” I want to shout at him. “They are caged beasts desperately in need of free-range play! That’s the very reason we’re going to an island for six weeks: to unleash them!”
Rant ranted. Let’s get practical:
Airplane Toddler + Baby Pro Tips:
- Mantra: “I’ve got this.”
- Toddler Book: Where’s Waldo? The Totally Essential Travel Collection for endless, wordless, and independent searching and “story-reading.”
- Emergency Only: For instant, emergency, 5-10 minutes of quiet, keep these on hand: YumEarth Organic Pops. They literally require a shut-mouth to work.
- Something new and pocket-friendly (for the toddler): Schleich Mini Dinosaur Set. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Winking @ all the mommas of 4-year olds out there.
- An invisible backpack. Ie. It packs down to absolutely nothing when not in use. Osprey makes a great one/everything.
- (Only)-Water “Color” Books: Seriously occupying. And all you need is a bit of water. No mess. Lots of busy hands.
- Other mouth-occupying, non-messy, snack ideas: Elk jerky. Tamari almonds. Raisins in the tiny “busy-hand” boxes.
- Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book: Lots of activity. Little mess and taking. #winwin
- Ipad & Kid headphones. There’s a time and place for screen time, and this is it.
- It flashed on me during this trip that an airplane seat travel harness makes a lot of sense for the under-two crowd if you don’t have a carseat with you. Not for safety, but because lock-down mode inspires sleep in the way a carseat does. #prioritiesstraight
- On the above note, ENSURE your car seat is airplane-friendly. It needs some kind of FAA approved sticker. I had no idea. And they (#$@%@$) made us gate-check our carseat. Learn from our pain.
- Bottle mini/travel cooler. For both the plane and beach.
- Kindle PaperWhite: This is on my personal, single-person, travel packing list. But I recently discovered that you can download kids books for free as well onto it! Huge bonus on a quiet day when your preschooler just needs a NEW book. Downside: black and white on the Paperwhite. Hard to navigate. Not even easy to download or organize. Upside: A cache of never-read books in the palm of your hand. And we all know how far new goes.