Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Long Time, No Post

I have no idea how many people actually READ this blog, so I'm not sure if my readers have been disappointed or even noticed that I haven't posted in almost two months. I have only one really lame (but true) excuse: the holidays absolutely kicked my butt this year.

For the first time since having children, we traveled for both Thanksgiving AND Christmas this year. Once by plane and once by car. And since I am a glutton for punishment, we threw a New Year's Eve party too. Do not even ask me what I was thinking - I really don't know.

Our family is scattered all across the country and we have none in Atlanta (or anyone closer than an 8 hour car ride). So we are used to traveling - no big deal. When our oldest was born, we just strapped him on one of our backs and his carseat on the other back and continued traveling. When our second was born just a short 17 months later, we dropped everything and stayed home. For two years.

After a tentative but successful short trip to Disney World this past spring break, we decided that it might be safe to hit the road (and skies) again. Just in the nick of time, as the summer necessitated travel to California (for my husband's job) and Mexico (for a semi-annual family vacation with extended family). Success again! We quickly made plans to spend Thanksgiving in Utah and do a tri-state Christmas (Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio), covering pretty much every living family member in the course of a month. Success once more, but boy am I pooped! Being on the go for the holidays added a whole other element to pulling them off. I've decided it is way easier to stay home and cook the turkey (including all the cleaning, shopping, and table setting that is involved in hosting the presentation of the turkey) than it is to fly across the country to eat the turkey someone else has lovingly prepared.

However, I continue to be proud of what traveling little troopers my boys are, because I understand from some friends that their children are not so much the happy travelers at this age. It's a little late for holiday travel tips, but maybe some of you are planning a spring break vacation. I'd thought I'd share some of the top tips I've learned (through trial and error) for traveling with little ones. I'll skip the usual ones you read about (ask for the bulkhead, pack a change of clothes for everyone in your carry-on, bring a bag of toys that are new to your child for distraction purposes, etc.) because you probably already know them. A few others....

1) Get a portable DVD player.
2) Get a portable DVD player.
3) Let go of mommy guilt about letting your child watch 5 consecutive hours of Shrek on portable DVD player. Once a year won't kill them.
4) ALWAYS bring a stroller. But not a good one, because the airlines will lose it or break it. Get a cheapy umbrella stroller and if you have multiple kids close in age, get TWO. Or a double. In a crowded airport or amusement park, you can guarantee yourself that there will be moments when you want everyone strapped in and pinned down. Do not kid yourself into thinking that your almost-four-year-old is big enough to walk. He is - but he's also big enough to run when you're not looking.
5) If your baby is over age one and under two and you have to buy an airline ticket anyway, bring a carseat. They are so antsy at this age - you will be glad to have a way to strap them down.
6) If you are driving, plan on stopping at least every 2 to 3 hours for at least half an hour at a fast food place with an indoor playground. Make your husband understand that his days of "making good time" are OVER. It is now all about keeping everyone sane.
7) Always pack your own snacks - it is way cheaper and healthier. Pack mostly good stuff (including PB&J in case your flight is delayed over a mealtime), but throw in a junk food treat for a desperation moment where you might need a distraction.
8) If you're all cramming into a hotel room and the bathroom is big enough, consider pitching the baby's pack n play camp in a bathroom or large closet. This creates the separate room that many babies (and parents) need to sleep comfortably without actually requiring you to purchase a second room.
9) Even better, consider an extended stay hotel or a suite that has a small kitchen. Multiple bedrooms/sleeping areas and a place to prepare simple meals/snacks equals traveling success for little ones and parents!
10) And our best travel tip so far - travel with or to see the grandparents whenever you can. Free babysitting plus an extra bedroom to stash one of your kids in!