Find the peanut butter jar and a spoon, locate nearest closet, step inside, close the door, and eat peanut butter. Forget about travelling with small children. That's what I think.
Ok, so seriously though, travelling with small children is not for the faint of heart. It takes patience, resolve, and a really good reason to make the trip.
My experience is fairly vast here. I was a well-travelled kid in my early years. My parents lived in Virginia and since my grandparents lived in Vermont and New Hamshire, that gave us 12 and 14 hour trips to their houses, respectively. We made those trips in non-stop fashion (ie. bathroom breaks not included) over one day. I flew to New Zealand in 2000 at the age of 14, my younger siblings were 12, 10, and 8. I was pretty good at travelling.
And then I had kids....
At 4 weeks old we drove with Oceana 4 hours to Matt's parents, from NY state. She slept most of the drive, if not all. I'm a little fuzzy on the details now.
At 7 weeks we drove with Oceana from Harrisburg, PA to Burlington, VT for my friend's wedding. We drove non-stop. I pumped in the front seat, then crawled in the backseat to feed her the bottle. I even changed a diaper by undoing the bottom of the belt for a few minutes. I learned my lesson there though, as 2 minutes later she spurted baby poo all over her clothes, carseat, carseat straps, carseat base, and seat OF the car. Never. EVER. Again. (Add to that my obssessive carseat safety criteria now).
At 8 weeks we flew with Oceana from Philadelphia, PA to Los Angeles, CA, to Auckland, New Zealand. We made no hotel stops, it was a straight shot trip.
At 14 months we flew with Oceana (and 10 weeks pregnant) from New Zealand to Pennsylvania and back again in the space of 16 days.
At 3 years of age Oceana flew to Pennsylvania and Naomi was only 7 weeks old.
I have my TravellingMummy credentials. ***If you know what TravellingMummy is, please comment. I'm so curious how many of you have wandered over***
I have done my research. There are a lot of website that have information travelling with kids. Just do a google search for travelling with small children/toddlers/babies and you'll find plenty. Anybody who's travelled much can tell you a few things too. I've also learned a lot by Trial and Error. I hate Trial and Error - she's a pain in the butt!
I am a list person when I travel. I have to be. Part of that is because travelling with children means you've probably got leftover-baby-brain, preggo-brain, or baby-brain. NONE of these are acceptable frames of mind for travel; go hide in the closet with the peanut butter.
The week before I leave, I think about the trip almost constantly. If I think of an item that must come along, I write it down. Don't tell yourself you'll remember. You won't! We made a trip once that caused Matt to shop for underclothing, as he had none.
Three or four days before your trip start doing the laundry. Decide which items must go and make sure you get them clean and don't wear them before you leave. We usually look a bit silly the days before a trip to make this happen. Be sure to set aside the good burp rags and blankets as well.
As you do the laundry, put clean things in the suitcase. Leave it open on the floor in your room and put stuff in it as you go. I list in numbers: 6x underwear, 8x baby socks, 8 onesies, etc. When something is completely done, I scratch it off my list. As the list gets smaller, I circle what's left to do so that I don't miss anything amongst my scratches. (Highlighters probably work well too, but does anyone own one that works?!?!?!)
Pack one to two days before you leave, but be sure there is extra space in the top as there are ALWAYS a few more things that go in at last minute.
Your carryon luggage should be thorough, but scarce. If you have to wrangle two children (whether or not you have your spouse/friend with you) you do not need a purse, a laptop bag, a diaper bag, a bag for each kid, a carry on bag for yourself, and all your coats too. Try to hold all that, plus the carseats if you have them, and the stroller up to the gate. Let alone getting on the plane and through the aisles. Closet? Peanut butter?
This last trip I took one rolling carryon and put the digital camera and the video camera inside. Also in this bag was a change of shirt for me (puke, my dear friends, puke), a change for Oceana, a change or two for Naomi, and the sling (and candy... heh heh). Then I carried the diaper bag with zippers. My normal diaper bag has no zipper, just a flip/velcro lid. That's not a good idea for airports - stuff falls out. In the diaper bag I had about 12 diapers (The first flight was 12 hours, there were extra diapers in the checked luggage), two or three outfits for Naomi, a full pack of wipes, two empty grocery bags, a small water bottle, my mp3 player, my glasses case, two bottles in case of an emergency, and snacks for Oceana. I also attached three caribiners to my bag's buckle and attached my Moby bag to this when I didn't need it. I also attached a burp rag with a caribiner, via the rolled tag. This way I could get to it quickly without digging through my bag.
Oceana had one small backpack with her toys in it. It was light enough for her to carry all the time. Inside the bag: one newish coloring book; one pencil bag with the one colored pencil for each of the colors of the rainbow, as well as black, white, and brown; one book, a set of "sewing" cards and laces (*made my own with cardboard, a holepunch, and ribbon taped at the end*); a snack or two, finger puppets in a clean peanut butter container, two small containers of play doh, a picture album with friends/family in Pennsylvania, a one-time-use camera, and a few other small items.
That's all I carried. I could pull the rolling suitcase, sling the diaper bag over my shoulder, had Naomi wrapped in the Moby, and still had a hand to use for other things. Matt pushed Oceana in the stroller.
Strollers: While your kid may be outgrowing the stroller, it is so handy in an airport. They get tired, they get slow, and having the stroller means that you have an option other than carrying your not-so-easy-to-carry-not-so-little-preschooler.
Carseats: If you think your kid will sit still better in a carseat, this is a good option. I knew that it would be one more thing to wrangle on our trip, so I skipped both seats this time. Oceana slept better being able to curl into her seat than she would have in her stroller.
Bassinets: International flights have bassinets that attach to the bulkhead wall. Call your airline after booking your flight and "request a bassinet for your lap baby". It is only a request, as bassinets are given to the smallest babies that request them. Naomi had a bassinet, as well as the nearly-2-year-old who was next to me. If you don't do the request before your flight, there's no way you'll get one.
Children's Meals: Call the airline after booking and request a special children's meal (this applies to Int'l flights again). This is also handy because not only are the foods kid-friendly, they also are distributed first, which means your kid won't watch someone else eating before he does (Melt.Down).
Extra assistance: Take it. Use it. Make those flight attendants work for their money man!
Board the plane early: If it's going to take you a few minutes to get situated with your littlies and bags, board when they invite families to board. On big flights this might give you 10-15 minutes.
Immigration/Customs: Sometimes there are lines for families, watch for this. LA airport also had a cheat-line for families at security. Sah-Weet!
A pen: Take a pen for goodness sake. Neither Matt or I had a pen this last time. Do you know how much you need to write down/fill out on a 24 hour trip? Yeah! Bring a pen! Or six.
Passports: ALL CHILDREN must have passports, regardless of age. They can no longer fly based on their name being written in the parent's passport. Important to know!
Snacks: Most countries will not allow you to come into theirs with fresh foods. They will allow packaged foods that do not contain fruits, seeds, or meats in them. (ie. Oatmeal raisin cookies are okay, packages of raisins probably aren't).
Dirty clothes: I took our small wet bag that came with the bumGenius diapers. A grocery bag works too. Keep the nasty-smelling, sopping-wet, or otherwise clothing/blankets off the clean stuff in the bag.
Clean clothes: Take a change of clothes for yourself. Christina's husband flew from Virginia to New Zealand with puke on his jeans last year. Yehaw for 24 hours of puke-stench!
Shoes: Wear slip ons, in case security wants you to take them off. Your kids may have to remove shoes too. Crocks work well.
Security: Skip belts, jewelry, loose change, putting any random objects in your pockets, or anything that will take a while to take off/put on a security. Have a system, keeping in mind that your stroller has to go through the machine too. So far, of the two women I know who have recently flown in the US, as well as myself - none of us were asked to take our babies out of their slings/wraps to go through the metal detector. They DO have to come out of their carseats/strollers though. Keep this in mind for ease. I'm big on babywearing while travelling, can you tell?
Pajamas: Oceana wore her jammies onto the plane on our overnight flight. Naomi wore only sleepers for our trip. Outfits are more work all around.
Makeup and hair: Easy, managable. For me that's no makeup and a ponytail.
So there it is my dears. Take it, use it, and leave any more ideas or questions in the comments. I'll add to the bottom of this post as I answer questions.
*What's the deal with baby food, baby formula, and liquids with the new aviation safety rules? This is the TSA (Transportation Security Administration, the ones who make those rules) website. They have all the rules spelled out and some information on travelling with children as well. This is an article about specific rules regarding formula, breastmilk, and baby food. Breastmilk can be brought on board in amounts larger than 3oz if it is declared at security checkpoints. So when you pop your little baggie of liquids out of your bag, pull your pumped bottle out too, and put it through the machine separately.
The TSA specifically notes that you will not be asked to drink breastmilk, formula, or juice to "prove" the substance. However, Matt was asked to take a drink from his bottle of water at security in LA - instead he chose to throw it out. I stood at security and guzzled mine so I could keep the bottle. I then refilled it at a water fountain after security checkpoints.
*No one asked this - but regarding laptop bags - you don't have to remove the laptop from its bag if its in one of these bags. That's useful information, as the two bags we own aren't like this and we have to take our laptop out and run it through the xray machine separately. It's just ONE MORE THING to do at security. Security is my nemesis by the way....
**Any suggestions on how to entertain an 18 month old on a long flight?
I have to admit that of all our international travel, Oceana at 14 months old was the hardest. She was active, but didn't understand that she wasn't allowed to - especially when the seat belt sign was on because of turbulence.
I found a website that suggested this idea though. But one new gift per hour of flight (The Dollar Tree works great!) and wrap them individually like a present. Whenever they get antsy, let them open a new present. Be sure to put away one toy before opening another - helps you reuse them later. Also, spend a dollar on a roll of wrapping paper and rewrap them before you fly home! This worked pretty well. I don't remember specifically, except that I know I took playdough, crayons, and paper. Beyond that I'm a bit fuzzy about what I took that time. But you know your kid best - you know what will entertain them. But let me urge you, don't take stuff with little pieces, lots of pieces, or that are important to you. Assume that you will lose some things, or break some things. Assume that you will have to pick playdough out of the seat. But it's a small price to pay for a bit of peace and quiet. Another thing that helps is to take the favourite blanket or teddy. Oceana's not attached to any one thing right now, but some kids WILL NOT sleep without their blankie - a long flight's not a good time to try and break that habit! :)
And above all - ignore rude people. You have kids. They make noise. They are tired. They don't want to be on that airplane any more than the grumpy business man behind you. And if they whine or complain, sure you're going to try to settle them down. Don't let yourself get stressed out over people who aren't gracious to you and your kiddies.