Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Travel with Toddlers

Today's post is being simulcast on our new column at The Washington Times.  The column is called Maternal Ammunition and we're super excited about it.

Holiday travel with a toddler almost always spans the range from wonderful to frustrating. The key is to lower your expectations, keep your sense of humor and roll with the problems that will inevitably pop up.

Tip #1: You’re probably going to lose your mind at least once. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad trip. Having a little mommy melt-down is all part of the process. Just try to have it in the car and not in front of your in-laws. Travelling with kids is stressful and exhausting and you probably did 90% of the planning, packing and preparation. Your child is also probably so geared up that you’re wondering if someone gave him an espresso. So let your husband know ahead of time that if he starts to see signs that a breakdown is imminent, to quickly get you a People magazine and a Starbucks. Twenty minutes later you’ll be good as new.

Tip #2: Traffic does not dictate how fast you get there and how many times you will stop. Your toddler’s bladder does. Be patient and bring something to knit. It’s going to take much longer than you think to arrive at your destination. Don’t gamble on a newly potty-trained kid’s ability to hold it or the carrying capacity of a Huggie. Because remember, just like in Vegas, whatever happens in the car, stays in the car. And we don't mean secrets, we mean the lovely aroma afterwards.

Tip #3: No matter what mode of travel you’re taking (plane, train or automobile), accidents happen. Sometimes they happen on Mommy. You know to carry a spare change of clothes for the kiddo but it doesn’t hurt to bring one for yourself too. Nothing’s worse than asking yourself the age-old Mommy question: “What is THAT smell?” and then realizing it’s coming from your shirt.

Tip #4: Talk to your child and decide together some rules for the road. Changing up a little person’s schedule and throwing them in a new environment can be overwhelming. Letting them make some of the rules gives them the feeling that they have some control over what’s happening. That in turn can cut down on tantrums, tiredness and acting out. And let’s be honest, bad behavior in someone else’s house always seems much worse (for Mommy) than when it happens at home. And if someone doesn’t like the “I get to carry Thomas the Train with me wherever I go” rule, they can go suck an egg. Because the “I won’t take Baby Jesus from the manger and lick him” rule is one we can all agree with.


To read the fifth tip, click on over to Maternal Ammunition - and if you feel like it, leave a comment.  We're pretty new over there and they haven't figured out yet that we're dorks, so you'd really be doing us a solid.

xo, Kate & Lydia
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010


  1. Our first long plane-ride to the east coast (to visit family) was a doozy. Big boy did not like to be changed, and for whatever reason the flight was like a vacuum to his colon. I thought 10 diapers for a 6-8 hr time span was too much, but I used all 10. About the 5th time I sent the hubs in to do the dirty work, thinking since he did it at home he could surely manage as well as me in the microscopic space they call a bathroom, and the "changing table" was in the first class cabin. First, he dropped the wipes and didn't know this. The flight attendant sent me in (did I mention how cramped it was?) with said wipes, in time for me to discover that as he was looking for the wipes, the poop had flipped out of the diaper, onto the floor, and he had not only stepped in it at this point but kneeled down to look under the table for them. So he had it on his knee. The child was about 8 months at this point, and 40 times too long for this space to begin with. So he started fighting about then, and I left. About 10 minutes later hubs brings me semi-naked child, and heads back in to finish cleaning (another 15 or so minutes). He then ordered a drink. I went in about an hour later to use the loo, and found more poop under the rim of the toilet lid. I can only hope it was my son's. The.end.

  2. Ironically my almost four year old - aka The Tackler - is the "easy" one thanks to the wonderful invention of the iPod.

    My 15 month Lil Diva, however, is too young for that and doesn't grasp the "must remain seated" concept. We spent half of our flight last week running up and down the aisles while she picked up any dropped trash, nearly dumped an airline soda serving into a passenger's lap, and was (thankfully) so happy to be free she charmed everyone with smiles and blown kisses who previously cursed our presence initially when they first pressurized the cabin and she screamed at top volume for 10 minutes straight.....

  3. What are your tips for a Mama traveling with a 4 month old, 2 year old and 4 year old all by herself? I'm flying from North Carolina to LAX with a 2 hour layover in Dallas in February. I am TERRIFIED!!!! In fact, I'm thinking of canceling our trip and forfeiting over $900 because it makes me cry just thinking about traveling with my brood alone!

  4. I did have a mommy front of the in-laws :( hubby was on military duty (in Turkey, not US) and would have seen it coming before I did. The in-laws were great about it, unfortunately I don't think I will ever live down the embarrassment of yelling and crying after toddler sat down in mud after 5 changes of outfits in two hours :(

  5. The first trip we took with Mr. Man he was 4 months old. He had a massive up the back disgusting hold the child out away from your body kind of blow out. My sister was napping and I thought I could handle this. Took him into the micro bathroom(no changeing table). Proceeded to basically have to hold him down and wash him from head to toe. Get a new dipe on him and then I took the naked(except for a dipe)baby back out to his carseat. I had to go back into the bathroom to hose it down. Sister wakes up at this point next to a naked baby but no was so terrible all we could do was laugh and laugh.

  6. xanax is a must for the mom, too! seriously!

  7. @geetabean - Make friends with the flight attendants. They will be your life saver through the trip. Gate check your stroller so you have place for the baby to sit during your layover. And take the big one with lot's of storage. That way you can stuff all the extra bags and coats in it.

  8. This was good, but I miss the usual wit and sarcasm. I hope we will still be seeing more posts like the ones that earned this blog its status.

  9. @geetabean - Rent or borrow any baby equipment you can at your destination so you don't have to carry it. Wear the baby in a sling/carrier through the aiport so you have two hands free to wrangle the other kids. While waiting in the airport, encourage the mobile ones to do windsprints in an unoccupied gate. Be THE LAST people to board the plane. Buy a whole bunch of earplugs (like 40+ individually wrapped pairs) from an industrial supply store and keep it in your carry on. If your babe howls, ask the flight attendant to offer them up to nearby passengers. Just having the earplugs ensures that nothing will happen. ;) Feed the baby on takeoff and landing. If you're nursing, don't start until the flight attendants are strapped in or they will tell you to hold the seated in your lap, which will make your previously happy snacking baby scream. Find some way to show them a new cartoon movie on the plane.

    Good luck!

  10. I'm with Kathy...I never got on a plane without Benadryl when The Spawn was little. I would also recommend buying a new toy or two or four — some for the trip there and some for the trip back.

  11. Hey girls! Great post! My comment is not related- just wanted to let you know how much I love y'all. So much that I just wrote a love fest blog post all about you...sigh. Googly eyes. Thank you!

  12. You know your own child better than anyone, so do what works for them and you to enjoy the holidays, and don't let other influence those choices. Christmas dinner at Grandma's is not made better by forcing a grumpy toddler to sit at the table for 2 hours. Let them play on the floor while you enjoy your meal.

  13. Try a "supposed-to-be" 11 hour car ride from NY to ME with 3 boys ages 3.5, 5, & 9.... Imagine doing this ride at least 2 times a year, sometimes more to visit my parents, brothers, sisters, and extended family. All I can say is I'm thankful in-car DVD players, and Nintendo DS. They have saved my sanity. Oh yeah, can't forget one of these boys has motion sickness, so after the second time of being unprepared for that little hiccup, we've got it down to a science. Go me!! Oh and btw I love you guys, and i can pretty much relate to almost everything you post! Keep it up!!

  14. So as someone with no children, I can't offer advice on what works for my family. But as someone who accrued more frequent-flyer miles by the time she was 13 (and most of those from before I was 10) than many do in their entire lives, I think I can say something from a kids perspective. The biggest thing that made long, lonely flights (I usually went to Grandma's by myself) and 8-hour car rides bearable were special "kits." Before each trip, mom and I would sit down with a little bag (usually a small, zippered tote) and pack everything I would need to get me through the drive or flight. Walk-man (this was before iPods), a small note-book, 2 new pencils, mini-crayons, a small toy... these were pretty typical. Then we'd make a list and tape it to the outside (crucial for plane trips so I didn't leave anything in my seat) so I could take inventory at each end of the trip. The big thing is it made me feel like I wasn't just being dragged around by the grown-ups and I also think I learned some clever packing tricks that served me well later in life. Good luck!




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