While our travel is fresh in my mind, I wanted to post these Toddler Travel Tips. Of course, we have pictures and stories coming soon. These are my best tips based on one week-long airplane vacation with an 18 month old. Prior to our trip, I got great advice from Jen based on her week in Mexico with Max. The stuff she told me was gold (and included here), along with some of our observations.
1. Dollar Store. Visit the dollar store or the dollar section of Target to pick-up some cheap, new entertainment options. We picked up some plastic farm animals, matchbox cars, flip books, and simple puzzles. Leave everything in the package until the plane, as that's half the fun.
2. Pace Yourselves. Bring out the toys or games one at a time. You don't want to be out of tricks with 4 hours of travel left. We still have unopened toys and books for our next adventure.
3. Take the stroller. The stroller was invaluable in the airport and for hauling stuff back and forth to the beach/pool. We just brought our little Combi, but Jen traveled with her jogger, and I even saw parents in Hawaii with their double strollers. You can take the stroller through security (doesn't count as a carry-on), and then drop it at the door of the plane. They tag your stroller, store it with the luggage, and have it waiting outside the airplane door when you land.
4. Rent the carseat. Unless you have a way to convert your carseat into a stroller, why haul the thing through the airport? I think Budget charges $15/day to rent a carseat, but with a maximum charge of $60. $60 for a week long rental is well worth it in my book.
5. Snacks, snacks, snacks. Even better if you can time a flight during meal time. Bring the foods you know your kiddo loves. You can bring all sorts of liquids through security, as long as you have your baby/toddler. They allowed us Owen's water, juice boxes, apple sauce cups, etc. We bought milk from either fast food places or starbucks inside security when we needed it.
6. Plastic Bags. Jen learned that the flight attendants can't take dirty diapers from you (bodily fluid issues), so pack lots of plastic bags.
7. Airplane bathrooms do have changing tables. I was surprised how many airport bathrooms do not.
8. Get an aisle seat!! On our flight over, we had the window and middle seat thinking it would be easier to contain Owen that way. It was, but with him in our laps, and the big Samoan in the aisle seat (REALLY nice guy, but still...), it was nearly impossible for either of us to reach the toys and snacks in the bag at our feeet. An aisle seat allows you access to the overhead bin and just that much more maneuver room.
9. Airport play areas! Every airport has them. Even our little Bend airport has a lego table. Owen was happy for at least an hour of our layover playing on the slide in the Seatac play area.
10. Consider pre-boarding carefully. If you know your carry-ons will fit below the seat, why spend an extra 45 minutes on the plane waiting for people to board? That's quality run around time.
11. Check your Hotel. Ours provided travel cribs and high chairs at no extra cost. Golden!
12. What's worth the Cost. I think it's well worth it to pay extra to have kitchen access and a legitamite bedroom. You can have immediate food access when needed and a door to shut during nap time. Owen was playing so hard all week that mealtimes and naptimes came in full force. Waiting 30 minutes for resturant food would have been ugly.
13. Take vs. Buy. Some things are better to buy at your destination than try to pack in your suitcase. Diapers, beach toys, and beach towels (if not provided), can all be bought at a grocery store for minimal cost. I do recommend taking a pack of disposable swim diapers, as they tend to be expensive at vacation destinations.
14. Enjoy! The world looks different when seen through the eyes of a toddler.