I've been a bit silent over here at, "Instructions Not Included." Like many of you, my family and I have been doing quite a bit of traveling over the past two weeks; five days in Florida and three in North Carolina! This epic vacation included two plane rides and two roadtrips. It was exhausting, liberating, relaxing, and totally worth it.
Months ago when planning our Florida vacation (the trip to North Carolina was spur of the moment), my husband and I just could NOT agree on the best means of travel with a toddler. He wanted to drive and I wanted to fly. In the end, the idea of wrangling Archer for a 90 minute, claustrophobic flight sounded much better than a 16 hour roadtrip with an angry, loud, little tyrant. So, with a bit lots of trepidation, we booked a flight, packed our bags, and hoped for the best.
Guys, It. Rocked.
Were there tears? Were there tantrums? Was I pulled aside by TSA? Did Archer poop right before boarding the plane? Yes. These potentially stressful situations were handled quickly and easily, however, and in no way cramped our new-found, jet-set lifestyle. How is that possible you ask? It all comes down to packing and attitude.
Here's what we packed for a 5 day 4 night stay in Florida:
- One large suitcase which housed the majority of our clothes, which we checked.
- One carseat.
- One carry-on with a change of clothes for my husband and I, and two sets of clothes for Archer. It also carried most of the diapers and wipes, and our fancy-pants camera.
- My husband's backpack. We filled it with: A few of Archer's favorite books, his snacks, a coloring book and crayons, stickers, our chargers, my husband's wallet and phone, and our flight itinerary.
- My bag. It contained: Our medicine, my wallet and phone, snacks for Archer, three diapers, an extra shirt for myself, two onesies, a sippy cup with water, and two books for Archer. Baby bottles, baby food, and sippy cups are permitted on all flights.
- An Ergo.
As you might have noticed, we packed light. This was truly made possible because we were able to co-ordinate the acquisition of an umbrella stroller, a play-yard, and a highchair in Florida months before hand. My grandmother scored the highchair and stroller at a yard-sale and borrowed the play-yard from a friend. Total cost: $10.
If your vacation does not include visiting family and friends, I suggest inquiring at your hotel about portable cribs. Most hotels offer them. I would definitely bring my own sheets and give the crib a good once over with a Wet-One, though. Don't worry about packing a high-chair. Most restaurants have them. If you find yourselves at a place that does not, then just put the baby on your lap. Easy-peasy.
What about a stroller? This is totally personal preferance. I knew Archer would not stay in a stroller at the airport, but would tolerate the Ergo. He's still a little snuggle monster. Anyway, most people seem to prefer using a stroller. You can use it up until you board the plane, then it gets stowed in cargo. I personally would find that cumbersome. I guess I'm a bit weird in that sense. If your family tends to travel with a lot of luggage, you may want to opt for a stroller as it can hold several items for you.
Here's the one tiny drawback to the Ergo. While you don't have to take it off to go through the metal detectors, TSA will pull you aside to scan your hands for traces of bomb making chemicals. It takes 5 minutes. Not really a big deal, but there it is.
Now, here's a little secret about car-seats: You can rent a car with a car-seat and forgo bringing one with you all together! I have several friends who have done this and love it. I also have friends who are a bit wary of putting their baby in a rented car-seat. Do what YOU are comfortable with. We wern't renting a car, so we had to bring ours regardless. Since Archer is a shrimp who is currently rocking the 25th percentile in height and 15th for weight, he still fits well in his infant car-seat. That was much easier to carry into the airport than his Britax Marathon. When we do bring the Britax, I will purchase the attachment that puts wheels and a handle on it. Sort of like a wheeled carry-on. For this trip, we went with an inexpensive gate-check bag and checked the seat with our luggage.
By the way, you can check a carseat for free.
As far as advice for the actual flight itself; Bring more books than you think you'll need. Bring an extra shirt for yourself in case of blowouts, vomit, or other wonderful parenting hazards. Bring multiple onesies and diapers. Bring a few favorite snacks (goldfish saved us!). Have a drink handy for changes in cabin pressure (i.e pop those little ears as soon as you can!) Finally, breathe, relax, and remind yourself that a few hours in the air will be well worth the amazing vacation you are about to experience. Embrace the adventure!
Have fun traveling!