July 11th, 2020
Do I look exhausted and stressed in those pics?! That's because I decided it would be fun to travel with a 2 year old and a 6 month old via airplane, by myself, with a layover. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but 50% of the time when I have layovers, I end up missing them or stuck at them for some reason out of my control. And it happened, we were stuck on the tarmac for hours INSIDE the plane, hungry, cranky, past nap time, trying to juggle both kids by myself... But one thing I will say is this: I haven't let two kids stop me from going places. In the last 4 years of having kids, I've taken airplanes, 10 hour road trips, 6 hour road trips, 4 hour road trips, all by myself, and with two little ones. And I've learned a lot. Now, I want to share some of my biggest mistakes so YOU can learn from them and hopefully not make the same mistakes.
Here are my 6 biggest travel mistakes with toddlers and babies:
Mistake #1. I went on a 10 hour road trip and FORGOT MY PURSE AT HOME. Yes, this was my biggest mistakes. I was driving alone with a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a 100 pound dog. I had a list for packing, and had everything checked off the list. Had the car pre-loaded with suitcases, made sure to pack extra diapers and change of clothes and snacks, and charged up the tables. I got 5 hours into the drive and was ready for our first stop, at the halfway point, and realized I HAD LEFT MY PURSE AND WALLET. I was almost out of gas, had no cash, and was too far from home and my parents' house to get to either without more gas. I used my Starbucks app on my phone to get food for our lunch, and luckily was close enough to make it to a branch of my bank. Even though I had a picture of my driver's license and I verified my account number and address... they wouldn't let me withdraw cash at first. Until I started sobbing and told them I couldn't make it home without money for gas. They finally let me withdraw just enough for gas to make it to my destination. Which was awesome. But also meant I had to lug my two toddlers into the gas station to pay at the counter with cash and then run back out and pump my gas. So please learn from my mistake and NEVER LEAVE YOUR PURSE AT HOME on a road trip.
Mistake #2. Not having proof of birth date for an infant on a flight.
I had flown several times with babies and toddlers, and Delta had never required proof of birthdate. So when I flew Southwest with my 6 month old, I didn't have anything and they almost wouldn't let us board (we were out of state, so I didn't have anywhere else to go or any way to get access to her birth certificate). I ended up crying (again!) and begging a manager to let me fly with my 6 month old after I showed her a picture on my phone- when my baby was QUITE OBVIOUSLY under age 2. I learned to always check the specific airline for their policies, and don't assume anything.
Mistake #3. Getting on the plane first when they called for family boarding.
Unless you're on an airline that allows you to choose your own seats, and you're trying to get specific seats, do not board the plane first with babies and toddlers when they call for family boarding. It's just a smaller place for toddlers to sit cooped up for a long time. At least they can run around in the terminal. I always boarded last so we didn't have to sit in the tiny airplane seats as long. Also, I recommend straight flights whenever you can, because I have had terrible experience with layovers. The amount of times I've missed layovers for various reasons or I've even been stuck overnight at a layover location due to weather issues... would be extremely stressful with babies and toddlers. I've also had luggage not make it through the layover. Direct flights are a good idea when flying with babies and toddlers.
Mistake #4. Driving in a hurricane or tropical storm. I have driven on road trips by myself with two toddlers through BOTH a tropical storm AND a hurricane, with rain so hard I couldn't see an inch in front of me. It was terrifying, and when you're on the interstate with nowhere to pull off, it's even scarier. Now, I always check the weather ahead of time and plan my road trips according to the weather.
Mistake #5. Being too rigid with schedule and letting it stress me out. I remember a family beach trip with our 15 month old, and I was SO rigid with his schedule, that I stressed out when we were out late one night at dinner after his bedtime. He was completely fine, and we made up for the lost sleep the next day and he got right back on track. It's important to stick to the schedule as much as you can, but also, sometimes it's ok to loosen up and be flexible every now and then, and let your kids stay up a little late or have a late or early nap, when you're on vacation. Some kids handle it just fine. If your child doesn't handle it well, you can always get them back on track the next day.
Mistake $6. Starting new sleep habits that you don't want to continue. I let my 3 year old son sleep in bed with me every night for a week when I was staying at my parents' house for a visit, and when we got home, it took weeks to break that habit. In the future, I always recommend trying as much as possible to keep the sleep environment as close to your home sleep environment as possible and try not to start new sleep habits that you don't want to continue at home.
Those are just SIX of my travel mistakes with my kids. But I can say that I'm proud I at least venture out with my kids and I'm not afraid to fly with them or take long road trips with them, even by myself. We learn from our mistakes, and we have fun! Thankfully, my kids are great travelers. So don't be afraid to venture out with your little ones. Chances are, it will go better than you think, and it will create wonderful memories.
If your child does get off track with their sleep after a trip, it should only take a couple of days to get them back on track once you get home, so don't stress about it. If you want help, I have a Sleep and Travel Guide that gives tips for traveling and getting good sleep for airplane rides, road trips, beach trips, and a list of my top 10 products for baby and toddler travel. And I also offer a 30 minute consultation before your trip to help you talk through and schedule or sleep challenges you might face on your trip, or tips for getting back on track after the trip!
Do you have any travel stories or mistakes to share? If so, drop them in the comments.
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Pediatric Sleep Consultant