We survived our trip to the great North American continent with our darling 2 year old.
There was laughter. There were tears. There were threats of abandonment.
In a future series of posts, I’ll talk more about the actual holiday, but for now I want to cover traveling with a toddler and what I learned along the way.
Because I’m certifiably insane, we created the world’s worst itinerary for travelling with a small child.
As you saw in my last blog post before the big trip, I was paranoid beyond belief that all the flights and the Ruby-wrangling would send me to an early grave/mental hospital.
The Arsenal of tools I gathered to keep Ruby’s boredom at bay and my sanity intact had some success. The small wrapped toys were a hit. Everytime she behaved like an angel, we gave her a present. Everytime she behaved like the devil, we gave her a present. The only downside to giving her gifts every other hour was that once we were off the plane she continued demanding them. The tablet loaded with kid apps and videos was so amazing. The colouring books and crayons were a waste of space.
Toddlers have an attention span of about 10 minutes max. This means that, in corporate jargon-speak, you have to diversify your entertainment portfolio. One hour of flight time might look like this:
00:00 – Toddler sits in seat and refuses to wear seatbelt, so you distract her with shiny tablet and Peppa Pig episodes
10:00 – Toddler finishes watching two back-to-back episodes of Peppa Pig, gets bored, so you thumb through the SkyMall magazine asking her to name what she sees
10:30 – Toddler names a few things then tries to rip the pages out, so you read her a Thomas book
19:00 – Thomas book finishes and toddler demands snack
21:00 – Toddler finishes snack then drops remaining pretzels on the floor
22:00 – After discreetly shuffling pretzels under seat, you take toddler for walk down the aisles
26:00 – Toddler returns to seat and refuses to wear seatbelt, so you distract her by giving her a wrapped present (match-car)
36:00 – Toddler drops match-car under seat
37:00 – Mum retrieves match-car from under seat and snacks on pretzels also found under seat
40:00 – Toddler takes shoes off
41:00 – Toddler watches two more episodes of Peppa Pig, gets bored, so you sing Itsy-bitsy-spider
44:00 - Mum goes to toilet on pretense of having to pee but really just taking a much needed break
58:00 – Mum returns, dodges questions of concern for prolonged bathroom visit from husband
60:00 – Start all over again
My advice for traveling with tots
After 60 hours of in-flight or in-car travel over a four-week period, I feel qualified enough to offer these very helpful tips for traveling with a toddler. Some of these things we tried on our trip. Some of them are things that, upon reflection, we should’ve tried.
Lower your expectations
This is paramount! Do not sit back and assume your child will be an angel on a 13 hour flight. There is no such thing. Assume they’ll be a holy terror, and you’ll be just fine. For me that meant being as prepared as possible. Run through all the scenarios in your mind. If they do X, I will do Y. Lowering your expectations also means that when they behave for even 5 minutes, your expectations will be exceeded and you can relax.
Pay attention to your child
Man, this one is tough. By far the most exhausting tool in the Arsenal was my undivided attention. I had to pay attention to my child non-stop for 13 hours. I definitely couldn’t make that a regular thing. For those 13 grueling hours, just keep reminding yourself that you are not an autonomous adult who makes their own choices in life. You are a butler.
Check the buggy, check the bags, check the kid. The less you have to worry about when sprinting through the international terminal at LAX, the better. Depending on the size of your child, they can either be checked at the check-in desk or at the oversized baggage area.
I’ll end this post with a triptych of my favourite photos from our trip.