With TFIL's illness and death, I found myself traveling quite a bit with Thatbaby, on my own. This post becomes a bit of a followup on my "traveling with a baby" earlier post on how to deal with travel when there aren't 2 sources of entertainment and only one person to deal with all the baby "junk." Some tips and tricks to dealing with traveling with a toddler on your own:
1) Pack light. I know, this is something that should hold true no matter what, but it's increasingly difficult when you have to lug baby gear around. The first time I flew alone with Thatbaby I was lucky in that Thatboy flew up first and I knew we'd be joining him later in the week, so I packed all our clothes with him so I only had to fly with a baby and diaper bag. This last time I was not so lucky. Remember to only bring necessities. You can stop at a store when you arrive and pick up things like toiletries, diapers, and wipes. For me, I ditched the idea of bringing a stroller. This is one of those times being a baby-wearing mama is helpful, because anywhere I would feasibly need a stroller, I can wear Thatbaby. And it's much easier to bring a carrier with you than a stroller.
2) Think about how you're going to maneuver around the airport. I can't even tell you how many times I hear about how great a stroller is for the airport. Honestly, I've watched those people with strollers and it looks entirely inconvenient. Sure, they can hold a lot. But I've been behind people in security who have taken 8-10 minutes to unpack the whole thing so it can go through security. Then they have to fold it up while trying to wrangle their children, just to repeat the process in reverse on the other side. On the other hand, I pop my diaper bag on the belt, waltz through the metal detector, get my hands wiped, and I'm good to go. Most of the time while the other family is still getting their things back together. The other stroller argument is that it holds the carseat. But that's just not a good enough reason for an extra piece of equipment for me. Instead, I throw the carseat on my back, baby on the front and I'm still not dealing with anything more inconvenient than a backpack.
Plus, the airlines have been super sweet about taking my gate checked carseat, in its bag, from me as soon as I arrive at the gate. Which means that once we get to the gate, I'm back to just having to deal a baby on my front and a diaper bag.
3) Fly during naptime. This can certainly backfire on you if your child doesn't sleep, but if they do OH MY GOODNESS! What a difference. I have flown with Thatbaby first thing in the morning, I have flown with him right before naptime (so we land and he falls asleep in the car), and I have flown during his naptime. Flying during his naptime meant he slept the entire trip. So I didn't have to worry about toddler tantrums, or him wanting to run up and down the aisles of the plane.
4) If you can afford to, fly first class. Normally this is not something we upgrade too. For an hour flight up to the inlaws, it's just not worth the added expense. But when I was buying a ticket to fly up after TFIL died, it was actually cheaper to fly first class. I asked my online message board buddies if I was a terrible, horrible, no good person for even considering bringing my toddler into first class and they all assured me it would be fine. I was all prepared to tell y'all that it doesn't matter where you fly with a toddler, first class or coach both are going to be difficult experiences, and when flying by yourself you won't get to take advantage of the first class amenities like premium entertainment or free booze. But there are other perks that make it all worthwhile. First of all, there were 2 other babies in first class. Which meant 3 out of the 11 first class passengers were under the age of 2. And that meant that 7 out of those 11 passengers were not going to be bothered by my child. The second thing that made first class such a great idea was the roominess of the seats. It was much easier to get Thatbaby to sleep, when he could curl up beside me, instead of trying to sleep on top of me and the person beside me. And being able to fully recline with my feet up was helpful for that aspect also. And he loved sleeping on the first class pillows! Had he not slept the entire time, we were far enough away from our seatmates that he wouldn't have disturbed them either on my lap or the space in front of my chair. (You can't kick the seat in front of you when your legs don't stretch that far!)
5) Pack a ton of "occupiers." I'm ridiculous with the number of activities I bring along. The ones I've found to be most effective are:
*Color Magic Travel Pack - markers that only mark on special paper, so no worries about your child drawing on the plane, the chairs, other passengers.
*Nesting Dolls - These keep Thatbaby occupied for what seems like a while (although I'm sure it's only minutes - which can seem like an eternity.) He likes to take them apart, stack them, put them back together, etc.
* Magna doodle - along the same lines as the color magic, this gives him a chance to draw without the potential for making a mess.
* Inflatable mini beach ball - because it inflates/deflates it doesn't take up too much room. And it's light and small for a little game of toss or roll. But I've found Thatbaby's favorite activity (which works really well for a plane) is to have me blow it up, and then giving it to him to squeeze all the air out of.
* Food! Thatbaby gets a special smoothie for takeoff (to help with the air pressure) and then I pack all kinds of snackies for him to keep him busy during the flight. There's usually a full container of fruit (berries seem to work best for this purpose), goldfish crackers, teddy grahams, freeze dried bananas, or other special treats that only make their appearance on plane trips.