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Traveling (6,000 miles) With A Toddler

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Clap, clap, clap your hands for the best little traveler around. Just about 6,000 miles across the entire United States, a lot of the pacific ocean, and hardly a tear out of this little one. I know better than to think that every twenty hour trip will go this smoothly, but I am sure happy this one went so well. At some points I wanted a shoulder to lay my head on, an arm (or two) to carry some of the weight, or an extra seat to rest Marlowe on, but other than that, I don't think it could have gone any better, honestly. (Yes, we riskily opted for the free option of sharing a seat, since she's under two for another month). And I mean, without the help, we still made it... soundly, happily, a wee bit sleepily, and with my biceps slightly more defined. Go team mama &baby. 
At 3 pm, Tuesday afternoon, after a good long nap (for baby-- not mama), we plopped into the car. About half way into the car ride, Marlowe ate a meal of rice and beans (in her carseat). We got to the airport, I plopped Marlowe into a borrowed baby carrier (an Ergo), checked the luggage and carseat, and headed towards our gate. The airport people were kind enough to let us go through the shorter line (for employees), allow me to leave Marlowe in the carrier, and not make a big fuss about all the food and things I had packed into our bag. It was a good start to our long trip. 
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our whole journey was spent looking for planes, buses, the moon, and the letter "M" or "Y".
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We had an isle the first flight, and a nice older man to our right. We spent the whole flight coloring, reading, and playing with a doll magnet set my sister had gifted us that morning. No videos needed whatsoever. We munched on lollipops, I ate the calzones, and Marlowe ate the tofu inside of them. Note to self: next time, don't bother with the calzones, just steam some tofu and peas. The man next to us even drew Elmo and Big Bird for Marlowe, when she handed him the marker. We arrived to our second location (washington, dc) and I opted to put Marlowe back in the carrier, and leave down the stairs, outside the back of the plane. It started to rain, we ran and giggled... and as we climbed up the next flight of stairs, into our second airport, a rainbow appeared. Another good start. We went for a few walks, got some water, ate some snacks, watched some Sesame Street on my phone, and I bought myself a 5$ candy bar, because, yeah, I wanted it (dark chocolate with sea salt, oh so good). We boarded our second flight (a planned window seat), and we were beyond lucky to have one of the persons in our isle move, leaving us with an extra seat for the two of us. Lollipops during take off, more abcs and coloring, more magnets. Whenever we took out a activity, we played, and spent a fair amount of time putting everything away properly (we do this at home too, not only does it make sense, but it worked incredibly well to kill time on the long flights). I kept Marlowe up an hour or two later than her regular bedtime. We watched videos until she was tired. She asked for her bottle. I gave her the option: "bottle or turtles?" she said bottle. I laid her down in the spare seat, with her head in my lap, and handed her a bottle. She slept until our next stop (about three hours).  
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Vegas time was party time.  It was about 1 am in vegas (I think?), and about 4 am our time. She was incredibly sleepy, but not at all cranky. Which was amazing since we had to walk through the whole airport, go through a second security point, and take a train to our next terminal. I charged my phone and computer, she watched Sesame Street while munching on a late, late dinner (more tofu from the inside of the calzones). And then we walked: A LOT. Back and forth through the moving walkway. Up and down. Up and down. Back and forth, for about two hours. We boarded our third plane, and Marlowe started to get a bit restless. I offered her a lot of things, she didn't want much. She was mostly just tired (obviously). We colored some more, took off, and I put on the turtle movie, as soon as it was permitted. Not too long in, she fell asleep, I closed the computer, and I sat in the dark, with my legs and arms completely asleep, underneath a crooked baby. She woke up every once in a while, let out a quiet uncomfortable whine. Each time, I handed her the bottle (now filled with water and pineapple juice, due to lack of milk) or turned back on the turtle movie. I dosed off for about an hour, giving me just the right amount of energy to entertain Marlowe when she woke up again. Because of our later schedule on the planes, the few hours spent roaming the airport at 4 am (our time), and our complete exhaustion, Marlowe fell right into a new schedule, waking up about an hour before landing, about 10 am (our time). I handed her squishy fruit packs, we read more books, stretched our legs for a bathroom break, and worked on more coloring, abcs, and animals, then spent about 20 minutes getting excited for the *bump bump bumps* (landing). It was such a good feeling to know that: not only was it an entirely new day, but we made it: really successfully. We stood up, I gathered our bags, and the sweetest woman thanked me for being a good mother. She told me that teachers would have an easier time and love their jobs a whole lot more, if more mothers were like me. And it made me smile. After 20 hours of traveling, 40 pounds of weight in my arms (child not included), 6,000 miles with a little one in my lap or in my arms, my pants slightly dampened with baby pee, and almost no sleep, it felt really, really good to hear that. 

I'm already starting to plan our return flight back to Florida. I want to try to figure our the best way to get from here to there, with the same, or even less stress, than our arriving flights. The best way, would be to not travel alone, but we don't have that option. Another more tangible option that I am looking into is: a two or three day layover, preferably in the California area. One over night flight back onto the mainland. Three days to regroup and relax. And another overnight flight right into Miami. My legs will not be pleased when I am unable to move for so many hours, with a little one on top of me, but it seems like it might be our easiest and most enjoyable option. If that option doesn't easily work out, well then, that's okay. We already did three planes in 20 hours, by ourselves, once. We can obviously do it again.


A list of our very, very helpful carry on items:
  • a smartphone (for videos during layovers)
  • a computer for videos during flights
  • a baby-carrier (sometimes this was more of a pain to carry around, sometimes it was was INCREDIBLY helpful. I would choose to bring it again.
  • movies. we brought 4, but only watched two (sometimes on repeat)
  • your standard white notepad and washable markers (we worked on colors, spelling, and had fun with animals)
  • magnetic figures
  • some of her favorite small books: Are You My Mother?&My Foodie ABC: A Little Gourmet's Guide
  • stickers
  • handheld food: calzones, chips and dip (well, okay, the chips and dip were more for me), fruit and veggie squishy pack things, lots and lots of lollipops
  • an easily accessible bag filled with all diaper changing necessities. 
  • a stuffed animal (good for comfort, or as a pillow)
  • a comfort item (for Marlowe: almond milk in a bottle)
  • *imagination* 
  • &a smile ;)

What is your must-have travel item for kiddos and babies? Have any recommendations for toys, fun, whatever, for our return flight? Please, please share and advise!


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***large diaper (travel) bag c/o: perry mackin, ergo borrowed from: rosa, M's hair clip c/o: cutiedooty, mama's moccs c/o vintageshoelove, M's moccs: Minnetonka(so handy because she can take them on and off by herself, &they are super comfy) 

18 comments:

  1. I am so impressed with your travel experience alone with a toddler. We also opted for the "free" seat when we just took our son (20 months at the time) to Europe in April. It was an 8 hour flight, so nothing compared to yours, but still I was a wreck preparing for it. He surprised us, of course, by being amazing. I think the most important thing is nice flight attendants (had this TO Amsterdam, but NOT on the way back...they literally hated children and told us this and made us very uncomfortable for 8+ hours), and nice people on the plane (we luckily got this BOTH ways...esp the Dutch!!)

    Videos and sippy cups got us through our flights. Along with his favorite toy (Dinosaur Train). Oh and his Aden & Anais blankies...lifesavers!!

    Enjoy your time in Hawaii!

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  3. Looks like an amazing trip! You are a trooper that's for sure - as is M.

    We only took a flight (with layover) to FL once with P when she was 1. Here's my take on traveling with baby: http://livinglikethekings.com/2012/03/traveling-with-baby/

    and my must haves:
    http://livinglikethekings.com/2012/03/our-favorite-things-the-vacation-edition/

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  4. WOW!That actually is incredible! Have You not felt like a nomad? I am normally loaded with stuff even just going back from town... Brave brave lady!

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  5. Way to go mama and Marlowe! It's amazing what we are capable of doing when we have to do it, isn't it? Relish every moment of your adventure in Hawaii.

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  6. Way to go mama and Marlowe! It's amazing what we're capable of doing when we have to do it, isn't it? Relish every moment of your adventure in Hawaii.

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  7. That's amazing that you both traveled so well! 20 hours is rough on anyone! Thanks so much for sharing the items that helped you make it work.

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  8. Wow! I'm so impressed! When we flew from the UK to L.A then on to New Zealand I had a one year old and was 6 months preg but I had an army of help in the way of hubs, in-laws, mega helpful cabin crew..... but I was still mega stressed out mummy! You're amazing & chilled & happy - obviously the key to such successful parenting! Go mama! xx

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  9. I love a successful toddler travel story! My daughter will be 2 in December and has pleasantly surprised me on most of our trips (including one to Maui). Your tips are great. We haven't had to use videos yet, but that's definitely been a backup option. Little mirrors are fun, or even a trip to the bathroom when there's no line for a change of scenery and making funny faces in the mirror. One thing I'm going to try next time is bringing a roll of masking tape - cheaper than stickers, comes in colors/prints now, fun to put on things without leaving a mark, bunch up, whatever.

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  10. you have one extraordinary toddler! i am so glad it went smoothly for you girls

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  11. Congratulations on an awesome trip - that's no small feat!

    I just did a 6 hour each way road trip with my just-turned 2 year old little lady (which is peanuts compared to yours!) but our experience has been that we're always pleasantly surprised with how well she does with traveling (even with the 36 hours we did to get to the Middle East).

    Now that she's older and more active than ever I wanted to be really prepared this time around. I put together a 3-in-1 travel board (chalk board, felt board, and magnet board all in one) as well as a couple of quiet magnetic sensory bottles, and they were all a huge hit. I also picked up a couple of mess-free art activities which were wonderful to have also. I posted about them here if you want to take a look for your way home:

    http://mamapapabubba.com/2012/08/23/quiet-road-trip-activities-for-little-ones/

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  12. WOW great job Drea and great job Marlowe!!! I seriously could not imagine traveling alone with a toddler flying. You are truly amazing!! I am not sure how my little one would do with flying although she did manage to do amazing while on a VERY long car trip that included 3 days of traveling 7-8hrs each day. We had 3 days of not being in the car then we packed back up and did it again. Books were the key for us, new books, old books, some coloring books and LOTS of animated reading! :-)

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  13. I'm not sure how much it costs, but someone was telling me about this http://nannyintheclouds.com/ As someone that's worked as a nanny and a babysitter, I'm bummed I didn't know about it sooner!! An extra set of hands from someone that would be there on the flight anyways, pretty cool!

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  14. We fly a lot, recently did our first trip with my 3-year-old and my 4-month-old. The best suggestion I've gotten so far is to find some cheap (or borrowed) toys (play-doh, etch-a-sketch, little dolls, play spoons and plates, etc. - age appropriate stuff of course) and fill a bag with them for the plane ride. Whenever our 3-year-old started to get antsy, we would pull a new toy out of the bag to distract her with (or else a snack, if we thought she was hungry). This is good not only for the flight itself, but in anticipation of traveling because she knows she's going to get new toys on the plane! And, obviously, if they are cheap toys, you can get rid of them or give them to someone else without feeling too badly about it, so you're not too weighed down!

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  15. Wow, what a courageous mom you are! and bravo to Marlowe for being a sport for the whole trip. I think the lady who complimented you is totally right. You are a good mom, and i think it makes Marlowe 'behave' and have fun during the long travel.

    There was once when my hubby and my then-2 y.o daughter travelled to Belgium just the 2 of them. Total travel time was 22 hrs or so. I was more nervous than him even though i wasnt travelling with them. It turned out there was NO problem at all. My husband said the key is Not to be nervous as a parent, and just have fun and let it roll. And you did just that!

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  16. It may be because I'm hormonal, but I totally teared up when I read the bit about the lady complimenting you. That'd be me. I love telling a mom she's a doing a great job, whether it's my friend or a complete stranger. I've had it said to me on days when I felt otherwise and it really helps.

    Also, I will say that our toddler (2yrs) behaves so much better with the parent she's with the most(me). Once daddy has a day off and we are all together (which, don't get me wrong, I LOVE) it's like something snaps and she realizes things are different and she usually just demands: Mommy play, Mommy sing! Mommy hold me! And my hubs is more than willing to do all those things, but I usually end up being the one that does them (and I love that she wants that from me obviously). Just another perspective. Maybe it'd be easier, but maybe not?

    All I know is that I hate when people proclaim they are super moms, but you're one of the TRUE super moms. Good luck with your next trip!

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  17. This is awesome!!! I can not believe she did so great at 4am (your time!!). I would NEVER fly without our stroller. You can gate check it and load everything up on it, so you don't have to carry anything :)

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  18. you are so cute! I found you via instagram - im a Drea too! :) your lil one is precious too. www.dreawood.com

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