Ok, maybe I’m bragging … but our daughter has been to 27 countries in 6 years. Considering we only have one child, this is fairly easy for us to accomplish as a team. However, I see plenty of 2, 3 and 4-kid European families doing the exact same thing. I guess we’ve gone native, and so can you.
Friends ask me, “How do you travel with a little one with ease?” The thing is, you don’t. The good news is: travel is a finite time, two hours in an airport plus one or more hours on a plane. Travel can be painful; I get that. Travel between points A and B isn’t pretty with a little one, even the easiest of little ones. But, you will survive; I promise. You will never see the people who give you the stink eye about your whining child again — if you do, treat them to an ice cream for their trouble. But really, who cares what others think? Sitting on the plane in silence is B-O-R-I-N-G. Giggling, whining, silly, crazy kids spice it up, or so I’ve convinced myself.
We’ve been at this gig for five years now: living in the EU and traveling with a little one the entire time. I don’t have a method, per se. I have a series of tricks I’ve used to manage between 18-month-olds and 3-year-olds. Here’s my list of tricks:
The iPad can be your BEST friend. I am not a fan of electronic babysitting, but all bets are off when it comes to traveling. We loaded television shows; she’d watch a show for 20 minutes, play, then watch another. Be sure to get a set of headphones, the type that allows you to regulate the amount of sound, and test beforehand; you don’t want little ear drums blown out! Kidz Gear makes inexpensive headphones with decreased output for children.
Load books on the iPad. I loved being able to read to our daughter via the Kindle app on the iPad. No more hauling around a ton of books. My back thanked me.
In the same vein of not caring what people think, load music onto that iPad. Why? Because an impromptu dance party in the airport or plane is always a good idea. Our daughter danced her way through many an airport, as did I. Remember, you probably won’t see these people again, and they’ll appreciate the soothing sounds of Katy Perry over wailing.
Get jumbo crayons. The regular ones tend to break easily, and nothing causes a tantrum like a broken crayon. Bring both coloring books and scrap paper. I taught our daughter tic-tac-toe as we flew to the U.S. one year. And made paper dolls. All with nothing more than crayons and paper. You can also preprint paper doll templates online; I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to these.
Ball of yarn
Bring a ball of yarn. Jacob’s ladder, friendship bracelets and teaching kids to tie shoes can all be done with yarn. Jacob’s ladder ends up being 45-60 minutes of family fun. The flight attendants will have something capable of clipping the string for you. You can also use the string to hang paper dolls on the seat back in front of you. Or the game I dread: guess how much string it takes to get around Mommy’s midsection. Yay me.
Buy four times the snacks you expect you’ll need. I know this sounds like I’m overdoing it, but your destination might not have the snacks your children prefer. Quite frankly, they’re putting up with being on a plane/in a new bed/with all new sights; the least Mom or Dad can do is haul their favorite comfort foods. Snacks have proved critical during hop-on/hop-off tours and long car rides between locations.
All-in-one blanks and pillow
Finally, all-in-one blanket and pillow. Airlines don’t always hand out pillows and blankets, and you never know when a nap is going to happen.
I don’t have this down to a science. It’s a work in progress.