Another long trip from Hawaii to the mainland. First to the Bay, then a drive to Lake Tahoe. Another flight to Seattle, and then back home to Hawaii. Our son has become such an experienced traveler. I have heard not to travel with kids, that it is difficult for them. Actually, it doesn't seem to faze our son. It is my husband and I that appear worse for the wear. Sometimes we get less sleep staying in an unfamiliar bed. We are hot and sweaty from hauling many bags around. We have come to the conclusion based on our 9 (!) bags from this past trip, that somehow, someway, our packing strategy & our bag count has to change. We are currently traveling with two more bags than we took for our three month excursion through Italy. With five more bags than our joint trip round the world in 2003. Granted, a toddler needs many more items to keep them entertained than travel sans children, or even travel with infant. With infant, you need diapers, wipes, a rattle and possibly a monitor and you're good. With a toddler, you still need the diapers and wipes, but now you also need a ton of food and snacks, books, the trusty blankie or in our case 'wolfie' (the stuffed wolf Bodhi sleeps with), several key books, a few toys, an ipod and speaker, a video player... I could go on, but we realized between my husband and I, we bring about a full bag for each of us, the other 7 seem to all be essentials for Bodhi.
So...now I realize that the real deterrent to travel with children is the sheer volume of items that you need for them to be comfortable and entertained. We are going to go through some serious inventory work and some downsizing, much like corporate America has been assessing their work force and productivity. What items can we live without? What items are duplicates? What items can we possibly replace with newer more efficient (or smaller) versions?
We recently received a tiny Monster iClarity bluetooth speaker as a gift. This is perfect, because it is a wireless speaker, small and perfect for travel because you can 'stream' music from your computer, ipad or iphone = perfect travel device. No need for additional ipod used solely as a nighttime wave machine. Speaking of technology, the ipad has been the greatest travel invention of our time. OK, we still bring 'real books' along too, but we also have a virtual library of books, apps, videos, and hours of plane ride entertainment of one small device. It has easily been the best purchase and best travel device for our son. At first, I admit, I thought it was indulgent for a two year old to play with such a pricey machine. I thought it was overkill. After several long flights from Hawaii to the mainland, I can tell you that was some of the best money we spent, letting him have our old ipad, buying a new one for ourselves. Our two year old is blissfully entertained and able to sit in his car seat on the airplane for several hours without fussing. And this is the same child who refuses to sit in a stroller or sit still for more than several seconds: always, always on the move. Climbing, jumping, running, swimming, hiking, bouncing balls, moving from toy to toy, into everything and anything. This same child can be mesmerized by an Elmo app for an hour. AND it has taught him the alphabet, how to trace letters, and countless words. Pretty incredible stuff. This admitted techno-phobe is now a complete convert to the amazing world of the ipad.
But I digress...other things that we do to make travel easier are to always travel with small detergent packets, for washing on the go. I recommend if traveling with children to get a few items that are synthetic fibers (i.e. a fleece sweatshirt, instead of cotton) and that way, you can wash and easily drop it when it gets inevitably dirty on first wear. The amount of clothing you need to pack for a small child is ridiculous when you consider during half of their meals they spill something, they are still occasionally waking soaking wet from sleep, and jumping in mud puddles or climbing trees. They get dirty. It's best to have clothes you can wash and re-wear. We try to bring toys that have multiple functions or can provide different forms of entertainment. I like flashcards, and crayons or those invisible markers. We usually bring a soft ball, some type of bath or water toy, and a truck or train. Nothing annoyingly loud with batteries for the airplane. I like to bring toys that don't have small parts, and not ones that are favorites...ones that are dispensable, or at least can be easily replaced. I don't like to have to worry about finding small pieces or leaving something behind that will cause tears. Less travel stress = happier momma.
The essentials for me (to travel with less stress) are the sleep routine items. For us, that means 2 books, Wolfie his stuffed wolf, alternative milk, (soy or rice if we don't think we can get it where we are going), and his wave music that we put on when he sleeps. That way, he feels a sense of home no matter where we are. This seems to be a key component to our success with traveling. When Bodhi was younger, we traveled everywhere with our own crib. We literally hauled an extra bag that was his travel crib. He slept so much better that way than when we tried various cribs in different hotels. You know, they smell different, the sheets are different...you can't blame him really. I reasoned, better to have his own crib, even if we set that bed in a different place every night, he has a comfort, a piece of home. Like the calm in the center of a storm, if you provide an anchor for children to feel secure, than I think they have no problem adjusting to external fluctuations of time and place. Plus, it made us more flexible to stay in pensions, rental houses and other places where sometimes cribs are not available. Now that he's older, he does OK sleeping on other beds and cribs as long as we are with him and he has his bedtime routine. And when your child/infant sleeps better on a trip, I don't think I have to tell you how much better that is for everyone... to us, it's the most important thing of all when traveling with your child, to bring the items they need to sleep well.