Well that was an unexpected month between posts. It’s not my fault. Life was happening. Life!
About a week after my last post, I was settling down for a scheduled video chat with Adam. We have to schedule them for the middle of the night in Spain because he is basically sharing one wi-fi connection with 50 dudes, and he only has enough bandwidth to FaceTime if everyone is sleeping. So I am sitting down and he calls me on the phone instead, and asks if I had been outside, because he ordered something and it was supposed to come to the house that day. So I go to the front door to check and immediately scream and curse and then ugly cry because my husband is standing there.
Dudes, it had only been like four weeks since I had seen him. And things weren’t awful. August and I were settled into a routine that was working. But that day during nap time, I got so sad about just missing Adam. It was such a perfect time for him to come home. I straight up sobbed. It feels really nice to love my husband. And August was SO happy. He was having a tantrum when Adam came in, and when he turned around and saw his Daddy, the tears stopped immediately and he got the biggest smile. I’m going to remember this surprise forever.
Anyways, he was home for two wonderful weeks, and now he is back in Spain. And I am back in the solo-parenting mode enough that things are just kind of flowing now. And August is sleeping like a real person again (praise all the lords) so I have things like free time! Hot damn. I missed that shit.
And so, I promised a post on what worked and didn’t while traveling overseas with a toddler. Here is that post. Merry Happy!
For the Actual Travel Part
Getting from Maryland to Rota is a long, long bitch of a trip. I’m still not entirely sure how long the entire journey was. But it included three flights, one of which was eight hours and over an ocean, and a couple hours on a bus.
I don’t remember how I found out this existed, but dammit if Melissa & Doug didn’t nail this one. It’s a coloring book, but you only use that water pen (that conveniently can be stored in that pocket on the front cover) instead of markers or crayons or other shit your kid would normally use to graffiti themselves and their surroundings. You just put some water in the pen and when the page gets wet, the colors in the pictures appear. Guys, seriously. This thing is so great. It kept August entertained so often. The pages dry and the color goes away, so you can use it again and again. We have this one, and another with numbers. Another plus? My kid wants to experience the entire world through taste, and is constantly shoving things in his mouth. I don’t have to give a shit if he is slobbering all over this pen because it’s just water. Genius. GENIUS.
We have a few sets of flashcards by Mudpuppy. I really like them because they’re sturdy, they’re on a ring so you’re not going to lose them or lose yourself in a sea of flashcards, they travel well, and they’re cute as hell. We brought the ABC set and the numbers set with us. August is obsessed with letters. Obsessed. I especially liked these because I could hook them to the stroller so August could have access to them and I knew they weren’t going to eat the dirt while I ran through the airport. Mudpuppy makes a bunch of great sets. I wish I had known they made English/Spanish and Spanish/English sets, because I would have gotten them for me and made my life easier by being able to ask for a fork instead of making a stabby mime motion and looking like a serial killer.
Yes, the little cutesy backpacks in the kid section of the store are adorable and have the annoying cartoon they love on them and they’re small enough for them to actually carry them and all but NO. Step away from the impractical luggage. You aren’t going to give a rat’s ass how cute that little backpack is when you are struggling to jam all the shit your kid needs for a flight into this sucker, Tetris-style, while the flight attendant with the shitty attitude is staring you down because she asked you twice already to stow all that crap for landing AND DAMMIT YOU’RE TRYING. And just an FYI.. Your kid ain’t carrying shit. Getting tiny luggage because you think your kid will help you and pull their own weight is a fantasy, my friend. Snap out of it. Kids feed on our weakness, and no toddler is going to lessen their chances of you saying “Yes. Fine. FINE.” to a third candy bar at the News Store by lightening your load. You are going to carry that carry-on for your kid, so get one that isn’t covered in glitter or Power Rangers so you can at least hold onto a shred of dignity. And I swear to god, if you even THINK of going near a tiny rolling suitcase, I will backhand you with all my rings on. Backpacks go on your back. They require no hands. You technically need at least six hands to get through the airport with small children. Don’t make your two-armed life feel even more inadequate by needing to use one to pull another suitcase.
I have an old iPod Touch that I kept for August after I got a new one last year. This case has really grown with him and has been great for protecting the iPod itself. But I am mostly including this case to talk about how helpful having the iPod was. I loaded it up with a few episodes of Sesame Street, Super Why, Daniel Tiger, and a couple other ones he loves, plus some age appropriate games and apps. If I needed some extended The Child Is Occupied time, like to eat something or when we were in line for-effing-ever trying to find a new flight home when ours was cancelled, the iPod did the trick. He’s able to navigate it fairly well, and will just go through videos and apps as he chooses. Some apps that have been great for us are..
- Peekaboo Barn
- My First Words- Flashcards by Alligator Apps
- ABC Alphabet Phonics
- Laugh & Learn- Shapes & Colors
- Laugh & Learn Let’s Count Animals
You guys. YOU GUYS. May all the riches shine down on whoever thought of these. I threw a bunch of these in the carry-on, and I can’t tell you how glad I was to have them. Oh, your in-flight meal is PASTA, you say?? Having disposable bibs for that shit show alone was invaluable. August stayed clean-ish while he ate, and I didn’t have to clean it up when he was done. I just tossed that sucker in the trash. I am still patting myself on the back for thinking to get these.
What Didn’t Work
I fell for the cuteness. This is so cute. I thought it would be helpful for keeping August asleep on the plane, since he would be more comfortable. I didn’t factor in that trying to get something around a cranky and over-tired toddler’s neck will only enrage them, no matter how cute the something is. He laid his head on it at one point, but like a normal pillow. He mostly just used me for his pillowing needs. I will be leaving this home in the future.
Also so cute. I brought a DVD player along (which if you do so, load your DVDs into a CD wallet like a a smart person) and I didn’t want to have to bother the whole airplane with the sounds of Elmo. But I also worried about the tiny ears of a tiny human, and I liked that these had a volume control. Alas, August wouldn’t keep them on. The long flights between continents included TVs with videos on demand, and I tried to get him to wear the headphones so he could actually hear Doc McStuffins. August was cool just watching. He wanted nothing to do with the headphones. So never mind on this one, too.
I was at least smart enough to find these at a consignment sale. In theory, these are lovely. Little puzzles! In a case! So travel-friendly! But they slide out of the case really easily, making for fun times scrambling to pickup a bunch of tiny, two-dimensional wooden animals because you pulled it out of that tiny backpack upside-down. Also, we lost the cow piece in Spain. Rest in peace, my friend. So in reality, not travel-friendly aside from the fact that they are small. However, this has found a new home in a basket of toys I keep in the kitchen. While just as annoying because every single day, I am picking up these damn puzzle pieces before the dog can eat them, August gets a lot of use out of something I spent very little cash monies on. So there’s my silver lining.
- Bring comfort items for your tiny human. Blanket, stuffed animal, book, voodoo doll, what have you. Flying with a toddler is stressful for you, and that’s going to rub off on your kid, at least a little bit. Make sure you bring something familiar that they can snuggle when they need a chill pill. And a Valium and mini bottle wouldn’t hurt for you, either.
- Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. That big backpack? Fill that bitch to the brim with snacks. Apples and bananas travel easily and are a welcome source of nutrition in a day that is sure to be filled with questionable “food.” Buying snacks that are already pre-portioned makes life even easier. As soon as you hear the “I’m huuuuuungryyyyyy” whine, you can throw an appropriate amount of food at their facehole and move on with your life. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies are always popular around these parts, but stock up on something your kid loves. It’s a nice treat and can be the tipping point between a shitty mood and a satisfied child.
- Be prepared for popping ears. I was ultra-paranoid that August’s ears weren’t going to pop and that he would be inconsolable for eight god-awful hours. I brought a ton of lollipops, and as soon as the engines started, I shoved one in his mouth. I forgot that it takes like 20 minutes after that for the plane to actually take off, and he was over the lollipop by then and I freaked out because he doesn’t take a pacifier anymore. But then I remembered he could just drink some water and be fine. So I offered him his sippy cup several times throughout takeoff and landing, and never had an issue.
- Get to your gate early, and then party hard. Whenever there was time, I let August run like a mad man. The more energy he got out off the plane, the less he would have on the plane. We stayed close to our bags so no one thought we were terrorists, but I chased him for laps and laps around the seats. We absolutely got some looks because August was excitement-screaming the whole time and laughing his ass off. But I’d rather him do the Sonic the Hedgehog routine before we get on the plane than freakout and explode on it because he has no real way to burn energy once we take off. A few times during the eight-hour flight, I would take him into the aisle and walk the length of the plane a few times with him, and that was enough to keep him relatively calm and happy after our gate marathons.
I’m going to get the big stuff out of the way in one fell swoop. Don’t bring the big stuff. Don’t do it. Leave your Pack n Play at home. Leave the carseat in your car. Leave your giant jogger behind. Get a decent umbrella stroller and rent anything else you need. Adam was able to buy a Pack n Play for fairly cheap on base, and it was cheaper than it would have been to bring the one we have one the plane. Plus, I didn’t have to transport it. August was about 20 months, and we ended up going without a high chair or booster anytime we weren’t in a restaurant, which was most meals. He just sat at the table with us. We had to keep a closer eye on him, but it wasn’t a big deal and he was fine. Unless you are quite sure that you may actually die without the large item you want to bring, leave it at home if it doesn’t fit in a suitcase.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s…
This nightlight is what’s up. We use that giant turtle light guy at home, and August loves it. Gives it kisses and everything. But it’s huge and takes up valuable suitcase real estate. This is essentially the same thing on a smaller scale. It has two light color choices, and stays on for 45 minutes before it shuts itself off, which is great if your kid takes some time to fall asleep. Love this guy. The only thing that could make it better is if it played music, because we had to bring our huge bulky music thing since I couldn’t find something comparable in travel-size. Whoever creates something like this with music gets all my money.
The guy that invented the Pack n Play clearly never had to sleep in one, because those suckers are straight cardboard. These sheets give it a little bit of much needed cushioning. I threw a soft blanket on top to comfy it up a bit more, but it wasn’t totally necessary.
I try to stay somewhat organized when I’m away. It’s hard enough figuring out new surroundings, and having crap thrown everywhere doesn’t do you any favors. Bins like this fold down flat, so they’re super easy to throw in the suitcase. I brought one for toys, and I was so glad that I did because I had a dedicated space for all the little trucks and blocks and figurines and other stuff. This will be a staple whenever we go away for a bit.
So there you go. I hope that if you’re planning on traveling with a small human, that this was at least slightly helpful. Let me know if you end up using anything from this post, or if you have any suggestions because I’d love to hear about them! Good luck, and have an overpriced in-flight cocktail for me.