Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sleeping when traveling

Our biggest challenge when traveling is getting enough sleep. There are so many things that interrupt the sleep schedule. Start with flying at odd hours. Add to that schedules that interrupt regular sleeping hours combined with strange sleep environments.Sleeping is difficult for everyone, not just the kids. E is extra-sensitve to her sleep environment. I have never seen any child who has as much difficulty sleeping as she does. I think the bottom line is she just wants to have all the fun she can. She pushes through exhaustion in order to have fun.

There are a few things that have helped E feel more comfortable in strange environments:

After she turned 2 we got this AeroBed Sleep Tight Inflatable Bed for Kids. It has a cozy fleece cover/sheet which is the only texture that  makes her comfortable. Although she can't have her own bed at least she can have the consistency of her own travel bed.  I have fallen asleep in it too when trying to help her fall asleep. It's very comfortable. I've learned from past experience in buying full size air mattresses that the extra cost of the AeroBed brand is worth it. I bought other similar mattresses at half the cost but they were not at all comfortable. On an AeroBed you can really get a good night's sleep. Setup is quick and easy with the included pump. Just plug it in and it's ready within a minute or two.
AeroBed Sleep Tight Inflatable Bed For Kids

Something that has been a HUGE help in getting E to sleep both at home and when traveling is a sound machine. The Brookstone one we have is nice because it operates both on A/C power and on batteries. Power outages do not interrupt our sleep! It also has a locking feature so it doesn't run the batteries down in transit. You can even record your own custom sound on this one.

Brookstone Travel Clock Sound Therapy Machine
 Here is one that is really cute and has great reviews:

Cloud B Gentle Giraffe On the Go Travel Sound Machine

The third item that has until recently been a necessity for E is blackout shades. They are easy to pack and I just throw in a handful of clothespins for easy installation wherever we are. Thankfully she will now stay asleep past dawn if she is really tired, but from ages one to three-and-a-half she simply would not sleep if it wasn't dark. I hope you don't struggle with this problem, but if you do, blackout shades are a life saver.
Eclipse Blackout Panel

Of course a pillow and blanket from home are a tremendous help. I love Pillow Pets for their cuteness, but they really are too big to serve as a comfortable pillow and aren't very convenient for traveling. We pack E's regular toddler pillow in with the AeroBed and bring Lilly the Ladybug with us on the plane. A full-size blanket zips right inside to create a pillow/pet. There is a collar around the neck and we use a Mini Carabiner to attach it to our backpack so it doesn't take up valuable packing space.
Lilly the Ladybug 3-in-one Zoobie Pet

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Packing for onboard the plane---Toddlers

(This post was first published at The Third Boob. Special thanks to them for allowing me to include it here.)

Expect to actively entertain your toddler during the flight. Toddlers have short attention spans and need near-constant engagement to stay happy. If you're lucky your child will sleep for part of the trip. I wasn't lucky, "E" very rarely slept. (Well, I was lucky because she was always very good. But she refused to sleep.) As I advised with packing for infants, packing minimally is not really the best thing. Pack everything you might need but keep it as small and light as possible. Try to keep everything easily accessible so you don't have to search for things when your child is getting impatient.

DVD player, headphones, and blanket = happy toddler...for at least 10 minutes.
Most airlines' inflight policies state that when using devices with audio (DVD players, iPod touch) you are required to use headsets or turn off the volume. Please remember that not everyone wants to listen to toddler shows. Get headsets for your toddler. If he refuses to wear them let him watch the shows with no volume. When he's interested enough in hearing it he will wear the headsets. When "E" first started wearing the headsets she would wear them for about 10 minutes at a time. Then on to the next activity!

What to pack in the backpack:

Toddler change of clothes; Adult change of clothes; 6-10 OVERNIGHT diapers; diaper wipes; changing pad; antibacterial wipes; tissues; quart-size Ziploc bag with: Play-Doh, fever reducing medicine, prescription meds (if needed), hand sanitizer; Orajel swabs; Thermometer; Water Wow Doodle book; Crayola Color Wonder book and markers; stickers; small stuffed animal; Littlest Pet Shop toys; Blanket; Adult sweater; toddler sweater; 4-6 plastic grocery bags (for trash, etc.); iPod touch or DVD player; Headphones for toddler; iPod and ear buds for me; power adapter or back up battery; charger for phone;
 (not pictured: purse or billfold--don't forget them!)
Overnight diapers are a must. Sometimes you are unable to change a diaper when you would like to due to turbulence and the seatbelt sign. Whenever I was unable to change E's diaper in the last hour of the flight her diaper leaked on descent. It must be the change in air pressure. An overnight diaper usually solves the leaking problem.

What to pack in the lunchbox:

Two milk boxes; two juice boxes; cookies; Luna or Balance Bars; lollipops; fruit strips; fruit snacks; M&M's; applesauce; Grammy Sammy; Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches; Cheese sticks; plate; toddler utensils; bib; antibacterial wipes; diaper wipes
The trade off for the convenience of bringing your own milk/juice boxes from home is having to separate those at security and step aside for additional screening on them. I felt it was usually worth it. Otherwise bring a sippy cup to fill with beverages you purchase in the airport. Many airlines do not cater milk on their flights that depart after 10am so plan to provide your own.

If you follow these lists you should have practically everything you need. I usually bring even more food and small toys but probably only end up using half of them. It's always better to pack more than you need than to be in need of something. Again, just keep items small so you can manage your bags and your potentially squirmy toddler.