Monday, June 23, 2008

Traveling with Toddlers

So we've been thinking a lot lately about our upcoming vacation...actually, a two week trip to visit family, a plane trip cross-country, followed by two 5 hour drives on two consecutive days, and then a plane trip cross-country.

I really try to avoid gaining weight and spending too much money on these trips. The plane tickets are expensive enough (especially now that there are three of us...and we did always buy my son a seat, even under the age of two).

So here are my tips on traveling the frugal-healthy-simple way, with a toddler.

1. Plan ahead. I can't stress this enough. If you have already purchased your tickets, go to the airline's website to check on their policies...from checking bags, to charging for soda (oh yes they are! Thanks USAir!), to checking carseats, to early boarding.

2. If you haven't purchased plane tickets, check the few carriers you usually fly, and figure the cost of the checked bags. Then, when you comparison shop for seats, you'll have the information handy.

3. Drink. Take a refillable water bottle. No, you can't take it through security. But you can fill it once you are through security. There is, of course, the issue at my local water fountains.

4. Food. You'll have to stay away from liquids and gels. So things like applesauce and hummus are probably out, unless you are traveling with a baby. Good, healthy, cheap things to pack include: popcorn, carrots and celery sticks, sandwiches (cheese, PB&J, turkey if not going to sit a long time), apples, oranges, (bananas do NOT travel well), pasta/veggie/bean salads in tupperware, nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, diced fruits. You want to stay away from foods that are too salty or too sweet. Generally I carry a lot of food on the plane...enough for the three of us, plus probably three more.

The same goes for road trips...a small cooler can be a lifesaver, and you don't have the airline restrictions.

5. Entertainment: Even though many of the airlines made the movies free (but started charging for food and drink), they aren't necessarily showing as many. At least not on the flights that I've been on. For a toddler, your best bet is to plan ahead...set aside a few toys a month ahead of time, so that they are "new" for the trip. Or hit up a garage sale or thrift store for new toys. It is good to have books, and DVD's if you are into that (hey, even I am planning to have some Thomas DVD's for this next trip).

Now I'm sure you are much luggage? Well, yes...with food, drink, books, toys, diapers, and a change of might have room for your Ipod after all that, but you won't have time to listen to it anyway, so why bother?

6. Luggage: Be careful of weight restrictions and number of bags. And make sure your bag is labelled. I won't go into the trip I took with my one-year old last year, alone, where I never did get my bag in 5 days. 5 days of talking to a bunch of people in India trying to find my bag...needless to say, if they lose your luggage, save your receipts. I did get reimbursed for the diapers, toothbrush, clothing, underwear, sunscreen, etc.

7. Eating at your destination: This is a tricky one. I try to "go with the flow" as far as this goes...but...I eat pretty healthfully. I don't eat out very often and almost never eat fast food. So, my body can't really handle it. I try to avoid eating out too often with family and friends. I would much rather do the cooking. At a minimum, I try to keep healthy snacks handy like yogurt, fruit, and veggies. That way I don't starve if everyone else is eating hot dogs and french fries.

8. Laundry. To keep your checked bags's just best to assume you can do laundry at your destination. Check with your family, the hotel, etc. I always take a *little* bit too many clothes.

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