By Heather Cocks, REDBOOK
The best moment of any trip with the boys is that first night when they are passed out at the hotel and my husband and I crawl into bed and say, "WE MADE IT!" It's how I imagine a football team feels: You game-plan all week, you finally take the field, you scale obstacles to eke out a victory, and then you revel in it while icing your creaky joints. Traveling with one toddler is hardly a picnic; with two, and all the associated baggage, it's like our faces freeze into those famous comedy-tragedy masks. Here are 10 ways to manage:
1. Wheels: The boys would always rather walk, but because their two-second attention spans make it impossible to get anywhere fast-much less in a crowd-turning the airport into a fun ride is the only option. These gizmos strap to your car seat so you can roll your toddler through the airport. Plus, everyone looks at you like you're some kind of genius, which is fun for the ego.
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2. New toys: As a kid, I wasn't ever allowed to see inside my travel bag until the plane had taken off, ensuring that I was too busy riffling through my haul to care that my rear end was going numb from all the sitting. Now we make sure to supplement a comforting old favorite with new books and (silent) toys. That way, when portable electronic devices have to turn off, we can distract the boys from the otherwise-inevitable nuclear meltdown.
3. Shorter flights: Our choices were a five-hour-plus jaunt to Newark and then a 90-minute trip south, or two three-hour flights that connected in Houston. We chose the latter, and it was key: fewer stretches of imprisonment made the boys' moods sunnier, and, conveniently, the hours between "you may turn on your life-altering technology" and "please turn it off and live in Olden Times until we land" are just long enough to screen one of the dudes' favorite movies. Ergo...
4. Technology: You can buy a portable DVD player very, very cheaply. Your psyche will thank you.
5. Be reassuring...to other people: On our last flight, Dylan-in a clingy-with-Daddy phase-saw Kevin running ahead with the car seats, and screamed the whole time we were boarding. I found myself loudly telling "Dylan" (read: the other seated passengers) that it would be okay once he saw Daddy again in thirty seconds, and thus he should feel free to stop shrieking as if I had just carved off his foot with a spoon. Horrified looks turned sympathetic.
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6. Bribery: A seat always gets kicked, simply by virtue of math: car seat + airline seat + someone in front of you reclining = no legroom. Our boys' feet have nowhere else to go. Apologies and lectures help, but if the kickee is really cross, we offer to buy them booze. Never underestimate the power of a free Bloody Mary.
7. Watch those juice cups: Air pressure means you have to unscrew and re-screw the lids of any pre-filled juice cups. Did I remember that? Let's just say it didn't help Liam's thirsty rage when I flipped open his cup and promptly shot magenta berry smoothie straight into his eye.
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8. Spare shirts: See above. Bonus points if you remember one for yourself, double bonus points if you throw in pants, and triple points for carrying empty Ziploc bags that keep wet things away from your electronics. And your wallet.
9. The kindness of strangers: We shared both flights with the world's nicest family. When Dylan and Liam got restless, their boys entertained ours; they found us in the terminal to update us on our flight delays; they helped us lug our car seats, sons, and bags onto the second tiny jet; and, unbidden, they waited while everyone else deplaned to make sure we could disembark without stress. They were, in short, our heroes, the kind of people who make us want to pay it forward somehow and/or give them all our money. They were the reason our anti-perspirants were not severely tested, and I think everyone can be grateful for that. And finally...
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10. It's a comedy: That's what we tell ourselves before, during, and after these little jaunts. Whatever happens, someday it will be funny. Even if it's only to you.
What are your best tips for traveling with toddlers?
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