Our family had been planning a family reunion/vacation for months now. Finally, it all came together last month. It was wonderful. However, traveling with a toddler can present its challenges.
My first concern in getting prepared for our trip was finding a car seat that would work on the airplane for my daughter. She is three years old, so she had her own seat on the airplane. It was really frustrating to learn that American airline companies and European airline companies have different rules and regulations as to restraints for toddlers on the airplane. While I realize that a car seat wasn’t going to do much if our plane was to crash, I was more concerned about turbulence. I am a nervous flyer and wanted to have all of my bases covered.
I was also concerned with finding a restraint to use in the rental cars we’d be using in Portugal. I didn’t like the idea of carrying her full sized car seat on each of our layovers¬†and toting it around everywhere we went. I was really surprised how limited the options were.
I was able to finally find a small seat that would work on the airplane (European airlines) and in the rental cars. It is a small seat with a 5 point harness that had a place for the straps from a seat belt to weave through to hold it in place. It worked well, even though it wasn’t the most comfortable ride for my daughter. The back is rather stiff so she sort of looked and felt as if she was in a straight jacket. But it served its purpose¬†and weighed under 4 lbs so it was quite easy to carry around.
My other main concern in traveling was how my daughter would react to being on the airplane for so long. She has never been a child to just sit on her bottom and be still for a long time. She has lots of energy and she is always getting into something. We had three layovers including a 7-hour layover in London. I knew she would be tired, cranky and I was trying hard to come up with ideas to keep her calm.
Now that vacation is over with I can look back and say I did spend too much of my time worrying, and not enough just trusting in her. She exceeded my highest expectations. She loved being on the airplane and looking out the window at the clouds. She fell asleep more than once against the window with her face pressed to the glass. She felt like a big kid when the food would come and we got to eat in our chair. I had packed tons of games, books, stickers…you name it! I hardly needed any of it, though. I did pack Hyland’s Calms Forte to help her rest or for those moments when it all became too much. I didn’t use it nearly as much as I thought. I ended up using it for myself more than my daughter. We used it mainly to adjust to the time changes so that we could rest and adjust faster. It was just enough to help my mind stop racing and get some rest at a time when it wasn’t normal for me to sleep.
Overall, the airplane crew during all of our flights were very accommodating. The small TV and headsets did entertain my daughter for large periods of time. It was much easier traveling with her than I originally thought. Now we’re planning a road trip for October, let’s see if it’s this easy.