Recently, my little family had the opportunity to travel to Norway and Sweden for almost two weeks! (Remember all the pictures I -posted here and here and here?) Well after handling almost two full days of travel (and then some long hours in between!) we have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to traveling with a 1.5 year old! I’ve divided these helpful hints into a few posts. First up, what to know before you go! (There’s a lot!)
Part 1: Before You Go
Oh, I could spend hours writing this post. The only time I’ve traveled out of the country was for our Honeymoon to the Bahamas (and would do it again in a heartbeat!) Traveling to Europe was a whole new experience for me, plus we were bringing along a little one! Thankfully, Brian had been before, so he knew a little of what to expect. However, neither of us had spent 12+ hours with a child on an airplane, so we were pretty clueless there. To prepare, I spent hours doing research before we left and picked up a few tricks of the trade on our adventure.
Get your Passports…early!
Our trip was planned fairly quickly so I had to rush to get Ellie’s passport. We got her passport pictures taken at Costco (side note: your child cannot be wearing a white shirt and can’t have any bows in their hair!) I spaced the passport for a few weeks, so I was on crunch time when I finally remembered. Before you head to the post office to apply for a passport, make you call first! The post office I went to didn’t take walk ins, you had to have an appointment and they were booked solid for at least two weeks! I didn’t have two weeks to spare, I already had to expedite the dang thing! The SECOND time, I did my research and went to a post office that took walk-ins. Apparently I didn’t research enough, because it turns out they were closed on a Saturday. The THIRD time (third time’s a charm, right?!) we got there an hour and a half before closing, along with 20 other people. After sitting in line for an hour (and trying to entertain a wiggly toddler!) we left, there was no way we would get in. The FOURTH time, we showed up early, documents in hand, only to find out that Brian had to be there with us. You know, in case I was trying to flee the country with our child. Again, poor research on my part. The FIFTH time we went to the post office (all within one week in case you were wondering), we showed up the minute they opened, were the first ones in line, and it didn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Whew! Talk about an adventure in and of its self! We did come prepared with the document already filled out (you can fill it out online too!) and all necessary documents.
P.S. Don’t forget to change your name on your passport! I learned the hard way when I booked my ticket under my married name, but had to show them my passport with my maiden name! Thankfully I brought our marriage license and birth certificate with us on our trip, but it was still quite a hassle!
Find a Good Flight
Our flight to Europe was split into three flights and it was overnight. While we survived (very well, might I add!) it was rough the next day with jetlag. We preferred our flight home that was during the day much better! Instead of feeling like you missed a whole day with the time difference, it felt like a really long day. Then we got to go home and sleep! We definitely prefer the daytime flights. We chose to fly with Delta, probably because they offered us the cheapest ticked 😉 Little did we know, how enjoyable it would be! We really loved flying Delta/KLM. The flight attendants were super nice and helpful with Ellie, sneakily gave us extra treats and snacks, and didn’t mind as we walked the aisles a few times. Plus, on our long flight home, we ended up getting the long row of 4 seats to ourselves. Heavenly!
We forgot to put our miles on our Skymiles card beforehand, so about a week after our trip, we called Delta and they happily transferred our miles on our cards. We accumulated a lot of miles on that trip, so it will be nice to use them on a flight…hopefully one day soon!
Get your Suitcase Out!
A week before we left, we left our suitcases on our bedroom floor. We started packing early! I planned out my outfits, took out anything that wasn’t necessary, and remembered to pack things that I otherwise would have forgotten! Obviously, not everything could be packed a week in advance. We still had some laundry to do, snacks to pick up, and the toiletries are always packed last! When it came to packing Ellie’s clothes, I packed each of her outfits in big Ziplock bags. We knew we were going to be able to do a load of laundry while we were there, so I didn’t worry too much about packing two weeks worth of clothes. (I don’t even know if she has enough to last her two full weeks! Ha!) The bags were handy because it ensured that I didn’t forget anything. Like socks! I also threw in any hair accessories and a clean diaper so it was all ready for the mornings. We took a few mini trips to Oslo and Sweden while we were in Norway, so having Ellie’s outfits ready to go and packed up again was incredibly handy! I also divided up our outfits between our suitcase and our carry on. I heard too many stories about lost luggage, so I thought it would be safe to have a day or two worth of clothes with us.
What to Pack
As mentioned above, I didn’t pack us 12 days worth of clothes. (Hooray for laundry!) We knew it would be chilly while we were there, so we had to have some extra room for jackets and boots. Besides the normal packing list (clothes, toiletries, etc) here’s a few things that saved us on our trip!
- Movies on the tablet (that don’t require any wifi!) Specifically, Frozen. Ellie loves that show and it kept her entertained on our flights and many car rides. On the plane, our flight had individual TVs in front of our seat loaded with shows, movies, and games. That saved us! We had some child headphones from our last trip that we used for Ellie. She didn’t like them very much on our last flight, so this time we tried to get her used to them beforehand, so she would actually wear them on the plane. It worked!
- Medicine! The month before we left we were so sick. As in, sick for an entire month! We won’t go into any details, but it was awful, miserable, you get the picture. We didn’t want to be sick on our trip, so we took plenty of Vitamin C, Ibuprofen, Cold Medicine, essential oils, etc and some baby Tylenol with us.
- A cheap stroller! I tell everyone that the best $20 we ever spent was on the cheap stroller at Toys ‘R Us. We brought it with us on our trip to Florida, we wanted to be safe and not break our expensive one! Best. Idea. Ever. Its lightweight, folds up easy, and we literally take it everywhere with us when we travel. Ellie loves to ride in it and we hang out backpack/diaper bag on the back and off we go! We don’t have to worry about it getting broken and we check it in at the gate so Ellie can ride in it the entire walk through the airport. (You can invest on a nicer one with a small basket underneath and bigger wheels, like this one, but we couldn’t justify the cost for us. The cheap one works great for our needs! If we didn’t already have a stroller to begin with, we probably would have gone with that one.)
- Entertainment and snacks for your toddler…and YOU! The plane ride can feel super long (it is!) but being prepared saves your sanity! Refer to Part 2 for tips on entertainment for the plane.
- Your camera. Extra memory cards. Your charger. Extra battery. Adapter. Seriously, not even a question. That should be first on your list! 😉
- Travelers Debit Cards. About a week before we left, we set up a Travel Checking Account at our bank. We didn’t want to worry about bringing our debit cards and having all our bank information stolen. Having a traveler’s debit card was perfect! While it was still connected to our bank account for easy transfers, had anybody swiped it, they wouldn’t have access to our banking information.
Whew! The next part I’ll share our tips and tricks for surviving the long airplane ride. I’m actually surprised at how easy the flight ended up being.