Jan 22nd
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My Toddlers & Me

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    My Toddlers & Me
On the Road with Jennifer and her toddlers, Dakota and Piper --

    The alarm went off at 4:30 am and jolted me awake. I kissed the cat and my husband, who both share the same side of the bed. I gathered the courage to wake our 2 year old son, Dakota, and our 10-month-old daughter, Piper.
    You see, the two children and I were about to embark on a journey together that labeled me as crazy, brave, heroic and downright out of my mind, according to those that know and love me. My husband, Rory, the voice of reason and logic, had suggested that I make the trip solo because he thought traveling with two small children would surely result in some historic disaster. He also re-assured me, however, that if taking both children was really important to me then he believed that I probably could pull it off without so much as a stain on my shirt or a hair out of place.
    As I finished dressing Piper, Rory asked what he could do to help. “It would be super if you would help Dakota get dressed and ready for his big airplane adventure,” I replied. As I busied myself with other details, our 2-year-old slowly took on the appearance of a toddler ready for the day.
    We loaded our 53 lb. suitcase, 27 lb. carry on, collapsible stroller, two car seats, two children and ourselves into the car and headed for the Pocatello, Idaho airport. I thought about my next several hours of travel. After unloading our traveling circus, we checked our baggage through. As if by cue, the security wand detected something undesirable in the specifically packed suitcase the three of us were sharing. It got opened and rummaged through, though nothing illegal or damaging was found. We passed inspection, said our teary goodbyes, and set out to begin the first leg of our journey to the East Coast.
    Piper was asleep in my arms before we taxied to the runway. Dakota was so excited that he managed his own seat belt having no thoughts of misbehavior. The flight from Pocatello to Salt Lake City, Utah was uneventful, just what I'd expected.
    We passed away 2 hours at the Salt Lake City airport before the beeping and flashing lights of security were set off by Dakota walking through the detector.    
    Once again, the three of us were ushered to the side where we had to remove our shoes and one by one pass the wand test. This time no one demanded that I remove a child's diaper, so I thanked the woman that cleared us and I boarded a second plane with my 2 small children.
    Again, 10-month-old Piper was asleep before we were in the air. Two-year-old Dakota was enthralled with his new Leap Pad so the first hour of our flight was quiet and relaxing. Once Piper woke up and the novelty of a new learning tool wore off for Dakota, it was time for snacks and a movie. Both children did exceptionally well during the 4-hour flight to Philadelphia. I walked off the plane with two happy kids and thoughts of success floating between thoughts of a glass of wine, a hot bath, and a soft bed. We were exhausted but we had pulled it off without a hitch: no leaky diapers, no potty accidents, no tears, and no historic disaster! I rented a car and we drove from the airport to Seaford, Delaware, where my mom lives.
     We spent nine days with my mother and her boyfriend, both of whom the kids adore. The five of us drove 3000 miles round-trip to and from Orlando, Florida to take part in my brother's wedding. We also enjoyed a quick weekend in Orlando with my dad, his wife, and my older sister. During this time we also survived the three new teeth, an ear infection, and a quick trip with dad to Atlanta to visit old friends. Then my tiny but mighty travel companions and I went through another bout with airport security and boarded the aircraft that would take us on another airplane adventure, this time back home.
    The flights west going back home to Idaho were just as successful as our flights east to Grandma's. Dakota and Piper entertained themselves and the forgiving folks surrounding us. We managed each plane transfer with the offered help by kind strangers.
    Dakota and Piper and I enjoyed our time in the sky with no tears, no fussing, and with delightful manners. Once we landed in Pocatello and got our feet back on solid ground, Dakota ran to his daddy yelling," Daddy, you missed me! Daddy, you missed me!"
    While we're glad to be home, we're looking forward to our next big airplane adventure. It's to a location that's yet undecided, and booked for dates unknown. Because we planned and packed accordingly, we now know how easy travel with small children can be.  
Tips for traveling with toddlers
•  Stay calm and patient--toddlers will take their cue from you.

•  Pack several new toys, books, and learning tools. Bring out a new one frequently to engage and hold the interest of your child.

•  Bring their favorite snacks and drinks. It’s cheaper than buying them on the go, and the familiar food will ensure a satisfied child.

•  Don’t leave home without your child’s special lovey blanket or stuffed animal. My daughter is so attached to her teddy that I have two of them – one that stays with her, and one that’s packed. If she loses the teddy, I have a replacement

•  Talk with your child about the planned trip. Let them know what to expect on your travels.

•  Outline your travel rules, and behaviors that will be acceptable.

•  Know your travel itinerary and plan for delays, detours, and diaper changes.

•  Dress everyone in comfortable clothing. I will dress the toddlers in pajamas if we’re traveling at night. It’s a good reminder that sleep is expected.

•  Pack bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups. Encourage your child to drink during take-off and landings. You could also nurse your infant during these times, this helps with ear discomfort.

•  Remember your manners as an adult with travel personnel and other travelers. Your children will follow your example.

•  Accept help when offered, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Many airlines will provide a driver and cart for connecting flights. Arrange for this help prior to your travel dates.

•  Use a stroller with a basket underneath. You can keep this with you until you board the plane. The crew will then store it and have it waiting for you at your destination.

•  When traveling by car, stop frequently for potty breaks and leg stretches. Following my children’s cues, we stop every three hours to run and play outside for about 15 minutes.

-- Jennifer Erchul is a freelance writer whose focus is on family and travel. She lives in Idaho with her husband, children, cat and dog. Her work's been featured in several family magazines and her E-Guide, "29 Ways to Say I Love You", will be available soon.


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