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Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

As more than 30 million Americans hit the roads (and don't forget about the nearly 30 million in the air), parents across the land are dealing with short attention spans and the occasional meltdown. We opted for the late-night drive routine to get to our Thanksgiving destination. Though weary when we arrived, our toddler made the entire trip scream-free.

travel toys

I did have a new toy ready for her--should the need arrive--and I highly recommend these finds to anyone in need of a compact, imaginative toy. The Sevi Play Farm Puzzle and Play Puzzle Transportation.

These lovingly hand crafted wooden toy sets fit together to form a puzzle. To play, lift them out and set up a farm or a construction site and create a story surrounding the pieces. The 11-piece Sevi farm includes a barn, animals, a working clothes line (so cool!) and lots of other attractive pieces. The 9 piece Sevi transportation set includes a worker, digger machine, garage, helicopter and many other "things that go." Best suited for toddlers 2.5 and up these puzzles make wonderful gifts. While you may not order this in tim
e for Thanksgiving you'll be happy to have this toy for your next holiday road trip. $39.99

Once you've arrived (cocktail anyone?), Freedom Feast has a few ideas to get the family in the proper mood:

  1. Pass out note cards as guests arrive. Have each guest write a reason they are thankful. Read the notes during dinner and guess who wrote each note.
  2. Involve the kids in setting the table. Little artists can create place cards, decorate place mats and collect leaves to make the indoors more festive.
  3. Showcase family strengths. Have a lawyer read the Bill of Rights or a police officer talk about constitutional rights.
  4. Hang a map. Have the family discuss different regions where relatives live and trace the national and international heritage of your clan.

Slings and front carriers are great for travel. Expecting moms are going to need think about how to care for baby post-pregnancy. Slings and marsupial-style baby carriers are ideal for the first few months. I've been testing these out for a year now and have some strong opinions.

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I never really considered myself a "sling gal" prior to my second daughter's birth. The sling always conjured up this earth mother image that didn't work for me. I started to see the light when I stumbled uponSakura Bloom. Their PR rep sent me images of their gorgeous silk fabrics--maybe I was a sling gal. Sigh--it was not to be. Priced over $300, these are for A-listers! Slings would have to wait. I really became a convert when I tested out the Peanut Shell Sling. Stretchy and comfortable this sling is my newborn's top pick of places to hang out. They have cute cotton prints that are anything but matronly. Plus, the price is right $49

Since my husband likes to share the proverbial load, we also have a M1 carrier from Lascal. Most men won't be caught dead wearing a sling, but they'll happily don a carrier like this. The M1 can handle up to 30 lbs and has tremendous lower back support. The anti-bacterial fabric breathes beautifully to keep baby and daddy from getting sweaty. I'll also opt for this one for long walks and I love the fun color combos--black plus bright hues like blue, red and green. All the engineering expertise will run you $130.

I've gone to the experts on this subject. Hana Wolf is the co-founder of Little Jet Set: The site that delivers all things travel to harried parents. Wolf and her partner (Nisha Cordero) are both attorneys who've logged many hours in the air. These expert travelers (and fellow moms) decided to take a break from practicing law to share their knowledge about "the inherent challenges of traveling with children." All their items appeal to the needs of today's stressed family. She's helping us out with "Five Tips for Sane Flying with Kids":

  1. Take advantage of pre-boarding. Unless the airline specifically designates an age limit, 4 and under is acceptable. This gives you the opportunity to get your children settled and their in-flight entertainment set up without the pressure of a building line behind you.
  2. Make sure your child uses the bathroom before boarding, before the plane leaves the gate and once the pilot announces that the plane is starting its initial decent. If you are faced with being stuck on the tarmac, and your child insists that he has to go to the bathroom, advise him that he can't get up, and will instead have to pee into your empty water bottle. My son was so mortified by this prospect, he made it another 20 minutes.
  3. Be sure to pack snacks, or a light meal if you're going to be flying for more than 3 hours. A hungry child is a cranky child.
  4. Make sure your child is comfortable, which means having an extra set of clothes in case of an accident (see Tip 1) or spill, and bringing along a small pillow and blanket. You absolutely do not want to use the airline issued ones. Aside from the fact that they're not soft, it's questionable whether they've been washed.
  5. Bring ample toys, games and books to keep him or her occupied during the flight. Kids ages 3 and up are old enough to tote their own a carry-on, which can then be placed under the seat in front of them giving them easy access to their own stuff. To that end here are her picks:
trunki suitcase

Trunki Ride-On Suitcase: self explanatory (see feature pic) and way cool. $40
Zoobie 3-in-1 Travel Pets:plush toy, blanket and pillow all in one. Pick from 9 an
imals--got to love the hippo. $32
Baby on the Go Meal Set: Portable meal and snack set (all with lids).
Sticker Set Play Scenes:Little boys will go overboard for the pirate book from Mudpuppy with 50 reusable stickers--there are many other themes from which to pick. $12
Piggy Story Art Folio: Drawing pad and crayons put together in an adorable portfolio. $20

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