In March we took back to back trips to see family. The first one was to Reno (via plane) and the second one was to Chattanooga (via car). We hadn’t flown with Gerrit since he was 3 months old. Needless to say, I was worried about it! So I thought I would blog about what worked for us, what went poorly, and what I would have done differently.
First up was our trip to Reno! I was very apprehensive about this trip, despite Andrew telling me I had to just relax. He likes to remind me that “we can’t just stay at home forever.” I am horrible about worrying things to death before they even happen.
I packed for Reno without a list. That’s a big deal for me! I think as Gerrit gets older, there are fewer things to pack, and obviously space is limited with air travel. And Andrew always tells me that “if we forget something, we can buy it there.” And it’s true… there are few things that we pack that can’t easily be purchased at our destination. So that’s #1: If you forget something, you can almost always buy it at your destination!
Thankfully we had an afternoon flight, so there was no major rushing around the day of our trip. We had to drive to Raleigh for our flight, which is about an hour away. I was hoping Gerrit would take a little nap, and he did… 15 minutes before we got to the airport. So typical of him, haha. He was awesome for everything leading up to the flight though: taking the shuttle to the airport, standing in line, going through security… anytime there’s a lot going on, Gerrit just wants to sit and watch everything and everyone.
Andrew is adamant about safety, especially on planes, so Gerrit had his own seat on the flight so he could use his car seat.
We tried to keep him entertained in there as long as he could, but he wanted to get out, so Andrew and I switched off holding him in our laps for most of the flight. We brought quite a few books to entertain him, since he usually likes books more than toys. My #2: Bring things they like! They worked for awhile, but a 5 hour flight is REALLY long for a 1-year-old. He wanted to nurse on and off, which wasn’t a big deal when he was a newborn. But at 16 months? Either his head or his feet were sticking out in the aisle, so we sat pretty scrunched up most of the time.
We had a layover in Vegas, I think, which was great for Gerrit to stretch his legs. Being in such a confined spot was hard for all of us! The last flight was short, and Gerrit slept for about 45 minutes of it. By the time we arrived in Reno, it was about 7pm there… which was 10pm back home. So Gerrit was going on about an hour total of sleep, poor kid.
You’d think that minimal sleep would mean more sleep at night, but that’s not how Gerrit rolls. That first night in Reno he only got 8-1/2 hours of sleep. We tried to keep him on a consistent schedule, but I really feel like any major disturbance for Gerrit shows up in his sleep. We did our best to do #3: Try to replicate home for sleep. We packed sleep sacks, our sound machine, a night light, his blankets, and Lamby. I don’t know if it’s just a different location or if he truly hates the Pack N Play, but sleep was still crap while we were in Reno. Maybe all the stuff we packed would have been enough to help the average kid, which is why I recommend trying to replicate home.Our flight back to North Carolina was early in the morning. Gerrit and I had had a particularly bad night with minimal sleep the night before, but he did sleep for a bit in the guest room bed while Andrew & I packed up. It was a long day though. My exhaustion did not make me a very happy traveler. I was literally falling asleep while reading books to Gerrit on the plane! I think he took two 45 minute naps all day (one of them being in the car on the way home from the airport). We had a really rough night that night too. This is why I hate traveling! I love seeing family & friends; I love having fun with them. I hate that it affects Gerrit’s sleep so much.
So the next day, I did a bunch of laundry, then we repacked our suitcases for our road trip to Tennessee! The thing I like about road trips over plane trips is 1) flexibility with time, 2) no limits on what you can pack (you know… within reason!), and 3) you can stop as much as you want! But car trips are l-o-o-o-o-n-g. I usually end up in the backseat with Gerrit at some point to entertain him, so we pack a lot of books! Toys are great, but there’s only so much a kid can do in a car seat. I spent most of my time entertaining Gerrit with books and songs. I was SO ready to arrive at our destination.
So one of the biggest perks for us at the house my parents rented was that my little family got the master bedroom. And it had a king size bed. If you have never shared the bed with your toddler, you won’t really appreciate the space in a king size bed. But with Gerrit sleeping so poorly, I opted to bring him to bed with me when he just wouldn’t settle back to sleep in the Pack n Play. King size bed = enough space for us all!! I actually got some sleep with Gerrit cuddled up next to me. So here’s #4: If you tend to bed share, make sure you get a king size bed! It made nights so much easier for me, even when Gerrit didn’t want to sleep.
#5: Try to keep to your child’s normal schedule. When we were in Reno, this was tricky, because there was a 3 hour time difference. But Chattanooga was the same time zone as us, so that made it a bit easier to stick to our normal time frame for things.
It didn’t always work for us. For example, Gerrit napped on the way home from church on Easter, and he wouldn’t go down for an additional nap because of that. We also left the zoo early when we went with my family, hoping to get back to the house for Gerrit’s nap.
Unfortunately, he fell asleep in the car for 45 minutes and, once again, wouldn’t go down for an additional nap. Ugh… car naps! But a short nap meant that he had a good stretch of sleep first thing that night, so that was nice!
The trip back to North Carolina was really pretty: so many flowers and trees in bloom!
Gerrit took a good hour-and-a-half nap on the way home, but I still had a long afternoon of trying to entertain him in the car. I don’t feel like Gerrit eats like the average toddler (he doesn’t eat a lot and likes to nurse frequently), so do what you want with my #6: Try to keep his/her belly happy. For me, that meant nursing Gerrit while we drove. It’s kind of uncomfortable for me (you know, leaning over the car seat), but it keeps him happy and assures me that he’s getting something in his stomach. We tried Cracker Barrel (no luck with dinner) and Jimmy John’s (I think he ate a tiny bit), but Gerrit is just not a good eater, especially when we’re traveling. My recommendation would be to have favorite snacks packed and ready, and give them a cup of water to have available.
When we got home, we had a rough night! Gerrit fell asleep for 45 minutes in the car, and after we got home we hurried him through a bath and our normal bedtime routine. He had almost a 4-hour stretch to start, but lots of wakings after that. He had another rough night following that, but then settled back into a 3-4 wakings a night trend (which was good at the time).
What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had just relaxed and been able to “go with the flow” a bit more. I get so worked up about Gerrit’s sleep that I miss out on fun things. I will always look back and wish I had not obsessed over this or that so much though. That just seems to be part of my personality, and it’s something I will probably always have to work on.
So good luck to you if you plan on traveling with your toddler. For us it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but traveling with kids never seems to be easy. I feel like it gets a bit easier as Gerrit gets older, but it’s never my favorite thing to do. It certainly hasn’t kept us from traveling all over and seeing family & friends though!🙂