Traveling with a Mobile Baby

traveling with mobile babyYou’ve seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, right? The goofy Thanksgiving road trip movie with John Candy and Steve Martin? If you haven’t seen it, there’s this scene where the car is careening wrong way on the freeway head-on with semi trucks, and both men are screaming, and Steve Martin looks over to John Candy (who is driving) and imagines him as the devil, laughing maniacally. I feel like Steve Martin almost every time I travel with a mobile toddler.

I’m not a super germaphobe, but once kids start to crawl or walk, they don’t stop. Like ever. Traveling often requires your kid to be stationary for long periods of time, and also involves lots of people and germs and grime. This is a nearly impossible juggling act, one that travelers without kids have no clue about. I’ve picked up a couple things though between being in the trenches myself and learning from friends.

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, I like to have two essential items on hot standby, which are usually the first things I see when I open my bag: baby wipes and bribes. Baby wipes for obvious reasons; your kids will be touching everything and trying to eat everything, and they will get dirty. It’s inevitable. They will spill or wipe things on you. You might even get lucky and get peed or puked on.

The second item, bribes, are, in my opinion, equally as important. I like Dum-dums because they’re small and not especially messy, but you can choose your own adventure here. The first time I brought bribes for my kid, I purchased dried fruit and patted myself on the back for making such a terrific and healthful choice. It wasn’t; my kid’s GI tract revolted. Anyway, the bribes can be used to help with altitude/pressure changes on an airplane for kids not using a pacifier or nursing/drinking from a bottle, and they can be used as a reward for good behavior.

To help your kids deal with being temporarily immobilized, you can try different activities that work fine motor skills, keeping them moving just enough. Depending on your mess comfort level, a box of kleenex or a pad of post it notes to tear apart can be a really fun diversion for a toddler. Mini magna-doodle toys are mess free and often pretty fun (and the pen is attached, so your kid can’t toss it into the cracks of the seat and then die of grief after). My kids like the pocket sized Tegu magnetic blocks sets as well. Fun snacks are also an activity that can keep kids busy for a bit, especially if it’s something considered an occasional treat at home. One time recently, the airline we flew on gave each kid an animal-themed origami pack, which ended up being entertaining for all of us. Each kid has a different energy level and different interests, so try and find some combos you think your child will enjoy.

Meaghan Howard is a temporary expat and stay at home mom. She, her husband and two rambunctious boys live in Japan.

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