Friday, August 9, 2013

Traveling with a Toddler: What's In My Bag

Ever read the feature in US Weekly Magazine where celebrities show you what's inside their bag? Authentic or not, I also enjoy browsing through that section of the magazine to grab a glimpse into other people's purses. What items can't they live without? Are they mom-centric? Make-up-centric? Minimalistic or prepared for anything?

On a daily basis, I don't carry much in my purse - just a few diapers, wipes and a changing pad, a packet of applesauce for Tory, my wallet, keys and cell phone. I like everything in my purse to have a place so I can avoid doing a deep dig at store check-out counters if it all possible. Lately, I've been carrying this purple bag I received at Christmas from my in-laws but I'll soon be transitioning to my new Skip Hop diaper bag once Baby Aden arrives this winter. It's nuts how excited I am to organize this new diaper bag. Three separate compartments! My Type A self is swooning.

Random trips to the grocery store are one thing, but I've come to learn traveling through an airport with a small child is a science. I don't like to tote around any more junk than I have to, but a mama has to be prepared. I use my purse/diaper bag as my one carry-on bag and it's got to have enough snacks, wipes, diapers and activities for Tory while also leaving room for my boarding pass, phone, wallet, sunglasses and iPad. It's a tight fit, but I'd rather have one bag for everything (vs. carrying a separate bag with Tory' stuff). I prefer it this way for simplicity's sake. I bring only what I absolutely need because I've also got to manage Tory, the stroller, the car seat and a suitcase as I traipse through the airport on my own.

Here's a glimpse into my recent travel bag:

1. Activities for Tory: I make activities for Tory a priority in my bag but honestly, I only need enough to occupy her interest during the airplane's take-off, touch-down and taxing; the rest of our in-flight time can be occupied by the iPad. I know that makes me sound like a lazy parent, but it's truly easier for everyone, including myself and the people seated around me, if she's sitting quietly in my lap without a lot of chatter or wiggly-worm ups and downs.

I rotate the activities I bring so there's always something new to play with on the airplane. I also only bring activities that are quiet and don't have a lot of pieces to drop onto the floor. Here's a few of my favorites:

Wipe Clean Animals Book -- I picked this up for half the price at TJ Maxx and what a good find it was. This book keeps Tory entertained for at least 10 minutes and she keeps asking to play with it over and over again. Of course she can't follow the page directions, but coloring with a marker inside a book is mind-blowing fun for her. 

Homemade Pipe Cleaner Toy - I made this pipe cleaner toy for Tory using an old Gerber Puffs container and some pipe cleaners. I simply clipped a few holes in the lid with a paper punch and cut the pipe cleaners to fit into the container. Seriously, this is one of Tory's favorite activities on the airplane. She can sit for quite a while and thread the pipe cleaners through the hole before she's on to the next thing. For extra entertainment, I've twisted the same pipe cleaners around her wrists like bracelets or together to make shapes. I like this activity because the container is light in my bag.

Sticker Books - I load up on small-sized sticker books in the dollar section of stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Michaels. These books are great because they don't take up much room in my bag. Sometimes I let Tory stick the stickers on pages of the SkyMall Magazine. Other times, we place stickers on coloring pages or scrap pieces of paper I have in my purse.

Travel Magna-Doodle (not pictured) - We have a few versions of the travel doodle magnetic pad and these are great for quick, easy entertainment.

2. Snacks and beverages: I never leave home without them. Always found in my travel bag (and my purse on a regular basis) are a no-spill sippy cup with water for Tory, a water bottle for me, applesauce packets, fruit snacks and M&M Minis (saved for desperate moments on the plane).

3. Mom's essentials: wallet, iPhone, boarding pass and fold-up reusable bag.

4. iPad and headrest mount: Every parent has their own opinion on kids and TV but for me, letting Tory watch a television show on the airplane is a lifesaver. It's easier on my nerves as the parent and I'm sure every person seated next to us is also thankful for the non-screaming toddler. So, I never fly without our iPad fully charged and loaded with her favorite cartoons. Last week, Andi gave me a new iPad Mini which is awesome for traveling because it fits nicely inside my purse without taking up a lot of room. Even before the iPad Mini, I made room for my first generation iPad.

Another iPad essential is this iPad headrest mount. Andi bought the mount for our car which makes long distance car rides with Tory a breeze. When traveling through an airport, I just roll up the headrest mount and stuff it into my purse. It fits perfectly around the tray table on the back of airplane seats and keeps her grubby paws off my iPad, too.

5. Diaper and wipes: I always travel with 4-5 diapers, a changing pad and a full pack of wipes. Now that Tory's nearing two years old, diaper blow-outs are mostly unheard of but having extra diapers is still a good rule of thumb. I usually change her diaper immediately before boarding the plane and immediately afterwards, as I push the water consumption fairly heavy on flights (the drinking / sucking helps her ears adjust to changing cabin pressure). A full pack of wipes is a MUST on every travel trip as they come in handy for just about anything -- wiping down the airplane seat and tray table, washing Tory's hands and face mid-flight, wiping off toys and even cleaning off the Wipe Clean Animals Book mentioned above.

After taking countless flights with a child over the last two years, one thing I've noticed is my travel bag evolves based on Tory's age. I no longer fly with an extra outfit for her to wear (in the past, I changed her in the airport bathroom after the flight because she'd be so dirty from snacks/beverages consumed on the plane). If an emergency situation arose where I needed a clean outfit for her to wear, I always figure we can make it through the flight until we retrieve our suitcase in baggage claim. I don't travel with extra clothes for myself either for this reason. Whatever I wear on the plane is destined to be dirtied by having a toddler eating and crawling all over me, so I just plan to change when we arrive at our final destination. If I got poop-plosioned on mid-flight, I guess I'd just wipe myself off with a wet wipe as best as I could, then change when I retrieved my luggage in baggage claim.

It'll be interesting to see how my travel essentials change once I've got two children to manage in the coming months. Baby Aden will take his first flight to Nebraska this Christmas so trial by fire it'll be!

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