In the past month Luka and I have been traveling a lot. It seems that every time we go somewhere I refine my traveling skills, usually through trial and error, sweat and tears. It has yet to be easy to travel internationally with a toddler. Hopefully one day it will be a breeze, but until then these are the rules of thumb that I have learned are non-negotiable.
1. Dress code is to be strictly observed
I’ve always been a person who chose fashion over comfort. This is where I draw the line. As a mom, my sanity depends on it. Because the fact of the matter is that when you’re chasing down a toddler for the 100th time, you’re sweating, dropping bags, trying to rush to your gate, the thing that will make you snap is the fact that your skinny jeans restrict your knees from banding down to grab said toddler. The ultimate travel goal is to get through the airport(s) as smoothly as possible. Especially security. I’ve spent a lot of time observing how to make this process easier with a child. Here is what I suggest as the ultimate mom outfit for travel: stretch pants or leggings, slip on shoes like loafers, non-restrictive comfy shirt, sweater or sweatshirt that doesn’t go over the head, and hair, if long enough, pulled up and back and out of the way (then lock it down with some extra hold hairspray). You will not believe the difference this makes. I’ve been stopped through security so many times because of some buttons or zippers on my jeans set the alarms off. Plus, jeans are too restrictive. Some nice Nike workout pants are pretty fashionable these days too. All these little things add up to make a big impact on your travel ease. One day, when my children are old enough to not need to be carried I will return to fashionable air travel and walk the terminals like Victoria Beckham.
2. Limit Carry-On Items
On my most efficient trip I had Olivia in the front carrier and a backpack and that was it. Why did I stray from that? I don’t know. You may think on a short flight a few extras aren’t going to make a difference. Oh, they do. Again, this is all for our sanity, moms. Make it easy on yourself. If you have multiple kids, you gotta do what you gotta do, but really evaluate every item you bring. Do you really need that sippy cup? The baby’s spoon? I’ve found that you can easily get a plastic utensil in terminal restaurants and from flight attendants. If you have to have two bags then have one as your “first response” bag and the other one as a “in case of emergency” bag. What I mean by that is that one bag you access all the time and the other you don’t need to unless something happens, like your child poops through all their clothes.
3. Watch Your Weight
This is particularly crucial if you’re traveling alone. I have done it a few times and it is not easy. As you are packing, notice the weight of your luggage. Even if you don’t have far to go, always think, “How will this be if I end up walking A LOT?” If you’re also carrying your child instead of using a stroller, keep that in mind. Think about how far you have to go and then decide if you can easily do that. Can you do twice that distance? That’s good. I had Olivia, a backpack, and a 50lb bag on wheels and it was a struggle to get through LAX. Remember, no matter how well you know your destination, or destinations en route, there is always the possibility of getting lost or being rerouted or having a gate changed or whatever. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.
4. Know Your Airport
Before departure, maybe 1-2 day so it’s fresh in your mind, check out your airports online. Get an idea of what it’s like. This is a really good idea if you have short connection flights. If you’re traveling through large airports, know if you need to take a train or tram between gates.
5. Always Take Advantage of Bathrooms
Whenever you spot a bathroom, use it. I don’t care if you did just before check in and now you don’t need to. Just do it. Nothing will bring you to the breaking point like needing to pee like hell and there being no toilets within 30 minutes of you. It’s happened to me. More than once.
6. When In Doubt, ASK
This is perhaps the most important rule of all. I used to have an enormous amount of pride standing in the way of me asking anyone for help. A few disasters cured that. What I have learned is that almost every person in an airport is very kind and willing to help a mom with little ones. If you’re having a particularly hard time, find another woman of childbearing age. She will most likely be able to relate and take extra care to be helpful. If ever you are unsure of which direction to go, where is the check in desk, where is the nearest bathroom, where is the info desk, which train to take, where the car rental location is, always, always ask. It is better to ask immediately rather than waste time wandering around looking or, the worst yet, getting lost. A tell tale sign of an experienced traveler is the first person, in time of hesitation, says, “I’ll ask someone.”
What is the best airline for flying with children? Well, I’ve flown with A LOT of airlines and my personal favorite, without a doubt, is Lufthansa. They have consistently provided the best service. I hope one day I will fly only Lufthansa everywhere. I was once at the gate, playing with Olivia and one of their members came and found me and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, we will begin boarding soon, if you’d like to come with me we will seat you and your child first.” WOW! I didn’t have to go to them, they came and found me. He led me to the front, scanned my ticket, and Olivia and I were the first ones to board. We had plenty of time to get all situated and comfortable. The flight attendants always went the extra mile to make sure we were comfortable. They brought things for Olivia and myself before I even asked. Such service! To top it all off their aircrafts are so nice. Clean, spacious, functional. The bathrooms are in a little downstairs area with refreshments. On a 10-hour flight I would take Olivia down there for a little play time. So, yes, I love Lufthansa. I’m not getting anything from this review and that’s fine with me. I’m an extremely satisfied customer. I’ve never had a bad experience with them and I am sure I never will.