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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Traveling solo with three young kids

Uploaded: Jun 30, 2018
I recently traveled solo with our three young kids. I learned a few things along the way that will hopefully make our next travel experience easier.

1. Seat the oldest kid by the window: I've always tried to seat our son by the window. When he was a baby and a toddler it was fun to look out the window together. Now that he has two younger sisters, a window seat gives him the most privacy and space. He can watch his shows without being disturbed by his sisters' more frequent snack and bathroom breaks.

2. Practice with headphones: My older kids are used to wearing headphones, but my youngest had never worn them before. She had no desire to wear them on the plane and ended up watching her shows on mute. While it entertained her, I'm sure she would have preferred sound.

3. Bring a tablet or phone for everyone, including yourself: We had two iPads and an iPhone to entertain my three kids. Although three devices seemed overkill, ideally I would have brought one for myself as well. I ended up watching the screen on the seat in front of me, but I would have preferred my own shows with subtitles (my toddler didn't want to wear her own headphones, but she definitely enjoyed grabbing at mine).

4. You can't see the screen two seats down: It was quite challenging for me to see my son's airplane screen. Thankfully he can read simple words and I was able to help him navigate the screen from afar, but it was much easier to monitor exactly what he was watching on the iPad.

5. Pack lightly...especially on the plane: We were on a full flight on our way home and I ended up checking some of my carry on bags for free. It was ideal to just have a diaper bag and my purse to deal with on the plane.

6. Pack light on toys and heavy on snacks: I told my older kids ahead of time that they were not going to have any toys on the plane. I didn't want to deal with hot wheels rolling under our seats, dropped crayons or accidentally leaving a toy behind. I brought just a slinky and a board book to entertain our one year old. I knew I needed something that I could easily pull out to entertain her if she got bored, but I didn't want anything with multiple pieces. She enjoyed seeing the slinky bounce and pulling it to make different shapes.

5. Snacks: While I tried my best to pack lightly, I made sure to pack plenty of snacks. We had a variety of goldfish, granola bars, chips, puffs, pouches, etc. Along with plenty of milk for all. I thought I brought enough snacks this time, but we ate most of them. Next time I'll bring even more food and milk.

6: Prepare for a delay: Both of my flights ended up being delayed, one for over 2 hours. Thankfully I had Lego sets to keep my older two kids happy at the airport. I wouldn't take Lego on the airplane, but it was perfect entertainment at the gate.

9. Don't overdo screentime ahead of time: One of our flights was delayed after we had already boarded the plane. I let our kids start their electronics right away, but I wish I had waited about 30 minutes. It would have made the last 30 minutes of the flight a little easier.

10. Don't make life harder for yourself: I told myself that no matter what happens I would not take away screen time from our kids for misbehavior. I would find another discipline strategy. Taking away screen time would just make my travel experience that much harder.

11. Find a way to stay entertained yourself: Sometimes you forget just how monotonous it is spending 4+ hours just trying to keep a toddler quiet. I was lucky that my toddler napped for over two hours on the flight home and let me watch two movies. But I should have packed a magazine or something else to entertain myself for brief spurts of time.

12. Relax: With three kids there are going to be ups and downs. Baby is going to cry, apple juice is going to spill or a flight will be delayed. You might misplace your ticket or drop puffs all over the floor. But, with young kids no one is expecting perfection. So many people offer to help and compliment you. I knew many eyes were on us, but so many people were not judging, they seemed to be remembering when they flew with their young kids or were just excited to see little ones.
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Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jun 30, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Your strategy is very different from mine, but if it works, it works and that is what's best.

On day of flight I get everyone up early, and we go to the park to wear them out even if it is before 8.00 am unless of course it is a very early start to the airport. But getting some exercise will help them to keep still and hopefully to nap. If the airport has a children's play area, use it. If not, 20 jumping jacks for everyone at the gate before we get on the plane. People often tell us that's a good idea and sometimes some of them join in!

Bathroom breaks are difficult so I prepare by practice at home wearing a backpack and how to help each other.

Each child carries their own small backpack with books, scrap paper (usually goos paper - good on one side) with crayons or markers I expect them to lose, card games or similar. (I usually buy some cheap things from a dollar store or Cost Plus) so anything they lose doesn't matter. I usually have a sandwich that I know each child likes and wait until it is seat belt sign off time before letting anyone eat. I bring refillable water bottles filled after security and everyone looks after their own. Drinks from the cart should be finished quickly before they spill.

Unless we have a connecting flight, I usually wait until everyone else is off the plane so that we can take our time to make sure we haven't left anything, and can find shoes, sweaters and backpacks at our leisure. A connecting flight can be very stressful for everyone, so I make sure they are all ready for the adventure and have to be very clever on our expedition through a strange land, looking for clues and signs to help us on our way. If they think of it as part of a game they tend to do much better so telling them what to expect and what to look for in advance helps.

People are usually very helpful and kind but I remind each child to use plenty of thank yous to everyone we come across. One thing to remember if you on your own is that before you get on the plane the ticket taker may talk to the kids as they are looking for potential child abduction, so it is good to tell the older ones they may be asked questions and to be polite if they are asked where they are going and why.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 30, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4- Thanks for sharing your travel strategies. I'm sure I'll modify mine as our kids get older. It's always good to hear what works for other parents.

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