There were several products we used which were key in helping us to successfully complete 2 10 hour + flights, 10 hours of train time and 2 weeks of nights in a different hotel each night with a toddler. If you are traveling with a toddler who is as active, busy and opinionated about her surroundings as Kitty some of these might help. While most are geared towards traveling by conventional means, some will translate nicely to sailing and living aboard.
1.BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light 2, Silver
- If you have ever struggled to open or close a conventional Pack and Play and had to schlep the heavy, awkward thing around you will appreciate the simplicity and light weight of this design. We had to assembled and disassembled in less than a minute. While the folded dimensions are bigger than a standard Pack and Play it weighs only 11 pounds and is incredibly stable once set up. We hauled this thing, along with our luggage and toddler all over airports, rail stations and buses with ease. Its the weight that makes it easy. Kitty is one who likes consistency in her sleeping arrangements so being able to have the same bed every night, rather than a hotel crib that may or may not be comfortable and may or may not be safe was key. They are expensive- but worth it. British Airways took it as checked luggage with no additional fees.
2.CARES Child Aviation Restraint System We were loathe to schlep around Kitty's HUGE Britax car seat, especially since most of our travel was by train. This harness is designed for kids 22-44 pounds and made the flight portion of our trip much less stressful. It is simple to install, provides much more protection during takeoff and landing than holding the kid on your lap and it was also useful in keeping Kitty in her seat for a large portion of our flights. It doesn't have a crotch strap so really wiggly toddlers might be able to escape but we found that Kitty just accepted it, probably because she is used to wearing a harness in her car seat. Its small and comes in a carry bag which is easy to slip into your luggage. You can find them to rent on Ebay if you only need it for a one off trip.
3.Goldbug Animal 2 in 1 Harness, Lion We got so much use out of this! Kitty prefers to walk but there were times on busy streets and in bustling train stations when her lightening fast dodging abilities had to be tamed. This allowed Kitty to feel that she was independent while allowing us to keep her out of the path of oncoming traffic or to prevent her from running through airport security like a little terrorist on her own (Which she tried to do. Twice) Its got a tiny backpack which was the perfect size for a small notebook, crayons and stickers which was handy when stopping in restaurants to eat or riding on buses or trains.
4.Melissa & Doug Sticker Collection- Blue These were very best purchase we made- hands down! We got the pink and blue collection. The pages are large so I cut the sheets in 2 and along with a composition notebook, we had the answer to "how do I keep the toddler entertained for hours"? We carefully selected the animals for our farm, we fed the puppies, we made up pirate stories, we dressed sticker kids in sticker clothes for hours and hours. Once done with stickering, we made up stories for each page and Kitty would happily flip through her book naming all the items. This kept Kitty happy and entertained for the majority of our travel time. On the 5 hour train trip to Edinburgh and on the 11 hour flight back to the US, Kitty shared a page of paper and a sheet of stickers with 2 toddlers who were suffering melt downs and they were both instantly engrossed and entertained for a long, long time. No more crying. Happy fellow passengers. WIN! They are rated for kids 3 and up but we like to live on the edge and gave these dangerous stickers to toddlers. No toddlers were injured by this product.
5 .Beco Gemini Overall-Sierra We didn't buy this for our trip but have used it extensively while sailing, traveling and just generally living life. We like the Beco Gemini because it allows you to pass the toddler off to the other parent without taking them out of the carrier. It is rated for kids up to 35 pounds and allows you to carry on the front or back. This carrier is extremely comfortable and made hauling luggage and a toddler around the London Underground simple and easy. Kitty would sleep while in the front position and was happy to trek while on our backs. There are several carriers on the market that offer the same functionality but do not waste your money on front carry infant carriers like the baby Bjorn- they don't offer the same flexibility for different carries and they aren't comfy for the kid because they put all of the kids weight on their crotch- OUCH! Stick with a Beco Ergo Baby Carrier Black with Camel Lining , BabyHawk Mei Tai Baby Carrier Feeling Groovy on Espresso Straps with Bonus Dainty Baby Reusable Bag or the like.
6.Wee Squeak Baby Girls Hot Pink Peony Maryjane Shoes 4 How I love these shoes. These are so useful when you need to have your back turned- like checking into a hotel or waiting in line to purchase train tickets. Your toddler is done being carried, done with being restrained in general and is insistent on going free range. These shoes allow you to keep tabs on your little one by following the squeak the shoes make. We use these on the boat too because no matter how vigilant you are, there are times when you are below that you will have your back turned. We can hear when Kitty is climbing the companionway steps for instance. They are well made, slip resistant,comfy and cute too. You can also remove the squeakers for times when silence is golden.
These products made our travels relatively stress free. The only real mistake we made was in buying a cheap stroller. The thought was that it would come in handy and it was cheap enough to leave behind but really, with the Beco and backpack harness we never used the stroller. The stroller was just a hassle on the buses, trains etc and next time we will just skip it all together. Fortunately, it was cheap so ditching it was no big deal.
So there you have it. My 2 cents on what works for traveling with a toddler and keeping your sanity intact. Now if you will excuse me, I've got to go purchase stock in Melissa & Doug. Did I mention how much we loved their stickers?