Ireland Adventure

I’ve always been a carpe diem-type person, and if an opportunity presents itself I’m likely to seize it before it has a chance to slip away. It makes perfect sense, then, that when Jon found out this summer that he’d need to travel to Ireland for work in a few weeks’ time that I would see this as an opportunity to seize.

Ever since we left Ireland three years ago I’ve been trying to find a way to get back there. Ireland will always be a second home in my heart, and I’ve been homesick. The timing of Jon’s business trip seemed ideal–I could bring Hannah (who is not quite 2 years old yet, and therefore still able to travel on a plane without having to buy her a ticket)–as our only child who has never been to Ireland I felt like she has been missing out on a big part of our family history. In addition, we could take advantage of the September sweet spot between the busy tourist season and the wet and windy days of…well…the rest of the year in Ireland. So, really, I just had to go.

I begged and pleaded my case with Jon and as soon as he gave me the affirmative “Well, we could look into this and see if it makes sense…” speech, I scheduled an appointment at the passport office so we could make Hannah a legit traveller and I started researching flights. Since Jon was traveling for work, he had to be in Europe a week before me and we had to book our tickets at the last minute after he received his final work schedule. In the end, though, we found a way to get me there at the end of his trip, and he was even able to take a few days of vacation during the time I would be there. I was actually going to carpe my diem after all!

Arranging to leave on a cross-continental journey alone with a toddler, while also preparing everything at home for your two school-aged children who would be staying behind, was a bit of a puzzle. It was a whirlwind of preparations, but finally travel day arrived and I braced myself for the journey ahead.

I don’t know if any of you have ever traveled with young children, but if you have then I’m sure you’ll agree with what I’m about to say: toddlers are the WORST. The worst travel companions, that is. I love my children, but I despise traveling with them when they are toddlers (even if they are really stinkin’ cute).

Babies: no problem. They nurse and sleep and snuggle and they’re easy-peasy. Big kids–even preschoolers–fine. They can entertain themselves with coloring books or movies or snack time. Some of them can even reason or understand the reward that awaits them on the other end of the travel. No problem.

But toddlers? Toddlers are a nightmare to travel with. They are set on their schedule and routine and their own cozy bed, and when they don’t have those things they scream. They are tired all the time but they refuse to sleep, so instead they scream. They can’t communicate their needs, and when they try to do so but you don’t understand, they scream. They are always hungry but if you feed them the wrong food or food in the wrong way or, God forbid, request that they not dump the entire juice box down the front of their shirt, they scream. They don’t have the attention span to watch a tv show or play with an app or read a book or color a picture, and when you suggest that they do any of these things they scream. They want to walk and explore, and when you make them sit they scream. Basically, they do a lot of screaming and the parents do a lot of hair-pulling.

You can see, then, why I was not-so-excited to be traveling alone on a 10-hour flight with a toddler.

Our travel day to Ireland went something like this:

6:00 Wake up, make breakfast, get the kids ready for school
8:00 Drop David off at school
8:45  Go to the grocery store and stock up on food that my kids might actually eat so their grandparents have a reasonable chance of success in feeding them for the next week.
9:30  Go to the gas station and fill the car up with gas so the grandparents can cart the children around all week
10:00 Get the last load of laundry out of the dryer and finish packing
11:00 Make lunch for the two children who are still home with me
12:00 Grandparent helpers arrive! Review with them the 38-page Childcare Manual that I compiled to ensure they know the who/what/where/when/why of the offspring I’m leaving in their care.
12:30 Drop off Jacob at preschool
1:00  Drive grandparent chauffeurs around to the kids’ schools and activity locations and explain the overly-complicated drop-off and pick-up procedures
2:00 Meet my brother in law (who is driving us to the airport) at home. Load my bags, car seat, stroller, baby carrier, backpack, and baby into his car. Drive to the airport
3:00 Schlep my 5,000 essential travel items through the airport to the baggage check-in area. Get shuffled to 3 different locations before an actual human is willing to help me check in (the computers don’t like checking in babies, by the way).
4:00 Finally get through airport security! Buy a burrito for linner (lunch-dinner) because who knows if/when I will get another chance to use my own two hands to eat again.
4:30 Settle at the airport playground to eat my linner burrito while Hannah runs around screaming in a place where it is socially acceptable for a toddler to scream.
5:00 Call the boys to FaceTime with them before we board the plane. David is sick. He has a headache and is throwing up (As it would turn out, David would be sick the entire duration of our travel and wouldn’t go back to school until after our return. His grandparents who stayed home and cared for him now have infinity crowns in Heaven.).
6:00 Board the plane an hour before take-off because that is how much time is required for 200 people to find their seats, argue over who gets which overhead storage bin, and browse the SkyMall magazine.
7:00 Takeoff!

So, you see, by the time our plane even left the runway I was exhausted. I’d already had a full day of running around and chasing children, and yet there were miles to go before I’d sleep.

Hannah actually did great on the flight. She was in a good mood and I was able to get her to fall asleep in my Ergo baby carrier after just a few hours of flight time. Unfortunately, my joy over the well-traveled toddler was about to end.

I was standing in a hallway in the middle of the plane bouncing Hannah to keep her happy and asleep when we hit turbulence. The flight attendants asked me to return to my seat and buckle my seatbelt for the time being. Normally this would not be an outlandish request, after all, the seatbelt is there for my safety, but I knew the real consequences of this request. A sleeping toddler who is in an upright position sleeping in a carrier will almost certainly awake once they are squished into a narrow airplane seat and restrained with a seatbelt. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, though, so I went back to my seat.

As soon as I sat down Hannah woke up. And she was angry. She wanted to keep standing and bouncing, and she was going to let me–and everyone else on the plane–know how she felt about this situation. So she did what toddlers do best: she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I tried to comfort her but until I could stand up and resume the mommy rock-bounce, there was nothing I could do.

As if the stress of having a tired, angry toddler screaming in my arms wasn’t enough, some gentleman sitting a few rows behind me thought it would be prudent to also let me know how he felt about the situation. I’m sure my crying baby was quite the personal insult on him because he started yelling across the plane, “Won’t someone shut that thing up!” and other helpful, encouraging words. He was so helpful, in fact, that the flight attendants requested him to stop lest he be escorted right off the plane.

After 10 minutes that felt like 10 years, we were past the turbulence and allowed to get out of our seats again. The flight attendants were super helpful after the whole guy yelling incident and they moved me to another seat that had more room…and that was as far away from the yelling guy as I could get. Hannah fell back asleep right away (as I knew she would), but I was so angry and stressed out that I just sat in my seat brooding for the rest of the flight.

Our first flight ended in Amsterdam, and I had an 8 hour layover before our final flight into Ireland. I had found out that it’s very convenient to take the train from the Amsterdam airport into the city center and, since I had time to kill, I decided to give it a try. When we disembarked from the train in Amsterdam, however, I realized that I was grossly unprepared for the weather. The city was in the midst of a tempest and the only thing we had to keep us warm and dry was our airplane travel clothes (pajamas), plus a blanket I stole off the plane. I was already there, though, so I decided to walk around the city for a  bit before heading back to the airport.

We managed to find some yummy pancakes to eat, but I didn’t have the energy or the rain gear to do much else.

We returned to the airport, changed into the clean set of clothes that I thankfully had in my backpack, and spent the rest of the day exploring inside where it was warm and dry. The day is mostly a blur because I’d already pulled an all-nighter with a toddler. I was in survival mode. As a consolation, at least they had these giant tea cups to sit in.

Finally it was time to board our last flight, we made the short journey from Amsterdam to Cork, we arrived, a taxi took us to our hotel, Jon met us at the door, he carried us into bed, and then I didn’t wake up for 14 hours.

And that, my friends, was the longest day of my life.

The next afternoon I woke up totally refreshed and ready to go. We looked out our window and we’re greeted with the most spectacular view of Cork city.

Jon was finishing up his last day of work in Cork, so I met up with some friends at a park down the road.


Joanne had been my neighbor when we lived in Cork, and her two children were two of our boys’ best friends. Joanne had a friend from growing up, Leah, who lived the next neighborhood over. Leah’s son was in David’s preschool class, and so us 3 moms had spent many days together with our children. When we lived in Ireland our kids had played together on “the green” in the middle of our neighborhood nearly every day and us moms had spent endless hours getting to know each other over cups of tea. Reconnecting with Joanne and Leah (and their new children who had not yet been born when we left Ireland) was the perfect start to my little Irish adventure.

Over the next few days we did exactly what I had set out to do in Ireland: we visited the people and the places that we missed.

We went to our old church and caught up with our “family” there.


We went to museums and the zoo and parks.


We visited historic churches and rang the bells in their bell towers.


We attended playdates and birthday parties.


We had afternoon tea and dinners with our friends.


We visited dear friends of ours from California who had recently moved to Cork.


We walked on the sea cliffs and breathed in the fresh, salty air.


We went to a castle.


We listened to trad in a pub.


We drank tea and had a pint in our local.


We ate the local delicacies.

(No, not that.)

We walked the streets that we used to call home.

We spent a whole week living out all of our favorite things with all of our favorite people, and it was perfect.

But, as with all good things, eventually it came to an end. At the end of our week I was sad-happy–sad, because I knew that I wouldn’t be back again for a long time, but happy for the experiences this week that would never leave me.

Thank you, Ireland, for a lifetime of memories squeezed into a single week. I love you so much that it was even worth traveling to you with a toddler–and that’s saying a lot!

Until next time, Ireland–I miss you already!

The Ultimate “Busy Bag”

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When we moved to Ireland a few weeks ago I had a lot of concerns. Would I get homesick before we even left? Would we like our new home across the sea? Would I remember to pack all of the essentials? But the most important question of all: How would we survive a 10-hour flight with two boys under the age of 3?

Grandma to the rescue! My mother-in-law is incredibly gifted with all things crafty. She can take felt and a sewing machine and fabricate incredible creations (whereas I would take the aforementioned objects and make something worthy for display at a Kindergarten art show). She took her crafting skills to a whole new level when she created this: The Ultimate Busy Bag.

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Inside is a treasure trove of games and activities that could satisfy children not only for a 10-hour plane ride, but for weeks–nay, months–on end.

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She created the bag itself from fabric scraps and her own design. Many of the games were also her own creation, but she did get several ideas off Pinterest and Etsy. The bag is *literally* bursting at the seams with great ideas, so I thought I would share some of them with you here. If you wanted to recreate just one or two of these ideas instead of the whole bag (because, really, I don’t know anybody else who could make all of this in one sitting!) each would make a great small project in itself. These are great ideas to have tucked away for a rainy day (or even a long summer day when the refrain “I’m bored…” starts echoing through your home). I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

1. Felt pieces and finger puppets.
One of the sides of the busy bag is made out of felt. There are several felt pieces that can be arranged on the “felt board” for imaginary play or story telling. Most of the pieces were cut out of colored felt and then decorated (my mother-in-law’s 6-year old neighbor helped with many of these pieces).

There are sea creatures and an underwater scene:

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Fluffy clouds and an airplane (each of the windows and “decals” can be re-positioned on the plane):
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A house and garden (even our dog, Bota, makes her appearance here!):

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Noah and his ark full of animals (each animal is a finger puppet that can be used separately from the felt board for songs, stories, or pretend play):

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And, of course, the rain and the rainbow for Noah:

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Jesus and his disciples can even sail across the Sea of Galilee in their trusty boat:

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2. Dry erase markers and letter practice.

IMG_2923There is a folder filled with sheets of handwriting practice, each page inside its own plastic sheet protector. Each dry erase marker has a color-coordinated pom-pom hot-glued to the cap that can be used as an on-the-spot eraser. David uses the colorful dry erase markers to trace the letters and color the pictures in his handwriting book–when he’s done, he just flips over the marker and uses the pom-pom eraser to clear the page. It is easy to find handwriting worksheets online (just do a Google search for “handwriting practice” or “handwriting printable” and look under images). You could also insert pages from coloring books, outlines of common objects, or blank pages for your child to draw on with the dry erase markers.

3. The Mitten book and finger puppets

This is one of the boys’ favorite activities in the busy bag. My MIL found this activity on Etsy, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. The activity consists of the picture book The Mitten by Jan Brett and a large knit mitten full of finger puppet versions of the animals in the story.

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If you haven’t read this story, you should. Jan Brett is one of my favorite children’s authors, and this one is a classic. In the story (a Ukrainian folktale) a little boy loses his white mitten in the snow. Woodland animals find the mitten and, one by one, they burrow inside the lost mitten to keep warm. As I read the book, David helps to put each animal into the mitten as they appear in the story. It’s a great age-appropriate interactive reading activity–and he just can’t get enough of it. If you don’t have your own mitten and animal finger puppets, you can print off your own mitten craft from the author’s website and make your own!

4. Felt Numbers and Letters

There are two sets each of felt letters and numbers for David to play with and manipulate. The possibilities here are endless! We’ve been using the letters to play “find the sound” (I’ll say a sound and he has to find the letter that makes that sound) and “letter match” (we’ll find a letter in a book or on an object in the room and he has to find the same letter from his pile of felt letters).

I used the numbers to show David representations (using balls, of course, because he will learn ANYTHING 10 times faster if it can be somehow related to balls):

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And we even practiced putting the numbers in order from 0-10 (OK, I did this, but he helped me count the numbers after I got them all set up):

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5. Art and Craft Supplies

IMG_2948There are several art and craft supplies that David can use for his own creative works: markers, scissors, a sketch pad, colorful pipe cleaners, stickers. We’ve been practicing how to use markers on paper ONLY and that we only use scissors when there is a grown-up there to help us. He’s actually been doing really well with all of his “big kid” supplies–especially the fact that he can now color a picture and then cut it into a million pieces. Toddler confetti!

We also like using the pipe cleaners to make “bowls full of worms”. The boys thread the pipe cleaners through the holes in the pipe cleaners (I put them in for baby Jacob) and then pull them out. It’s good fine motor practice..and also just a lot of fun!

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6. Some Personal Touches

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There are several smaller items that are personalized to David and Jacob. There is a little American flag so they can remember where they came from (represent!) and a little bendy bear that their dad used to play with when he was little. There is also a really cute set of “ABC Bible Verses” where each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding Bible verse (print your own here). We may have to use these for some memorizaton practice soon!

Thank you for the special gift, Grammy! We will treasure it forever!

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We Have Arrived!

This will be a quick post because I have to write on my phone until we get internet hooked up at our house, but I wanted to give an update on our trip out to Ireland. Here are our travel highlights:

We realized our credit card was lost when we tried to check in for our flight. The restaurant that we’d lost it at found the card, my mom picked it up, and drove it back to the airport just in time for us to board our flight.

Our flights were on time (Yahoo!)

The boys both fell asleep within 20 minutes of takeoff.

Jacob slept in the ergo on my lap for 8 hours. My arms were numb but the passengers around us were grateful to not have a screaming baby on their flight.

London-Heathrow is a crazy maze of an airport with a bajillion security checkpoints designed to never let you get to your connecting flight. Note to self: Do NOT try to navigate this madness with a short layover and a sleep-deprived 2-year old (especially if you don’t have a stroller!).

David had the wildest toddler meltdown I’ve ever witnessed while we were RUNNING through the London airport. It was so bad they let us cut in front of the entire security line to go straight through. Saved us 30 minutes of line-waiting and allowed us to actually catch our connecting flight. Well played, David.

We actually caught our connecting flight. It was close, but we made it just in time–sweat-drenched and stressed out, but we made it.

The airline lost our stroller and car seat (they have now been found and returned). This was actually a good thing, because it allowed us to pack all of our bags into our rental car at the airport (we really didn’t think it would all fit into one car!).

Our rental house (while we’re waiting for our real house to be ready for move in in Monday) is awesome! We have 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and even a basketball hoop in the courtyard 🙂 The lady who is renting this house to us also stocked our kitchen with bread and pastries from her local bakery, milk, cheese, butter, jam, and tea–Because she knew we would be hungry after our long day of travel. Have I mentioned how much I love Irish people?

We ate McDonald’s for our first dinner in Ireland 🙂

We got food, showers, and naps.

We got a good night’s sleep.

Today we will go see our new house and explore our new neighborhood.

It is sunny and 75° here–gorgeous!!!

We are excited to see more of Ireland today!

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Traveling With Bebe, Part 4: How To Get Through Your Flight (Plus 40 Activities To Entertain Your Baby or Toddler During The Flight!)

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Boarding and Take Off
They will usually invite families traveling with young children to board the plane first. Use your best judgment on this one. If you have a content little baby and think you’ll need some extra time to jockey you and your belongings into position, then go ahead and board early. But beware. If you have a crawler or a toddler who doesn’t like to sit still for more than two micro-seconds, stay in the comfort–and space–of the airport for as long as possible before boarding the plane.

If you are lucky enough to be bringing your car seat onto the plane with you, try to set it up in the window seat so you’re not blocked in. If you’re bringing baby on your lap, most airlines will allow you to keep him strapped into an infant carrier during the flight (with the exception of takeoff and landing times).

During takeoff, try to have your baby sucking or chewing on something. This will help their tiny ears adjust to the air pressure changes. You can nurse your baby, give baby a bottle or a pacifier, or have your toddler chomp on chewy snacks. An added benefit to nursing during takeoff: baby may actually fall asleep. Hello, peaceful flight!

If your little one still gets plugged ears during the flight, try the “cups method” for popping their ears:
-Get two plastic cups (one for each ear), some boiling water and a few paper towels. Just ask your flight attendant for these supplies–they’ll hook you up!
-Dampen the paper towels in the boiling water and place one inside each cup
-Hold the cups containing the dampened towels over the ears for a few minutes.
The steam from the boiling water will generate a small pressure vacuum that will unblock the ears and help relieve pain.

During The Flight
Your baby’s age and mobility-level will determine a lot of what will make your flight time go smoothly. If you have an infant (under 5 months old) who can’t really move yet, your flight should be pretty easy. He’ll probably fall asleep during takeoff or at some point early in your flight with all of that lovely white noise that goes on in an airplane.

If you have a baby who is able to roll over and/or sit (approximately 5-7 months), he’ll probably be content sitting on your lap for a good chunk of time. You can entertain him with songs, books, ripping pages out of those magazines that are in the seatback in front of you. You can nurse him (or give him a bottle) and he may even doze off. If he starts to get fussy, you can bounce with him in the aisles or walk back to the galley with him (usually the flight attendants will take pity on you and let you hang out in their space).

If you have a crawler–or, God forbid, a walker–good luck. That’s all I have to say, because it’s probably going to be a rough flight. Babies who are mobile but have not yet attained an attention span of more than 1 minute are very difficult travel companions. They want to move, and being strapped in to a car seat or a baby carrier for hours on end is not their idea of a happy day. Bring lots of yummy snacks, new books and toys that they haven’t seen before, and a lot of patience. Be prepared to spend a good portion of your flight walking up and down the aisles and/or sitting cross-legged in your seat so your baby can play in the 4 square inches of floor space at your feet. And, if all else fails, just remind yourself that it will all be over soon and you’ll be enjoying that special place that you’re traveling to!

Here are some of my favorite activities to entertain a baby or toddler while on the plane:

  1. Read books
  2. Sing songs and lap bounces
  3. Recite Nursery Rhymes (brush up on these ahead of time)
  4. Do finger plays with the accompanying hand motions
  5. Eat special snacks (I’ve heard that a ring pop can entertain a 2 year old for hours)
  6. Play with window decals on the window (find them on clearance after holidays)
  7. Color with crayons
  8. Magna Doodle
  9. Paint with “Magic Paper” that turns colors when you paint with water (Crayola Color Wonder and Color Magic)
  10. Play with wiki stix
  11. Play with clay or play dough
  12. Play with sticker activity books
  13. Do a lacing project
  14. Play with apps on your iPhone or iPad (I hear the “Duck Duck Moose” and “Peekaboo Wild/Farm/Forest” ones are great)
  15. Watch movies or TV shows on your iPhone or iPad
  16. Go to the bathroom and make silly faces in the mirror
  17. Make a shaker out of two plastic cups taped together at the “mouths” and filled with airplane peanuts (your flight attendant will probably have all of the necessary supplies)
  18. Play with magnet sets
  19. Sort snacks or toys into piles (based on color, size, shape, type, etc.)
  20. Let them braid my hair
  21. Before you leave for your trip, make an “I Spy Bottle” to play with
  22. Draw pictures for your little one and make up stories to go with them
  23. Crumple up and tear paper
  24. Draw letters, shapes, etc. and have your little one trace them
  25. Play with toy cars and airplanes
  26. Do a puzzle
  27. Read the airplane safety pamphlet together and locate all of the exits on your plane, practice buckling seat belts, etc.
  28. Play with Legos
  29. Play Peek-A-Boo
  30. Count things
  31. Visit with other passengers (only the ones who invite you…some people on planes really don’t appreciate happy visits)
  32. Play with ice cubes in an empty cup
  33. Make origami or paper fans with pages from a magazine
  34. Do seat exercises with your baby
  35. Use pipe cleaners to create models of shapes, animals, etc.
  36. Play with a flashlight (yes, there’s an app for that)
  37. Use your camera (or the camera on your phone) to take silly photos of yourselves
  38. (Before or after your flight) Visit the captain in the cockpit (you may even get one of those cool “wings” pins)
  39. Crinkle water bottles
  40. Play “guess which hand it’s in” (“It” can be a snack–if they guess correctly, they get to eat it)

One other little note here. Most people on the plane will be compassionate to your cause and they’ll be willing to help you out if needed. The flight attendants are usually very helpful and will bring your baby juice or water for her bottle, and some will even stop to play with her or hold her so you can go to the bathroom. So, when your baby starts fussing and you start to stress out, just relax. You’re not the only one who’s ever brought a crying baby on a plane and most of the other people remember the days when THEY were the ones holding the crying baby (or are thanking their stars that they are not yet the one who has to hold a crying baby).

Well, that’s it for my tips on flying. Tomorrow we leave for Ireland with baby J, so hopefully I can take my own advice and have a smooth flight! I’ll do another post after we get back from Ireland to let you know how all of this played out on an international flight. I may be MIA on the blog for the next week or so while we’re traveling, but I’ll be sure to update with lots of photos and fun stories when we return. Until then, Bon Voyage!

Taveling With Bebe, Part 1: We’re Going To Ireland!

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I thought this title of “Traveling With Bebe” would be quite fitting for our newest adventure. Next week, we’ll be traveling with our “bebe” (6 month old Jacob) to Ireland! Jon has to travel to Cork in southern Ireland for work and Jacob and I are going to tag along with him on his trip. There are actually some practical reasons why I’m going with him on this trip (more on that later), but it’s also pretty awesome that I’ll get a little mid-winter vacation and that we’ll be there for Valentine’s Day! We’ll just be there for a week, so it will be a quick trip.

Luckily for baby Jacob, he’s still nursing–and we don’t have to buy him his own plane ticket–so he gets to come along with us. Unfortunately for 2-year old David (and fortunately for us–can you imagine flying for 16 hours with a TWO year old?!), he’ll be staying state-side with his grandparents.

We’ve already done quite a bit of traveling with the boys. David rode on his first plane when he was about 9 months old, and I’ve already flown solo with Jacob down to Phoenix. Of the times that we’ve taken the boys on planes, about half of those times have been me by myself, and the other half I’ve had at least one helper. Even though we do have lots of travel experience, we’ve never done a trip quite like this. It will be a very long day of travel (especially by baby standards) and will involve a time change of 8 hours (hello, jet lag!). Plus, we’ll be traveling internationally so there are a few extra precautions that need to be made on that front. Overall, though, it should be a fun little experience for all of us.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re traveling with little people, so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way to make things run a bit smoother. First and foremost, just acknowledge that you’re not the one running the show–so don’t get too upset when things don’t work out perfectly. Kids will scream, babies will cry, and things will likely get a bit messy. Just go with the flow, have an adult beverage on the plane, and know that it will all be over in a matter of hours 🙂

This week I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of traveling with the under-two set. Check back tomorrow for my tips on organizing and packing, then later in the week for how we actually get through the airport and our flight.

I’m actually a bit nervous about taking baby on such a long flight, so I’d love to hear about your travel experiences. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any proven travel tips or great stories from your travels with kids!

*Author’s Note* Click here to read about what we did while we were in Cork, Ireland!