International Travel with a toddler

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We just moved to Daegu, South Korea. Before beginning our travel adventure, I researched traveling with a toddler. There are several websites and blogs out there, but I thought I would throw my experience into the mix.

Due to the fact that we were moving and not just going on a trip, we had a ton of stuff. We were allowed six checked bags and six carry ons. We ended up with five suitcases, a pack and play, five small carry ons, a toddler car seat, and a stroller.

What to pack in your carry on

We had five carry ons, but they weren’t all for the baby. Two were for my husband.

The first carry ons was the diaper bag.

  • Diapers and wipes

Clarissa usually uses cloth diapers, but two months of diaper laundry during hotel life seemed too daunting when I didn’t know what my laundry situation would be. I knew we would be traveling for about thirty hours. I packed twenty diapers just to be safe, but only ended up using about ten. One blog that I read recommended overnight diapers for the fourteen hour flight, so I did that. But it really was a waste. I ended up changing her diaper every 2-3 hours on the plane anyway and now I am out of overnight diapers!

I packed a small pack of wipes as well. We used the wipes for diaper changes, washing her hands before meals, and washing her face after meals.

  • Clothes

She wore a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, and shoes onto the plane. I packed three extra shirts, three pants, socks, and a pair of footed pajamas for the trip. I only used two of the extra outfits. Clarissa never got sick during travel. But she definitely got messy while eating or trying to drink from my cup on the plane since she didn’t really want to use a bib. Choose your battles right?

  • Blankets

I packed a soft blanket for her to snuggle with and a receiving blanket for if it was cold. She never used either one.

  • Pacifiers

I had five pacifiers in my house, so I packed them all. Clarissa really hasn’t used a pacifier since our trip to Connecticut last summer. But I thought I would bring them for the take off and landing of the plane. She played with the pacifiers, but wouldn’t really put them in her mouth. She didn’t seem to have a problem with her ears anyway.

The second carry on was my bookbag.

I had a few things for me in there; my tablet, cell phone, a couple of books, and some pens. I also had some things to keep Clarissa occupied.

  • Small toys

I had a ziploc bag of small toys for Clarissa to play with. I packed a few toy cars, finger puppets, a couple of plastic animals that would fit in her hand, and a pair of sunglasses for her. She played with a few toys on the shorter flights, but didn’t really play with them on the long flight.

  • Books

Clarissa’s favorite book right now is a touch and feel book about puppies. We read that on one of the shorter flights. I brought five other paperback picture books, but we didn’t read them at all.

On the first flight, I treated myself to a magazine. She pretty much confiscated that until she fell asleep.

  • Notebook, pen, and stickers

Clarissa likes to write with a pen. She definitely spent some time on my lap writing in a notebook. She also had fun putting stickers on the page. Then, she tried taking them off the page and putting them on me and her daddy.

  • Tablet

Tim locked down a tablet for Clarissa with parental controls. He put a couple of movies on it for her. She sat on my lap and watched a few minutes of a couple different movies. She also spent some time watching the movies provided by the plane. She didn’t really like the headphones though.

The third carry on was snacks. I used this bag for snacks for all three of us.

Clarissa ate a lot on the plane. She ate two fruit pouches, a jar of chicken and vegetable baby food, almonds, craisins, and cookies on the plane. She also nursed three different times. She wasn’t thrilled with drinking from her sippy cup when mommy and daddy were drinking from clear plastic cups.

What we did

Clarissa is under two, so technically, she could have been a lap infant. But the government paid for her to have her own seat, so I didn’t complain. We decided to go ahead and buy a toddler car seat that was FAA approved for the plane. We don’t plan to own a car in South Korea but thought it would be a good way to contain Clarissa for a fourteen hour flight. We can also use this car seat when we come back to the United States to visit as she will need a car seat on those visits.

We bought a cart and bungee cord to wheel the car seat through the airport. We are so happy that we did. Our original flight was delayed due to weather so we were rerouted a different day to a different city. We had to switch airlines and had a ten hour layover so they wouldn’t let us through security and we ended up in Time Square. I don’t think we would have made it without this cart!

Security in our home airport was the hardest. I packed jarred food for Clarissa and some food pouches that were above the 3.4 ounce liquid limit. I wasn’t sure if they would make it through but decided to try because they let you follow different rules when you are traveling with a baby. They did let me keep everything, but they did a very thorough pat down and wanded my hands. The security lady said I could have had more items if I wanted to, but the problem was the size. So if you don’t want the pat down, just keep the pouches to 3.2 ounces or smaller. They didn’t care that the jarred food was more than that because the jars were clear. JFK and both Korean airports didn’t care as much about my items, though I may have fed her the larger pouches by that point so I wouldn’t have to do that again.

Our first flight was only about an hour. I buckled Clarissa into her car seat. She was seated on the aisle so that she could see everything going on around her. She definitely enjoyed kicking the seat in front of her until the plane took off. It didn’t really matter what I tried. She read her puppy book, read some of my magazine, but ultimately kept kicking. Then, she fell asleep once we took off.

During our long layover, I fed her a few times. I also let her run up and down the terminal for about an hour. Our flight didn’t leave until 12:50am, so I was hoping she would sleep well on the flight. I nursed her in the terminal as well. We tried a cover, but Clarissa didn’t like it. So we were as much in the corner as we could be. At that point, it was after 11pm and most of the people in the terminal were asleep anyway. I figured that feeding my baby and keeping her happy was more important than making sure the cover concealed everything.

I made sure to put on a new, overnight diaper before we got on the plane. We decided to put her car seat by the window, me in the middle, and Tim on the aisle. She did really well for the first hour or so. She stayed in her car seat and watched some of a movie on the back of the seat in front of her. She didn’t really like the headphones so she just watched the picture. I fed her some of the jarred food and she also had some cookies. She didn’t fall asleep even though she was clearly exhausted because the lights were on and the flight attendants were walking around giving drinks.

Then she started to get fussy so I took her out of the car seat. She spent a lot of time playing while sitting and standing in the area in front of her and my seat. The flight attendants then presented her with a gift. A little bag with a coloring book and colored pencils. She didn’t really color much. But she enjoyed taking the colored pencils in and out of that box.

After becoming fussy again (because it was now about 3am), I changed her diaper and decided to nurse her since she normally nurses to sleep at night. I didn’t worry about a cover since the flight attendants were beginning to serve dinner and I was sitting in the middle of the row anyway. By the time she was finished nursing, the lights in the cabin had been turned out. She of course, nursed to sleep. Every attempt that I had to put her in her car seat ended with her screaming. So I gave up and let her sleep on me.

She did actually sleep for about 6 or 7 hours. The problem was that she was sleeping on me so I couldn’t really sleep. Every time I moved to get comfortable, she started to cry. In the middle of her sleep she did get fussy so I changed her diaper again and then she slept another few hours until they turned the lights back on and started serving breakfast.

For the next couple of hours, she didn’t want to go back in her car seat. She spent a lot of time on the floor. She enjoyed playing with her car seat and eating snacks. She nursed again. Clarissa also spent an hour or two sitting on my lap. She watched about twenty minutes of a movie on her tablet. She also wrote in a notebook and played with stickers. She watched a movie on my lap as well.

I made her go back to the car seat for the landing, but she wasn’t happy about it. She did fall asleep during that time in the car seat.

When we arrived in Korea, we had to go through immigration. Tim waited in line while I chased Clarissa around the area. Her favorite thing was the moving sidewalks. The only problem was that she didn’t understand that they only moved in one direction. So she would get halfway and try to turn around and run the opposite direction. So I would pick her up, explain that we had to go this way, and then get off and come back on the other sidewalk. She would kick and scream. Thankfully most people thought she was adorable and didn’t seem too irritated with us. Eventually a man saw us with the baby and opened a new line just for us. I think that irritated everyone though! He called over everyone else with a baby too.

Clarissa did well in the airports. Even when she was really fussy on a flight, she was excited to be looking around once we got inside the airport. She enjoyed looking at people and investigating things in the airports.

One thought on “International Travel with a toddler

  1. marianne sharkey

    Thanks for the detailed description of your plane ride. I enjoyed every minute ….I felt like I was with you and I could here Clarissa’s sweet laughter in the back ground. May the Lord continue to be with you and your family in your daily adventure . I miss you. Be blessed and enjoy your time in Korea. xoxo mom

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