I received this note from a reader and thought my response might be helpful to a number of you.
I am traveling to India with my 2 year old for a couple of weeks. The flight is crazy long—it adds up to almost 30 hours of travel time. Any recommendations? We plan to bring his car seat but it is really big—do you have any thoughts on travel seats that can be used in a car once we get to our destination?
Dear Jennifer and other travelers,
India! With a 2-year-old! What a great adventure you’ll have. It isn’t cheap, but from what you describe, you’d be a really great candidate for the Sit N Stroll car seat that can convert to a stroller—definitely for this trip, and possibly others you have lined up. I got mine for travel, but I’ve found it very helpful with wily toddlers for running around town, too, just doing errands and quick outings to the post office or bank. More on that below.
When you have crazy-long travel times like that with a toddler, with very long flights, airplane changes, and layovers, there are two pieces of gear that can really be helpful to have with you—though you might normally assume the lighter you can travel with kids the better. For this kind of seriously long travel by plane with a 2-year-old, I suspect you will be glad to have:
1) The car seat, which will make your 2-year-old much more comfortable for long periods of sitting than the adult-size airplane seat (which, let’s face it, is not built for comfort!), and the 5-point harness with buckles will also help keep him contained, unlike the airplane easy-lift seat belt which he’ll be out of in a blink if he decides to bolt. Not fun on a long flight! Plus, if he’s used to riding in a car seat already and understands that it means staying put in the car, the consistency may be helpful for the long-haul. Since it fits him better and hopefully has some side wings, it will also make sleeping during flights much easier for him—extremely important for any child during 30 hours of travel!
2) The stroller, which may be essential to getting between gates in time at large airports, and/or helping your child nap during lengthy layovers. A reclining travel stroller can be really helpful for this. Especially at age 2, the airports will be so exciting, and where you’re headed strangers will likely be so friendly that it may be hard for him to disengage and get the rest he needs. A stroller can help provide a buffer while you stretch your legs and get some activity pushing him around the terminal. Once he’s asleep, you can clip a blanket to the front of the stroller’s canopy (with your trusty binder clips, as recommended in Travels with Baby!) to keep bright lights off of his face and strangers at a respectful distance. Also, being able to keep your son safely strapped in to a stroller until you’ve managed to get all your items and shoes onto the X-ray at security, then collected again on the other side, or until you’ve finished using the restroom (!) can be very helpful with a 2-year-old!
Suggestions for gear:
The Sit N Stroll gives you one piece of gear to keep track of that can serve both purposes of car seat and airport-friendly stroller as you travel. The wheels are small and glide smoothly through airports and across even surfaces, but it probably won’t be rugged enough to use on walks around town where sidewalks are often rough or missing, etc. Once you get to India—you’ll want your regular stroller or possibly even a backpack carrier (Ergo travels well!) in some cases (not sure what’s on your agenda!) once you have arrived. But with the Sit N Stroll, you can simply check your stroller through or backpack carrier, etc., and just take the Sit N Stroll with you through the airport. The Sit N Stroll also has a retractable canopy that can be quite helpful during long flights in shielding children from other people’s reading lights, flickering TVs and movie screens, and turbulent air currents (you can read more about the Sit N Stroll in my detailed review here).
If not the Sit N Stroll, you might want to take a look at the GoGo Kidz Travelmate, which is like a hand cart that attaches to toddler-size car seats, so you can keep him strapped into the car seat as you wheel her through the airport and to the gate. Some drawbacks in your case might be that it will not provide the napping benefits of the Sit N Stroll or a stroller, both of which have canopies and will provide at least a little recline to help with the snoozing. It also puts only the distance of roller blade wheels between the car seat and floor, and there may be times you would like to have him up higher than that… particularly near baggage claim where the suitcases fly and outdoor areas or restrooms that aren’t so tidy.
A third option that may work for you is to use your existing car seat with a PacBack backpack-style carrier and gate-checking your existing stroller as you board each flight. Just be aware you will have to unbuckle it from your car seat upon boarding and deplaning, and will still have two separate items to manage as you travel.
Other concerns and considerations:
Size - Since you mention your car seat is “huge,” you may also opt to go with the Sit N Stroll over other options that will work with the car seat you have. It will be much easier to fit in the smaller cars and taxis you’re likely to find along the way, and a huge car seat is never much fun to lug around and is seldom practical in the small cars abroad! I have a recommendations for other easy-traveling car seats on my site at http://www.travelswithbaby.com/gear/car_seats_et_al.htm.
Seatbelts - Even with a car seat in your hands, don’t expect to find a seat belt in the back seat of every taxi you hail in India. Many older cars and smaller vehicles simply do not have seatbelts in the back seats. To get around this, aim for the newest looking and largest taxis you can find, and always point out your car seat quickly to the driver who will likely know you’re looking for seatbelts. If it’s in the budget, you might prefer to arrange a car and driver to meet you after your extended hours of travel who knows in advance you’ll need to install a car seat and will have an appropriate seat belt or even LATCH.
Safety - While there is no car seat law in India, and car seats are still fairly uncommon (and financially out of reach for countless families), I think you will be very glad to have your toddler safely in her seat as you navigate through the traffic, so it’s worth the effort to bring a car seat and use cars where it can be safely installed. Hope this helps!
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
During my recent “Mommymoon at Miraval” in Tucson, I had the chance to try their unique program called The Equine Experience, where guests work with horses—not in the usual trail riding capacity you might expect at a spa and resort, but in a series of exercises that help you better understand yourself and your own behavior patterns. After lunch, I boarded a van with a handful of other Miraval guests to head out to the horses, where I had the honor of meeting the legendary founder of the program himself, Wyatt Webb.
After seeing the segment on Wyatt and the Equine Experience that aired on Oprah, I was quite fascinated by the first exercise alone, where you must get a horse to lift its hoof for you to clean it. I’ll admit right here, having learned to clean horse’s hoofs in my childhood, I wasn’t sure this would be too much of a challenge for me. As it happened, I got my horse to lift his hoof on the first try, using the same technique I’d learned as a child long ago at horse camp—lean in and shove. I was quite proud for a moment there, leaning and holding and hoping that Wyatt Webb would see my success when—whoops!
Down came the hoof.
I looked up and sure enough, Mr. Webb had seen my “success” as I so much wanted to call it. He was grinning from one side of his cowboy hat brim to the other. He kindly advised me not to force the horse like that, but I thought that he was crazy. After all, I got the hoof up on my first try. For a moment.
I went back to it, and the very sensible horse (they call it “horse sense” for a reason) was more careful this time not to let me set him off balance. He stood with all the certainty and purpose a 1,000 lb. animal should, and there was no moving him. I realized right away that most of us would do the same thing to a stranger who walked up to us and behaved as I had. More importantly, I realized for the first time in my life that I had to learn how to work with the horse. It wasn’t enough to know what it should do, or even how to make it do what I needed it to—that was only a temporary fix. I might get him to lift the hoof once, but then… and suddenly I had to chuckle and give my horse a pat of respect. How different was he from my toddler?
Once I’d made this connection, and a few dozen others from sticky moments in my past, it wasn’t too long before I was able to lift the horse’s hoofs with his cooperation—or perhaps I should say he began lifting his hoofs for me when requested.
It reminded me of how often I hear parents recounting travel with their babies and small children, simply stating that a child is “an easy traveler” or “not a good traveler,” depending on how things went. (I can tell you right now that if we’d given up on our daughter after her first really difficult flight we all would have seen much less of the world, and Travels with Baby might never have been written.) From now on, I won’t be able to hear a parent, or grandparent, or flight attendant describe children this way without also hearing the title of Wyatt Webb’s book, It’s Not About the Horse.
My most significant lesson of the day came later that afternoon when Carolyn of the Equine Experience led us to what they call the “round pen.” I’d heard the explanation that we would learn to direct a horse around a pen, make it stop and run at will, all without touching it or speaking to it. As I’d demonstrated earlier, I’m not exactly a horse whisperer. I doubted the others in my group from their various backgrounds and hometowns across the country were either. Yet soon enough the first member of group in the pen had the horse’s full attention, and sure enough the horse was watching and moving at will to her silent commands.
“Use The Force,” I chuckled to myself, but then I reached back for that feeling of intention and clarity that had worked for me in the earlier exercise with the hoof. The horse began to move–and in the direction I’d wanted it to. I could feel an invisible ribbon of energy between us, from my center to his hindquarters, nudging him gently in the direction I wanted him to go. But when it came time to change directions, I had to start all over again. Of course I was feeling a little self-conscious, mostly self-critical since this hadn’t happened with anyone else in our group who stepped in there with the same horse. At one point, I literally lost my footing. As soon as I’d get the horse moving again, things were great. I could even get him to speed up and slow to a calm walk, but then… it all fell apart every time I tried to get him to change directions.
Afterward, we regrouped with Wyatt to reflect on the afternoon and most especially what we had learned in the final exercise at the round pen. I had to laugh as I volunteered that, “Apparently I have trouble changing directions,” which seemed the obvious metaphor, though I knew that was never the case with me. I continued explaining that it couldn’t be right though because of all the people I know I have the least trouble changing directions, that I can change directions and activities so well and so quickly that it’s almost a fault with me, and that I’m usually the one who gets frustrated because too often it feels like the other people near me can’t change directions fast enough.
Wyatt gave a thoughtful smile and said, “Well let me ask you something… when you decided it was time to change directions, were you crowding the horse?” There was no denying it. Each and every time I’d had to start over, I’d also had to step back (and back and back) to the center of the pen and realign myself with the horse. “Yep,” I grinned.
And there you had it: therapy the cowboy way.
My fast-adapting temperament has served me well in many situations in my life, and I’ve always thought of it as one of my greatest strengths. Yet it’s often left me at odds with my husband who admits first and foremost that he doesn’t often like change, and with my young children who like to see the world one drinking fountain at a time. But more often than not, I’ve seen our differences help bring out the best in each other. Particularly when I give them the space they need, both physically and mentally, for the inevitable transitions between daily activities in our home life, and between the various phases of adventures as we travel. Since loading up for our departure from Tucson, and at least a dozen times since our return home, I often find myself taking a breath and sighing to my inner Jedi,”
If you can’t make it to Miraval, check out Wyatt Webb’s book It’s Not About the Horse , co-authored by Cindy Pearlman. You might also be interested in another book he’s written called What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do: Common Horse Sense.
Before I sign off, I must thank Cathy Gilbert (mom of 5, entrepreneur, and definite inspiration) for snapping these pictures of me during my Miraval Equine Experience. I should also add that the good people at Miraval mentioned that they don’t very often have pregnant ladies request to work with the horses and that I should be aware that there is always some amount of risk involved when working with large animals. I appreciated their concern for my safety and I didn’t attempt anything I wasn’t very comfortable with—or wouldn’t love to try again next time I get the chance!
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
Last week, Eric at TravelBlogs.com posed a question that caught my attention. He started an interesting debate between six travel bloggers on whether or not they would haggle over a “tourist price” they were told to pay for food from a street vendor in an “unnamed Asian country” (click here to read the full post).
While the discussion centers primarily around the privilege of being wealthy enough to travel to and through some countries in the first place, and having the advantage of earning much more before travel than many of these vendors would in several years, the discussion made me realize was how long it’s been since I’ve frequented street vendors abroad for food—one of the big changes that comes from traveling with babies and young children.
In my life before kids, I certainly did eat more adventurously during travel—at seventeen and eighteen I frequented food stalls in Asia, thankfully with little consequence. Yet I also somehow contracted Giardia at the end of a trip to Eastern Europe, and I certainly wouldn’t wish that on any child, let alone an adult. After a “last supper” in Athens, I suffered the worst food poisoning of my life, and from a charming restaurant in the touristic Plaka district no less. Food- and water-borne illness can happen anywhere, but the odds are much higher in certain regions, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly when you visit with small children. In fact, rule #1 in my section on Food and Water Safety in Travels with Baby is to:
Avoid foods from street vendors – as friendly and generous as they may be to your child and family, they often have little or no refrigeration available for the foods they prepare, and likely do not have a place to wash their hands with clean water and soap.
This is not to say that you can’t take a baby or toddler to exotic and even underdeveloped regions of the world. I have myself, and with thoughtful planning and smart strategies for how you’ll handle sensitive issues including food and water safety, particularly for your child, you can too.
For more tips and advice on traveling with babies and young children to remote regions, see the sections in Travels with Baby on “Going Farther Afield,” with important information on Vaccinations and Travel Shots for babies and breastfeeding mothers, Malaria Prevention for Young Children, and much more on Food and Water Safety.
You can also read a brief excerpt from the book with more tips on food and water safety in my column at Examiner.com (click here).
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
If you or anyone you know is planning to fly overseas with a baby in 2009, you’ll especially want to read (or share) the first article here on booking overseas flights with children under 2 years.
For more help planning and preparing for flights, see Part 5 of Travels with Baby.
Last month, I had what many would call the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to stay at the world class Miraval Life in Balance Spa and Resort in Tucson, Arizona. You may have seen it featured on Oprah (it’s reportedly her favorite destination spa in America), with brave women tackling the inventive challenge courses—including climbing a telephone pole in harnesses and taking bold leaps of faith from the top, learning to eat (gourmet cuisine) mindfully, and learning a lot about themselves through a unique program working with horses.
At seven months pregnant, I knew I would miss my chance to leap off the telephone pole (a great disappointment to my inner-thrill-seeker), but I figured that between the spa treatments, gourmet inclusive dining, and workshops, I would find plenty of other ways to amuse and improve myself at Miraval. What might come as the biggest surprise to some of my readers is that my “leap off the telephone pole” was actually spending the night without either of my children for the first time.
I actually had this opportunity one year ago, and had to turn it down because I just wasn’t emotionally ready to leave my girls, and the thought of boarding an airplane without my family simply broke my heart. I had a serious guilt complex about the hours I’d already spent away from them finishing the book Travels with Baby, and I felt like any amount of time or money I spent having fun should certainly be with them.
This time, however, I was ready for it. All of it. Best of all, I was able to work my “Mommymoon at Miraval” into part of a family vacation to visit nearby relatives, and we all traveled together in true Rivoli style. Knowing that my daughters were having the time of their lives with cousins, Daddy, aunts and uncles, chocolate lab and Chinese water dragon gave me no guilt as I gratefully received my “desert rain pre-natal salt scrub” on arrival (highly recommended!), followed by a steak dinner and four desserts in the dining room, all on my first evening at Miraval (life’s full of tough decisions, dessert shouldn’t be one of them).
As I lay luxuriating in the glorious feather-stuffed bed later that night, enjoying the novelty of complete quiet and the company of a great novel, my book suddenly bobbed on its perch reminding me that one of my children was in fact there with me after all. He sent occasional kicks and jabs to remind me of this throughout my mealtimes and meditations, even to the abhyanga massage therapist who had gently slathered relieving sesame oil to my stretched abdomen (it’s the best stretch mark relief I’ve found yet). I didn’t mind my baby’s reminders at all. I giggled out loud in the middle of my mindful stress management seminar as my shirt leapt in response to a question. It was fun to be on an adventure with my unborn, yet unknown child, and incredible to so freely focus on the wonder of being pregnant again.
Keeping up with my two young children at home has rarely given me a moment to contemplate who this other little person will be, let alone how far along in the pregnancy I am (one blink and I suddenly jumped from 20 weeks to 30). Of course, it was also nice to have the quiet, the space to step back and breathe and see my life from outside the whirlwind of motherhood that’s engulfed me these past 5 years. I’d always figured that if I did eventually get away by myself overnight, alone, I would spend the time locked in a motel room or cabin working on my next novel. I wouldn’t waste a moment sleeping, and would instead stay up all night, a joyous Penelope just weaving fiction as I haven’t been able to do uninterrupted in quite some time.
Instead, I dreamt. I slept and dreamt as I also haven’t done in quite some time. I would wake up from one dream, smile at the realization that I’d had a dream, roll over and dream some more. Unlike at home, where one ear is always perked for the call of a child, I never had trouble going right back to sleep again. I’m not sure if it’s something they put in the pillows at Miraval, but what they’d put on my pillow that first evening has become a treasured bookmark in the novel I’m reading at the end of each day: an inspiration card that reads “Sleep to dream.” Did I ever.
I was hoping, like most people who get the extraordinary chance to visit Miraval, to reconnect with my spirit in ways I haven’t been able to in recent years. Dreaming, something that once was an integral part of my being, my creativity, and even my decision-making process, was an added bonus I hadn’t expected.
For expectant mothers, especially those with one or more children already to care for, I think it’s extremely valuable to have some time away from the hubbub of everyday life and home and reflect on the journey thus far, before the new baby arrives. For tips on creating your own meaningful mommymoon, be it for a weekend or an afternoon, see my latest article at Examiner.com.
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