How I survived a trip back East with three kids, and a few sleepless nights
Let me start by saying that traveling is not easy when you are alone, and when you have three kids it just complicates EVERYTHING. Especially if you have a child younger than 3 years old, which I do, and just cannot reason or communicate with you. Back in the day I traveled a ton with the twins, and I feel that once they hit 3 it was a lot of work to travel; however it got a lot easier because they could help and communicate with you. I wanted to share my recent experience with all those mamas out there that are nervous to travel with their little ones. Maybe you'll pick up a trick or tip from this post -- and if not maybe it will just show you that I am a normal mom that is not perfect, and is surviving day to day.
So let's start with the age of my kids - I have twins that are 10 and a 19 month old "demanding" little boy. His nickname is the dictator because he definitely tries to dictate and tell people what to do in our household (lol). My 19 month old does not talk yet, he only points and tries to say words. He is a busy and curious toddler. He has never flown before this trip and we have only taken him on two trips prior to this trip -- once when he was a few weeks old to visit my father-in-law in Central Washington, and one other time early this past Summer when my husband and I took him along with us to a town in Leavenworth. Needless to say this kid loves his home and his familiar surroundings -- who doesn't?
Our flight was 4 hours to get to Pittsburgh, and it took 5 hours to fly back to Seattle. Additionally, we had to wake up at 5:00am to catch our plane the day we left for Pittsburgh -- my little guy wakes normally between 7-7:15am so 5:00am is super early for him. The day we left we had our car packed up and ready to go and the last thing we did was swoop up the baby and his sound machine. The airport is 45 minutes away so we thought he would for sure fall back to sleep -- did he, NO! Of course this was frustrating to me and shocking, but what could I do. He fussed all the way to the airport. He was confused -- probably saying to us in his own baby language, "Why did you wake me from a perfectly comfortable slumber and warm bed, to this cold and uncomfortable car seat?" Regardless, we had no choice, we just continued with check in, and security lines. Luckily once we got to the airport he was occupied by observing the hustle and bustle of the airport.
Once we got on our plane - which took off at 7:30am - we gave him a lollipop. Is this normal for us to give our toddler a sucker first thing in the morning -- heck no! However I wanted to ensure he was busy sucking and swallowing during take off to avoid his ears popping and pain that is created by the airplane pressure. Did it work -- YES! So stock up on those lollipops. About an hour into the flight I had to rock my little guy to sleep -- he never needs rocked and he never sleeps on me...although he only slept for 45 minutes I was ok with this, I knew that he had an early wake up and his whole day was going to be thrown off traveling to another time zone.
You may be asking yourself, "What were your other two children doing Desiree?" Well they are great little travelers. They sat across from me with their portable DVD players and snacks and occupied themselves the whole flight so that I didn't have to be concerned. Yay for twin 10 years olds that aren't as needy as a 19 month old.
Once we landed, yes another lollipop was granted to my toddler for landing, we got our rental car and car seat (we rented the car seat from Alamo), and drove to my parents house. Another 1 hour drive -- and luckily the little man fell asleep. Another 45 min nap, but hey I'll take it. He usually naps once a day for 2 - 2.5 hours, but today was def out of the norm. Once 9:00pm ET struck the clock I noticed we were losing him quickly -- so we put him to bed early that night (9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT). At home he normally falls asleep between 7:30 / 8:00pm (PT). He slept great that night -- all the way to 10:30am (ET). This was perfect since his normal wake up is 7:30pm (PT).
So how did I carry on the rest of the week with his sleep -- I just kept him on West Coast time. There were few nights that I had to put him down 15 - 30 minutes earlier because he was so tired and his body was starting to adjust to ET, but I was forcing it to stay on PT. Another thing that we had working against us -- he has two teeth coming in. So we had one really rough night in which he was up for several hours with me shushing and rubbing his back to go back to sleep (again, I never do this but I was being flexible due to travel), and once he fell back to sleep I just slept on the ground next to him while he was in the pack and play.
We did experience more night wakings than normal. I attributed this to teething, being on such a late schedule when his body wanted to naturally convert to eastern time zone, along with he not being in his own crib in his own bedroom in his own house. That can throw anyone off. When he woke at night I would give him 15 minutes and if he continued to fuss I would just go in his room, lay on the ground and reassure him that I was in the room with him. Was this ideal - NOT AT ALL - but I had to do what I had to do to get through our trip. I told myself that once we got home I would just re-sleep train him if necessary and go back to our normal routine.
After a week of fun and visiting with family we had to catch our plane home. I was super excited to get back to our normal routine and home, but I was nervous about our flight since it was an hour longer to go back, and it was the middle of the day during his normal nap time. Did he sleep? Eventually. After fighting sleep for several hours he snuggled up with Daddy and slept on him for nearly 2 hours!!!!! Yes, success!
When we arrived back in Seattle we got to our car -- everyone was smiling, even our little guy. He ended up falling asleep on the way home from the airport and I just transferred him into his own crib and bed when we got home. I prepared for this in advance and changed him into his night diaper and pajamas at the airport :)
The next day we were back on track - he didn't skip a beat. We have now been home for four days and I have done ZERO sleep training. He has gone back to his normal routine, normal nap time, normal wake time. In fact, he seems to be sleeping more -- I think he is catching up on a slight sleep debt from traveling. He is going down with no fuss, and is just happy to be home. The biggest takeaway from our trip -- BE FLEXIBLE, BUT TRY TO BE CONSISTENT. Sounds completely contradicting, but this is what I did. And when you get home just go back to what's normal.
Feel free to comment below if you have questions about my trip or what to do for a trip that you may have on the horizon.