Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blind Mama on the Go: Guide Dog and Two Kiddos in Tow

Child playing with a wooden toy airplane, she wears
pilot goggles and hat.  
Travel with kids can be a daunting task!  Shortly before we left for California I saw a poll of area parents asking how they feel about traveling with toddlers, and asking for tips and suggestions for travel with toddlers in tow.  One of the resounding responses was, "DON'T!"  Hah!  Goes to show that all parents have some level of anxiety around traveling with little ones.

For the most part, I actually LOVE traveling with our children!  When we made a large trip like this last, the Preschooler was then a baby, and the idea of traveling with her felt much more intimidating, but even then it went really well!  She slept during the flights on that trip.  During our most recent trip, she  mostly played games on the iPad and watched movies--fighting sleep as much as humanly possible until she passed out five minutes before landing!

As a guide dog handler, our family typically travels not only with two adults and two kids in tow, but also 50 pounds of furry guide pup goodness and all that comes with her!  Everyone has their own ways of doing things...  Here are a few of the things I did for this trip that made a world of difference!

Guide Pup Food:
For shorter trips, I generally pack Megan's food along in a Ziploc bag in my checked luggage..  I wear a reward pouch on my waist that I keep enough food in for both any reward I intend to give her, plus her meal upon arriving at our destination in case there's any issue with our luggage.  In this case, e were going to be in California for a full week and we wanted to maximize our luggage space, so we calculated her food need for the week and used Amazon Prime to have an appropriate size bag of food shipped to our hotel.  I contacted the hotel and asked how they prefer I label something to be shipped to myself there, and they were very helpful.  When we arrived in San Fransisco, Megan's food was at our hotel waiting for us!  Prior to our trip, I also checked the status of Amazon Prime NOW in the area we would be visiting--they cover that area, so it was something we kept in mind in case we needed something (we didn't however, and there were obviously plenty of accessible Walgreens and Target locations to grab any necessities!)

Babywearing / Toddlerwearing:
I cannot say enough about the benefits of babywearing / toddlerwearing, especially for blind parents who travel with a cane or guide dog.  There are TONS of options for babywearing infants and small toddlers, but far fewer for children the age and size of our Kiddo (she's just over 30 pounds and nearing 4 years old).  We have both a Beco Toddler and a Kinderpack Preschool--both are extraordinarily comfortable and allow me to wear the Kiddo for extended periods of time without discomfort!  This is HUGE for us because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and even shorter periods of time holding the Kiddo (in my arms, without a carrier) generally result in a good deal of pain and stiffness.  The TSA also allows parents wearing a baby/toddler to pass through security without removing the child from the carrier which can be a great time and sanity-saver for parents traveling with young children as well.
Beco Toddler soft structured carrier
Kiddo in the Carseat:
Lugging the carseat around the airport may be inconvenient, but if you're going to Gate Check your child's carseat anyway, you're carrying it the same distance!  We choose to install the Preschooler's carseat on the plane for a couple of reasons.  Always check to see if your carseat is FAA approved.  The Kiddo uses a Diono Radian, which is heavy to travel with, but we love in terms of safety and comfort.
1.  It keeps her carseat out of the underbelly of the plane.  My understanding is that when carseats are gate checked, it can be a pretty bumpy ride, so this keeps kiddo's carseat visible and safe from any damage.
2.  Installing Kiddo's carseat in the plane means keeping Kiddo in her carseat!  Since she rides in her carseat multiple times per week, she's comfortable in it, she's used to it, and she will, on occasion, even fall asleep in it!  She's in a five point harness, so at this point she can't get herself out of the carseat, which means that if she meeds or wants to get up for anything in the airplane, one of us has to help her.  This means that the vast majority of the flight, she is buckled in and contentedly occupied, not trying to move around when we don't want her to.

We're a family of four so when we book our tickets and our seats, we try to sit two and two, and we're careful to situate our seats so that we're directly behind one another with one window seat and one middle seat.  So far, we trade kids--whoever had the youngest on the flight out gets to sit with the oldest on the flight home.  It's a nice way to connect with each of our kids, and it shares the stress of travel with a three year old equally between us as parents.

Two of my favorite people looking back at me on the plane, the Husband and the Tween.
Both are enjoying the free in-flight media and games with their own headphones/earbuds.
We're a pretty technologically involved family and I don't apologize for it.  I totally respect those who have strict limits on electronics, or avoid kids using them entirely.  But, with respect to travel, I'm cool with the kids using an iPad or iPod as much as they want.  When I say travel, I'm primarily talking about flights, train or bus trips, or longer car trips.

Child's fingers touching iPad with headphones attached.
Toys and Books:
We typically try to put together some fun distractions for the kids, that we give to them as we are heading to the airport.  This gives them some new small toys or books (in the case of the Tween) to keep their attention while we travel.  This time, I also got them matching backpacks for the trip--both inexpensive, but served the purpose perfectly, and allowed them to carry some of their own things so that I didn't have to carry everything!  For the Kiddo, different things have fit for different ages, but most recently things like coloring books and a compact set of markers, magnetic dolls with outfits, or small manipulative that keep her hands busy like colorful puzzles have been great!
Photo of the Gonex basic backpack with self-contained pouch that
our girls use for travel.
Snacks and Drinks:
YES!  ALL the snacks and drinks, within reason of course!   We bring one of the Kiddo's Thermos water bottles with so that we have a no-spill option to pour her water, juice, or almond milk into throughout our trip.  We either bring a few favorite snacks with in my backpack or we stop in one of the convenience stores in the airport and allow the kids to choose a couple of snacks to share through the flight.

ALL the snacks!!!
Whatever your travel preferences--I wish you all safe travels, and lots of adventure!!  I love that we're entering this phase of life where we can more easily travel with our children and thoroughly enjoy the adventure!

Up next, some highlights from our California trip--belated with good reason!
Until next time,


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