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Trip Planning Frustrations and Questions

In just a few days my toddler son and I will be making a trip to a wedding where he will be the ring bearer. There's so much to consider, so much to plan for.

I've taken books out of the library about flying on airplanes to familiarize him with the process we'll go through. And then, of course, we've been practicing his ringbearer duties. I've made arrangements for his uncle to help dress him, because he will also be wearing a suit. Hopefully, that will make my son more likely to wear his own.

There's the question of what sorts of things I need to take on the plane to keep him occupied and happy; what I'm actually allowed to bring on the plane; what should I pack for us, considering we're going to need to pack lighter than we normally do. And of course, the question of how to handle all the luggage by myself, while holding a toddler's hand.

The last six weeks have been busy for us. First, to secure funding for the trip, then to secure the airfare, hotel rooms, rental car. All of this should have been easier than it was. But unfortunately, in the five years since we last used AAA, they seem to have taken a turn for the worse.

We planned our entire honeymoon through AAA simply by telling them where we wanted to go, our budget, and what dates; they did all the rest. This time, however, the first person that we got wasn't even capable of understanding what city we wanted to go to, and when we left out of frustration and went to a different AAA office -- the one we had used for our honeymoon -- we didn't get much better service. The woman we were assigned to couldn't access the same information from her computer that we had found from home using the AAA website. She even told us, somewhat condescendingly, that "We have a direct connection to the airlines; we don't use the Internet." Well, that's kind of foolish, if you ask me, especially when the comparison flights pop up so easily on their own website, and she had to make multiple calls just to find the info she dug up.

When she quoted us ticket prices hundreds of dollars higher than we'd found on their own site, we turned her down. Of course, at home, we ran into further problems, with the AAA website not taking our method of payment, even though the same method worked a couple minutes later on another travel planning site. We didn't get our AAA discount, but at least we were allowed to pay!

On top of this, I was still trying to go through this agent to get information on hotels and rental cars in that area that have AAA discounts. She was out a number of days and didn't call me back in a timely manner on the days she was in. The only information she gave me was a hotel near the airport that was at least $50 a night more expensive than anything we'd been looking at. Finally, I ended up doing it all myself, making use of my husband's membership discount for a certain hotel chain. Fortunately, I also discovered a way to receive our AAA discount through Hertz Rental Car without going through a AAA agent.

This was all very stressful and is probably part of the reason I've been feeling as bad lately as I did before I started avoiding gluten and dairy. I will definitely be writing a strongly-worded letter later.

Griping aside, my main focus right now is how to make the best of the trip for myself and my son. So I'm hoping that there are some parents and/or travelers out there who might share some tips. How would you entertain a toddler on the plane? My son is almost 3 and enjoys stickers and coloring, so I'll be bringing some activity books for us to do together. But I'd also like thoughts on anything that you might make our trip easier, whether on the plane or otherwise.

So far, in our discussions about the upcoming trip, KFP is excited and open-minded about the new experiences to come. I'm optimistic that, with just a little more planning, we can truly make this a trip to remember.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC)
It's been a long time since my children were small and we traveled, but I'll suggest a few things.

You want to have something for him to suck on or something chewy that will make him swallow a lot on the plane so his ears don't plug up. He's probably too young for gum, but fruit snacks might work.

I always let my kids carry their own "carry-on" backpack too. They could fill it with whatever favorite toys or blanket they wanted as long as it fit and wasn't too heavy. That way they had something comforting and familiar with them the entire trip. Avoid noisy toys. Coloring books, story books, and puzzles worked well for us. Our trips were long before electronic entertainment was so accessible, but I imagine a portable way to play a favorite video might help too.

I remember the first time my son was on a plane. There was a jerk sitting in front of him and I was trying my best to keep my son quiet, but he was so excited and kept moving around, jouncing the seat in front of him and pulling on the tray table. They guy actually turned around and nastily asked me if I could please control my son. I nastily had to explain to him that, "he's four, he's been up since 5:30 so we could catch this flight, it's his first time on a plane, and he's very excited. I will try to keep him calm, but if it bothers you that much, I'm sure the stewardess could try to switch you to another seat." He didn't say a word again, and my son finally calmed down and behaved himself. For the most part. :)

Most major airports have carts you can rent to drag around your luggage with. They usually cost between $3 and $5 and are totally worth it when you're by yourself with children.

Good luck! Have a great trip!
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:06 am (UTC)
Thanks for the idea of the backpack. I'm not sure he'd be willing to carry his own, but I'll definitely get him involved in packing a few things for the plane, with guidelines.

That guy sounds so rude! I'm a little worried about people reacting badly to him, because he'll be excited, too, and will probably be making lots of happy noises. I'll remember your tip about bringing something to chew. He doesn't do either gum or fruit chews, but if I brought one of his favorites (Revolution Foods "Jammy Sammys"), I could probably keep him chewing.

My husband assures me I can ask a "sky cap" at the airport to help me with the luggage, but if I don't see someone like that, I'll look for a cart to rent. Thanks for the tips!
Apr. 15th, 2013 04:27 am (UTC)
That sounds like a bit of a nightmare with travel agents! How ridiculous. Glad you've managed to get it all done, even if you had to arrange everything yourself :/

No suggestions for the flight -- I've never flown with our lot, but I'm sure plenty of parents will have some hints!
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:08 am (UTC)
I was quite honestly shocked, given the polar difference between our last experience and this one. We almost couldn't believe it was the same organization. When you consider that our membership is supposed to include help with travel planning, we certainly didn't get anything worthwhile.
Apr. 15th, 2013 12:01 pm (UTC)
The last time I flew with a toddler by myself, the back-carry was a life saver. If you have a carrier that KFP likes, I cannot say enough good things about it. Hands-free, kid can see everything he wants to and you don't have to worry about him running off while you're juggling a suitcase and carry one bags.
Apr. 15th, 2013 02:22 pm (UTC)
Mine is in a wedding in two weeks as the flower girl, and even at eight I am chewing my nails!! Good luck!!!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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