We had several trips this fall to explore what it was like to travel with a toddler before our big Japan trip: two trips to Wisconsin for events with Kim's family and a trip to Washington DC for a work conference/family trip. That gave us the chance to explore options and see how Emerson would do with travel now. What kinds of gear and gadgets might come in handy on our trip? Here's what we hope will help!
On the go...
We discussed the idea of taking a stroller along to Japan. We tried out a MacLaren Volo on some of our fall trips. Great stroller, happy to have it when we're visiting the zoo here in Nashville or for other out and about trips, but after some reflection, we decided a stroller was just too much of a hassle to cope with for the types of places we like to visit. We've been big fans of baby wearing since Emerson was a newborn. While we've loved several baby carriers, Emerson is bigger now and it's harder to wear him in these packs. Plus, with most of them, Emerson can't see over our shoulders because he's situated just a bit too low. Great for getting him to take a nap, not so great when you're out exploring. For our trip last month to DC, we went with a Deuter Kid Comfort II and it worked out really well. Deuter is a backpack manufacturing company, leading to this pack being comfortable for both the toddler and the person wearing it. We'll check this bag and use our Boba Carrier as a backup in the airports. Does that sound like we've thought about this part a lot? Yeah, probably too much.
On the planes...
Last fall, when Emerson was little, plane rides were easy. We'd get on the plane, he'd fall asleep, he'd wake up when we got to our destination. Not-so-much with a toddler, plus the long flights. Plane rides now are grand adventures - he loves to look out the window as we take off and land. Other than that, he needs activities to distract him. What we have queued up:
- Crayons & paper - we've got a bunch of fantastic triangle shaped (to avoid rolling) washable crayons. E loves them! Mostly we just use plain paper that he can scribble on because he's not into coloring pages yet, but we also picked up this small basic shape coloring book. No expectations to color within the lines.
- Stickers - stickers are like magic to a toddler. They stick! How? Who knows? E's a big fan of stickers so we picked up several different varities for the trip, focused on kinds like this that are easy to remove so if when he puts them where they don't belong, we can get them off.
- Sticky tape book - ditto everything I said about stickers
- Pipe cleaners - lots of online "what to do with toddlers on a plane" sites suggested these. We haven't tried them out yet, so I'm not sure how E will feel about them. Lightweight, easy to pack, non-destructive. A good toy in theory.
- Books. For this trip specifically Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb and Freight Train. Both of these are new-to-Emerson and small to make them easy to pack.
- Some random new toys that we don't normally buy and wouldn't mind losing - little toy animals, colorforms, and some finger puppets from IKEA.
- Lacing cards - these have been a huge hit on our other trips this fall.
- tegu magnetic blocks - if stickers are magic, magnetic blocks are even more magical, at least to Emerson.
Distractions of last resort...
We don't have a TV at home and Emerson doesn't really get to watch many videos normally, but with travel we're going to make an exception and have several activities queued up on our iPads if our other activities fall short. We have an episode of Dinosaur Train, some animated Ezra Jack Keats videos, and My Neighbor Totoro. We also have a few apps on our iPads & phones, like Peekaboo Forest and Peekaboo Wild. Just like ebooks for adults, there are also some interactive ebook apps that are toddler appropriate like Blue Hat, Green Hat and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. We also picked up a special pair of child sized headphones.
Emerson has a peanut allergy, plus we're vegetarians. We found these fantastic food and travel translation cards online and feel better to have those with us while traveling in Japan. We'll also always have an epi-pen prescribed by our allergist along with us. For the vegetarian part, the main thing we learned on our fall trips is that airport vegetarian cuisine is either a) nonexistent or b) horrible. So, we're going to pack along light snacks to nosh on while traveling. We're also going to be flexible with respect to food while we're in Japan. Our temple lodging in Koya-san is completely vegetarian, but finding completely vegetarian food might be challenging other than that. We're okay with that.