And so we return home from our very first airborne adventure. Couple things were in our favor on our last day o' travel.
A late departing flight. (3:00 ish) -Being able to sleep in, NOT have to wake little children AND have plenty of time to shower, get ready, get 3 kids ready, pack up 4 suitcases and straighten up the hotel room so we are in fact allowed to return someday was AWESOME!
Room Service- If you have young triplets, you know how exhausting even the thought of going to restaurants is...so ordering room service for late breakfast/early lunch was a total sanity saver. Blueberry pancakes, french toast, bananas, hash browns all around! Fill up those travelin' bellies!
Late Check-out- (noon) This totally saved us from having to rush all morning AND tool around town killing time before our flight. Thank you Hilton President, you ROCK!
Valet-this one's obvious. Having the mini-van (yes, we got to be a mini-van family for once!) ready for us as we arrived downstairs was just brilliant.
We left the hotel and headed for the airport, arriving about 2 hours before flight time.
We dropped off our rental car first and prepared for the first round of baby-strapping/car seat strapping while the Rental Car Dude looked on like we were crazy. I believe his words were, "Boy, y'all got yer hands full." (Resist the urge, Ami. Keep your mouth shut.) His gawking was only made better when Brian yelled back, "Nah, we're just gonna strap the kids to the suitcases." And he thought we were kidding.
Despite the fact that we refused his offer to get us a luggage cart at least 4 times, because we actually NEEDED our luggage to roll our kids around, he continued to watch our method most inquisitively. Not only that, he actually left briefly and came back with another rental dude and said, "I told him he needed to see this!" Why, you're welcome everyone. Glad we could entertain you.
And just like that, we were headed for the airport. Once again, we had to do the whole Shuttle Shuffle, but now that we knew what we were capable of, this time was exponentially less stressful.
We went through security ( a MUCH smaller area than in Phoenix) but once again, the TSA people were so helpful by allowing us to pretty much campout at stations both prior to and beyond security. Frankly, I don't think anyone wanted to get in our way! Also, this time, we did not fully unstrap the Traveling Toddler Straps (we left the top clip in place so putting them back on luggage was SO much easier! )
I'm an Arizonan. How could I not take a picture of this?And then we went to our gate and waited. Brian asked the gate agent if we could board at the earliest possible moment to give us a little extra time to get everyone situated. The agents were MOST gracious and totally hooked us up. We actually had time to load everyone onto the plane AND sit down and chill before the rest of the passengers boarded. Like we typically do when feel like we pretty much rock, Brian and I reached across the aisle and gave each other knuckles. The flight attendant totally saw us and said, "Good for you! You guys should give each other knuckles!"
Ethan the greeter literally waved and/or blew kisses to every passenger that boarded our plane. Most people simply ignored him which made it SO exciting for him when somebody DID acknowledge him or wave back! OMG! Talk about making a toddler's day!
And then we were off! The second flight was as perfect as the first. We were sure to clap and cheer at takeoff and landing to make sure no one was afraid. And folks, having Monsters Inc. playing on one side of the aisle on a laptop and Kung Fu Panda on the other side of the aisle on an iPad was a total stroke of genius.
My friend Jen picked us up at the airport in our Suburban, which SHE TOTALLY CLEANED, inside and out, AND she filled up the gas tank for us, AND she bought toys for the kids to entertain them for their drive back to Tucson. Let me tell ya people. It's hard to beat friendship like that! She said, "I just knew that if were coming from a long flight, the last thing I'd want to do is have to clean the car or stop to get gas. I'd want to be able to go straight home." Thank you Jen. You are good people. :)
We stopped at Brian's family's house as we drove back to Tucson for a stretch of the legs, a meal and most importantly some time out of the carseats. The kids had a blast playing with Nana, Papa and Auntie Kristen AND meeting their new Puppy Bella (bloodhound/lab) A-DOR-A-BLE!!
And then, we headed home. OUR home. Which I thank GOD I cleaned before we left because it feels SO great to come home to a clean house. Aaaahhh....serenity.
And so, as this trip concludes, I will leave you with our...
Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Toddler Triplets. *plus a bonus
(Try saying that 10 times fast)
10. CARSEATS ON THE PLANE
If flying, (with kids over the age of 2) plan to put the carseats on the plane. They already know that a carseat means 'I aint gettin' out' so that alleviates the headache that comes with three 2 year-olds fastening and unfastening the airplane seatbelt. (Do you KNOW how easy it is to lift the metal buckle?") Carseats on a plane....brilliant.
9. TRAVELING TODDLER
To aide you with number 10 above, invest in the TRAVELING TODDLER carseat accessory. So small, simple, so inexpensive ( I got three for $9 a piece). And SO SAAVY. We had several people (people traveling with small children, strollers, luggage, etc.) ask us about them because of how streamlined and effortless we made traveling look. For real, you know I don't like to toot our own horns, but seriously, we made traveling look GOOD thanks to the Traveling Toddlers!
8. MOVIES AND LAPTOPS
Unless you are actually one of those good parents who haven't let your children see TV yet because the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children under two see NO TV. If that's you, kudos to you. But that is NOT us! We are a Disney family through and through. So we had a laptop with DVDs (Nemo, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., etc. and an iPad which I'd downloaded some other Disney movies from iTunes. So each parent on each side of the aisle had a movie to watch. This was absolutely perfect for us and the kids were so content.
7. LOLLIPOPS AND FRUIT SNACKS
Adults chew gum and swallow to keep their ears from plugging, kids need something to get their little jaws going. So for us, as we began to taxi out before actually taking off, I gave the kids some chewy fruit snacks to chew and swallow and also handed them their sippy cups and made sure they were swallowing periodically until we reached 10,000 feet. (Till you hear the first 'ding'. ) It worked like a charm. No one complained of ears at all on either flight. We also gave them lollipops to keep them busy and keep em swallowing throughout the flight. For kids who don't normally get sweets, this was brilliant. :)
6. HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST
Really, no different than any other outing in town. Just prepare for anything and everything. Be SURE you bring enough diapers, be sure you bring enough wipes. Don't forget bandaids, crackers, toys, Antibacterial Wipes, Sippy Cups, Straws, extra clothes, etc. The last place you want to be is stuck on a plane, 37,000 feet in the air and realize you used your last diaper in the airport. The flight attendants don't carry extra diapers so if you don't want to go asking every passenger for a diaper, come prepared. And then overdo it. Be extra prepared. Bring toys from home that will fit in a suitcase so your kids will have something to do when you get to the hotel. If not, they will play with the lamps, the ice buckets, the tissue dispenser, the phone, etc.
5. BE NICE, BE GRACIOUS
If there are two of you, traveling with 3 of them, you're going to be slower than most. Expect that there will be people seated near you who are not 'kid friendly people.' Say something friendly up front, and thank them ahead of time for being understanding. (How can they not be NOW?) :) THANK the TSA people, THANK the flight attendants, THANK the people around you. THANK the gate agent who lets you board early, THANK the people in your gate area who play peek-a-boo with your kid 14 times in 5 minutes. Graciousness will get you so much farther than bossiness or snottiness.
4. BULKHEAD IF POSSIBLE
If it's at all possible, try and reserve the bulkhead row on the plane. (The bulkhead is the first row of each cabin). This way, no one is seated in front of you and you have a little extra leg room. This also means there are no passengers in front of you whose seats risk being kicked by your trio. The only downfall to the Bulkhead is that you must put your carryon bags in the overhead compartment for takeoff and landing, so be sure to grab your fruit snacks, lollipops and sippy cups BEFORE you take off because you won't be able to just grab them with your bags stowed up above. You can take your bags down and have them at your feet for the rest of the flight, just as soon as the 'Fasten Seatbelt' sign goes off. You'll just have to stow them up above again before you land.
3. PACK N PLAYS
If you can help it, stay in a hotel that can provide you with 3 pack and plays. Cuz that is definitely not something you want to travel with. Most hotels have these, but save yourself the headache later and CALL AHEAD and reserve them. I called at least a week and a half in advance and spoke directly with the Manger of Housekeeping who put it in our reservation that we needed 3 pack and plays. When we arrived late that first night, they were already in our room, put together with nice sheets and blankets for the kids.
2. CONSIDER THE TIME CHANGE, (IF NECESSARY)
If you're planning some really great activities for your kids, make sure that 8:00 a.m. at Disneyworld isn't really 5:oo in the morning by your kids' body clocks. Cuz that would've meant you woke them up at 4:00 in the morning to get them ready. Yes, I speak from experience.
But unfortunately our Disneyworld was actually a really important photo shoot. My bad.
1. CONFIDENCE and HUMOR
Be sure to pack your sense of humor. It may not be the easiest thing you'll ever do and surely something will go awry. But be prepared to laugh about it, and be sure to put on your gracious face for each person who cleverly tells you that "you have your hands full." They all think they're telling you something you don't know. Act as if it's the first time you've ever heard it every time. Further, be confident. YOU CAN DO THIS. Deep breaths, teamwork, planning ahead. It's in the bag!
Come up with a system ahead of time. For instance Brian and I decided ahead of time that when it got to those times when strapping and unstrapping needed to happen, I was responsible for getting the kids and he was going to take care of all the 'stuff.' So for instance, when we got to security, I quickly began taking all the kids' shoes off and putting them in the buckets while Brian began unstrapping the carseats. I then unstrapped the kids and we went through the security door. I waited on the other side with all the kids while Brian stayed back and put everything on the conveyor belts. Likewise, on the jetbridge, we agreed to unstrap one carseat, and Brian would run that kid onto the plane. While he was doing that, I was already unstrapping the second carseat so that there was no wasted time. Whatever your system, talk it out ahead of time so you're not arguing in front of the masses. And seriously, expect to work as a team. One person cannot do it all.
And that's a wrap folks.
If I may say so, I'm chalking this one up as a successful trip.
Cheers to that!