International Travel with a Toddler Made Easy

This post is sponsored by Rochester International Airport.

Our son with his Dadu and Thammi (Grandpa and Grandma)

This past November my little family embarked on a big adventure half way across the world.  And like most big adventures, the planning and logistics of travel with a toddler was making my husband and I feel incredibly anxious. Heck, even travel without a toddler makes me feel a bit nervous!

My husband was born and raised in India and that is where the majority of his family still resides.   As our son was quickly approaching two years old, we thought it was time to finally make the trip so that he could meet his grandparents and uncles.  

We also wanted to take advantage of the common belief that “children under 2 fly free”–which infact, is not entirely true.  

Because we had never traveled very far with our son previously, we had no idea what we were doing or what we had to look forward to.  We mostly just expected the worst.  It’s not that we’re necessarily overly pessimistic people but our son, who has hated his car-seat since birth, could barely last 15 minutes in the car without a meltdown. I couldn’t imagine how 30+ hours of travel time would affect him and I really wasn’t looking forward to it!

I also felt overwhelmed with figuring out what we needed to bring along. And trying to make sense of all the rules of flying internationally with a child were making me feel dizzy. To add to the stress, I was 10 weeks pregnant and would be traveling in the midst of my first trimester. Uffdah.

Leave the Stroller Home

We were taking four check-in bags, two carry-on bags and a very heavy diaper bag.  Not to mention all the other stuff traveling nearly 8,000 miles with a toddler requires. We decided to leave the stroller at home (one less thing to stress about!) and instead carry our son in a baby carrier.  It sounds crazy, but was one of the best decisions we made.

Using the baby carrier instead of a stroller meant that I had my hands free.  It also made going through security checks a breeze.  I’d just slip him out and once we were through the check, slip him back in.  It also meant we didn’t have to wait for the stroller after getting off the plane.  Instead, I’d put on my sling once the plane stopped and he’d be tied snug to me before we even stepped foot in the aisle. 

 

Fly Out of Rochester

Another decision I’m glad we made was to fly out of Rochester International Airport instead of Minneapolis. I really believe this decision positively affected our entire trip.

We needed to catch an early flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi.  We could either fly from Rochester at 6am or leave from Minneapolis a little bit later.  Because both planes departed so early, we’d have to be at the airport by 4am. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

Airline tickets are already so expensive, I didn’t want the expense of a hotel room or booking a shuttle too.  It would also be a huge inconvenience to our friends and family if we asked them to drop us so early considering we were leaving on a weekday.  

We decided to fly from Rochester for a few reasons–the biggest being convenience.  

My husband and I decided that we would drive ourselves to the airport.  This meant we wouldn’t have to bother anyone and we could also pack the vehicle the night before, ensuring we didn’t forget anything.

Because long-term parking can be a bit expensive, my sister swung by once she finished work and picked up the car for us. This saved us quite a bit of money in parking charges! She also brought the car back the night before we were set to return (a month later) so we’d have a way to get home, too. 

This was a huge perk of choosing Rochester over Minneapolis!  At the end of a long trip, who wants to hop in a car or shuttle and travel another hour and a half before reaching home? Not me.

Because we drove ourselves, we also had a bit more flexibility with timing.  We were able to let our son sleep until we had to leave the house at 4am.  It was still unnaturally early, but at least he got a few extra minutes of rest.  

Ask Questions

Once we got unloaded at the airport, it was time to check in.  The ticket agent was very kind and answered all sorts of questions for us and gave us some pointers, too.  She was able to check our luggage in from Rochester all the way to Kolkata, which was awesome!  This meant we wouldn’t have to worry about collecting or hauling around our luggage until we were at our final destination.

We also learned that with the airline we were flying we could check a couple more bags for free.  I was grateful she told us this and we decided to check our carry-on bags too.  Going through security with only hand/laptop bags and a diaper bag made traveling so much easier! It was hard enough keeping track of the toddler, his stuffed dog and his “blankie.” I was happy I didn’t have to drag bags around, too.

Once our passports and visas were checked and our tickets were printed, we made our way to the security line. There wasn’t any wait and the TSA agents were extremely helpful and patient.  They answered any questions I had regarding flying with my son and made me feel more comfortable.  I really appreciated actually being able to speak with someone familiar with the rules. Google can only calm my anxieties so much…  

Waiting to board the plane. He was pretty excited to go on his first flight!

Use Available Resources

By this time my son was starting to get a bit cranky.  He was hungry so we got some food at the little cafe in the airport.  There really weren’t many options, but it was enough to tide us over until we got to Chicago.  

I was also happy to see that the airport had a mini library–stocked with children’s books.  I didn’t have to dig through his bag or resort to letting him watch his tablet so early in our trip. My son fell in love with a book called, “My No, No, No Day” and he refused to give it up.  We ended up taking it along on our trip and returned it once we arrived back in Rochester. 

Overall, our trip to Kolkata from Rochester went really smooth.  There were minimal tantrums and it turns out my son really loves flying. So much so, that when we returned to Rochester he was mad we were going home and weren’t getting on another plane! 

We’re already planning our next trip for sometime this winter and I can assure you we’ll be flying out of Rochester.  For our family, it just makes sense. The convenience of being close to our home and the fact that it’s less busy and less crowded than Minneapolis seals the deal.  Especially since we’ll be adding an infant into the mix (wish us luck!).  

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