Friday, October 14, 2011

Package Deal: Traveling With a Toddler

We take our baby everywhere with us.  I know many parents go on dates- or even on vacation- alone, and I'm sure we'll make that choice eventually.  As of now, though, it's not palatable to either Cabbage or me.  Beep is young, she spends a tremendous amount of time at daycare, and we all. just. need. each. other. 

We're a package deal. 

There was no question Beep was coming with us to Florida, but traveling with a toddler can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned traveler.  We were going to have twelve hours of travel to get there, two fast and furious days packed with parties, sightseeing, and family visits, and then another marathon travel day to get home.  We would literally take planes, trains, and automobiles.

Everyone stresses about the Travel What Ifs, and I am no exception.  Allow me to elaborate:
  • What if she has a major meltdown on the plane and I have to be that parent?  You know: the one with the screaming kid inflicting misery on 100 adults trapped in close proximity? 
  • What if I can't handle all the baby gear by myself and I look totally incompetent?
  • What if she gets sick far from home? 
  • What if she has a diaper blowout? 
  • What if the flights get screwed up and we are stranded until I run out of drinks/snacks/diapers/patience/or we have to sleep on the airport floor? 
  • What if our seatmates aren't nice about sitting next to a toddler? 
I'm getting stressed just listing that crap.  But bear with me.

Beep was always a great traveler as an infant, but toddlerhood changes lots of things...  Her ability to deal with the confinement, long travel days, and the quick turnaround was a big unknown. I'm nothing if not stubborn committed to my ideals, though.  Our trip to Florida was a cover-eyes-and-leap kinda thing. 

It was Beep or bust. 

Due to frequent flyer mile issues, Cabbage was flying separately from us, so Beep and I were on our own for our plane rides.  Fortunately he was able to help get our luggage to the ticket counter, which was a huge bonus.    

What is it like to travel with a toddler?  See for yourself.

It takes more time.  But then there are the unexpectedly entertaining modes of transport.   

A baby traveling thousands of miles requires a lot of gear- car seat, stroller, diapers, snacks, etc... Happily, the stroller will carry not only all this gear, but also your own bag.  And it can be checked for no cost, right at the plane.  Happy day!  TSA was excellent about helping handle the gear at the security checkpoints, too. 

Airports have wide open spaces.  An empty baggage claim plus a ball from home made the perfect playground.

Hollering "Hi!" and waving at new arrivals became the new favorite pastime.  (Many, many people did not say hi back.  I tried to make up for it.)

Most airports have play areas for kids, and we made good use of them.  Opting to board late in the boarding process gave us a few more minutes to play and shaved off unnecessary minutes of confinement.

Once on the plane, a window seat was magical. 

A new book became a lifesaver when I really needed it.  Like, for example, five minutes into the flight.

Quarters are definitely cramped, and there's no solution for that.  Beep traveled on my lap, so this was the sum total of the space she had to play in.  We played quiet games, looked out the window, colored, made good use of iPhone apps, and read books.  

Eventually, my overstimulated, confined, desperately tired baby degenerated into a squirmy, fussy tyrant.  She refused to nap until she pretty much collapsed...

...About the time I spotted the skyline of our destination.

While on vacation, napping will often be accomplished on the run.  Based on empirical evidence, we confirmed a carseat nap is not equivalent to a crib nap.

Whenever possible we let Beep stretch her legs and burn off energy.  I will note that did not always make it easy to get her back in the carseat.  When she'd had enough of it all, I hopped in the back seat and played with her until she nodded off or we arrived at our destination.

We leveraged vacation treats to smooth over feelings of being unsettled and out of routine.  In this case, our tired baby was entertained by the holy trinity of eating a whole banana while watching cartoons from a coveted perch.

In the end, we made it all work and had a great time as a family.  This bottom line is: the gear was just stuff to manage; the schedules were juggled and figured out; the inconveniences passed, as did the fussy times. 

We adapted to Beep in every way possible, and she in turn showed us her own adaptability.  Along the way she revealed small joys we would have otherwise missed as adults and enriched our trip more than we could have imagined.

Did you ever hesitate to travel with your child?  What were your favorite memories from traveling with your baby?  What are your best tips for traveling with a baby? 

P.S.  Stay tuned for a look at the baby gear we packed.  I'll give you the rundown on what was worth taking and what will be staying home next time.


  1. I have great memories of your grandmother traveling across half the country alone with four of us! With slower planes or trains, travel was more tedious. (OK, not quite covered wagon tedious!) Times were different, people were more overtly friendly and helpful, less equipment was required. We made it work and it was completely worth it. I maintained that objective when I traveled, sometimes alone, with you and your siblings. Great adventures! Wonderful memories! Glad I did it.
    Love you, Mom

  2. I've travelled with kids many times. My best tip: leave them behind. Ah but no - we love them too much. I just make sure I get to my destination before the bar is closed. Your daughter looks like she enjoyed her holiday very much - great memories for all of you.


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