Cross-country Flight with a Dose of Chillax:
How to Travel with a Baby

Learn how to keep kids entertained, what to bring in a diaper bag, how to deal with car seat issues & much more from our expert traveller, Jordan Reid.

I love traveling with my four-year-old. He understands phrases like “Be quiet, please,” and “You can have yogurt in a few minutes, once the seatbelt sign is off.” My one-year-old? Not so much. If yogurt is what has been requested, yogurt is what must be delivered.


And yet, I’ve decided to fly across the country with my one-year-old daughter, all on my lonesome, so she can be with my dad when he celebrates his 70th birthday in New York City. I’m not going to lie: there have been things in my life that I’ve been more excited about than spending a full day traveling cross-country with a toddler (like everything), but I’m actually feeling semi-confident that this will be…well, if not “relaxing,” exactly, certainly not a disaster. That’s because the many, many just-us-two flights that I’ve taken with my son over the years – starting when he was no more than a few months old – have taught me a few things about how to travel with a toddler.

Let’s go through the big worries that most people have when traveling with small children, and how to handle them (or at least how I’ve handled them in the past, with a pretty decent success rate):

How do I keep them entertained? One word: iPad. If you don’t own one, borrow one. For real. I also swear by the “small surprise toy” technique – I pack a couple of inexpensive, brand-new toys in my bag, and break them out during especially fussy moments. Also: snacks. Have so many snacks. Then have more.

What do I bring in the diaper bag? You already know to bring diapers, wipes, and bottles, but here is what I absolutely insist you bring: a (full) change of clothing for your child…and for yourself. Accidents happen, and sometimes they happen on your lap, and let me tell you: if this happens to you (and yes, it’s happened to me), you will remember this post, and you will say a silent “THANK YOU, JORDAN.” (You’re welcome.)

What do I do if my child starts freaking out and I can feel the eyes of the other passengers boring holes in my back? It feels terrible when you know that your child’s crying is irritating other passengers, but the fact is that you can only do so much. Most people, if they see you actively trying to resolve the situation (singing, bouncing, etc., as opposed to giving up and reading your magazine while your child screams), will be sympathetic. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the stewards for help; they’ve seen it all and often have some excellent suggestions.

How to Travel with a Baby

How do I deal with the car seat issue? If you don’t want to bring your own car seat from home (they’re free to check, but I always find this to be a pain), Alamo offers guaranteed child safety seat reservations from airport-serving locations in the U.S. and Canada for a small additional per-day charge; all you have to do is let them know what kind of seat you’ll need when you’re reserving your car.

How do I keep my children relatively on-schedule during nighttime flights? When I had just one child, I followed the (very good) rule of pretty much sticking to the regular schedule: putting the PJs on at the time they usually go on, giving them the stuffed animal they usually sleep with, having snacks and such at the same approximate times, so that traveling feels as much like “normal life” as possible. With two? All bets are off. I mean, they’re not going to sleep on a plane unless they literally collapse in exhaustion. My personal belief is that being tired isn’t any fun, but it also won’t kill anyone. Put your kids in their PJs and get them cozy enough to rest, sure. But don’t stress out if they don’t fall asleep at the exact time you want them to; all stressing out will do is make the experience more unpleasant than it has to be.

How to Travel with a Baby

And that brings me to my final piece of advice: Chillax. Because even if literally everything goes wrong – and trust me, I’ve been there – what happens at the end is that…it ends. You get where you were going, and you get some sleep, and all is well. Eyes on the prize, guys: you can do this!

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About the Author

Jordan Reid

Jordan Reid grew up in New York City, studied cognitive neuroscience at Harvard University, and worked as an actress for over a decade before turning her focus to fashion, beauty, entertaining, home decor, and DlY creating the popular lifestyle website Ramshackle Glam. A mom of two, Jordan is the author of two parenting and style books, Ramshackle Glam (2014) and Carrying On (2015); her third book will be released by Random House in 2017.