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.