Tips on Traveling with a One Year Old was originally published
on April 4th 2013 at Pocketful of Joules.
I’m one of those people who LOVE to travel. In college, I saved up some money and went backpacking around Europe a couple of times. Since graduating, I’ve focused on tropical traveling with a bunch of Caribbean cruises and trips to Mexico, Saint Martin, Jamaica, and more. Whenever the opportunity comes up for a work conference, I BEG to be sent away and have recently visited New York City, Chicago, Savannah, and Vancouver.
As much as I love traveling, I knew that once we had our baby it would be much more difficult to just pack up and go. In fact, I convinced my husband to take “one last” trip when I was 5 months pregnant. And yes, I went hiking and cave tubing in Belize with my preggo tummy sticking out, because that’s how I roll.
Apparently my little guy was born with my same sense of adventure (and love of sand) because we’ve continued to travel and bring him along. In the past year Jack has come with us to Chicago, Ocean City (Maryland) and Ft Lauderdale. We haven’t attempted to take him on a cruise yet, but hope to try it out soon!
The idea of traveling with a little guy can be a bit intimidating though, so I’ve put together a list of what works for us. And yes, I know that these particular tips won’t necessarily work for EVERYONE… which is why I’m preceding them with the title of What Worked for US. Take it with a grain of salt, or try some of the things that we tried and hopefully the world will be a happier place. Or something like that.
Traveling by Plane
Why does your kid turn into an angry octopus ninja the moment that you try to get him to sit on your lap on a plane? Wait, is that just my kid?! The fact that kids under 2 can fly free as a “lap baby” is awesome, but you may be asking yourself if it was really worth it by time you reach your destination.
What worked for us:
- Food. Not just any food though, the kind of non-messy individual portioned food that you can feed your kid like a baby bird. No, not by chewing it up in your mouth and spitting it in theirs (and yes, I know the Clueless girl totally did this with her kid), but by handing it over piece by piece directly into their mouth. I packed a bag of cheerios and a bag of cheddar goldfish and they worked fantastically.
- Toys. Or more specifically, toys on strings. Because if you god-forbid drop a toy on the floor once you’re in your seat you’re going to have to be a third degree black belt in yoga to get that thing back. I packed a couple little toys and tied a string to each one so that I could wrap it around my wrist while Jack was playing with them. He really enjoyed throwing the toy on the floor and watching mommy pull it up over and over and over again for what felt like hours. Or for two minutes, which is a long time for a kid.
- Window seat. The plane was totally full, so there was no way we could block off a whole row to ourselves (drat!). The next best thing was to have me sitting in the window seat with Jack on my lap and my husband in the middle seat. We could keep our child contained and he could also look out the windows to watch the guys throw our luggage around.
In our Room
While it would be great to have a separate room for your child to sleep in, that’s not always in the budget. Um, for us it’s pretty much NEVER in the budget so we reserve a crib when we reserve our room. Unfortunately, some hotels consider a playpen a crib and don’t bother clarifying over the phone. I would just like to say that a PLAYPEN is NOT A CRIB! To Jack, a playpen means PLAY TIME while waiting for mommy to get ready for work. So, when we stick him in a playpen and expect him to sleep at night he is understandably (and loudly) confused and unhappy with our stupidity.
What worked for us:
- King Bed. Get a king bed, you know… just in case you all end up sleeping there. Because even though it’s quite likely that your kid will still somehow kick you in the neck at 3am, at least you’ll have somewhere to roll to in order to whimper quietly.
- Childproof. Hotel rooms are not necessarily designed with your kid in mind, so bring your own outlet caps if your kid likes poking his fingers in them. Block the bathroom door with the stroller if you must, in order to slow the kid down from crawling at warp speed to explore the toilet. Also, try to get a room with a bathtub because holding a slippery, naked kid in a shower isn’t for the faint of heart.
- Toys. You’re probably not going to want to pack your kids entire collection of toys, much less lug it around from the airport. Just pack a few of his favorites and go purchase a cheap sand toy set from a nearby dollar store or CVS. There you go, now you have toys for the room, bath toys and sand toys all in one $5 purchase. If you have room, you can throw them in your suitcase to bring home or just cut your losses and leave them behind.
What worked for us:
- Sunscreen. In my family, we call it “buttering the kids up” and little Jack was buttered from head to toe in sunscreen every single day, whether we were in swimsuits or not. Their skin is more fragile than ours, so don’t take any chances. Also, think about how much you whine when you’re sunburnt and imagine how your kid would react… it’s worth it to spend a few minutes covering them in lotion before you get them dressed.
- Hat. Yes, your kid needs to wear a sunhat. However, you would think that you were trying to set his hair on fire the way that most of them react when you try to put them on. We used the Distraction Ball technique and as soon as we put the hat on Jack’s head, we immediately thrust a toy or cheddar goldfish into his hand. Boom. Done.
- Diaper Bag Switchout. I normally carry a super cute Fossil messenger bag as my diaper bag (and yes, my husband carries it too), however, on our trip I changed out to a simple black backpack. One pocket held diapers, wipes and my wallet, the next held a bib and some easy snacks, and the third had a couple small toys. When I had Jack on my back in one of those baby backpack contraptions, my husband had the diaper backpack on his.
At the Restaurants
Let me start with saying that we are incredibly lucky because Jack is totally a restaurant kid. He comes out with us pretty much everywhere and is quite content to chill out in a restaurant high-chair. I totally understand that some kids are not like this and I hear it from my friends (and strangers) that our days are numbered until Jack turns into a total monster out in public. To them I’d like to say: Shut Your Face.
What worked for us:
- Snack-etizers. Be prepared. If your kid is starving and the food is taking FOREVER, you KNOW that he is going to freak the frack out, right? We always had some cheerios, cheddar goldfish, teddy grahams and those little applesauce packets with us. Just a few pieces at a time are enough distraction (and munchies) to keep Jack happy until the meal arrives.
- Share. If there is nothing on the kiddie menu that you want to feed your kid (so many restaurants think that all kid’s food needs to be fried), order something for yourself that they can eat. There is always some kind of plain-like chicken or fish that would be healthy and yummy for a kid to eat. You can also usually order an extra veggie side to share. And once again, YES, I KNOW that not every kid likes eating everything. Luckily, we’re still in the stage where Jack likes literally EVERYTHING so he’s content with bites of my fish, green beans and mashed potatoes. Bonus: I eat a lot healthier when I’m ordering for the both of us.
- BYOB. Last time we traveled, Jack got a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night, the rest of the day he drinks out of a straw cup. We would bring ONE bottle and ONE cup with us on the trip. That’s it. I put some dishwashing detergent in a little travel bottle and we were good to go.
Hopefully some of these tips help you out next time you’re traveling with a little guy or gal. The toys-on-a-string tip alone saved my sanity on the plane! Please feel free to chime in with your own experiences – what are the best tips you have for traveling with a child of any age?
Joules from Pocketful of Joules has been blogging since 2011 on everything from losing a job, finding a new one, selling a house, buying a house, moving twice, getting pregnant and popping out a baby 2 months early. She’s a full-time working mother, a blogger, a DIYer, a writer and a gourmet marshmallow eater.