Tips on Traveling with a One Year Old

As I mentioned a couple days ago, our little family took a trip to Florida last week. The weather was beautiful and I totally didn’t want to come home, but alas money must be made and mortgages must be paid so we’re back now.

What I didn’t realize when we left was that there are so many differences in traveling on a plane/taxi/hotel with a kid that is just 6 months older than the last time you took a trip. So, I’ve put together an easy peasy little breakdown of what worked 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 (a car, a little nubby talking rattle-type toy and a fuzzy bunny) and tied a string to each one so that I could wrap it around my wrist while Jack was playing with them. And he totally 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 Travis in the middle seat. We could keep him contained and he could also look out the windows to watch the guys throw our luggage around.

In our Room
I purposely reserved a room with a separate sitting area with the intentions of setting up the crib in there, giving each of us a little privacy. Yeah, that didn’t work at all. First off, when I called to confirm that they had a crib I didn’t specify 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 stuck him in a playpen and expected him to sleep at night he was 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.

On the Beach
This was actually Jack’s second visit to the beach, since we went to Ocean City last summer. However, at that point you could just sit him in a tent and leave him there. Now, the kid moves… so it’s a whole new ballgame.

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. Jack still gets 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 bought ONE bottle and ONE cup. That’s it. I put some dishwashing detergent in a little travel bottle and we were good to go.

As I mentioned before, we had an amazing time on our trip which means I’m already planning our next vacation in the back of my mind (don’t tell Travis). However, since Jack is so-very-close to walking I’m sure that our next trip will be a whole horse of a different color.

So chime in on your experiences, what are the best tips you have for traveling with a kid of any age?

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