Tips for Traveling ALONE with a Toddler!
As a mom, you want to visit your family to make special memories with your sweet child, right? How do you plan on getting there, a magic carpet ride? We recently went on an eight day trip. Each of our travel days included 2.5 hrs driving, 2 flights, a 2 hr layover, and crossing over 2 time zones, totaling 13ish hours of traveling. Did I mention that “we” meant me and our 2 year old? My biggest dilemma of traveling (to visit family, go on vacation, anything more than an hour away) was the anxiety of traveling with a baby/now toddler. Until we quit nursing at 23 months, our daughter never slept ANYWHERE except her bed (not in the car, stroller, our bed, etc) which made me not want to travel. She hated being in the car and would literally cry for hours without ever taking a nap. Luckily, turning 2 seemed to put those woes behind us and opened up a new world of travel opportunities!
If you’re crazy enough to travel alone with a toddler, here are 6 tips to make your life easier!
1. Educate and prepare them for traveling before the trip.
A month before our trip, I began talking regularly about visiting family, going to the airport, how to behave on an airplane, and how our routine would be different for a while. I showed her pictures of the family members we’d see and practiced saying their names. This helped her to become familiar with them and be more comfortable around them when we got there. We went to the library and checked out books about airplanes and traveling. By the time we actually left for our trip, she was super excited to see all of the big airplanes and sit in her own chair with a seatbelt like Mama’s.
2. Bring their OWN carry-on bag.
Having her own special monkey backpack was exciting enough by itself. What got ME excited was that it was loaded with everything Eisley needed/wanted on the plane, allowing me to pack my own carry-on with items for me! Her bag had diapers, wipes, books, an activity book, stickers, a mini etch-a-sketch, headphones, snacks, water, and a few small toys. It was nice not having to dig through my backpack in search of stuff for her and she really enjoyed having the freedom to get whatever she wanted out of her own bag.
3. Walk/dance/run/move around as much as possible before getting on the plane.
Besides waiting in line to go through security, Eisley didn’t even ride in her stroller. She either pushed it on her own or we walked it together. I know how much she dislikes being buckled up, so I did whatever I could to keep her moving (with hopes it would make her tired enough to nap…which never happened). I had gone back and forth between bringing our big BOB jogging stroller or the tiny umbrella stroller, knowing that either one could be checked for free at the gate. The BOB is smooth, easier to maneuver, and can carry bags, but it’s also bulky. I’m glad we went with the umbrella stroller since she barely used it and I didn’t have to worry if it got damaged while being checked (which happened on our way back, a wheel got bent!). Even though we had priority seating, we chose to wait until last call to board the plane since it reduced sitting time. I highly recommend doing this, if possible!
4. Buy a pair of over the ear headphones.
I am all about #childhoodunplugged and restricting/eliminating electronics for our children, but when it comes to traveling alone with a 2 year old, on multiple flights with a long layover, I bent the “rules” to make life a little easier on us. Nobody is happy on a long flight with a crying child, but Mama sure ain’t happy when she’s trying every trick up her sleeve to try and calm the child without success. Traveling is exhausting in itself, even more so with a toddler. Before our trip we ordered Hello Kitty Kid Safe Over the Ear Headphones for only $12.50 on Amazon.com (free 2 day shipping for Prime members). The description says ages 3+ but the headphones fit her just fine. They have volume limiting technology so it can’t get too loud for their little ears, even if the device is turned all the way up. Eisley was able to listen to music, watch a movie on the screen in the seatback, and even wore them with nothing connected because she thought they were that cool.
5. Pack SNACKS!
I mean, pack LOTS of them! Eisley ate way more than she usually does, plus we were on the plane during our lunchtime and again during dinnertime. I bought snack sized zip lock bags since they don’t take up much space and provide good portions. We had raisins, blueberries, apple slices, trail mix, Cliff Bars, cheese slices, crackers, and fruit/veggie pouches. I brought each of us reusable water bottles so we could fill them up at the airport after going through security and I could pour her “complimentary beverage” into it (instead of giving her a plastic tumbler cup and pretending like she wouldn’t spill it all over the place).
6. Keep bedtime and nap schedule to your time zone.
Don’t worry about adjusting sleep to the new time zone you’re in, that’s just asking for trouble. It may seem weird seeing your child play and run around until 10:30 pm, but that’s only 8:30pm in your time zone, so everything is fine. It was pretty nice that she slept in until between 9:00-10:00am during the trip (7:00-8:00am our time), which allowed me to wake up early to enjoy some quiet adult time with my family (and drink lots of coffee).