Toddler in Tow – Surviving Travel with a Two Year Old

IMG_2032And there we were. Parked at the Mojave McDonald’s. An hour from home and two hours from the Burbank airport – our cute travel outfit, freshly washed favorite stuffed animals, security blanket, car seat and rental car are covered in puke. Apparently, Maddi gets car sick.  This is just one of a billion travel memories I wish I could scrub from my mind. Changing the baby on the plane seat and hanging the backup (to the backup) set of pants from the tray table while trying to hit it with the overhead air jet to dry was another. Dragging a kicking, howling toddler to and from public changing tables all across the country while screaming back “No one ever died from a diaper change!!” and frantically stabbing all the buttons on my phone looking for freakin’ Frozen while dozens of disapproving moms look on was yet another.

Two weeks, three airports, three states, and about a hundred car hours logged, and aside from a nervous twitch in my eye, I learned some lessons.

Things to Pack:

Individual snack pack bags of cookies. I don’t have any idea why Maddi immediately asks for a cookie every time the car starts. Somewhere, somehow that equation was made in her head. The little bags of mini cookies are awesome because she can stick the whole thing in her mouth at once, theoretically limiting the crumbs and chocolate smears that comes with a hand-held cookie. Also doubles as a barf bag.

Dog waste bags. By the roll. These things are the prefect size for dirty diapers, discarded food, and used wet wipes. Yes, yes – plastic = bad, but so is the smell of pre-digested smoothie baking in the back seat for two hours across the desert.

Double-Sided Crayons. You get six colors but only have three crayons to keep track of rolling into the aisle or under the seat of the plane. Frigging’ magic.

Gallon Zip Lock Bags. For creating multiple baby changing nodes. Each bag has a mini pack of wipes, a travel packet of diaper cream and two diapers. I make up four or five and put them in ALL of our bags. No one ever has the excuse that they didn’t have the diaper bag with them. So there.

Magazines. Our favorites are Highlights, Ranger Rick, and National Geographic for Kids. Light weight, fairly durable and easy to pack, I get the subscription all year long but stash them away for travel so she has something new to destroy. They cover all the basics – pictures, stories, activities, coloring books, tear them up for origami, roll them into drum sticks or telescopes. I’ve even used them as placemats and napkins in moments of desperation.

iPad. Cross-country flights require much more entertainment than usual. I found some great apps and books that have served us well- Endless Reader and Endless Numbers, animated Sandra Boynton books, ABC Aquarium, Koi Pond, Sketch Book Pro… Someday I’ll actually be able to use the iPad for work again. Probably not.

Air Travel Tips:

I’m finding not all airlines are the same. You have restrictions on who flies out of where and pros and cons to each airport. Definitely do as much research as you can before booking. These latest flights were on Southwest and US Airways and both were found to be a much better kid-friendly experience than previous flights on Delta. I have a flight credit on Delta that I keep wanting to donate to Make a Wish, but it feels too much like being a monkey flinging poo at the zoo. Here are two items that are true for all airlines:

Gate Checking the Stroller – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed off the stroller to the attendant at the gate and then watched from my seat on the plane as they simply hurl it over the railing down into the luggage cars below. Consider it a given that your expensive jogging stroller will never be the same. Traveling with something more durable than an “umbrella” stroller but less awesome than your all-terrain-nasa-engineered jogging stroller is the way to go. Something that can help carry the baby and the carry-on bags to the gate and work during your trip but something you absolutely are NOT attached to.

Baby Food & Beverages – Yes! You can take water and food through security and onto the plane, but really consider if its worth it. Sometimes it is just easier to empty the baby’s cup in the trash while waiting in the security line that having them pull you out of line and do every test known to man on the damn 6 oz of juice you insisted on keeping. They have to open it, mess with it, check it for fumes… crazy time consuming. And, after 20 minutes of the baby freaking out over this new stranger in her face, when you say ” You know what, I can just throw this away” they get really pissed.

Travel is never easy but almost always worth it. I just pray the next big trip will be far enough out that I will forget the last one. Like getting the next tattoo.


In other news, I went into my first gun shop. I had a TV interview scheduled for my upcoming book signing and the entrance to the station was literally in the back room of the gun shop. So I walk in all dolled up for this thing, bounce through the front door like a wannabe starlet and am immediately greeted by a half dozen burly locals who immediately drop what they are doing and make no effort to NOT stare at the random woman paused like a deer in the headlights next to the discount camouflage pajama rack just inside the door frame. Silence. To which I involuntarily say out loud to no one in particular “I’m a vegetarian”…. yeah. Clever. The shop keeper realizes she no longer holds command of the customer’s attention and asks if she can help me. Already nervous about the TV spot and totally shocked by my reflex confessional outburst, I kind of whine and point upstairs. With a few minutes to recover, we do the show. This will be the story I open with on Oprah.




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Beverly says:

    I always feel a little guilty laughing my ass off at your trials and tribulations……but cannot help myself……you trigger my silly bone which turns into big giggles. You are an amazing Mom Julie! 👩👼

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