Friday Fête

Soooo…. let’s say you had to travel somewhere that was roughly 500 miles away from your home with a 1.5-year-old child. Do you fly or drive?

500 Mile Trip with Toddler

Poll Maker


A in Christmas outfits
A in a couple of outfits she got for Christmas. Always on the move, always finding things to explore…

Okay, let’s look at those options a little closer now:

If you fly:

How do you deal with a car seat once you’ve arrived? Do you check one? And if you check one, how do you deal with the car seat, luggage and the kid? And then installing the car seat into a car on arrival, while trying to make sure that toddler doesn’t run away or do something else to endanger herself?

If you drive:

How do you keep a toddler entertained in the backseat of a car for hours on end when they face backwards and don’t watch TV?

These are questions keeping me awake at night and causing me inordinate amounts of stress right now.

Other snippets and tidbits and such:

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  • Still thinking (and thinking… and thinking…) about changing up my hair!


  1. 500 miles isn’t too bad. If you’re going by yourself and no one can hang out in the back seat with her, try some of those things that hang on the handle of the car seat, like mirrors and dangling things. Maybe one of those things that you put in the tray part of a stroller that looks like a car dashboard with the steering wheel that lights up? Music is always a fun thing. Talking to her on the road could also help. Maybe kids books on tape?

  2. Michelle’s child is clearly much more go-with-the-flow than mine 🙂 (most are). I had to drive about 350 miles when she was just shy of 2. I normally limit tv, but there would have been simply no other way for us. It took Dora on a Kindle for 95% of the time and, at a certain point, she was just d-o-n-e. We got out at a rest stop to use the bathroom, and she would simply not get back in the car. This was with me in the back seat with her the whole time. So, for my kid, we’d have to fly. I bought a little strap that you can use to attach your car seat to one of those rolling carry ons. It wasn’t great, but it got the job done. We don’t check car seats because I don’t trust them to not get banged up. I take them on the plane with us. But if I was the only adult, I might cross my fingers and check it. Plop her in the front seat while you install it.

    • I drove about 180 miles with her when she was about 9 months old on my own and we were both in tears by the end of the drive since she started screaming about 25 miles into the drive (right when you really get out of town, of course.) We drove about 500 miles this summer with both of us and I had to be in the back with her and even then she screamed a lot. I’m terrified about doing this all on my own, every option sounds horrible!

  3. If you think Miss A will have trouble in the carseat for that long, and you can afford the flight, definitely fly. You can check her carseat as luggage (and it doesn’t cost anything, or count toward your total–put it in a clear plastic garbage bag for protection), or you can gate-check it if you’re worried about losing it. Gate-checking has the advantage of being sure you’ll get your carseat on the other end, but the disadvantage that you have to cart the carseat all the way to the gate. (I almost always gate-check my carseats.) OR you can see if a friend on the other end has a carseat you can borrow. My mom just bought carseats for my kids to keep in Omaha, so we’d never have to worry about taking them since we travel there fairly frequently.

    OR you can pay for a ticket and let her sit in her carseat on the plane. Since she’s under two you can fly with her on your lap, but an 18-month-old is pretty big and wiggly to stay on your lap for a long flight. For a short flight of only 500 miles, you could probably manage it, and it’s much cheaper. (And when my kids were that little, they always wanted to be on my lap in the plane anyway, and if you’ve bought them a ticket they have to be strapped in for takeoff and landing.)

    If you have a carseat to strap in, boarding during family boarding is a good idea because it gives you extra time to do that. If you don’t, consider waiting till the end of boarding to get on the plane because that’s less time you have to spend in a small enclosed space with your child and a couple hundred strangers.

    On the plane, for ears popping during takeoff and landing, have snacks or a sippy or a lollipop or whatever will work so she can suck and/or swallow. If she’s nursing or drinking bottles still, those both work great. Once when Annalie was about Miss A’s age, I just fed her a steady stream of Cheerios as we landed and that worked like a charm. (If she happens to be asleep during takeoff/landing, don’t wake her up. Kids are fine, they just swallow in their sleep to alleviate discomfort.)

    In the car or on a plane, the trick with toddlers is to have NEW things to keep them entertained. If she likes books, maybe buy a couple of new cheap books for her and save them till you’re traveling. Or buy a few new cheap, quiet, non-rolling (because if you drop a ball on the plane and it rolls twenty rows good luck getting it back!) toys and hand them to her one at a time, when she seems to be getting bored with the previous one. A pad of post-it notes is cheap fun, because she can stick them all over the seat and window and you can easily clean them up when you leave the plane. Of course phone apps and videos are your friend here. Even if she doesn’t normally watch TV, keeping that in reserve for a plane or car trip might be a good idea, just in case nothing else is working!

    SNACKS ARE KEY. Bring more snacks than you think you’ll need, because eating keeps kids busy! If you need to, bust out the M&Ms or potato chips. Traveling is one time that I mostly shrug about nutritious food and let my kids eat junk if that’s what it takes. Also, treats they don’t usually get are more likely to keep them happy in a stressful situation. I mean, I offer them granola bars and fruit leathers and whole-grain goldfish crackers first, but if it takes sugar to keep them happy I go with the flow to minimize my fellow travelers’ exposure to whining. 🙂

    Bring a change of clothes for A, and one for yourself if you can manage it, because if you get spilled/peed/vomited on, you’ll want them. (I’ve never needed my change of clothes–usually just a pair of yoga pants & a t-shirt, something easily packable–but always felt it was better to be safe than sorry!) Most airplanes have a changing table in one of the bathrooms, and if they don’t, ask the flight attendants if there is a place you can comfortably change her. In my experience, flight attendants are super helpful when you are traveling alone with a baby. I’ve had several offer to hold the baby if I needed to go to the bathroom.

    MOST IMPORTANT WHEN TRAVELING WITH A SMALL CHILD: try to keep your sense of humor and remember that this, too, shall pass; you won’t be on that plane forever. 🙂 Mostly people are kind and understanding even if your baby is crying or whining, so don’t panic and stay calm and so will A.

    I hope that all helps! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

    • Not to give anybody more to stress over, but I had a friend lose her car seat even with the gate check – another reason I take the seat with me the whole way.

  4. I’m sure it can happen. But I’ve traveled a lot with kids– like, A LOT, probably over 100 individual flights, mostly just me and my kid(s)–and I’ve never had an issue with gate-checking. To me it’s worth the small risk to not have to deal with the car seat on the plane. 🙂

  5. When are you going and will it be warm or cold. Not having to bring a lot of cold weather gear would be nice. A couple of hours on a plane is always better than 8 in a car. I traveled from Anchorage to Salt Lake when Kev was one. Five of them was a little hard esp. when I found I was sitting at the wrong gate and had to run with all five of them. But we made it. We traveled all the time from AK as it was the only way to get to see family. If you’re going to see fam it is well worth some tears.

    • This will be in February… so I will probably need some cold stuff. Not that we have a lot of cold weather gear!

      I don’t know how you survived flying from Anchorage to SLC when Kevin was so little with all of the other kids. Of course, maybe they could help carry stuff! 😉

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