The 10 Stages Of Traveling With A Toddler

This last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip home to visit my dad and step-mom out in the boondocks of Colorado. This would be Baby 1.0’s third trip out there, but the first since she was mobile, vocal, and opinionated. These things, of course, aren’t considered when you stumble across Southwest’s $99 fare, and then purchase tickets faster than your toddler can eat a wad of old chewing gum they find on the ground. As our trip approached, the reality of the situation set in, and I found myself going through the 10 stages of traveling with a toddler.

1. Book trip. Feel confident, excited, and happy.

2. 1.2 seconds after receiving confirmation email from airline, feel panicked, claustrophobic, and extremely worried. Nearly drown in mental what-if’s. What if I flash someone while nursing? What if she poops? What if she won’t let me hold her for 2 1/2 hours? What if she screams the whole way? What if she gets sick? What if I get sick? What if there are snakes on the plane?

3. Vacillate between excitement and panic up until day before travel. Grab the reigns and focus all mental energy into packing. Pack perfectly. From diapers to Dog Dog, from toys to Tylenol you remember it all, and manage to fit it into one small suitcase. Okay, two medium-sized suitcases. And a full diaper bag. Applaud yourself on not overpacking (more). Feel calm and prepared for anything.

4. The night before traveling, wake up no less than 85 times checking alarm clock to make sure it is set. Stress pee each of the 85 times you wake up. Wonder if in the event of an airline emergency, you would indeed have the wherewithal to place the oxygen mask over your face before placing it over the face of your child. Decide no, because you would likely be in the bathroom stress peeing while trying to keep your toddler from licking the door to the bathroom. Wonder if they have oxygen masks in the bathroom.

5. Get out of bed early and walk around house collecting miscellaneous items to cram into nooks and crannies of suitcases and diaper bag with the intensity and passion of hoarder at a flea market.

6. With a frown, relinquish armful of items to disapproving husband who confirms you have actually packed nearly everything you own, and reassures you there will be no airline emergencies in which you will be tasked with oxygen mask placement.

7. Get dressed. Pee. Load car. Run in to pee again. Realize at this very moment child hasn’t yet pooped today. Say a prayer to the Saint of Doodie Britches your toddler doesn’t poop while on the plane.

8. Arrive at airport with plenty of time to spare. Check baggage, and breathe sigh of relief. Don dark glasses and give your unruly hair a toss to channel your inner movie star.

9. Start to feel relaxed and confident again. For first time, notice beautiful color of the morning sky. Look down at child to try to share this moment, only to witness child lick handle of baggage cart. Make mental note to not share water with child for a day or two. Take off dark glasses and pull hair into your standard pony tail so you can more closely monitor child’s behavior.

10. Get on plane! Flash neighbor, repeatedly. Wrangle wiggly toddler successfully, and smile uncomfortably when toddler loudly announces 15 times they have pooped. Change diaper on galley floor in record time under scrutiny of flight crew. Empty contents of perfectly packed diaper bag in an attempt to entertain toddler “the old-fashioned way” but give in to increasingly impassioned demands to watch Elmo on the iPad. Let toddler watch embarrassing amount of TV, but secretly thank your lucky stars you have an iPad. Eventually arrive. Pat yourself on the back and beam with pride when neighbor tells you what a good baby you have.

So there you have it. Any stage I missed you other parents experience when you travel?


Unsurprisingly, you cannot gate check a wagon full of toys.

Cover image credits, wagon belongs to HMDHM


  1. That sounds about right. I had to laugh especially about the poop because our last trip our daughter had some sort of 24 hour tummy bug. She pooped repeatedly throughout the flight with horrible gas. Everything around us smelled. Her scent was all over that airplane. Luckily, she was in great spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Worst. Nightmare. My sister had an experience like that which ended in both of her girls nearly naked after all of their clothes were soiled. I’m glad you made it through, and can share your funny story on the other side!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh boy, I got a couple –

    1 – Approach security with sleeping toddler in a stroller, purse, diaper bag, and baby in a backpack. Have TSA tell you that the stroller must be folded up and go through x-ray as must the baby backpack. And no, they cannot lend you an extra pair of hands to simultaneously pickup sleeping toddler, fold up stroller, take baby out of backpack, take off backpack, and fold it up. They don’t do solutions; they just point out problems.

    2 – Before takeoff, be asked by flight attendant to take newborn baby “out of the snuggly” (she meant “sling”) for takeoff. For safety reasons. “But she JUST went to sleep!” But it’s for safety. “How could it possibly be for safety?” Well if something happens during takeoff. And, you know, safety. “How would that even work? If something happens during takeoff, she’ll be dead whether she’s in the sling or not.” (See – I know how to logic. It’s a blessing and a curse.) Watch flight attendant’s horrified expression for a minute before complying with her request.

    3 – Run out of all the water and food you managed to pack 2 hours into a 6 hour flight. Ask flight attendant if there is any food available aside from the trail mix they already offered. You know, anything of substance since you’ve had plenty of trail mix-type food and are getting a little nauseous. Refrain from saying anything mean as the flight attendant blinks at you in confusion.

    4 – Ask for water. Flight attendant offers a 2-ounce tasting portion of water. Ask for a larger portion since you are nursing a baby who is now crying because your breasts are bone-dry from no / limited water. Listen patiently as the flight attendant tells you it’s against the “rules” for them to either put water directly into your water bottle or give you a portion larger than the 2-ounce plastic tasting cups. Groan silently.

    5 – Get off the plane, only to find out that the stroller you were relying on to help you manage 2 kids plus a purse plus a diaper bag plus a backpack (shit was gate-checked for a fucking reason!) has been sent to baggage claim. Motherfuckers.

    (Cobbled together from a few different trips.)

    The good news is, though, that all the flights landed eventually, and we were allowed to get off the plane. Everyone survived, and everything pretty much went back to normal after a few days.

    And I have to say, at the end of the day all of the trips were worth it. Even with all the headache.


    1. Oh man, you could ghost write a post for me some day. Your additions are hilarious and spot on. Thanks so much for always reading, and then giving me something to chuckle about as I wind down from our crazy trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That ‘Need help?’ airport madness photo is gold! We flew with our two at Christmas time. I still haven’t recovered sufficiently to blog about it.

    One thing I will say though. Screen time on a plane is a free-for-all, in my book. Anyone giving you a disapproving look for sticking your kid in front of a tablet for hours at a time on a plane clearly hasn’t considered the alternative!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s