Transcontinental Toddling

This weekend, I took my 19-month daughter from Seattle to New York. Alone. In my lap.

I had my hesitations about taking the unnecessary adventure, but it paid off. I got to see some great old friends, introduce my daughter to their children, and see a little of the Big Apple during Christmastime. All around win. Here are the packing tips that helped us survive a redeye back East, and a 6.5 hour flight west. With a lap toddler.

Carry-on luggage
With only carry-on luggage, efficiency was key

First of all, I didn’t want to check any luggage. But I also didn’t want to throw out my shoulder lugging around tons of crap AND a toddler. So the first order of business was packing efficiently. I can’t express enough how much using¬†eBags changed my life (affiliate link). These little workhorses allowed me to keep our gear separate and easily accessible. I packed 2 in our main carry-on for the overhead and 1 went in my small under-seat carry-on. They also were great for separating clean from dirty at the end of the trip. I checked the carseat at the front check-in, and that ended up being really straightforward and free. (Why a carseat in NYC? Just for the cab ride from JFK. Yes, it was really important to me and wasn’t that big of a hassle.)

Secondly, I packed the small carry-on with 2 smaller bags to pull out and stash under the seat. I didn’t feel too guilty for stashing my backpack in the overhead since it didn’t take up extra room–it fit behind my rolling bag. One bag had the basics for me and baby, the other had activities so she could explore and pull them out herself.

Pack small bags for under-seat storage
Packing small, staying organized, and keeping easy access makes a 6.5 hour flight work!


Third, here are the goodies that were truly successful in capturing her attention during the flight home. Did I mention that she didn’t take a nap that day?!? Yes, I was nervous as hell that I’d be receiving death glares from the irate New York-based travelers. But I didn’t. In fact, everyone was incredibly sweet and helpful.

Plane activities for toddlers
The magnets were the clear winner for keeping kiddo occupied


Finally, my most essential items were the ERGObaby carrier and her lovey. Timing was everything. When she really started to lose it and get the “goofies,” I wrestled her into the carrier and started rocking in my seat. With zebra in hand, her eyelids just plunked right down. Success.

Getting a toddler to sleep on a plane

I’d also like to give a big shout-out to my dear friend for lending us the Pack-N-Play & blanket for sleeping, the stroller for walking around the city, and for her husband’s heavy coat so I wouldn’t need to pack mine. I couldn’t have kept it such a slim operation without her help!

What toddler travel tips have saved your sanity recently?

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