Planes, Trains and Taxis: Navigating Traveling Solo with a Toddler

In my previous post I talked about my love of the Foonf. Boy do I love that seat…. Atticus loves it, daddy loves it, but mommy hates traveling with it. It’s one of the seats very few faults. It’s just so darn heavy.

As some of you know, we travel a lot. MommyCon keeps us super busy and in just 18 months, we have been on 26 flights together. Sometimes we rent a car seat, but most of the time we travel with our own. When Atticus was younger, we would click our Graco Snugride onto our Uppababy Vista and could travel with ease. Once his chunky self outgrew the Snugride 35, we switched to a convertible seat. For travel we use either a Cosco Scenera or the Britax Roundabout. The Cosco Scenera has found itself a new home on the West Coast, and is our go-to California car seat, while the Britax has traveled with us to six different states in four months, and starting on the 13th, it will travel to San Francisco, Denver, Memphis and Savannah all in ten days for site tours!

We chose the Roundabout, because it will last Atticus till 50 lbs forward facing, and he can comfortably sit rearfacing to 35 lbs and 49″ with a seated height of 16.25.” So even though the weight limit is lower than some other seats, it will last my tall boy a nice long time.

Usually Atticus and I travel solo, as daddy’s day job keeps him busy. We’ve perfected our packing system, and how we manage public transportation, airport security and the flight with our luggage and car seat.

We do not check luggage, and fly with a single small suitcase. You can tell yourself you can’t do it all you want, but it’s totally doable if you pack smart.
We don’t cloth diaper while traveling. We either use the Flip System with a Grovia Shell, or Huggies Naturals.
We pack light. Very light.

Our “diaper bag” is actually my oversized purse. An apple, two bottles of water, wallet, keys, four diapers and a couple small toys.

Our suitcase is small enough to fit in the overhead bin, and I cringe at mandatory baggage checks. I swear I could throw an Atticus sized temper tantrum when a gate agent tries telling me that my 21″ x 11″ x 8.5″ bag won’t fit. i know the maximum dimensions like the back of my hand, and our bag always fits.

Within that bag, half is dedicated to Atticus. A four day trip consists of at least seven outfits for him, and an entire pack of diapers. My side has a couple bottoms, pair of jeans and two dresses. Rule number one; always pack a spare outfit when traveling with a child. Even on our longer 5-7 day trips we keep it tight in this small suitcase. We keep all our travel size toiletries in a separate baggy and my laptop goes on top for easy access during security.

We always travel with a carrier. Usually an SSC like the Beco Gemini, occasionally a wrap conversion mei tai, but it really depends on the weather and location.

Now what about that car seat… Oh that dreaded piece of equipment.

Remember, it’s not just dragging the car seat onto the plane for us, it is taking a city bus to the train to the airport where I lug it on top of my suitcase where it flip flops around until I wedge it perfectly on the handle just in time for us to take it off to get through security. Oh the joy.
Luckily the Britax Roundabout is incredibly lightweight, so it’s on the “easier” side of seats to manage.
Since I don’t drive, the first thing we do is either hail a cab or hop in a shuttle. Please, whatever you do… never trust cab companies to bring you a seat, and chances are the shuttle company won’t have one either, and if they do you have no idea if the seat has been in an accident.
The Britax Roundabout is a pretty easy install. It has LATCH connectors, but can also be installed with a seatbelt. I think I can achieve a pretty flawless install in under 90 seconds nowadays, but I always find myself having to “sit” in the seat to get it level and tight enough to avoid the 1″ movement rule when trying to shake the seat side-to-side. My biggest problem is that Atticus likes to runaway nowadays, and installing a car seat while wrangling said toddler, is quite the challenge.
I try to pick hotels where we can avoid taking cabs and using his car seat, but I’m really glad we travel with it. I know it’s a pain in the butt to travel with one, but if I can do it… You can too!

Jeopardizing your child’s safety, because there isn’t a law requiring a car seat in a cab is just lame. Think about it, you probably trust your own driving skills more than a cab drivers, so why would you jeopardize your little ones safety, because you didn’t want to deal with the “hassle” of lugging a car seat.
Remember, keeping our kids safe is our number one priority as parents, a few minutes of hassle, is worth a lifetime of happiness for our children.

If you are interested in more information about traveling with a little one, please feel free to leave a comment, and I would love to give you my 2 cents.

More information about the Roundabout can be found here.

About the author

Xza Louise Higgins is the founder of MommyCon, creator of The Mommy Dialogues, and punk rock mom to two year old Atticus in the great city of Chicago, IL. She is incredibly passionate about birth options, human rights, and promoting gentle parenting practices.

No Comments

  1. Bre Dale -  July 2, 2013 - 1:31 pm

    Excellent post! I have told myself “I can’t” a couple of times now because the baby is so heavy and I’m just making excuses. Obviously it CAN be done and with ease to some extent. I appreciated your product references and descriptions- easy to understand. Have fun on your next travels!

  2. Lucy Gregory -  July 2, 2013 - 1:43 pm


    I live in Texas with my OH and 5 month old daughter but I’m originally from England and I’m planning on making the 18 hour trip over later on this year (5 hour drive to Houston, 10/11+ hour flight to London followed by a 2 hour drive to my hometown) and I’m frankly terrified.

    I plan on wearing her to the plane but I didn’t know you could take car seats to install on the seats? Every time I’ve seen someone take a seat, they leave them on the floor (I last flew back at 5 months pregnant so I scoped out every one) which I didn’t know was safe or not!

    I formula feed *I dried up fast and her lip tie makes it incredibly difficult to latch )’:* and I know there’s strict guidelines on taking that through, too!

    Have you ever flown international? Am I crazy for doing it?

    Lucy xo

  3. Xza -  July 2, 2013 - 2:39 pm

    So first off… Breathe in and out, you will be just fine!
    Formula: as long as you have it marked clearly, you can travel with it fairly easily. They “test” it in this machine that looks like a microwave and should not give you any hassle. If they do, ask for a female supervisor immediately.
    Car seats, can be used on planes and it is actually recommended to keep the child in their car seat during the duration of the flight. More often than not, Atticus sits in my lap, and in his seat for the other part of the flight.
    Taking laps on the plane and getting acquainted with the flight crew will make your trip easier. Bringing a board book or two and loading the iPod with some educational programs or even a fish tank app, really keeps little ones busy while traveling.
    Good luck, and you will both do great!

  4. Amanda M S -  July 2, 2013 - 5:45 pm

    Great post Xza! I was just thinking of our trip to KC when we stayed with you and Atticus… I was there 2 days and had about 10 bags, while you were staying 4 days and had 2 bags. HAHAHA. I needed some tips from you.

  5. Tianah -  July 4, 2013 - 12:01 am

    This is why im so glad we DROVE to Austin for MC! I do not drive as well btw, I had to have my mother take me to the event as she lives in Austin *sigh* never doing MC by myself EVER again hahaha

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