Traveling With Baby: My Solo Trip to NYC with a One-Year-Old

Thinking of traveling with baby? Check out the real-world experience of this working mom who flew to NYC with her 1-year-old--so you know what to expect.

I can split my NYC national television debut into about one million separate blog posts, so that’s what I’m going to do. Well, not one million, but a few different. The first thing I’m going to blog about? Traveling with baby–me alone with my one-year-old.

Most of Thursday, I was focused solely on was getting to NYC with O in tow and no one to help. In fact, I was more nervous about the flight than being.on.national.television. As soon as I found out he and I were going, I looked up articles on “flying with an infant/child.” They all said the same thing: Make sure you have an extra pair of hands to help. Ruhroh, I thought. I didn’t have that.

Worst-case scenarios raced through my mind all day: Would I be able to get O to nap on the plane? Or would he meltdown because I was trying to hold him and he couldn’t “goooo” (go)? (He loves to “go/gooooo” these days–holding him still in my lap for more than an hour and a half seemed like an insurmountable task) Would the cabin pressure hurt his already-sensitive ears? Would he wail and fuss throughout, causing the rest of the plane to dream up ways they could hurt me and O? How would I navigate the airports, terminals, gates, and airplanes with all my various bags, a baby, and a stroller?In fact, getting to the terminal, through the check-in, security, and to the gate would prove the most difficult part of the whole adventure–both to and from NYC. I quickly realized, before I was even got to the American Airlines terminal in Cincinnati, that I would have rely on the help of others. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it all by myself.

The Terminal
The first obstacle? The long-term parking shuttle bus driver couldn’t drop me off a the the American terminal door. (He actually called on his radio and asked American if they would allow him to come to the terminal door because he had a passenger with a small baby, and they replied “That’s a negative.” BOO on American Airlines!) So, he dropped me off where he could, and offered to help me get to the actual door. I said no, because I hate seeming helpless (and I didn’t have any change to tip him any more than I already did).
As I was struggling to cross the road and get to the door, a young woman asked if she could help. I immediately replied “No, I got it.” To which she inquired, “Are you sure?” as she spied me trying to juggle baby, stroller on back, purse, diaper bag, and rolling suitcase. “Uh, maybe.” I muttered. I asked if she minded to hold O while I rearranged my bags and unfolded O’s stroller. She grinned and said, “No problem.” I briefly thought about the fact that I was handing my son over to a complete stranger, but I didn’t see another way to handle the situation. Plus, I was bigger than her, so I figured I could catch her and beat her up no problem if she tried to run away with him.
Check-In And Security
With O safely strapped in his stroller, I headed to the airport check-in. I checked in with an actual airport employee (eff trying to do electronic check-in, I thought, this way I could entertain O while the person who was getting paid to work actually did some work), got my boarding pass, and started toward my gate.
Next, I stood in the security line and plotted how I could maneuver my way through. I thought of all the different ways I could work it. I finally settled on: Throw bags on conveyor, keep O in stroller until the last minute, take O out of stroller, try a one-handed stroller collapse to get stroller through security scanner, take off my shoes and put on conveyor, hand O to a worker, walk through the air-puff security machine solo, hopefully get through security OK. (For some reason I always get stopped–must look suspicious) I didn’t like the part about handing my baby to a complete stranger again, but I didn’t know which would be worse: Handling him to a supposed trusted airport security person or walking through the puff machine with him. As I got O out of the stroller and tried my one-handed collapse maneuver, it didn’t quite work. I have a Combi Savvy Soho Sport, (Soho, for NYC, cute, eh?) and while a decent stroller, you definitely need two hands to collapse. I tried hiking O waaaaay up on my shoulder to free my hands and try collapsing, but it still wasn’t working. Luckily a nice man behind me offered to help me close it, but it quickly was obvious he had no clue what he was doing, and struggled almost as much as I did. I tried to help him by pointing out what he was doing wrong, but I think it just flustered him more. Another person stepped in, and we, as a three-person effort, finally closed the stroller, and put it on the security belt.
As I tried to figure out which airport security person looked the least sketchy for a O hand off, I found out I wouldn’t need to walk through the puff machine after all. Why? Because I got pulled aside for a bag go-through. They found some damn liquids not sealed up in a dumb plastic baggie, so they went through all my stuff. I tried to explain that I thought my liquid foundation wasn’t actually liquid because it wasn’t clear. The guy looked at me like I was one of the dumbest individuals he’s ever encountered, and most definitely should not be taking care of a young child. I ended up having to throw away O’s very expensive, mostly full container of sunscreen because it was more than 3 ounces. (The “not clear” explanation didn’t work there, either.) The liquid foundation ended up in a plastic baggie. Ugh. Whatev.
The Gate
Onto my gate. O was a bit fussy because he missed his afternoon nap, so I got the delightful task of strolling up and down the terminal hallways for the 45 minutes until the flight. Seeing all the people, yelling in the echo-y parts of the terminal, and bouncing around in his stroller seemed to appease him. Sitting still did not. Right before we boarded I thought I smelled an offensive odor wafting from O’s bum. I rushed into the bathroom to quickly change him. I didn’t want to have to smell poo for close to two hours, and I’m sure my plane mates didn’t either. As I started changing his diaper, they called for people to board all rows on my flight. “Damn,” I thought, “Small plane if they are boarding all rows.”
The Plane
As I was finishing changing his diaper, they did a LAST call for boarding. “What the?” I thought. I’m not nearly as fast at changing diapers as some people, but I’m not THAT slow. I raced to the gate and boarded the plane. The plan was small. I actually had to duck to get into the door. I’ve flown some puddle jumpers before, but this one took the cake. It wasn’t full though, so I got a two-seater to myself. Actually, I think a youngish businessman-type did have the seat next to me, but saw O and quickly scurried down the aisle to find another seat.
He needn’t worry though. O was a dream throughout the flight. He slept the entire time. I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried.
What happened on the way back? More of the same, except security was waaaay more lax in NYC. To make up for the lack of hassle at security, they boarded our flight even though our captain was at JFK. We hung out at the gate for two.and.a.half.hours. Luckily, I was able to put O to sleep again. Despite the fact that the Pakistani flight attendant and a London-born passenger next to me wanted to loudly wax poetic about their respective native countries, women, and the prices of gasoline and food while the teenage girl behind me found chewing gum to be uproariously hilarious. And for keeping O asleep through all that, I felt I deserved a medal of honor. Had I not gotten him to sleep, that two and a half hours waiting and the hour and a half flight could have been disastrous for everyone involved.
And that’s it! Definitely wasn’t easy, but wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’m happy it was a relatively short flight. I’ve learned a lot. Including that I’m a pretty cool mom. And MacClaren strollers are the strollers to have in NYC. They feature one-hand folds. Maybe I should look into them.

3 thoughts on “Traveling With Baby: My Solo Trip to NYC with a One-Year-Old

  1. Been there, done that, lol! Of the two times I’ve flown with my son (both by myself), once he was three months old, the other, 1.5 yrs old. I’ll take the 3 mo old anyday! Much easier, plus, he had his own seat. That is definitely a must. Trying to corral a one year old on a plane without him in a car seat is impossible. Never again. Amtrak is also a good way to go, but only if you get your own compartment. Of course, driving 12 hours wasn’t a good idea either, lol! Glad you got through it pretty well.

  2. You did good, T. I hope Cassie sleeps so well when we take our vaca next month.

  3. i know this is a old post! but i am also traveling to nyc in december with my 1 year old son and how did you do it when it came to getting to your hotel room? did the taxi driver say anything about your baby needing to be in a car seat or anything like that??

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