traveling with a two-year-old: by air, rail, and subway
First, I must say, that two carry-on suitcases, a stroller, a toddler, a toddler “roll-y” bag, a purse, a car seat, and a diaper bag is still TOO much to carry on trains, planes, and subways! But we did it. The plane part was the easiest… car seat checked, carry-ons and stroller checked at the gate, voila, very simple.
The plane ride was about two hours, and it went well! Even with M as a lap infant. I think she will do even better with her own seat, but this was the last time I could take her for free, so I did it. Here is a rundown of toddler activities, and how well they worked:
-Pill box, 2 rows with each box containing a marshmallow, an M&M, and an eraser that comes apart and goes back together in animal shapes. This was a lifesaver as we were taxi-ing and getting de-iced. Total time passed: twenty minutes, aka forever in toddler-land.
-Kid kindle fire. I can’t give an honest review, because we forgot to pre-load it and the amazon free time stuff only works with wi-fi. So it didn’t really work for us on the plane. But in the airport and train stations, I think it was still a little over her head. I will need to download more videos since games and apps are not yet capturing her attention.
-iPhone videos of herself and the dogs. This was great… ate up several chunks of 5-10 minutes, critical minutes of getting through a hard wait and calming down!
-Window clings. Might’ve been entertaining, but the clings only stuck to the plastic plane window if I liked them repeatedly. So no.
-Lollipops, veggie straws, fruit snacks, handi-snacks, M&Ms: awesome diversion strategy if the kid is hungry. The handi snacks are great because of the whole dipping and spreading action that goes with the stick. Kills 5 to 10 minutes anytime, anywhere.
-brand new lift-the-flap book: ehh… passed a few minutes, anyway.
-bottle and pacifier (what she uses at nap time): got her to take about a 10-15 minute nap, until her aching ears woke her up!
-necklaces and bracelets: can pass about 5 minutes with these
-going to the bathroom: another 5 minutes
-cup of ice: for the win! yeah we got a little cold and wet, but a good 10-15 minutes went by in blissful peace and quiet as she played and sucked on ice and stacked the cups from the beverage cart
-lip glosses: always gets her attention and distracts her, but only lasts a minute or two before she throws the caps or the chapsticks and I have to go after them or take them away
That being said, the plane ride was the easiest. We had access to a kids’ play area pre-boarding, lots of runs to the potty, and nowhere for her to run to while on the plane. After was much tougher. She was tired of being on the go, and we were still only halfway there. We had lunch at the airport before getting on the NJ Transit train. This train had stairs, so we very quickly and very awkwardly hauled a lot of LARGE items, toddler, and stroller onto a crowded train. M then had fits until we gave her fruit snacks. Then she was very happy to be in her own seat by a window, saying “weee!” and “choo choo!”. She really like the trains, watching and riding them.
We then arrived at Penn Station where we transferred to the subway. We had thrown two more bags into the car seat back pack, and it was then too heavy for me to carry. So my girlfriend heaved it on her back, and dragged the two carry-ons strapped together, while I pushed M in the stroller with the diaper bag. We bought tickets for the subway, and some kind strangers gave us their metro cards. BUT I got M stuck (in her stroller) in the turnstyle, and a stranger had to help me pull her through. Then I was stuck on one side, and she on the other, with my reaching hand just grabbing the stroller! My metro card wouldn’t work again, so I had to duck under. My girlfriend had a similar disaster getting through the turnstyle, and ended up needing a new ticket, and then 20 minutes later we finally got through, found our train, got on the subway. M fell asleep in her stroller, and stayed that way until we were at our stop in Brooklyn. Then we carried everything including her up the two flights of stairs.
But our adventure wasn’t over, and the worst was still to come! What normally would be a simple 7.5 block walk by foot to our AirBnB rental, was in fact a harrowing, deathly cold trek through un-shoveled snow. Me pushing the stroller through thick snow and slush, my girlfriend pulling the carry-ons. Nothing could roll in all the snow. Also, the wind was blowing frigid subzero temperatures at us, and poor M was shivering and crying “cold! coooold!”, despite her winter hat, coat, and boots. I ended up taking my own gloves and scarf and trying to wrap them over her, and even put my coat over her towards the end of our “walk”. But we got there, thawed out, and were welcomed into a lovely apartment with a bedroom that was to be ours for the next two nights.