This week, my father-in-law visited us from Germany and we decided it would be fun to take a family day trip to New York City. The idea of taking Isaac and his belongings (toddlers don’t travel light!) on trains, subways, and busy streets for 12 hours+ was a bit intimidating. While Isaac is an incredibly sweet and adaptable kid, he is a toddler. Toddlers aren’t exactly known for their cooperative skills. Additionally, Isaac is currently cutting two molars, has recently discovered he can run, and has begun throwing occasional temper tantrums. It was enough to make me want to chicken out and just go to the zoo.
However, despite my concerns, we ended up having a wonderful, memorable day in New York. Isaac handled the movement and change of routine incredibly well. Hopefully, we will have a repeat performance when we travel to South Africa in a few weeks (one can dream, right?).
The moral of the story is, it is possible to have a great day in a major city, with a toddler in tote. If you have a little one (or several) and are planning a day out this holiday season, here are a few tips that might help as you plan your day.
- Bring pouches. When Isaac was still a tiny baby, I remember watching a women buy a dozen or so pouches at Babies R Us and thinking it was a little weird. I thought, “Why can’t your baby just eat applesauce out of a cup?” However, now that I am the mother of a toddler, I fully understand and I could write a page long ode to the merits of pouches. They are the perfect on-the-go snack. They aren’t very messy (unless your kid intentionally uses it like a water gun – which has happened in our house), they don’t need to be refrigerated, and your kid can feed him or herself without getting their germy-walking-and-touching-New-York-City-all-day-hands over their food.
- Bring the right stroller. I was having a really hard time deciding which stroller to bring with us. The choice was between our City Select by Baby Jogger and Chicco Liteway Plus umbrella stroller. For longer outings, I usually use the City Select because it is comfortable, versatile, and has a large basket. However, it can be a little bulky, which is why I use my umbrella stroller for my errand running. It is smaller, lighter, and much easier to navigate in tight spaces. We ended up going with the umbrella stroller and it was definitely the right choice. As we carried the stroller up and down subway stairs, weaved through crowded streets, and dragged it on and off trains, I was SO glad we were not having to lift and move the City Select. Choose your stroller carefully!
- Wear your baby (and your toddler!). I have an Ergobaby carrier that I absolutely love and I bring it everywhere we go. Isaac is a little too big to front-carry but he fits perfectly on my back. As we climbed stairs and walked through turnstiles in New York, wearing him was really the only way to go. An added bonus is that Isaac will nap while on my back, something he struggles to do when in his stroller.
- Embrace the kid leash. As a full-fledged toddler, Isaac wants to be moving at all times. In a public setting this poses a significant problem as it takes about two seconds for me to lose sight of him and begin panicking. Holding his hand isn’t a great option because my back hurts from having to bend over and he pretty much hates it. This is why the kid leash is so awesome. He gets to walk around freely, I can’t lose him, and we don’t have to endure the hand-holding struggle. It’s a win, win, win. And his harness is masked by a really cute backpack which softens the “leash” look.
- Be flexible. This has to be the golden rule of going anywhere with a toddler. Don’t plan too much, and what you do plan, be ready to change. During our outing, we didn’t have much of a plan or many expectations, which allowed us to cater our day around Isaac’s needs. This resulted in twelve consecutive meltdown free hours (he did, however, completely meltdown during the last 20 minutes of the train ride home). We may not have seen or done as much as we could have sans baby, but we were together and we were all happy. And that’s what it’s really about.
As Isaac grows older, there will be lots of time for well organized, educational day trips. But for now, I’m happy to just enjoy being together and making memories.