Side-tie Sweater (On sale! I last wore it here in the blush pink, but I love all the solid colors! See other favorite sweaters from the Anniversary Sale below.) / Hudson Jeans (On major sale! Also love this pair and this pair, both part of the sale.) / Everlane Sandals c/o (Back in stock! They run TTS. ALSO: The sale Tory Burch sandals have been fully restocked in the tan color. They’re super comfy as they’re padded! Scoop ’em up before they sell out again.) / L.L. Bean Zip-Top Tote Bag c/o (We have the large size in navy.) / Rolling Suitcase (On sale!) / Toss Designs Weekender c/o

Want to win the $200 Nordstrom e-gift card giveaway? Simply answer Mitch’s question of the day at the bottom of this post!

One of my most-requested blog topics is how we travel with Emma and bring her to restaurants. So today, I’m publishing two posts. Woo! There’s this one, of course, but in a few hours, I’ll publish one by Mitch about road trips, too. So stay tuned!

Anyway, I’m teaming up with Emily from Isn’t That Charming for this one, which is part of our motherhood series. Emily and Doug do a ton of traveling with their two little girls, so definitely read her post as well. As we’re embarking on a 12-hour drive to Ocean City in a couple of weeks, I’m really looking forward to reading Em’s advice. :) Already panicking, haha!

Before I start, I should preface everything with the fact that Mitch and I have found traveling and going out to eat with a one-year-old to be very difficult. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve walked off a plane or out of a restaurant, looked at each other and said: “Well, that was a disaster.” But we’ve developed a few strategies that help, and Mitch and I remain firm believers in the idea that taking Emma places is a GOOD thing, despite the risk-of-disaster thing. While it’s far easier to simply stay home, the whole family is happier when we live our lives and experience the world. :)

So let’s break this into two parts: how we travel with Emma and how we bring her to restaurants. (And yes, I’m mostly talking about flying in the travel part… but Mitch will cover the long car ride part later today.)

How we travel with Emma

Snacks, snacks, snacks. And then some more snacks. Emma’s totally my daughter, and her favorite food is goldfish crackers. (Hey, Mitch! Why didn’t goldfish make the Kelly Food Pyramid?) She is legitimately entertained for a sold 15-30 minutes if you give ’em to her. But make SURE they’re the orange kind. She’s straight-up reject the multi-colored ones. (Don’t worry. We’re working on acceptance of all the fishes.)

Use the right baby bag. I won’t lie: I have a lot of baby bags. But my absolute favorite one to travel with is this zip-top tote bag from L.L. Bean. It’s huge and holds everything I could possibly need for Emma (and often times my camera, too!), but it fits under our stroller and under a plane seat. And the importance of the zipper can’t be overemphasized. Even if your formula explodes, it’s contained within the tote bag, preventing everyone around you from thinking you have a serious coke habit. Zippers prevent disasters! (Note: we have the large size.)

Pack Said Baby Bag WELL. This is going to sound like overkill, but I pack 10 diapers, a new package of wipes, three baby bottles, one water bottle, a couple of plastic bags, three to five pacifiers, 10 small toys and books, and a change of clothing for both Emma and me. (Mitch is stubborn and says poop never killed anyone. More on that below.)

Bring a change of clothing. For everyone. Listen: I get pooped, peed and vomited on a lot these days, and I almost always laugh it off. But it’s really hard to maintain a positive attitude while flying and covered in it. So I pack a pair of leggings and a t-shirt for myself and an extra onesie for Emma in the baby bag. My leggings and t-shirt double as my pajamas anyway. :) Mitch says he doesn’t need extra clothing. We’ll see if he changes his mind at some point…

Bring ALL the toys or books. I pack at least 10 very small and light toys and books. Emma LOVES pop-up books right now, so that’s our go-to. But small toys that I can quickly hand off to her when she gets fussy have been lifesavers, too.

Check unneeded luggage. We hate checking our luggage. We love getting off the plane with everything we need and then just waltzing on the subway or into our Uber. But I think we’ve finally come to understand that as parents of a baby, those days are over. ;) We only have so many hands. When we’re taking longer trips (especially press trips, when I need a lot of clothing), we check our suitcases, even if they’re carry-on size. It makes for much easier flights! Ideally, when we get on the plane, we only have the baby bag and a backpack with our laptops and camera.

Check the stroller at the gate. We have a heavy baby. ;) I once made the mistake of checking the stroller before security. Never again. We’ve found that keeping it until the last possible second is the correct move for us in this stage of life. Right before “family boarding,” we pack it up into this protective travel bag and hand it off. (We’ve definitely thought of traveling with a cheapo umbrella stroller as it’s lighter and far less expensive if broken or lost, but we currently couldn’t live without the storage underneath our UppaBaby, so we’re not there yet.) Then we switch to the Baby Bjorn. We rarely use it while we’re home in Chicago, but we could never travel without it!

Dress comfortably. I tend to get really cold on planes, so I typically wear a comfy sweater (such cute side ties and it’s on sale!) and a favorite pair of jeans. (Emma overheats very easily, so she’s usually in a dress and a cardigan that I can take off her if I notice she’s getting too hot.) I know I’m probably going to get some grief for wearing white jeans as a mom, but I LOVE white jeans and have come to terms with the fact that I just need to wash ’em after almost ever wear. Whatever! Not that big of a deal. But other non-white favorite jeans include this pair and this pair, both part of the sale. I’ve also been wearing these Everlane Sandals because they’re crazy comfy and I can slip ’em on and off without bending down. By the way: they’re back in stock! And the sale Tory Burch sandals have been fully restocked in the tan color, too. They’re padded! Scoop ’em up before they sell out again.

Break out the phone or tablet when desperate. We usually use this as a last resort, not because we’re against screen time while traveling–only because it works like a charm nearly every time, and we want to save it for the most dire of situations. ;) Elmo, I think I love you more than Emma does. (Also, invest in an iGuy.)

Find (or pay for) an extra seat. Or fly Southwest. In no way is this sponsored, but Southwest is AMAZING. Whenever our flight isn’t overbooked, the attendants allow us to take an extra seat for Emma. We can’t fly Southwest home to my parents because we fly into a tiny airport, but we’ve talked about paying for the extra seat because holy goodness, it makes SUCH a huge difference with a toddler.

Schedule the flight around nap times and bedtime. This is sometimes impossible, but when it is possible, we do a happy dance because we know the chances of a meltdown occurring has been slashed in half. ;) So many friends actually do the opposite with their kids and fly during nap time or bedtime, but that’s been disastrous for us, haha. I guess every baby is different.

How we bring Emma to restaurants

Use the stroller and a high chair if possible. We’ve found that when we change Emma’s surroundings and/or seating, she can go from unhappy to happy very quickly. We start her off in the stroller, and if she gets fussy or bored, we transition her to the high chair. When she grows tired of that, it’s back in the stroller. Works pretty well!

Order the baby’s food immediately. Emma is SO happy when you give her french fries. Girlfriend will snack happily on ’em for a solid 15 to 30 minutes, much like she does with (orange) goldfish. When we sit down–sometimes even before sitting down, haha–we put in an order for her. It buys us a lot of time!

Go to the restaurant right after a nap. Truthfully, Emma wakes up and we walk right to the restaurant. Yes, sometimes that means that we’re having dinner at 5 p.m., but hey. We’ll take any chance we can to get out of the house and be normal people. ;) Another thing that helps is giving her the bottle when we get to the restaurant, not before. That gives us an additional 15 minutes, too!

Request to sit next to another family if possible. Emma LOVES other kids. She’ll happily wave at them for an hour even if they’re not returning the love. Eventually, she’s probably going to catch on that not everyone wants to wave at each other for extended periods of time. But for now, it’s awesome and so ridiculously adorable.

Choose noisier restaurants. There’s nothing more stressful than going to a quiet restaurant with a baby or toddler. I’d rather go hungry. Instead, we keep a list of kid-friendly places on our iPhones. Whenever we pass one, we jot it down! The best ones are completely outside or those that have high ceilings without soundproofing. The louder the better!

Sit outside if possible. Building off the last one, outdoor seating is every parent’s dream. In Chicago, we’re limited to roughly five or six months because of the (absolutely horrendous) weather, but these days, we pretty much only sit outside. Noise just doesn’t travel as far, and everyone seems so much more low-key when they’re outdoors!

If outside seating isn’t available, sit near a TV or window. Or a mirror. Emma is transfixed by anything that lights up, by people walking by, and by her own reflection. (She sticks her tongue out and laughs hysterically. It’s the cutest.) All I have to say about this one is that Emma once watched the Cubs for over an hour without making so much as a peep.

Bring toys that strap to the high hair, table and/or stroller. We’ve found that if we don’t tie her toys to whatever she’s sitting in, she drops and throws them on the ground, and waiters and nearby patrons are constantly picking them up for her. Don’t put people in that position. Tie your toys down! ;) We use ribbons and yarn.

Go during off hours. That whole 5 p.m. dinner time often works to our advantage, as restaurants are still pretty empty at that time. Also, we skip and move on to the next restaurant if there’s a wait somewhere. If Emma’s well-rested and happy, there’s really no sense in wasting that on a line!

Have an exit strategy. If all of this fails and Emma’s just having a rough day, we have a plan in place. Typically, Mitch handles paying the bill, boxing up our food and cleaning up our little area… and I’m in charge of packing up our stuff and getting Emma outside as quickly as I can. It’s so important to respect other people’s dining experiences. If Emma’s crying, our time is up, and we’re okay with that! (I will say, however, that this has only happened once or twice.)

Clean up before leaving. Waiters shouldn’t have to clean up HUGE messes. We try to clean as we go throughout the meal–if Emma drops food, for example, we get it right away. But we always do the once-over before leaving to make sure we’ve left our space in a respectable condition.

Thank the surrounding patrons. I’ve truly never had received so much as a nasty glance from people sitting close to us. I think most totally get it; older folks remember those times, people our age have been in the same position, and youngsters can imagine what it’ll be like in the future. More often than not, patrons actually tell us how adorable Emma is and even talk and play with her! (Emma’s the best conversation-starter, haha. We’ve made so many friends through her!) That said, I think it’s so important to thank the people sitting nearby. Their idea of a nice lunch or dinner probably didn’t include playing peekaboo with a one-year-old, but thank you, sir… you bought us a solid 20 minutes by doing that and we needed to get out so badly omg.

If you have children, do you have any advice for traveling with them or bringing them to restaurants?

^ You can totally answer the above question to be entered to win the $200 Nordstrom e-gift card giveaway, OR you can answer Mitch’s question of the day below! Winner will be announced on Saturday.

Mitch’s question of the day

If you could visit anywhere for a month or two, where would it be?

Mitch’s answer: My first answer was Cape Town because I miss it. (Fun fact: Mitch lived in Cape Town, South Africa for six months in college!) But I should probably choose somewhere I’ve never visited, right? So… Tokyo!

Kelly’s answer: LONDON. I know. I’ve been there many times, and it’s nothing crazy. But I’ve been obsessed since I was a child, and I’ve always wanted to live there. (Missed out on my London travel abroad experience in college for some personal reasons. Alas.) Remember when I wrote this post? While we’re still planning on doing it this year, we’re considering London instead. I’m craaaaazy excited, but we’ll see!

Shop the post:

Side-tie Sweater (On sale! I last wore it here in the blush pink, but I love all the solid colors! See other favorite sweaters from the Anniversary Sale below.) / Hudson Jeans (On major sale! Also love this pair and this pair, both part of the sale.) / Everlane Sandals c/o (Back in stock! They run TTS. ALSO: The sale Tory Burch sandals have been fully restocked in the tan color. They’re super comfy as they’re padded! Scoop ’em up before they sell out again.) / L.L. Bean Zip-Top Tote Bag c/o (We have the large size in navy.) / Rolling Suitcase (On sale!) / Toss Designs Weekender c/o

Want to win the $200 Nordstrom e-gift card giveaway? Simply answer Mitch’s question of the day above in the comment section below! (That wasn’t confusing at all, haha.) Winner will be announced on Saturday.