A Guide To Traveling With Toddlers

Traveling can be a lot of work, particularly if you’re taking an airplane or a train to your destination. There are many things you need to do and prepare for in advance. Now imagine taking along a toddler while you navigate a busy airport or bus station or spend time in a hotel. This little addition can easily double the amount of work you need to do.

Toddlers have specific needs that you have to address when you’re on a road trip or family vacation. Fortunately, if you plan in advance things will go much more smoothly. We have several tips for parents who are planning on traveling with children who are one, two, or three years old.

Bring Plenty Of Snacks

Bring Plenty Of Snacks
Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Everyone likes snacks, and toddlers are old enough that you no longer have to worry about baby formula and baby food. You can bring a variety of food items along with you when you travel, including fruit, veggies, snack pouches, crackers, and juice boxes. Whatever they eat at home, bring it along when you travel.

Don’t forget sippy cups and tiny Tupperware containers to contain all the goodies. If your child likes milk, bring that too because it may not be available if you’re flying on an airplane.

Vaccinate In Advance

Vaccinate In Advance
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Toddlers are vaccinated on a routine basis. But you don’t want them to get stuck with a needle in the few days leading up to a trip. That’s because it’s not uncommon for them to experience side effects such as fevers, rashes, and diarrhea. Traveling with a toddler is hard enough, so you don’t want to do it if they’re not feeling well.

If you know your child’s vaccinations are coming up, get them done at least a week before you’re leaving. That way, if they have an adverse reaction it should clear up before you hit the road.

Travel At Night

GettyImages-1150840229
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images

If you’re traveling on a plane try to book a night flight so you and your toddler can sleep a bit. Overnight flights are good because your toddler will be tired, and it will be dark enough inside the cabin for him or her to sleep.

And in case you don’t have access to a blanket from the airline (or fear it may be filled with germs), wear a big scarf instead. You can wrap the scarf around your child to block out the daylight or overhead light.

Bring Your Child’s Favorite Toy Or Blanket

Bring Your Child's Favorite Toy Or Blanket
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many children get very attached to a particular toy, stuffed animal, or blanket. If they have to have it at home, there’s a good chance they have to have it when they’re traveling as well. So, don’t forget to pack it, and double-check that you brought it.

Make sure to keep tabs on the item, as well. Some parents recommend buying two of the same blanket (or toy) in case something happens to the original. Why have a melt down when you can avoid it?

Stretch Your Legs On A Flight

Stretch Your Legs On A Flight
Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images

Flying can be confining for a toddler, who has lots of energy and enjoys running around. While there’s not a lot of space on airplanes, you shouldn’t try to keep your kid secured on your lap or in the adjacent seat the entire time. Get up and stretch!

It’s a good idea to walk around a little bit down the aisle and back, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This will distract your toddler and give them something different to do.

Supply Your Toddler With Entertainment Options

Supply Your Toddler With Entertainment Options
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images

While (most) adults are patient enough to get through a flight or train ride by reading, sleeping, or checking their phones, toddlers need constant stimulus. They have a tough time flying and traveling in general without being occupied by some type of activity. Make sure you provide it for them.

There are plenty of toys they can use on the go. If you let them use a tablet, don’t forget to bring the charger and headphones so it stays fully operational.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

When you’re traveling on a plane, you hope your toddler behaves and doesn’t have a meltdown. But sometimes it happens. Kids freak out. Yet, if you’re traveling a long distance you may not have another way of getting there other than by plane, and fellow passengers need to accept that.

Do what you can to minimize the noise and fix the problem, but don’t feel bad. As long as you’re doing what you can to calm down your child, that should subdue most people. Plus, it’s their fault if they didn’t bring noise-canceling earbuds.

Pack Multiple Outfits Per Day

Pack Multiple Outfits Per Day
Nik Taylor/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Nik Taylor/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Pack enough clothing so that your toddler has two outfits per day. Also, make sure some of the clothing can be mixed and matched together. This is helpful if a shirt or pair of pants gets dirty, and you don’t want to change your child’s entire outfit.

Check to see if the place where you will be staying has a washing machine (and whether you’ll have time to use it). This can cut down on the amount of clothing you must carry. Adults may also want to take some extra outfits in case they get wrapped up in their toddlers’ messes.

Don’t Forget Baby Toiletries

Don't Forget Baby Toiletries
China Photos/Getty Images
China Photos/Getty Images

Babies and toddlers typically have very specific toiletries that are different from adult products. This can include everything from soap and shampoo to toothpaste and diaper cream. Most hotels only provide adult toiletries, so you should make sure to bring what you need.

Store the products in a plastic bag to avoid potential leaks. Make sure you bring whatever you use in case there’s an emergency in the middle of the night and you don’t have access to a 24-hour pharmacy.

Don’t Skimp On Diapers

bring diapers
Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images
Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images

If your toddler isn’t toilet trained, bring a lot more diapers than you think you will need. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to places that may not have the brand that you like. It’s easier to be prepared than to deal with the consequences, which can be very inconvenient.

Diapers are not too difficult to pack, and it’s better to be safe than to run out of them. This goes for pull-ups as well because toddlers are still learning and may have an accident while traveling.

Ask For Assistance

Ask For Assistance
Sergei MalgavkoTASS via Getty Images
Sergei MalgavkoTASS via Getty Images

Some airlines have a meet and assist service for families. This is particularly beneficial if you are a parent traveling with a toddler by yourself. These programs can help you board and when you arrive at your destination.

If you have more than one child, or you don’t have a lot of travel experience, this can be life-changing. It can be really hard to wrangle a couple of kids and carry luggage at the same time.

Plan Ahead When It Comes To Sleeping Arrangements

sleeping arrangements
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If possible, you’ll want to keep your toddler on the same sleep routine whether they’re at home or traveling to another location. So, you need to plan in advance when it comes to sleeping arrangements. You can either sleep together in the same bed, ask the hotel for a crib, or bring along your own travel crib or pack-and-play.

There are pros and cons to each of these scenarios, and ultimately it depends on how well your toddler sleeps while traveling and what they prefer sleeping on.

Ask Airline Staff About Empty Seats

empty seats
Exotica.im/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Exotica.im/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Kids under age two usually fly for free because they sit on a parent’s lap. This isn’t always comfortable for either the toddler or parent. If the flight isn’t full, you may have an opportunity to get a free seat. Simply talk to the gate agents and flight attendants to see if there’s an empty seat available.

They may move you and your toddler to a row with an empty seat, which will give both you and your toddler more room to relax. Plus, you save by not having to book and pay for the seat in advance.

Pack A First-Aid Kit

Pack A First-Aid Kit
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

No matter where you’re traveling, you should always carry a first-aid kit that can be used by both children and adults. If you want to be super prepared during a flight, take one with you on your carry on, and pack another one in your check-in luggage.

The small one should include travel-sized items, such as Band-Aids, Tylenol, and Benadryl. The larger kit should include bigger-sized bottles of similar items as well as additional supplies, such as Neosporin.

Leave Plenty Of Time To Get Where You Need To Go

Leave Plenty Of Time To Get Where You Need To Go
Fernando Camino/Cover/Getty Images
Fernando Camino/Cover/Getty Images

The worst thing about traveling is running late and having to rush to the airport or train station. This can be much worse when you have a toddler in tow. Make sure you plan plenty of time to get to the airport, for example. And by plenty of time, we mean hours in advance.

If you get there too early, find a play area for your toddler to use. This will tire them out and make them a little more manageable on the plane.

Rent, Borrow, Or Buy Supplies At Your Destination

pushing a stroller
Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images
Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images

Toddlers require a lot of accessories, but you may not have to take everything with you when you travel. For example, many car rental companies can provide child car safety seats for an additional fee (just make sure they’re up to code). Hotels also have cribs and pack-and-plays for guests. Make sure to reserve one in advance.

Theme parks and museums often have strollers that you can rent. And at worst, you can buy an umbrella stroller for $20 or so from Walmart or another store if you need it.

Choose Accommodations With Space To Play

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Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images
Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images

Sometimes a toddler just needs to run around, and many of them don’t like being corralled into small spaces. Try to choose a hotel that has a courtyard or area where your kids can burn off some energy. Or look for a hotel that’s close to a park or shopping mall.

At worst, you can let your toddler run around the hotel’s hallways if it’s raining outside. Just be sure to do it in the daytime and not at night when it can disturb other guests.

Talk To Your Toddler About The Trip

discuss the trip
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

If you’re taking your child on a plane for the first time, explain to them what you’re doing. Talk to them about airplanes, and let them know what’s going to happen on the flight. Tell them ahead of time, for example, that they will need to wear a seat belt.

Many kids enjoy the adventure, but they may not understand what’s happening when it comes to things like security lines. As long as you keep them informed, they will be more comfortable and ready to get to their destination.

Stay Calm

crying toddler
Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Traveling can be tiring, and if you have a toddler with you then it’s even more exhausting. It may be easier said than done, but try to remain calm as much as you can. While this can be hard if your kid is having a tantrum, getting worked up about it won’t solve anything.

Take a step back, and take a deep breath. Understand that your son or daughter is acting out for a reason, and try to come up with a way to calm them (and yourself) down.

If You’re Traveling With A Partner, Rely On Them To Carry Luggage

If You're Traveling With A Partner, Rely On Them To Carry Luggage
Anda Chu/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images
Anda Chu/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Getting on an airplane with a toddler can be difficult to manage, especially if you have a lot of carry-on luggage in tow. Many families are allowed to enter the plane early if they have small children, so if you’re traveling with your partner, take advantage and send them with the luggage. This way, they can snag the overhead storage space while you’re minding your toddler.

But before you even get on the plane, make sure you let your child burn off some energy in the gate area. They will be confined for a couple of hours (if not more), so keep them active before they’re forced to settle down.