Traveling with a toddler can be the most daunting thing. My husband and I have traveled more frequently this summer than normal, taking our 1.5-year-old every step of the way. In fact, we just got back from our Florida vacation and while we had an amazing time shooting the breeze, I stressed about the travel most of the time. I always worried my little man would scream the whole plane ride, refuse sleep or be miserable the whole trip.

Here he is preparing for his FIRST plane flight…

traveling with a toddler

After lots of pre-trip research and testing the waters on all our trips, I came to figure out what worked and what didn’t. These 9 tips for traveling with a toddler will hopefully provide you with some helpful tricks for any of your future travel plans with your little globetrotter.

This post also got featured in an article by my friends over at FamilyFelicity.com! Check it OUT: Parenting Toddlers: 29 Toddler Experts Share their Best Kept Secrets

*This post contains affiliate links, see my disclosure for more info

traveling with a toddler

1. Plan Ahead

This one may seem obvious but the little bit of organizing and planning I did prior to our trips, saved us so many times. Since we flew to Florida, I made sure to call the airline ahead of time and figure out details. Finding out we could check Elijah’s stroller, playpen and car seat all for free was a lifesaver.

If you are driving, make sure the car has a full tank of gas the night before! Also, check your oil and tires and grab a bag of ice from the gas station for the cooler. Pretty much the best way to get out the door with no surprises or last-minute stressful situations!

traveling with a toddler

2. Pack lighter than you think!

I have really been looking at things with more of a minimalist attitude lately and man, has it helped me have less stress, fewer to-dos, and better efficiency in accomplishing our never-ending mom to-do lists. If you are traveling by plane, my biggest tip would be to check one big bag of all your luggage. Since you’ll have other things that need to be checked anyway (stroller, car seat etc) all you’ll have to worry about while running through airports is your diaper bag. We did this for Florida and it was so nice not having to haul luggage with a toddler! 

This is the diaper bag that we have and LOVE.

3. Don’t Forget you have Walmart

I decided to leave Eli’s huge pack of disposable diapers at the house and just packed enough to get down to Florida. This opened up so much room in the suitcase and we conveniently grabbed a pack of diapers on our way to where we were staying. Before you pack everything in your house, ask yourself if it would be easier to just run an errand once you’re there rather than packing up the whole nursery.

Here he is pretty much saying, “Are you sure about this mom?”

traveling with a toddler

4. Pack the Diaper Bag Smart

What worked best for us was to put about 10 diapers in it for the travel day, a diaper mat, wipes, sippy cup, travel bottle of diaper ointment, small baby Tylenol, my wallet (so I didn’t have to bring my purse,) a few snacks and a couple of his favorite, quiet, small toys. I also packed some things that were brand new to help keep him occupied which would work well for car or plane trips! One thing that he LOVED was this sticker book.

Related: What’s in my Diaper Bag for Baby and Toddler

5. Pack Clothes that Match Each Other

Instead of packing 10 individual outfits for all of us, we tried to pack things that would match each other for multiple uses. I’m not saying be gross and wear dirty clothes but if you can pack a pair of jean shorts and wear them for two days each with a different shirt- do it. This worked really well for us and then we also were able to wash a load before leaving too.

traveling with a toddler

This post also got featured in an article by my friends over at FamilyFelicity.com! Check it OUT: Parenting Toddlers: 29 Toddler Experts Share their Best Kept Secrets

6. Bring NEW Toys

Like I mentioned above, we got Eli a new sticker book for the trip and he loved it. Since he had never done stickers before, not only was it new but something he could do that required little noise! Also, know your child! Eli LOVES animals and trucks so I tried to cater to his likes when picking out new books or activities. You don’t have to spend a fortune either! Here are a few of my favorite things to keep toddler hands busy and quiet.

These sticker books:

The First 100 Words Sticker Book: Over 500 Stickers

First 100 Animals Sticker Book: Over 500 Stickers

The First 100 Stickers: Trucks and things that go

Window clings (especially for planes):

ABC & Animals Window Cling

Interactive, quiet books!

Melissa & Doug Soft Activity Baby Book 

Melissa & Doug Soft Activity Baby Book – Little Chef

7. Plan Trips around Nap Time

At first, I wondered if this was a good idea. I was thinking, “so you want my tired toddler to get on a plane?!” Yes. The thrill of the plane kept him entertained for a while but then he was able to doze off in my arms and then dad’s on the way home. This gives them the opportunity to rest instead of having just woke up and being full of energy as you board! If you are driving as we did down to Texas, consider leaving EARLY. We decided to leave around 3 am (with lots of coffee), grabbed Eli last and put him straight into his car seat. We were on the interstate in 10 minutes and since it was dark, the hum of the road put him straight to sleep till the sun came up! 

traveling with a toddler

8. Be Early and Avoid Super Short Connections

Especially if traveling by plane, this is so important. You do not want to be the 30-week pregnant lady with a toddler running to catch her next plane (like I was). Trying to be smart and plan ahead, I thought my toddler would not do well passing time in an airport. So, I chose a flight with a 40-minute connection. Little did I know, our first plane would take off 25 minutes late and we would run full speed across MSP to get to our next gate. When we arrived, it was 5 minutes prior to them closing boarding (totally not ok 😉 ).

Make sure you have at least an hour connection to get to your next gate. Also, we tried to go straight to our gate before making stops for bathroom, diapers, and food so we were ready to go. These layovers also gave Eli some time to stretch his legs a little and get out some energy before getting on another plane!

9. Go with the Flow

Traveling seems to come with stress but do your very best to smile through the bumps. I know this is so much easier said than done. I know telling myself to be patient and to go with the flow (not always my first response) ahead of the travel, was the best way for me to mentally prepare for vacationing with a 1.5-year-old. Not only that but when you’re stressed, your kids get stressed and that equals for rowdy behavior and therefore commence the eternal circle of chaos. Try your best to stay calm, roll with the punches and your toddler will copy that.

traveling with a toddler

Basically…

Don’t sit home all summer, it’s almost over! If you use these tips for traveling with your toddler, I am sure your journey will fare smooth. And mama, you may actually get a little break to enjoy a margarita on the beach. If I learned anything about toddlers while traveling this summer it’s that they are the best adapters and honestly the stress of travel was harder on me than Eli.

traveling with a toddler

Bon Voyage,

Haley xo


Also Check Out:

What’s in my Diaper Bag for Baby and Toddler

Elijah- A Birth Story

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