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 if my little man would scream the whole plane ride, refuse sleep or be miserable the whole trip. 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 20 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.
PIC OF FLORIDA
1. Plan Ahead
This one may seem obvious but the little bit of organizing and planning I did prior to our trips, saved us some many times. Since we flew to Florida, I made sure to call the airline ahead of time and we were able to check Elijah’s stroller, playpen and car seat all for free. If you are driving, making sure the car has a full tank of gas the night before, you grabbed a bag of ice from the gas station for the cooler and your car is good on oil and tires is the best way to get out the door with no surprises or last-minute stresses!
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) and then all you’ll have to worry about while running through airports is your diaper bag carry-on. We did this for Florida and it was so nice not having to haul luggage around 30 weeks pregnant with a toddler! Not only that but our diaper bag is AMAZING, it’s a backpack, super light-weight and literally has so much room.
You can find our favorite diaper backpack here: KiddyCare Diaper Bag Backpack, Gray
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.
4. How to Pack the Diaper Bag
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.
You can also see my full list of whats in our diaper bag for baby and toddler, here: 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.
6. Bring NEW Toys they’ve Never Seen Before
Like I mentioned above in #4, 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 actually do for a long time 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 and he was so excited. You don’t have to spend a fortune either, these are so affordable! Here are a few of my favorite things to keep toddler hands busy and quiet:
- These sticker books:
- Window clings (especially for planes): ABC & Animals Window Cling
- Interactive, quiet books!
PIC OF ELI WITH STICKER BOOK “he still loves it”
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 dads on the way home. This just gives them the opportunity to rest instead of just waking up and being full of energy and then being caged up for a few hours! If you are driving like we did down to Texas, we decided to leave around 3 am (with lots of coffee) and literally grabbed Eli last, put him straight into his car seat and we were on the interstate in 10 minutes! Since it was dark and the hum of the road was like a lullaby, he slept until the sun came up! SCORE!
PIC OF ELI SLEEPING ON ME OR JORDAN
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). Being smart and planning 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. WHEW. Make sure you have at least an hour connection and get to your next gate first before making stops for bathroom, diapers, and food. Plus, these are the best chances for your toddler to run a little and get out some energy before getting on their next plane ride!
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 but I know that 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 your stressed, 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.
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 and 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.
Haley Jo xo
PICTURE OF ME AND BELLY TRAVELING