The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Toddlers

Traveling with toddlers can be a little easier with these simple tips! From road trips to hotels, we have advice from parents who have been there.

Published October 6, 2023
Happy family packing suitcase for summer vacation with toddler

Whether you're traveling with a toddler by car or by air this holiday season, we have some expert tips from parents who have been around the block a time or two. And we can't forget about your destination — so we also cover how to handle a hotel stay without pulling your hair out!

General Tips for Any Type of Travel With a Toddler 

Family looking at map with toddler

No matter what your mode of travel may be, these simple suggestions can make your trip a lot easier!

Wear Your Toddler Out Before You Go

If you're leaving on your family trip in the afternoon, spend the morning doing a high-energy activity. This can help to wear your toddler out and bring a higher potential for a nap during travel.

Conversely, for those leaving in the early morning, wake up 20 minutes earlier than you need to and spend that time outside. Kick the soccer ball around, race back and forth across the yard, or do jumping jacks! The goal is to get a little of their energy out.

Quick Tip

Parents can also have their toddler help with the loading of the car and the completion of last-minute household chores. Ask them questions throughout the process. Do you want milk or water to drink in the car? What part of the trip are you most excited about? This can help stimulate their mind before they are stuck in a seat for hours.

Consider Altitude and Elevation Changes

Altitude and elevation changes can be a big problem for little people who don't know how to pop their ears. Luckily, there are some easy ways to remedy this!

  • When traveling by car, research elevation changes along your route before you leave. Then, do small, regular feedings or offer drinks from a sippy cup when going through those areas with quick increases in elevation. Consider taking a few extra breaks along the way to allow your toddler's ears and tummies to adjust. 
  • When traveling by plane, plan to conduct bottle feedings or give sippy cups during the takeoff and landing portions of your flight. The sucking that happens when you continuously drink will naturally pop their ears!
Helpful Hack

Since toddlers like to do what they want, when they want, bring a sippy cup filled with their favorite drink and a bottle of water for you. Then, challenge them to a drink off as the plane takes off and lands. This can make the idea of drinking more exciting and even distract them from this potentially scary moment.

Ship Bigger Items to Your Destination

If you are planning to go visit family or friends, save your trunk space and ship items like diapers, formula, baby bath products, and wipes in advance. This can guarantee that you have what you need and limit the amount you have to cart on your journey there. Just bring a small collection with you so that you have some on hand for the travel portion of your trip. 

Consider Packing a Cheap Umbrella Stroller

No matter if you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, I highly recommend packing the umbrella stroller for a few reasons.

  • First and foremost, it makes trips to the bathroom much quicker, and it keeps your little one off the filthy floor.
  • Second, it's an easy tool for keeping your toddler entertained while you wait for your flight. Strap them in and wander around the airport. Play I Spy along the way and see what cool things you can spot.
  • Unlike your regular stroller that you likely purchased for hundreds of dollars, a cheap umbrella stroller is easy to abandon. After hours of flying, countless delays, little sleep, and a helter-skelter meal schedule, everyone tends to get to a breaking point, especially toddlers. Instead of waiting at the plane door for this gate-checked item for another 20 minutes while your toddler is screaming their head off, you can make the easy decision to walk away from that cheap stroller. It might be worth the sacrifice. 
Quick Tip

If you are traveling by car, load the stroller in last. This ensures that you can grab it and go, instead of digging for it frantically when you get to the rest stop. 

Toddler Car Trip Tips to Give Your Sanity a Brake

parent putting toddler in car seat

Road trips were fun prior to procreating, but once kids are in the mix, those miles seem to go on forever and forever. Don't worry though — these pointers for traveling with toddlers will come in clutch this travel season!

Plan Fun Stops Along the Way

We all want to get to our destination, but one way to prevent meltdowns is to allow your kids 10 - 15 minutes to walk around every two hours. One way you can ensure that you have an ideal spot to stop is to look for potential options for every hour of your trip. That way, if diaper changes happen off your planned stop schedule, you have another fun option to choose from.

Leave Room for Diaper or Clothing Changes

If you are like me, you have a small car and a lot to lug along the way to your destination. However, it's important to designate a small space in your car for diaper changes. Sometimes you just have to make a stop on the side of the road and sometimes the changing table at the gas station is not a great place for your little one. 

If your little one is potty trained, it's also a good idea to leave some extra space to change clothes in case of accidents or to change into jammies and put a pull-up on. 

Quick Tip

I always pack puppy pads and diaper disposal bags for this exact purpose. We have stopped many a time along the side of the road and these extra supplies can make these moments much easier.

Prioritize Your Toddler Entertainment

When traveling with toddlers, it's a good idea to keep a collection of toys, coloring supplies, stickers, and busy boards right at your fingertips. This can help to keep everyone happy along the way. However, one of the biggest keys to success when it comes to toddler entertainment is to start with low-value items. 

What does this mean? Give your toddler non-electronic entertainment first and only give them one item at a time. Once they get bored with that item, give them another. Work your way up to that toddler tablet. One of the worst things that can happen on a trip is for your little one to use up the battery before you arrive at your destination.

Have Loads of Snacks

Even if you plan to stop for lunch or dinner on the way, snacks and drinks are a must for toddlers who have little tummies. Pack more than you need and have an array of options. These can be a quick solution to boredom and meltdown moments. 

Advice to Make Your Air Travel With a Toddler Love at First Flight

toddler and mom at airport

When traveling with toddlers by plane, don't just wing it! Traveling with little kids by air can be plane awesome when you plan ahead! 

Pick the Early Flights

While I would never book a 6 a.m. flight when traveling solo, when my boys are boarding with me, I always go early. By picking the first flight of the day, you limit your chances of delays, minus those caused by weather. Also, try to choose flights that have short layovers. Longer windows of time lead to restlessness and tantrums, so try to avoid them if possible.

Consider Security Checks When Getting Ready

Long gone are the days when I got dolled up to get on a flight. When you see me at my destination, know that I dressed for survival. How do I do this? I avoid accessories of any kind, wear slip-on shoes, and travel in comfortable clothes. When dressing my boys, the same thing goes. The less we have to take off at security checkpoints, the quicker we can get to the gate. 

Keep Emergency Supplies on Hand for Turbulence

Takeoffs, landings, and turbulence are troubling times with toddlers. Make sure that you are ready for anything by keeping a small bag in hand, and at the ready, just in case they get sick at these moments. 

Hotel Hacks to Remember When Traveling With Little Ones

Young mother with child in hotel

Toddlers and hotel rooms don't always mix, but there are some ways to make the space safer and ensure that everyone gets a good night's rest. 

Go for the Suite 

While the suite is a bit more expensive, it's important for parents to remember the phrase "out of sight, out of mind." If your toddler can see you, there's a chance they are going to have trouble sleeping. 

Not only that, but you also likely don't want to go to bed at their bedtime. A suite can give you a separate space to put your kids down for bed while allowing you and your spouse to chat or watch television after your toddler's early bedtime.

Nix the Balcony

It's always nice to take in the view, but those sliding doors can be easy to open and hard to babyproof. By simply saying no to the balcony, you can avoid a possibly devastating accident.

Get the Fridge

That little fridge may also cost a bit more, but it is a game changer when traveling with toddlers. This guarantees that your kids can get their late-night, middle-of-the-night, or early-morning snacks and drinks without a lot of effort. 

Latch the Door

As the mom of a runner, I can tell you that the latch on hotel room doors is a lifesaver when staying in hotels. Make a habit of latching it at all times, even if you are in the room. The last thing you want to do is go to the restroom to find out that your toddler made their way to the hotel lobby. 

Identify Potential Dangers When You Arrive

This is another important step to take when staying at a hotel with a toddler. These rooms are designed with adults in mind, so absolutely nothing is babyproofed. Here are some quick ways to make the space safer:

  • On the day of your stay, call the hotel before you arrive. Ask them to remove any breakable decor from your room. 
  • When you get into the room, push the TV as far back as you can.
  • Tape down cords, blinds, and other strangulation hazards with painter's tape.
  • Use the same tape to cover outlets.
  • If your toddler likes drawers, also tape those shut.
  • Place your toddler's bed away from drapes and windows. 

Traveling With Toddlers Can Be a Lot of Fun

If you take the time to prepare for problems, you can make your travel with toddlers an enjoyable experience. However, the most important tip to remember is that issues are going to arise. If you go into the experience planning to be flexible and willing to alter your plans, you will never be disappointed!

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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Toddlers