How to Travel with a Toddler

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Travel Tricks & Hacks
Not sure how to travel with a toddler? It doesn't have to be a nightmare! Just follow these 6 easy tips. Your trip will be a breeze!

There was a time in my life when I could hop on a plane with a single carry-on bag and be anywhere in the world within a few hours.

I clearly took that for granted, because no one told me that after I had a baby, traveling would be vastly different. I had no idea how to travel with a baby, much less a toddler!

Everything changes after you have a baby, but I didn’t think about it affecting my travel plans until I was faced with traveling with a baby, and then a toddler. Yikes!

My first big trip after my daughter was born was a 12 hour drive to south Florida to stay with some friends. The second trip was a flight to Michigan, both when she was about a year old.

I dreaded that flight for months! I didn’t want to be that mom with that baby on the plane that everyone hated.

Babies have a way of making you learn things really fast (they don’t actually come with a how-to manual, if you can believe it), and I approached both trips with complete trepidation.

Even though my child threw up all over her clothing before we even boarded the plane, somehow I made it to the finish line with my sanity intact!

Needless to say, I had a crash course in what it takes to travel with a child — by air and by car.

Take it from me – a real pro amateur – I realized that traveling with a toddler or a baby doesn’t have to be agonizing. In fact, on the ride home from our vacation last year (an 8 hour trip), my daughter didn’t even take a nap!

Although my daughter is an only child with no siblings to help entertain her, I’m not a fan of sticking her in front of a screen all the time, so I don’t use a DVD player or iPad in my car. I’m not against people who do, I’ve just never done it and don’t plan on it, so all of these tricks are screen-free.

With a few tips and tricks, you can become a toddler-traveling pro, too!

Time Your Departure Around Nap Time

If you have the option, leave when your baby or toddler is well-fed, changed (if he or she is still in diapers), and maybe a little tired.

When my daughter still took naps, I liked to leave when she was awake, but not too far from nap time. That way, we had some time to get down the road a bit with her awake, and then she would inevitably fall asleep on the drive, giving us a nice 2 hour head start. By the time she woke up, if she needed to get out, we would take a break or get a snack to stretch our legs.

Pack a Surprise Backpack

I like to load a small, toddler-sized backpack with little surprises in each pocket. This could include anything from little trinkets that my daughter gets from the treasure chest at the dentist, to little bracelets and rings she enjoys playing with and has forgotten she has.

She loves going through the pockets, and each one buys us extra quiet time in the car. She goes through each pocket, one-by-one, and plays with each little thing. It can burn more time than you think!

Buy a Cheap Pack of Stickers

If your baby is past the point of putting things in his or her mouth, a pack of stickers can go a long way on a car ride. I have logged a lot of miles with my toddler with a simple pack of stickers, and a little book where she can place them. Toddlers love stickers!

Make a picture book

Toddlers love looking at pictures, especially of themselves. For this reason, I have made two picture books just for my daughter’s little hands. They are full of pictures of her with her loved ones, and she is allowed to handle them all she wants, even if she bends the pictures. They are hers, and she loves it.

Hide Toys Beforehand (Really!)

I know you might be thinking I’m the meanest mom ever right now, but when I’m planning a long trip, if I find discarded toys or trinkets that I know my daughter loves strewn across her bedroom floor (especially after I’ve asked her to put them away 5 times), I’ll put them away for a while and break them out in the car when she’s not expecting it. Then it’s like she has new toys! They provide instant excitement and, you guessed it, additional quiet time!

Bribe With Suckers – No Judgment Here!

As a last resort, if you’ve got a crier or a major whiner on your hands, and nothing else works, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bribing with a sucker if you’re stuck in a car or plane. After all, there’s no whining or crying with a sucker in your mouth, am I right??

Before you leave, depending on the age of your child, you may also want to make sure your overnight accommodations have a pack-and-play available with bedding (if you don’t have to pack it, you’ll save a lot of room!), and safety plugs for the electrical outlets.

After you reach your destination, enjoy your vacation and be glad that you don’t have to dread the trip home! Travel with a toddler is easy-breezy. You’ve got this!

What tips do you have when it comes to traveling with kids?


  1. kay ~

    These are SUPER tips! I wish I’d known some of them when my son was little. He was a bear to travel with. My favorites up there are the picture book and the stickers ones. Talk about a great way to keep their little hands and brains occupied. My kid hurled in the car a few times. I feel for ya on that one for sure! I learned the hard way NEVER to give him any kind of red fruit juice before a trip. Pleh! :P

  2. Chela @SmashOdyssey

    Is it okay for me to love this post even if I don´t have kids?! I totally want to go the screen-free route as much as possible when the time comes, and I love hearing success stories, because it seems like most moms think it impossible.

    1. User Robin McDaniel Post author

      Yes, it is! Screens have only grown to be so popular in the last few years, and it kind of freaks me out. I don’t want my daughter to get addicted to it! It might be a futile effort, but I’m absolutely going to try.

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