25 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

Family at the airport. (photo via ShutterOK/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Gabe Zaldivar
by Gabe Zaldivar
Last updated: 2:31 PM ET, Thu October 18, 2018

25 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

Ah, travel. It's serene, relaxing and absolutely whatever you want to make of it. Then you introduce a toddler and things change just a wee bit. Traveling with your precious bundle of joy doesn't have to be super-sized with stress. It too will be a remarkably rewarding experience, as long as you adhere to a few of the finer points.

Consider a Home Sharing Service

The term "toddler" is a bit of a misnomer as it sort of crams the terms "destroyer of all things," jogging enthusiast" and "avid explorer" into a cute seven-letter word. While you can't pack your own home, you can now rent one where you travel to and do so rather easily. It will give your love a place to explore and, more importantly, the room to stretch his growing legs. Still, there are some things to consider before booking.

Hit the Road

Imagine being about thigh high and trying to figure out the world. Well, we are a lot taller now but should still have that sense of wonder. One of the best ways to satiate the wanderlust is to hop in the car and hit the road, allowing yourself to make constant stops along the way.

Nap Time Is the Right Time

Chances are great, however, that you plan on flying. The best time to do that is those precious moments when the eyelids are heavy and the sleep is likely. The longer you can keep your child asleep on a plane the better, for him or her, for you, and for your fellow plane mates. Heed these other tips as well.

Know Your Audience

Say adios to that impromptu beer crawl, vineyard tour or pleasant four-hour relax session by the pool. You can enjoy those again when the kids are off to college. Until then, you are going to learn to love life through the eyes of a toddler. That means embracing the area's museums, zoos and amusement parks. But don't disregard the awesome and inexpensive parks, arboretums and gentle hiking locations-they are just as amazing to a toddler. Additionally, aquariums will also blow the little mind.

Get With the Times

Podcasts are sort of having a moment right now, even with kids under five. There are actually quite a few entertainment options for kids. Frome "Sesame Street" clips to kid stories, there is plenty to keep the trip moving forward.

Make the Drive Work for You

Map out the trip and find those off-the-beaten-path locations you wouldn't normally see. Now you have one restless traveler with you. Get off to check out the famous jerky shop or stop to walk around the deserted ghost town you always wanted to visit. You get to explore places you never considered and keep the kid strapped in the car seat happy with perfect pit stops.

Get a Patio

You may not think about yourself too often anymore, but with so many hospitality options it's time that you do. When the little one goes down, even a small patio offers a nice respite for mom and dad to chill out with a bottle of wine as the little one sleeps nearby.

Try Something New for Dinner

With completely new surroundings, the time has never been better to tempt that palate with things you might not normally prepare at home. Throw a calamari on the plate or meander past the same pasta dish your little one is used to and share something off the beaten path. You don't only travel with your feet but also with your stomach. Instill that sentiment from a young age. Indeed, there is a lot out there.

Learn to Go With the Flow

Traveling with a toddler means the day goes wherever your son or daughter demands it goes. Take a deep breath and be completely fine that you stayed longer at the park than intended or that the exhibit at the zoo wasn't such a hit. Vacations will now be a play by ear sort of thing, learn to accept that. If you need more tips, we are here to help.

Accept That You Will Forget Something

Whether it's one more diaper or that nighttime book, you will forget to bring something with you. It's OK. Your kid is resilient and will enjoy the change of pace at bedtime or that extra trip to the store for the snacks you forgot.

But Plan Ahead, Well Ahead

I'm not saying that you just grab a bunch of stuff as you leave the house and throw caution to the wind. Start a week ahead of the trip and make a list of essentials. The longer lead time you give yourself the less you will forget and the less stress you will bring upon yourself. And here's even more tips from experts.

Pack a Special Bag

There is a special joy that comes with busting open that book you saved for the plane. Now imagine you're a child and triple the feeling when you get a bag of goodies. None of those goodies have to be expensive. Some crayons here, a couple knick-knacks from the dollar store there. Regardless, this will buy you time on a plane or in the car.

Separate Snacks/Milk for TSA

The most important thing to note when heading to the airport is how to package your most precious carry-on, your kid's food. Thankfully, TSA breaks it all down so you can feel confident that your child won't go hungry while flying.

Spend Where You Can

I understand the predilection for traveling on a budget, and you certainly can with kids. But if you are going to splurge, consider doing so with an eye on comfort. That means getting better seats on the plane or a bigger room at the hotel. Your pint-sized travel companion will appreciate it.

Consider What Will Be Available

If you can rent a stroller at that expensive amusement park or borrow a pack-and-play from the hotel, do it. The less you have to carry will save you in perspiration and stress.

Download Ahead of Time

Whether it be those toddler podcasts or episodes of "Puppy Dog Pals," make sure you do some digital packing by downloading what you can ahead of time. There won't always be Internet access and there comes a time when you need to go with the nuclear option of smartphone time.

Ask for Wi-Fi

See if the hotel offers Wi-Fi or check how much it will be on the plane. While you might want to limit the kid's screen time normally, vacation is the time to let loose for everyone.

Noise is Inevitable

At some point, your child will want to get up and run amok. Don't we all on a six-hour flight? This is nothing new to travel and it happens to every parent. Just relax and do your best, that's all that anyone can ask.

Clean up After

With that said, be kind to your fellow human flight attendant or housekeeping staff. Make sure to keep the stickers off anything not coming with you and the crayons on the paper you actually brought.

Give Options

Your toddler may give up fussing if you offer an option. Do you want to color or have reading time? Do you want a snack or watch the latest puppy show? It will buy you some time on the plane or as you get ready for the big day away from the hotel.

Enjoy Nap Time

Read a book, bust out the phone for an uninterrupted social media session or, wait for it, nap too. Vacation is the perfect time to catch up on the one thing you discovered was priceless when you became a parent, sleep.

Treat Yourself

Adding to sleep, you also need to make sure you are also well fed and well engaged. Parents can run out of steam quickly. While you are packing snacks for the precious one, go ahead and throw a little something-something in the bag for you as well.

Bring Wipes, Then Bring Some More

Not only do you want to wipe down everything your baby is going to touch, especially at restaurants, but these kids will get dirty quickly and it's not exactly simple to go back home for a wardrobe change. Other than snacks, wipes are your second best friend on a vacation sojourn.

Embrace the Pre- and Post-Nap Schedule

Congratulations, you now have a dual segmented daily schedule. Make sure to plan daytime events and then switch things up for after your child wakes up from their nap. You will begin to see that it's a great way to break up the day and rejuvenate as well. Who knew you were raising such a genius?

Just Do It

Lastly, there is no better time than now to travel. It may be scary to travel with a toddler if you haven't done so already, but they make great travel companions. They have an insatiable desire to explore, are very huggable and, at many amusement parks and attractions, are free. Jump wholeheartedly into this awesome adventure.

25 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

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Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me