Traveling with Toddlers

The holidays are a great time of year. A time to be with our families and friends. There are a lot of us that will be traveling to be with those we love.
Traveling with young children can be hard but there are a few things we can do to make the trip a little easier.

There is nothing worse than trying to rush with children in tow. Especially now with all the new rules at airports. If you are flying, arrive early. Give your family time to check in, take your time to get to the gate and relax while you are waiting to bored the flight. This can be a really fun time to teach your children and point out new and exciting things.
If you are traveling by car expect extra bathroom stops and plan accordingly. The first road trip we took with young children we treated like the road trips we used to take without kids. No stops, just our destination. We learned quick. Expecting kids to sit for 8 hours and never move will make the trip miserable for everyone. Plan a stop or two for the kids to stretch their legs. Grab a popsicle when you get gas, or stop for an ice cream cone. The 10 minute break will really help.

It is tempting to dress your kids in your favorite outfit so that when you arrive they are dressed “just so”. This will just make your kids uncomfortable during travel, and if you are like me, you will be uptight trying to keep the clothes clean.
Dress your kids in comfortable clothes and in layers. If you want to change them when you get close to your destination, plan for that. You will find that everyone travels better when you don’t have to worry so much about spills and wrinkles.
The layers will allow your children to be comfortable on the planes when they are cold, and they can take things off when they are not needed. Extra clothes also make good pillows and blankets. Easy on and off shoes are also important when you travel. Bathroom stops are a lot easier when you can get shoes on quickly. Same with planes.

Be sure that you pack lots of fluids and snacks. Kids will get thirsty. Tired and thirsty in not a good combination. Even if you are carrying a little extra baggage to pack the snacks, do it any way. Pack their favorites and pack things that are fun. An assortment of crackers and fruits and veggies are great. For our kids, suckers are a treat, and they take time to eat. They are always in the travel bag. Plus, suckers help keep mouths occupied which means kids are quieter. Perfect for small spaces like cars and planes. Now that our kids are a little older I will let them pick some of their favorites. It makes them feel like they are a part of the planning. Don’t pull all the snacks out at once. Little by little as needed. And always keep the best of the best for the break down or emergency. (Our kids love taking animal crackers. The ones that come in the little rectangle case with the string. They love carrying them.)

I always get a few new toys or activities for the kids when we travel. They are small things like a new set of crayons and a new coloring or activity book. The dollar store is perfect for picking up inexpensive and fun little treats.  I also like to bring things that zip, button and snap. They keep little hands busy. Before we leave I like to wrap them up like little presents. The kids think it is so fun to open them and the opening itself takes time. I do the same with the special treats. Their favorite candy or cookie gets wrapped up.
Another great little find for us has been stickers. My mom introduced the idea when we were trying to get our first child through 3 hours of church on Sundays.  I get them at the dollar store and then bring extra paper. The kids love taking them off and sticking them all over the paper. The smaller the stickers, the more effort it takes for kids to get them off the page. It is great. Our two year old loves this activity. It helps her get through plane trips and car trips.

Asking your children to travel without their favorite toy, blanket, or stuffed animal can really make the trip miserable. If there is something that your child can’t live without, be sure you bring it with you. That said, there is always the possibility of it getting lost or left behind. Which can bring even more trauma. Be sure you check and double check so nothing is lost.
If your little one uses a pacifier, be sure you bring more than one. Even more than two. Bring a couple of their favorites and something to keep the pacifier attached to them. The last thing you want is to try and find a pacifier rolling around under plane seats, or under car seats.
I also use pacifier clips to keep favorite toys off the plane floor.

…Stroller that is. Asking tired little legs to keep up in airports is asking a lot. Especially if you are trying to catch connecting flights and are forced to rush. It is worth it to carry-on a very small umbrella stroller to put your toddler in as you are changing planes, walking through the airport, waiting for your rental car/ride, or walking to the parking lot. You can buy them for less that 10 dollars and they are very light weight and compact. Plus, it makes a great place for them to sit while you are waiting and you can hook a bag or two on the handles as you walk. On top of that, having one on your trip is always nice.

Bring some music for your little ones. It can help sooth them and distract them. It can also help them calm down enough to fall asleep. Make sure you bring enough headphones for everyone to listen. You can get headphone splitters for less than 5 dollars. The splitter will let you plug more than one head phone into one jack.
Music in the car is wonderful also. Songs that they sing along to, or do actions to will help distract them as you travel.

If you are traveling with more than one child, pack their toys, blankets and special things in separate bags. If they are old enough, let them help you pack the bags. They will pack the things they want to play with so you will know they will be happy. Keep the bags light so they can carry them and by separating things it will make everything easier to keep track of and find when you need them. Just be sure you kids don’t throw in anything you don’t know about. Things that might set off the metal detector at the airport.

It doesn’t hurt to check in with your doctor before you leave. Ask what to do with motion sickness, car sickness etc.  They can tell you what to give your kids and how to help them if they do get sick while you are traveling. Be sure you have a few medications packed for easy access. Just in case. You don’t want them to be under the plane, or in the trunk when you need them.

If you are traveling by plane, call and ask a few questions. They can tell you the guidelines for liquids, bottles, toiletries etc… The worst time to find out the rules is while you are holding your two year, in line, with no shoes on, watching them search through your bags. Especially during high travel time.

Be sure you pack your sense of humor. Despite your diligent planning things might not go perfect. Travel usually means kids are missing naps and their routines are interrupted. Role with it. Laugh and be patient. When we stay patient and keep our heads clear, we are better able to solve the problems that will come and creatively deal with the meltdowns and delays.

This will obviously be different depending on where you are traveling, but it is a good place to start.

Include an outfit for each day of the week, plus an extra shirt or two in case of spills.
Have your kids wear bright colors on travel days so they are easy to spot in the crowd.

  • Sleepwear
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Bathing suit (even if you don’t plan on swimming, you never know)
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Hat or visor
  • Slip on shoes (these are great when you need to make a bathroom stop and when you are traveling on a plane)

Be sure you keep your toiletries in plastic bags. Not only for plane travel, but things open up in cars also. Even solid deodorants. Not that I would know from personal experience or anything.

  • Blow dryer, brushes, combs and hair “stuff”
  • Lotion
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair products
  • Razor (be careful if you are flying, there are rules now)
  • Feminine items
  • Manicure kit
  • Cosmetics
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Tweezers
  • Antibacterial gel (get the ones that clip to your bag so you don’t have to search for it)
  • Sunscreen (even if your trip is to the snow)
  • Lip balm (I like to give everyone their own)

Dont forget…

  • Paperwork: ID, driver’s license, insurance card, shot records for children under two, copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates if you are going out of the country, passports, copies of your travel plans and confirmation numbers.
  • Wallet with credit cards and CASH
  • Car keys and house keys (Take an extra set and pack them in a different bag)
  • Medications
  • Camera with film and extra batteries or charger
  • Small bag to use day to day
  • Books and magazines
  • Toys and games
  • Baby wipes (these really come in handy even if you are not changing diapers)
  • First aid kit
  • Sewing kit
  • Travel clock with an alarm
  • Large and small plastic bags (these can be used for everything from wet clothes to trash to toys and snacks.
  • Chargers (for your camera, phones, video camera, etc.)
  • Car Seat for young children (you can also rent these from rental car companies if you don’t want to haul yours across the country)

Do you have any tips for traveling with small children?


  1. 2

    I love this list! espically the bring music part, my son loves to relax with music.

  2. 3

    Baby wipes are always so useful.

  3. 4
    Rebekah Kuczenski says:

    Thanks for the great tips, we are about to take our daughter on her first vacation! Wish me luck lol

  4. 5

    I became a first time grandmother back in March of this year. My grandson is 5 months old now and has flown four times already. Think he’s going to be a jet setter!


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