Top Tips on Traveling With a Toddler

a plane flying into a sky

The unofficial start of summer is here, and parents everywhere are packing up and taking their kids on vacation. But, if you’re one of the many moms and dads with a toddler on your hands, then the thought of traveling with your little one might leave you shuddering. Toddlerhood is both a blessing and a curse, what with your child growing both more curious and fussier than ever.

Don’t let these fears keep you from enjoying the most summer has to offer. Whether you’re driving for an hour or taking a plane across the ocean, use these tips to make vacationing a breeze.

General tips for traveling with toddlers

A little girl in a car seat.Keep your toddler happy with these general travel tips.

There are some ideas you’ll want to keep in mind regardless of your style of travel or your destination. Remembering these travel tips for every trip will keep your toddler happy and save you some stress.

  • Pack a spare change of clothes for your toddler and yourself. Accidents are bound to happen, meaning you’ll need a change of clothes or two. Don’t forget to pack some for yourself – the last thing you want is to spend several hours in a shirt covered in sticky snack crumbs.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes. Same as above: Accidents happen. Plus, if you’re taking public transportation like a bus or plane, you’re exposing your toddler to tons of germs. You don’t want your child to miss out on all the vacation fun because he or she is sick, so wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Travel in the morning. Everyone loves to sleep in, including toddlers. Kids are more likely to snooze through early morning travel, whereas they tend to stay awake during the afternoon.
  • Pack as much entertainment as possible. You may avoid iPads and video games on a normal day, but these will be lifesavers when traveling. Bring as many things as you can pack, such as:
    • Video games.
    • Coloring books.
    • Crayons.
    • Tablets with games or movies.
    • Story books.
  • Don’t bring what you can rent or buy at your destination. Airlines, theme parks, hotels and similar places often have strollers and child-friendly seats available. You can buy diapers, formula and other necessities at a convenience store, so only bring what you need for the actual travel time.

Tips for traveling by car

Road trips are an American past time, and they can be an enjoyable experience for you and your toddler if you prepare well.


  • Drive overnight on long trips. Your toddler will sleep soundly throughout the whole trip, and you won’t have to take nearly as many bathroom breaks. Of course, this is only feasible if you’re a night person and won’t get too sleepy yourself.
  • Use pull ups.  Even if your child is potty trained, a pull up gives you additional peace of mind.
  • Time your stops most effectively. Every pit stop should include a bathroom break and a chance to stretch your legs. If you’re stopping at a rest area, let your kids run around a bit to tire themselves out. Also, check your gas level before departing, and make sure no one is hungry before getting back on the road. It’s best to knock as many things out at once so you don’t stop every half hour.

Tips for traveling by plane

“Some kids are excellent fliers, but not all of them.”

Let’s face it – air travel is annoying. Yet, for as frustrated as you get going through security, finding your gate and sitting down for an hours-long flight, your toddler will likely be even more upset. Some kids are excellent fliers, but not all of them. Here are some tips for flying with children to keep them placated (and prevent you from tearing your hair out):

  • Take advantage of early boarding. Most airlines will call for parents with small children to board the plane first. Take advantage of the opportunity to find your seat easily without other passengers around. This also gives you more time to store your carryon luggage in the overhead bin, which tends to run out of space quickly.
  • Bring lots of gum, lollipops, pacifiers and/or sippy cups. Children have smaller Eustachian tubes, so the pressure changes during takeoff and landing can really hurt their ears. Chewing or sucking opens the tube to alleviate the discomfort.
  • Try to get a seat toward the front of the plane. You’ll be one of the first ones to deplane upon landing, which is great when you’ve got a fussy little one.
  • Be mindful of potty breaks. The pilots can’t delay the flight just because your child needs a potty break right before taking off. Make sure your little one goes as close to departure as possible. Also, keep in mind that the captain may not turn off the seatbelt sign for short-distance flights, meaning your toddler won’t be able to get up to use the bathroom.

Traveling with toddlers isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With proper planning, you and your family can enjoy a fantastic summer vacation.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.