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Tips for Traveling with Babies and Toddlers

Family vacation in Delphi, Greece
Delphi, Greece

Do you have a big adventure coming up with little ones in tow? Or, are you itching to plan a family vacation but trying to figure out how to make it work?

Call me crazy, but I’ve traveled extensively with both of my kids. From the time that my son was born, I knew that travel wasn’t going to come to a screeching halt for us but that adjustments would still need to be made along the way. We’ve learned what works for us and what doesn’t, and now my 2.5 year old already gets so excited about taking a trip that we can’t tell him about it until it’s time to walk out the door.

Here are some of my best tips of how not to go crazy traveling with your baby or toddler -- or any more so than you do at home.

Waterfall in Iceland with toddler
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Packing/Preparing for Travel

  • Pack everything that you’ll need, but don’t over pack. You’ll want the essentials, but the last thing that you want is to be bogged down with stuff while you’re chasing your kids around.

  • Bring enough (and a few extra) supplies like diapers, wipes, and formula for the whole journey and then your first few days of travel. Depending where you’re going, you may easily be able to buy more of these things when you get there. However, if you’re taking a cruise or going somewhere more rugged, then try to just bring enough for the whole trip so that you’re not feeling stressed about finding more.

  • If you’re flying, liquid allowances are different if you have babies or toddlers along. You can bring as much breast milk, formula, and baby food on board as you’ll need for the duration of the journey. They might just give it an extra check at security.

  • Be sure to bring any comfort items that your little one uses, like a blanket or pacifier, and keep them in your carry on bag and day bag.

  • If you’re going on a lengthy trip, bring laundry pods so that you can wash clothes as you need them. With pods, you’ll more easily be able to hand wash if you don’t have access to a washing machine.

  • If you’re going somewhere warm, bring baby a sun hat, sunscreen, and swim diapers. I like to pack a thin microfiber towel that can be used if we are swimming or going to the beach. It’s easy to pack in a day bag, dries quickly, and isn’t so bulky like regular towels.

  • For cold weather, extra layers, hats, socks, and mittens. When we went to Iceland, I also brought a lightweight fleece blanket that Roland could use in his stroller, and it was nice to have as an extra layer when sleeping.

  • I personally don’t go overboard bringing toys for the journey or to be used during the trip because my toddler always finds new things to be interested in. Things like stickers, crayons, and a tablet can be nice for the plane or while you’re at a restaurant, and these things don’t take up much space.

  • This is a little thing, but I always carry a wet/dry bag. They’re waterproof and good to stick messy outfits or dirty diapers in when you’re out and about if you need to. You can find them inexpensively on Amazon.

  • Pack a small medicine bag with the essentials for little ones, like Tylenol, cough drops, and a nose bulb. I also have a Tide pen stuck in there.

  • Packing cubes! I used to think I was a fairly savvy packer and wondered what all the craze was about. Now that I’ve tried packing cubes, I love them, and they are such a great way to keep things organized. Everyone in the family gets one cube, and then I can easily fit all of our things in one bag. It’s easy to keep things separated and pull out just what we need for the day.

  • All parents know that babies and toddlers require a lot of extra gear that’s way bigger than the child themselves. Check out some of my tips for baby gear here.

  • Keep all of your documents on you at all times. This goes for whether you’re traveling with kids or not. I have a clear zipped bag that I take every time I travel that’s just big enough to hold passports, a pen, and a few important papers, and it’s easy to pull out whenever I need it.

  • If you have options, try to choose flight times wisely but don’t overstress about it. For us, I’d rather take an early morning flight than one that arrives late because my kids are much happier in the morning. They’ll still be tired when we arrive, but the journey was likely more pleasant for everyone involved.

  • There are so many great accommodation options out there, so think about what would be a good fit for your family based on your destination. Resorts are a popular choice because you have all the amenities that you need at your fingertips, and meals are usually readily available whenever you’re hungry. If you’ll be in a city, apartments can usually allow for more space than regular hotels and have separate sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathtubs. I try to look for something that’s either on the ground floor or has an elevator so that I’m not trying to haul everything and everyone up a bunch of stairs (lesson learned).

Toddler llama peru
Getting friendly with the locals in Peru

The Journey Itself: On the Plane/In the Car

  • Snacks, snacks, snacks. If your little one is big enough to be snacking, bring a variety, as you never know what they’ll actually be in the mood for. I’ve always tended to be pretty liberal with handing out snacks to Roland during the trip, as food is definitely the road to happiness with that kid.

  • If you nurse your baby, do so during take off and landing on the plane to alleviate the pressure in their ears. Pacifiers and lollipops also help with this.

  • Entertainment. As I mentioned above, I’ve never tended to go overboard on bringing toys and books. I’ll bring one or two small familiar items that I know he’ll like and then stick in some new stuff like stickers or crayons. We also reserve the tablet just for travel time. Honestly, my kiddo has always found the random non-toy items (stuff in the seat pocket, for example) to be equally entertaining because it’s new to him.

  • If your flights will overlap with nap times or bed time, think about how you might make it more comfortable for sleeping. If you’re bringing a car seat, then problem solved. For little babies, there are usually bassinets available on big long-haul flights, but you’ll want to call the airline in advance to reserve these (and some require that you just show up to the airport early). Since my son grew out of that, I always just carry his blanket, pacifier, and maybe a small pillow.

  • For toddlers on long car rides, you can get something that slips over the front seat to hang a tablet in so that your child can watch a show or a movie. We also have a tray that sits on top of them in the car seat that they can use for snacking or activities (just look up trays for car seat on Amazon).

Toddler Greece
Pro tip: Don't expect your kids to ever pose for pictures

During Your Trip

  • Do your best to keep a good attitude. Little kids will sense how you’re feeling and often mirror your emotions. Now that Roland is old enough to understand better what’s going on, we try to use language like, “We are going to be in the car for a long time today, but then we are going to be doing this really cool thing!”

  • If you traversed multiple time zones, jet lag may seem like a beast. However, little ones may adapt more quickly than you expect. The keys are to immediately accept the local time of wherever you are, get lots of exposure to sunlight, and keep everyone well fed. With food and sunlight, your body will naturally adjust. If it’s daytime, take naps, but don’t go overboard. We always plan for the first day to be a little rough as an adjustment day, but then things are generally fine from there on.

  • Think about when your little ones will get to sleep and how much they’ll be getting. If it’s going to be an early morning or a late night, plan a lighter day of sightseeing. With both of our kids, we’ve always tried to give them the chance to sleep during trips when they’d usually want to be sleeping at home. I try to plan activities around their usual wake-up times and think about what we could be doing when I suspect that they’ll like to be napping. Maybe that’s the time for me to stroll around a museum I want to see while they are snoozing in the stroller.

  • The same goes for snacks and meals. It’s easy for me to sometimes forget to eat as frequently when we are in transit or busy sightseeing, but I’m going to have some grumpy kids if I don’t feed them regularly. Plan meal times and carry lots of snacks for when things get delayed.

  • Before we had kids, I would plan to do as much sightseeing as humanly possible in a day. Now I’ve learned that we just have to plan a little less each day. Prioritize what activities and sites are most important to you, and then visit less important ones if you have time and your kids are still feeling cooperative.

  • On a similar note, be willing to be flexible in your plans. If your kid is having a meltdown or needs to eat, try to rearrange your sightseeing plans if you can and visit that other site later.

  • If your little one is mobile, allow time each day that they’ll be able to run around. No toddler will happily sit in a stroller or car seat all day. Find a park or playground, or at least find a museum or store that they can safely walk around.

  • Restaurants. If we are walking around with the stroller, I find a place that I can easily set the stroller outside or has enough space to bring it in. Don’t assume everywhere in the world will have high chairs available, so you may sometimes need to hold your little one, or look for seating that will work for you. I like booths and bench seats for my toddler so that he can be next to me and have a little space to wiggle around but he’s not falling off a chair. Don’t be afraid to provide some entertainment during meal times if your child needs it, whether that be coloring, electronics, or playing with the random objects on the table.

  • If you’re traveling somewhere a little more rugged, think about whether you’ll have access to clean water. Ensure that you always have bottled water, or pack a LifeStraw.

  • Always have extra supplies and clothes on hand for mishaps because you know you’re going to need them at some point.

  • If you have options in how you’re getting around during the day, stick with easy modes of transit. Since we had kids, we prefer our own rental car for long distances rather than buses or a guide so that we can be on our own schedule. Within a city, it’s nice to be easy to walk around with the stroller or baby carrier. Trains and metros are also usually comfortable enough for short distances because you can take your stroller right on board.

And my last but very important tip is this. Remember that kids will be kids regardless of where they are in the world. Public tantrums and meltdowns will inevitably happen, and life will go on. Relax, enjoy the ride, and make memories together as a family. Your little one might not remember this specific trip or seem to have an appreciation for the incredible places that you’re seeing, but you are teaching them important life lessons about different cultures and places and showing them how to be flexible in different environments and situations.

We all know that parenting doesn’t stop just because you’re on vacation. But I personally like parenting in cool places.

What are your tips for traveling with babies and toddlers?

Ready to start planning your next great adventure? Send me a message today.



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