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14 Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Kids

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It’s no secret that traveling with toddlers and young kids can be a daunting task. But with some preparation and organization, it can be done relatively easily and smoothly. Here are the top travel tips to help make your next family vacation a breeze.

Traveling with toddlers and young ones can be hard, but it’s worth it. Here are some tips on how to make traveling a lot easier for everyone. These tips will help you have a more fun and relaxing trip.

Traveling with a toddler does not need to be stressful, whether taking multiple international flights or a routine short flight for an annual family trip. To maximize your trip with your family members, the most essential thing is to come prepared.

After visiting 10 countries and 12 national parks in the US before my daughter turned one year old, we’re here to help you avoid the travel hassles so you can enjoy your experience.

Essential Travel Tips for Traveling with Toddlers & Kids

1. Choose your destination wisely

Choose your destination wisely

When planning a trip with the youngest travelers in the world, it’s important to consider their ages and interests when choosing a destination. If your kids are very young, opt for a place that has plenty of kid-friendly activities. If they’re older, they might be more interested in exploring new places and doing different things.

Toddlers are very much routine-orientated, which means when you’re in your vehicle for a long period, you’ve already eliminated that routine. Instead of sticking to the home routine, I found it easier to create the “Travel Routine.”

A road trip tends to put the kids to sleep after a while, whether they like it or not, which means they’ll likely take at least two naps during the trip at some point if you’ve got to travel all day. What do two naps equal at night? Lots of energy!

Instead of forcing a regular bedtime on the kids when we’d pull in somewhere to spend the night, I’d give them a chance to unwind – no matter what night it happened. Sometimes that meant playing tag with the kids in a hotel room at 10 pm… so be it. You can’t force energetic kids to fall asleep anyway, and an active game can help to relieve the stresses from the road.

2. Get travel insurance

Kid Playing at the Beach

Travel insurance is one of those things that you hope you never have to use, but it’s there as a safety net in case something goes wrong. When traveling with children, travel insurance can give you peace of mind, knowing they will be covered if they fall ill or have an accident.

However, it’s important to remember that travel insurance does not replace comprehensive health insurance. If you have health insurance through your job or a private plan, check to see if it covers you when you travel abroad. In most cases, it will not.

That’s why travel insurance is so important. Even if you’re traveling briefly, travel insurance can save you a lot of money if something happens and you need medical treatment.

So before you book your next trip, understand your travel insurance options and choose the right plan for you and your family. We recommend using TravelInsurance.com to find the best possible insurance plan for your family trip.

3. Make a packing list

Packing list

One of the most important things you can do when traveling with kids is to make a packing list. This will help you make sure you don’t forget anything important. Include clothes, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, hats, snacks, and toys.

When you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s important to remember that your child will need a passport. Be sure to apply for one well before your trip – it can take several weeks to process the application. When you’re ready to travel, bring your child’s passport.

Keep it in a safe place where you can easily access it when you need it. You may want to consider bringing a copy of the birth certificate in case the age of your infant comes into question with airport security or a gate agent. We’ve never brought it with us but have heard that this has come in handy during air travel.

When you’re traveling with kids, comfort is critical. They’ll be doing a lot of walking, so pack comfortable clothes and shoes. Avoid anything too tight or constricting. You’ll want them to be able to move around quickly and not get too overheated. In general, natural fabrics like cotton are best.

And if you’re doing a lot of walking, it’s worth investing in good-quality shoes for your kids. They don’t have to be expensive but should fit well and provide support.

Here is our packing list for traveling with a toddler:

  • Travel stroller: If you are flying with a toddler, these are essential as your home stroller is likely too bulky and won’t fit in the overhead bin. We purchased a travel stroller that folded up into the overhead compartment. This made it incredibly easy to pack for a long flight.
  • A toddler car seat: Bring this only if you are traveling to a destination that requires car seats for infants in taxis or shuttles. We brought this with us on our trip to Alaska since the law required it.
  • Baby carrier: If you are flying with a toddler, this is another essential item for a long journey. This allowed us to put our baby down for nap time in the airplane seat, in the aisle, at a museum, at a park, or even at a brewery. This made family travel so much easier for us.
  • Leave extra space for more than enough diapers: Diapers are crucial. This cannot be underestimated. You never know what could happen if you have a long flight ahead. Trust me. This isn’t a situation where you want to come under-prepared.
  • Changing pad: There is a chance that you have to change your toddler on the bathroom floor. Even that, airplanes are not always the most accommodating with changing tables, so a small foldable changing pad can go a long way when traveling with a toddler or infant.

If you want to stay organized with your carry-on items, check-in processes, and travel itineraries, download our free printable travel planner to help you make sure your trip remains on track.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska

4. Bring snacks and entertainment

Mom and Kid Enjoying Ice Cream

Long car rides can be tough on kids (and adults). The same applies to airplane travel. So, be sure to bring along plenty of airplane snacks and entertainment to keep everyone happy.

Pack books, toys, portable video players, iPads, and other activities to entertain your kids and toddlers in your carry-on bag.

When flying with a toddler, baby wipes are always helpful. They may be used for various things, including cleaning up spills and wiping away dirt and grime. A simple first-aid kit is also handy in the event of little mishaps or injuries.

You may consider packing a warm blanket for long flights to international destinations, as overnight flights can get cold at that high altitude. The last thing you want is for your kids to stay awake the entire flight because it is too cold.

For your checked luggage, be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and hats to protect your kids from the sun. Apply sunscreen frequently, especially if they’re playing in the water.

If you are traveling to a warm-weather destination, your kids will probably want to swim. Bring pool toys, floats, and life jackets to make the experience more enjoyable.

See Related: Layover vs Stopover: What’s The Difference?

5. Consider lightening the load on toys and entertainment

Kid playing in a garden

I know, I know. I just said that you should pack things to keep your kids entertained. You should do that with a warning that you shouldn’t overdo it in your carry-on bags.

Think long-term here. If you want to travel more with all family members, you want to teach your children patience whether they visit a new destination or the same spot each year.

Believe it or not, there is a certain age when you are flying with a toddler that you don’t need to pack much to keep your toddler entertained. I received this advice from a fellow travel blogger, and it’s true.

Many toddlers at a certain age can spend hours looking at the flight specification booklet or the lights from their seats. Make a judgment call if this suits you when traveling with a toddler, as less screen time and fewer toys in your carry-on luggage mean more room for other convenience items.

Plus, you might be buying souvenirs at the destination you are visiting anyway. On several of our flights, the flight attendants gave our daughter a small toy on the plane anyway, and she loved it.

6. During road trips be prepared to sing lots of songs

Child inside the car

Even if you have movies the kids can watch while you drive, the idea of watching a movie eventually ages. For a toddler, everything gets old after a while. Songs that can be sung while you drive down a stretch of the open road don’t seem to get old. 

Old McDonald Had a Farm is a particular favorite, and the best part is that with each child choosing a new animal, we spent almost an hour singing this song! This is also a great opportunity to teach your toddlers new songs because let’s face it – you’re not going anywhere for a while.

7. Plan for nap times and bedtimes

Family bed time

If your kids are young, planning their nap times and bedtimes is important, especially for a long-haul flight or overnight flight. This will help ensure they’re well-rested and happy throughout the trip.

When the kids are all sleeping, that is the time to make significant progress on your road trip, especially if it is long. Sometimes that happens in the middle of the night.

Other times it could be right after lunch. Whatever the case, have supplies on hand so that when the vehicle’s motion causes a nap, you can take advantage of that quietness and drive in peace.

8. During road trips stop every 2 hours max

Gas Station

Toddlers get restless a lot, and as much as I might be prepared for a 4-hour trip between gas stations, the kids weren’t ready for that level of stir-craziness. I learned that I could generally go about two hours before needing to stop somewhere so they could get out and run around for a while.

If I didn’t need gas, I’d stop in whatever town I had reached and look for the local playground for a while. Even with just 15 minutes of playtime on a break, you could drain enough energy from that toddler reserve to help make it to the next leg of the journey.

Plotting out stops before taking off helps so you don’t spend 30 minutes wandering around a small town, too.

9. Choose hotels with kid-friendly amenities

Family Moment at a Resort

When booking a hotel, look for one that has kid-friendly amenities like a pool, playground, or kids club. This will help make your stay more enjoyable for everyone.

Most places you’re going to visit for an evening aren’t childproofed. Sometimes, that’s not such an issue, but if you stay somewhere with easy access to chemicals or other potentially harmful agents. It’s good to have some locks that you can quickly install. Kids can get up at all hours, and you might not hear them open that one cabinet door!

Corners, outlets, and other hazards are just about everywhere, too – it only takes a few minutes to childproof a hotel room. If your room has windows, don’t forget to make sure those windows are locked – especially if you’re above the first floor!

It only takes a moment… and as I’ve spoken to other parents of toddlers who travel with their kids, childproofing supplies are often the one thing that gets overlooked. That’s why it is a helpful tip here!

10. Don’t sacrifice big comforts for small savings

Team Collaboration

Don’t sacrifice big comforts for small savings. That’s the first lesson I learned when traveling with a partner. I was content to scrimp and save on every little thing in my days. I would book the cheapest flights, stay in the most basic accommodations, and forego any creature comforts to stretch my budget as far as possible.

But when sharing a cramped space with someone else, those little sacrifices can quickly add to a big headache. Instead of always opting for the cheapest option, look for ways to save money that won’t impact your comfort or enjoyment too much.

For example, rather than flying at odd hours to get a cheaper ticket, see if a flight arrives at a more convenient time but has a slightly higher price tag.

You may spend an extra $20 or $30, but you’ll also avoid arriving at your destination exhausted and grumpy. And trust me, that’s worth its weight in gold.

11. Plan activities everyone will enjoy

Family picnic

It’s important to find activities that everyone in the family will enjoy. This way, everyone can have fun and make memories together. I’ve spent 11 full days on the road with three toddlers.

Out of all the tips I could share, this tip might make the trip easier than any other – have a surprise ready for your kids before you start your day on the road. A new surprise of a toy or treat can help to entertain for quite a while!

Buffer this surprise by packing favorite toys that can stay within your toddler’s reach so that playtimes can be extended. Sometimes the toy will be dropped – that’s ok! In my mind, a screaming toddler who has dropped a toy qualifies as a road emergency.

I’ve pulled over a few times to rescue dropped toys, dropped sippy cups, and even blankets because I was too far away to make it to a rest stop, exit, or town to incorporate a rescue with a planned stop somewhere.

It only takes a few moments, but be smart about pulling to the side of the road. You might want to wait if it’s rush hour and the highway is packed.

12. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Family eating in the restaurant

It’s amazing how many resources you can access for toddlers when you ask people a few questions. At a restaurant, a couple of employees helped make warm water for an infant bottle through their tea machine.

I’ve been able to use several employee microwaves across the country. Free batteries, crayons, and other needed distractions are often available behind a counter.

The best part, however, is this: once you get a successful request, you can often get a discount on whatever you need to buy at that location as well!

In one particularly bad moment, I had a tire blowout with the three toddlers and was stuck driving on the spare on the interstate system at 45 mph. I pulled into a gas station to rest because it was still over 100 miles from where I could replace the tire.

I asked if there was any hot food in town, and the clerk not only called the local pizza place to have food delivered but included drinks from the store, and they did it all for no charge.

Bottom line: if you need something, ask. Expect to pay for your needs… but be willing to accept a gift from someone trying to be nice.

13. Get an aisle seat for traveling with a baby and a window seat for traveling with kids

Toddler travelling

Aisle seats are clutch for when you are on long-haul flights with a newborn, baby, or even toddler. You’ll want to be able to get up to change your baby. If you are traveling with a toddler in potty training, they will want to get up several times.

If you have a newborn or are flying during your baby’s nap, aisle seats are much more helpful as you can get up and rock your baby to sleep. If you have older kids, window seats are clutch because the window shields your small children from potential strangers and acts as another form of entertainment.

Kids love seeing new things and looking out the window during take-off. Creating altitude and landing is a great idea to keep your kids entertained, especially once the screen time enjoyment has worn off.

14. Remember to relax and have fun

Toddler travelling with father

One of the most important things to remember when traveling with kids is to relax, keep a positive attitude, and have fun. Yes, it can be chaotic sometimes, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to bond as a family.

My youngest was just six months old on my first solo cross-country trip. That meant needing bottles every few hours, diaper changes on-demand, burping responsibilities, a little tummy time, and all that other good stuff. I brought a lot of infant-friendly water for the drive, but cold formula?

That’s enough to make any child shudder! So I’d mix the formula in the car, then haul all the kids into the bathroom with me at a truck stop to warm up the formula under a hand dryer.

There will be looks when you travel with young kids. You’ll get lots of unsolicited advice. None of that matters. What matters is staying confident in what you’re doing, providing for your toddlers, and keeping your family safe. Those judgmental folks will probably never see you again on a road trip anyway, so don’t waste energy on them.

See Related: What Does Domestic Travel Mean?

Planning an itinerary and choosing accommodation

Snowy Mountain Vacation Rental

Planning an itinerary that will work for everyone in the family can be tough. Still, with some preparation and creativity, finding activities and places to please every group member is possible.

Visiting (or traveling with) extended family

Visiting family

Traveling with family can be a great way to bond and make memories, though it can occasionally present some challenges. One thing to remember is that everyone has different ideas of what constitutes a good time.

For example, you might want to spend a lazy day lounging by the pool while your children might be eager to explore and go on adventures.

Planning activities everyone can enjoy, such as visiting a local museum or hiking, can be helpful. Finally, remember to be flexible and go with the flow – after all, the best vacations are often the ones where things don’t go according to plan.

Do you need airfare tickets when traveling with a toddler?

Family Playing at the Beach

Planning and knowing what to expect regarding tickets and fees is important when traveling with a toddler. Most airlines require infants to travel in lap seats so they don’t get their tickets.

However, you may be charged a fee for a lap seat, so it’s important to check with your airline beforehand. Additionally, most airlines will charge you a fee to register your car seat or stroller, so contacting your airline for details is essential.

For comfort, carrying your car seat on the plane is generally advisable. However, this can be cumbersome and expensive, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s best for your family. Knowing the ins and outs of flying with a toddler will help make your trip go as smoothly as possible.

Plan your day

Family Planning in the Living Room

When planning your whole family’s travel days, less is definitely more. We suggest a minimum of one full day of activity and exploring.

Be careful not to overload children with educational activities; they won’t be able to enjoy the trip if all they’re doing is visiting museums and historical sights. The key is to balance education with fun.

Plan a few activities each day, and make sure everyone has plenty of time to rest and relax. With a little planning, you can ensure everyone has a great time on your family vacation.

Hotel vs. a vacation home

View from a Beach Tent

So, you’re planning a trip with the kids. You want to ensure everyone has a good time, but you also want to relax and not spend all your time (and money) on activities and entertainment. Where should you stay? The experts we talked to agree that, in general, renting a house is the best option for traveling with children.

Vacation rental companies like Airbnb or VRBO offer various choices in each price range, and some rental companies, such as Kid & Coe, specialize in family-friendly options. Staying in a hotel or a vacation home can be an excellent option to stay close to extended family.

And having your kitchen ready is a very efficient way to lower food costs so you can stay on track with your travel budget. So if you’re looking for the best way to travel with your kids and ensure everyone has a good time, rent a house on your next trip.

Nonstop vs. Cheap

Island in the Middle of the Ocean

Traveling with kids is essential for their development – but it doesn’t always have to be expensive. Sure, flying nonstop might be the more convenient option, but if you’re willing to book a cheap flight with a layover, you can save a lot of money.

Consider multiple airports before booking your flight, as direct flights are often more expensive. And if you do encounter any delays, ensure you have snacks and activities on hand to keep your little ones occupied.

With some planning, you can make travel work for you – and your budget. The top travel tips we’ve shared for traveling with toddlers and kids have one key thing in common: preparation. By being prepared for any situation, you can avoid stress while on your trip.

These tips cover everything from bringing snacks and entertainment to traveling during nap time. So, whether you’re taking a road trip or flying across the country, these tips will help you make the most of your trip.

Looking to maximize your family trip? Subscribe to our free travel newsletter for tips to make traveling with your little ones a breeze!

FAQs

What are some tips for flying with a baby?

Flying with a baby can be daunting, but you can do a few things to make the experience go more smoothly. First, ensure your child is comfortable and has a clear window view. This will help them to stay calm and entertained during the flight.

Second, bring plenty of snacks and drinks for you and your child. And don’t forget the wipes! Third, dress your child in comfortable clothes and shoes. This will help to prevent them from getting restless and fussy during the flight.

Finally, consider bringing a small blanket or toy to occupy your child during takeoff and landing. By following these simple tips, you can make flying with a baby a breeze.

When is the best time to fly with a toddler?

The best time to fly with a toddler is typically between the ages of two and six. They will be more likely to sit still during the flight and less likely to cry or tantrum.

How can I make traveling with kids easier?

You can make traveling with kids easy by planning, staying organized, packing light, and bringing the most important travel essentials. If traveling internationally, ensure you have the right items to make your trip comfortable for everyone.

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