Traveling with toddlers, flying with toddlers, road tripping with toddlers — are you flinching? You might be a little nervous to travel with your infant and/or toddlers. I definitely still get nervous depending on circumstances of the trip! We have had some really smooth trips and some that I’d rather forget — like this past spring when Nellie ended up puking all over Jeff, the seat, the floor, and then 30 minutes later all over me — but I learned a lot along the way from trial and error. I’m certain there’s more to learn, but for now here are my favorite tips to keep you and your crew clean-ish, happy-ish, and sane-ish.
The most important thing for how to travel with a toddler
One of my biggest tips traveling with toddlers is to roll with it.
No matter how well you plan. No matter how many travel tip blogs you read. No matter how many lifesaving things you pack. Something will go wrong. And that’s ok! I don’t say this to be negative, that’s really not my style. I say this so you can be prepared to laugh instead of cry when there’s puke running down your chest and soaking into your bra.
Trust me. Hours, days, and weeks later when you’re thinking about the puke soaked bra, the breakdown or the epic blowout, you’ll be happy you laughed, you might even be proud!
Tips for traveling with a toddler — whether your flying with a toddler or road tripping
Simple change of clothes
Blow outs, puke, spills, etc. Lots can happen. I like to have a couple change of clothes for a infant (my girls were prone to blowouts, I know I’m not the only one!!) and one change of clothes just in case for toddlers too. The simpler the better. I usually bring a onesie pajama so there aren’t several pieces to juggle for each kid and it takes up less space.
p.s. if you can, wear layers. It’s like a built in change of clothes. And that way if one layer falls victims to something gone wrong you can still roll with the other layer.
This is not the time to be a potty training hero. Hayes still wears a Pull Up for naps and nighttime so we put her in a Pull Up for travel. Out of the four flights we have taken this year, she only used it for one of the flights, but thank goodness it was there. If you ask me I’d rather not clean up poopy pants if it could have been avoided. If you’re flying with a toddler or driving with a toddler that is newly potty trained or still having accidents from time to time, I would put them in a Pull Up.
Obviously great for wiping off surface or a binkie that drops, but they are also wonderful if a kiddos does puke, spit up, or blow out because unlike a baby wipe, disinfectant wipes help remove the smell. Very important when in a confined space (re: car, airplane, train, bus).
Toys, books, and activities for traveling with a toddler
Water coloring books
Water coloring books are one of those inventions I am very thankful for. There are three brands that we have used and I think all of them are great — Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow, Crayola’s Color Wonder, and Imagine Ink.
Crayola’s Color Wonder and Imagine Ink are both one time use, but the water marker is ready to go just like a normal marker, which makes it super easy. Both of these feature well known characters like the Frozen crew, baby Shark, Paw Patrol, and more.
We’ve used Crayola’s Color Wonder Frozen coloring book, Crayola’s Color Wonder Stow n’ Go Travel Kit, and a variety of Imagine Ink’s activity pads with characters like Minnie Mouse and Trolls! Imagine Ink has some great Imagine Ink variety packs on Amazon, but be sure to check out the dollar store and Target’s dollar section, both have these from time to time!
Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow coloring books are reusable which is really nice, you just need to remember to fill up the water for the “marker”, which depending on the situation, can be inconvenient. I also like that Water Wow has some generic themes — like this pack with farm, safari, and under the sea — and they also have more educational themes — like this pack with animals, alphabet, and numbers.
The older the toddler the less this will interest them, but these are hands down the best books for traveling because they weigh just about nothing and stay fresh. (Sidetone: they are also great for church because they don’t make the same noise as other books).
p.s. wait to take out the toys when traveling with toddlers
Best tip for toys and traveling — wait to give your child a toy. I don’t mean wait until they are crying or throwing a tantrum, but I do mean to let your child take in the experience and get distracted by the world around them before throwing them a toy. As you know, toys don’t keep their attention forever and you have a limited amount of space to travel with so you can’t pack that many options. Use the toys and activities strategically.
Timing travel with naps + bedtime
I bet if you look up “flying with a toddler” one of the main questions is about napping. I’m pretty into routine for our kids so I get that. In my experience, it might work, it might not work. I wouldn’t count on your child napping on the flight or in the car just because the flight is during nap time. Traveling schedules are wonky schedules, even when you stick to your normal routine as much as possible. I can’t blame them (the kids). I don’t stick to my normal schedule when I’m traveling and on vacation either!
Here’s what has worked for us. When flying with a toddler — just pick the cheapest, most convenient, fastest flight. We think very little about sleep for flights, we’re more interested in making it a direct flight if possible or arranging it to miss as little work as possible. For driving — really early or really late is the best for kiddos sleeping and traffic (actually we’ve had the best luck with sleeping at night), but it might not be possible so just roll with it!
I was introduced to wet bags when I used cloths diapers for Hayes. Honestly, once I was back to work and she started eating real food I wasn’t interested in spending 20 minutes a night getting the cloth diapers all situated for the next use so we only used cloth diapers for about 6 months. BUT, I found wet bags through the experience and for that I am thankful. Wet bags are just one of those things that I didn’t think would be very helpful, but I end up using them all of the time.
While we’re in route I keep the small wet bag in my backpack and use it for dirty clothes, dirty diapers, trash when I can’t find one, basically anything that is going straight to the washer or the trash goes in the wet bag. While we are vacationing I use the large wet bag as our dirty clothes bag. It makes laundry so much easier when we get back.
The wet bag + suitcase trick
We went to Florida twice this year with the girls and I developed a new thing to make life easier when we returned. I’m not someone who washes all of the clothes after a trip, I know some people are, but I just wash the things that were worn. So I had one suitcase for Nellie and Hayes on the way there and one suitcase for me on the way there. On the way home one suitcase had all of our dirty clothes in the wet bag while one had all of our clean clothes still nicely folded. When I got home I threw everything in the wash from the wet bag and didn’t have to worry about our other clothes being musty or anything! I’ll definitely be doing that again.
Traveling with a toddler AND a tablet
We do watch TV at our house (gasp!!!), but the tablet only comes out for traveling. And I am so thankful for the tablet while flying with a toddler or during a long car ride. Plus since she only gets to use it while we’re traveling she is soooo excited to watch movies and play games (mostly watch movies).
We’ve have the Amazon Kid’s Fire Tablet with the pink cushy boarder for a year or so now and really like it. It has its quirks, but for the price and what we need it for, it’s totally worth it!
p.s. My friend Katrina gathered a list of iPad game apps for toddlers from her followers if you want to check it out.
Tried and true, less mess snacks
I could have just said lots of snacks, but tried and true is important because this is not the time to try something new. And less mess is important because it’s less stressful when the snacks aren’t all over everywhere. There’s a lot of time for new snacks and messy snacks, just not when you’re thousands of feet in the air flying with a toddler or halfway through a 20 hour trip. Stick to what you know your kiddos like and try to find things that will stay somewhat together. Here are some of the things I like to bring:
- Yogurt melts
- Applesauce pouches
- Cut up apples or clementines in baggies (berries stain everything, bananas are ok but they smoosh easily)
- Mini Larabars
- Perfect Bars Kids
- Individually wrapped chewy granola bars (the hard ones are crumbly and get messier)
- Trail mix
Burp cloth / swaddle
Important when you are traveling with an infant, but also helpful when traveling with toddlers. Not a deal breaker, but definitely a nice It’s just nice to have something fabric that can wipe something up, not just your baby wipes, which have little to no absorption.
But what about warm formula?
If you need to warm up formula on the trip I highly recommend bringing a Yeti mug like this or something similar. It comes in handy for car trips and flights because it keeps it stays warm for a couple of hours. But it’s also really nice if you have to drive to get to your final destination after your flight, I’ve snagged some hot water from the friendly airplane staff before getting off of the plane many times!
My best tips for traveling with toddlers
I’m bound to be missing something so I’ll probably continue to add to this, especially when I learn something new from the next trip we take, but for now these are my best tips and tricks! I hope they come in handy.