Top Toddler Travel Tips – the 5Ts!

toddler travel tips, baby at airport, toddler at airportThese are the 5Ts, our best toddler travel tips for smooth sailing (or flying, or driving) on your next family vacation!

Flying with an infant soon? Planning a road trip with a toddler?

Some find the term ‘family vacation’ to be an oxymoron; is it really a holiday if you’re still up at the crack of dawn? Or coping with a tantrum in the middle of a busy airport? Well, I can’t help much with getting your baby to sleep through the night, but I can suggest five toddler travel tips for a more harmonious holiday – from beginning to middle to end.

If you adopt the Scouts’ motto of ‘be prepared’ – you truly will be.

5 Toddler Travel Tips:

Toddler Travel Tip #1 – Timing…

As they say, timing is everything – and that applies to every level of your vacation. From your journeys to and from, to how you plan your days away, good timing can make all the difference. Try to arrange your flights (or drive times) based on two things – when your child is the most cheerful and when they are likely to sleep. Some parents swear by overnight flights, but others say first thing in the morning is the only time to go. You know your child best so try to make arrangements accordingly.

While at your destination, try not to over-schedule your days. If your child is still napping, don’t look at that as an inconvenience or as being trapped in your room. Why don’t you take the opportunity to rest – hang out with a book on the balcony or actually take a nap yourself… you’re on vacation!

Toddler Travel Tip #2 – Toiletries…

You’re no longer traveling light anyway, so why skimp on the things that keep you clean and comfortable along the way? Wipes, wipes, and more wipes will never go to waste (even if your child is out of diapers). Great for taking care of sticky faces and fingers, diaper wipes are great to have on hand to clean up spills (on yourself, your clothes, your belongings) and to use as a cloth to clean up public areas (remember not to flush them!)

Travel-size hand sanitizer, as well as moisturizer, toothpaste, mouthwash, and soap can come in handy. For your toddler, don’t forget to bring Benadryl, acetaminophen, oral re-hydration mix, and antibiotic ointment. Having these items in your carry-on is a must. If your luggage gets lost or your child gets sick in the middle of the night, you won’t have the stress of having to find a drugstore. All the liquid items in travel-sizes should fit in a one-litre size Ziplock, which is what airport security will allow through. If you’re driving instead of flying, try to have these items close at hand or at least where you can easily find them.

Toddler Travel Tip #3 – Toys…

Regardless of the age of your child, you must stock your bag with enough distractions to keep them busy for the duration of your journey. For babies this could mean little board books or soft toys with lots of ‘bits’ attached. For older kids, this could mean a tablet computer. New stuff will hold attention for longer but you don’t need to spend a fortune. The dollar store is great for trinket-y toys, and if they’re lost or broken it’s not a big deal. Another trick is to stash away a few favourites for a month or so before your trip, and re-introduce along the way. Wrapping the toys can mean an extra few minutes of dedication and distraction as well.

Toddler Travel Tip #4 – Treats…

Foods that your child normally only enjoys at parties or on special occasions can be brought out when necessary – after all, what is a vacation if not a special occasion? Can you tell that I’m justifying giving my daughter chips and cookies to keep her quiet on one of our first flights? Well, it worked. If your child is past breastfeeding, bottles, or pacifiers, things like lollipops (sugar-free if you can) are good to keep them sucking during landing.

But a treat doesn’t have to be food. Now can be the time when Junior finally gets to play with your coveted phone or fancy watch. Just make sure you supervise closely – but you’ll probably be picking it up off the floor a million times anyway.

Toddler Travel Tip #5 – Temperament…

This ‘T’ may be the last on this list of toddler travel tips but it certainly isn’t least, and it applies to both you and your child. It means you’ll have to schedule and plan according to your child’s temperament, and you’ll also have to keep yours in check. If your 3-year-old is introverted, or easily over-stimulated, perhaps save a trip to Disney World for next year… If the guy at the check-in counter gives you a hard time, or your flight is delayed, stressing out about it or losing your cool won’t help anyone – least of all your child. Traveling can fray your nerves; people are rude, flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, and drinks get spilled. If you’re organized AND mentally prepared to chill out and go with the flow, your child(ren) will follow your cues – or at least you’ll be ready to cope when they don’t!

Let’s face it, your life has changed dramatically since you had kids – why would the way you travel stay the same?

Vacations give your growing family the opportunity to explore together, and re-connect away from the busy-ness of your daily lives. Whether it’s 2 weeks in a tropical destination or a just a night away in a country inn, getting away from it all does everybody good!

21 Responses to Top Toddler Travel Tips – the 5Ts!

  1. And a good airline steward!!! I had a horrible experience with my first baby, and not because he was a bad baby, on the contrary, he was excellent.

    But the steward hated kids. This made my trip crap. The girl sitting next to me even made a formal complaint.

    Having help from the paid help, makes everyone happy!

  2. NLM at 17:21 #

    My kids were amazingly good travelers, but we did have one trip from hell. Rather, a trip from hell would have been an improvement. I swore then and there that I would NEVER complain about anybody else’s fussy baby on a flight. That was over 20 years ago, but I still remember!

    Here’s some more advice for traveling with kids–or without! http://www.50plusandontherun.com/2011/09/why-i-choose-window-seat.html

  3. Ellen at 16:11 #

    I love your site! Traveling is much easier than you can imagine with a baby. By 7 months we had traveled on a plane more than 10 times and each time was never as bad as I thought it could be. I have a few suggestions of my own here: flying with baby

  4. Ellen at 16:13 #

    I love your site! Traveling is much easier than you can imagine with a baby. By 7 months we had traveled on a plane more than 10 times and each time was never as bad as I thought it could be. I have a few suggestions of my own here: flying with baby

  5. Sacha at 15:37 #

    I absolutely love this site. It has been quite helpful as my husband and I prepare to take our daughter on her first flight at 20 months. I have been stressing out about what to take, will she behave, etc. but I feel better equipped to handle whatever comes our way. Thank you!

    • Corinne at 09:09 #

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Sacha! Would love to hear about your trip when you return. Safe travels!

  6. Michelle at 14:12 #

    I love this site. I have a 17mon old daughter. We’ve traveled with her a few times and so far it has been a good one. She slept almost thru the whole 5hours flight…When she wakes up she usually just want to watch a movie or eat. She loves looking out the window. And also carries her favorite teddy bear everywhere we go.I think if it wasn’t for her teddy she wouldn’t take naps in the plane. It’s her comforting bear. I love that Everyone gave her compliment, how well-behave she was. But we will be going to Philippines in 5months…it’s a long flight. I will definitely bring all snacks, toys and movies…LOL I don’t like people staring when they see you with a kid. They assume it’s going to be a miserable flight.
    Thanks!

    • Corinne at 18:01 #

      Thank you, Michelle–have a wonderful time in the Philippines!

  7. Amimaryam at 16:55 #

    Can someone tell me if i am allowed to carry two transparent resealbale bags one for toiletries and the other for baby food,milk etc? when travelling by plane.

  8. Kate at 04:09 #

    Hi there, great website! I’m really really nervous about an upcoming trip without my husband, travelling NZ-UK (two long haul flights with 14 hours in Singapore transit hotel) with 3.5 yr old & 11 month old. Will I survive?

    • Corinne at 16:21 #

      Hi Kate!
      That will be a true test of any parent! My advice is to take any and all advice here x10 and add a big glass of wine for yourself once you arrive! Please let us know how it goes, and good luck!

  9. Sarah at 18:58 #

    This site has helped me so much! I’m so happy I found it. We are travelling in January to Jamaica with my 14 month old and I have so much anxiety about all the unknowns. This has really helped me mentally prepare. Thank you!

    • Corinne at 12:53 #

      Happy to help, Sarah! Have a wonderful trip and, if you have a chance, let us know how it goes 🙂

  10. Amy at 11:31 #

    Nap and rest is so important for toddlers, and it seems to be the first thing to go when traveling. Great post!

  11. Colleen Lanin at 18:41 #

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Agreed! Great tips!

  12. Tamara at 19:01 #

    The wipes and hand sanitizer never goes away!! Great tips — so happy I’m past that stage.

  13. Allison at 23:14 #

    These are still great tips for my older kids! Prior planning makes a big difference.

  14. Nohea at 19:31 #

    We have a trip coming up in November and I’m really nervous!! We have a 6,5,2 and a baby that will be 10 months old and will be traveling from Hawaii to California. So about a 5 half to 6 hr flight. So glad that you’ve created this site!!! Will be in Cali for two weeks. Any suggestions on travel beds? Thank you!

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