How to Travel with a Toddler

I have to admit, I’ve had my fair share of grief during my solo travel days. Traveling with a toddler is a whole new beast and it’s important to try not to compare experiences (although I’m definitely guilty of that). It can feel incredibly overwhelming to even think of traveling with a toddler and honestly, it’s exhausting.

That said, it’s not that you should avoid traveling at all costs. There are things you can do to prepare and make your travel experience the best it can be. Start your vacation with low expectations and know that things won’t go exactly the way you want. I’ve heard a saying before “traveling with toddlers is a trip, not a vacation” and I think this can be a useful approach. Have a flexible mindset and be ready to change things if necessary. It will be so good to know that you have given your child a new experience and a new memory to remember (and for you too).

Here are some tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler to make your next trip as fun and successful as possible. Please share your best tips in the comments too!

How to travel with a toddler

Make a packing list

Packing for a toddler can be stressful and overwhelming. There are so many THINGS! From diapers and pack n’ play to monitors and sound machines. The list goes on! Make an organized list to make sure you don’t miss anything. It may seem silly or ridiculous to pack so much stuff, but having their favorite stuffed animal to cuddle in a new environment may be what helps them sleep through the night.

To make sure you don’t forget anything, make a detailed and organized list. Try to pack in an organized and efficient manner so that you can fit all the items in a small space. Consider whether you drive or fly and what you can and cannot bring. If you’re flying, there are companies like Baby Quip to use for crib, stroller, and car seat rentals to help lighten your load. Things are so much more convenient these days and there are so many resources. If you’re traveling to see family or friends, see if there’s a pack n’ play or stroller that can be borrowed from a local friend.

Plan your travel day carefully

Depending on whether you’re traveling by plane or car, consider transportation to the airport, flight times, travel routes, tolls, traffic, siesta times, and more. may have explosive diarrhea in the middle of the trip. Who knows? Just try to be ready for anything. For our recent 7-hour drive, we went back and forth between leaving early in the morning or late in the day. We ended up leaving first thing in the morning and were lucky we weren’t in traffic and our 15-month-old was a rockstar traveler. But his naps were erratic, I had to jump in the backseat several times to entertain him and feed him snacks and we made stops about every two hours to stretch, go to the bathroom and refuel. Often we make things more complicated than they should be. Sometimes our children surprise us and exceed our expectations… and sometimes not! Unfortunately, most of this is out of our control, so we can only do our best to be prepared and keep them satisfied.

Pack tons of in-flight snacks and activities

The number one tip from all my friends who have traveled with toddlers was to pack TONS of snacks and activities. Practice with headphones before you go so they get used to wearing them. Bring surprises and things they can open/unbox for fun and pack ALL the snacks. We borrowed Jess’s Minu travel stroller for a trip to California and it was a game changer. Highly recommend. A few useful things to bring when flying with a toddler:

Set your expectations low

It sounds negative, but I just mean try not to set your expectations so high that you’ll only be disappointed in the end. You can make plans, but be aware that planning with a toddler is always difficult and things tend to change quickly. Back when you were traveling without toddlers, you could probably fit so much into a day. I can see it now… an early morning hike, breakfast at a sweet cafe, late morning shopping in the village, lunch at the brewery and then a beach, and an afternoon swim before dinner in a restaurant and a drink in a bar. News flash, that’s not gonna happen with a toddler. Choose an activity for the day and you can always go from there! Find pleasure in the simple things and try not to compare yourself to what was before. Don’t worry, you’ll have your solo travel time again someday.

roll with it

Be aware that toddlers are unpredictable and things may not go as planned. You may have planned to go to the beach but all they do is eat sand or you may have dinner reservations and they completely melt away. You may need to switch plans on the fly and that’s okay. On our recent vacation, we all dressed up to go out to eat and our toddler fell asleep in the car on the way. He was completely zoned out after a day at the beach and forcing a dinner just wasn’t right for him and wouldn’t have been nice for us either. So we called takeout and headed home. We sat on the porch with cocktails after putting our toddler to bed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It ended with a beautiful evening. Be flexible and ride with it, don’t force anything wrong. And try to keep some sort of routine so your little one can feel rested and fun.

Finding humor in chess

We laughed a lot on our family trip this summer and honestly, these stories are what we will remember and tell year after year. My husband was determined to visit a new place and despite my warnings, we went and things got a bit messy, to say the least… In the end, everything went well and now we let’s laugh at his stubbornness and our crazy adventure. Find some humor in those silly moments that don’t go as planned, and try not to take it all too seriously. It’s supposed to be fun after all!

Find a babysitter and plan a night out

Everyone has different comfort levels with babysitters, especially when traveling, but if you have a trusted recommendation for a babysitter, I would 100% recommend planning a night out with your partner while you’re away. Being in a new place with a toddler is exhausting. Often rentals or homes of family and friends are not childproof and keeping your child safe can be overwhelming. Packing and getting ready for new activities throughout the day is also exhausting and you will poop at the end of each day. It’s worth it, but yes exhausted and it’s just parental for you! We were recommended a fantastic babysitter while we were away and had an evening on the bay with cocktails, sunsets, and ice cream and it was absolutely perfect. Having the ability to go out without your child will give you a taste of those solo travel days and re-energize you for the rest of your trip. You won’t regret it, I promise!

A new appreciation for home

While it’s always sad to say goodbye while traveling, one of the best parts of traveling is coming home and enjoying a renewed appreciation for all the comforts of home, including your living spaces, friends, your family, and all that is special to you in your life. Sounds super cheesy, I know, but when we got home from our recent trip, we all lay in the grass together on our lawn, cuddling and enjoying the beauty of our Vermont home and everything. that we are so grateful to have. It was really special. Soak up everything!