Traveling with a toddler is both super exciting and extremely stressful to even think about. Or just plain stressful! Especially if the travel isn’t for leisure. Necessity some times brings about spontaneous trips even more than planned ones.
When I travel, I usually do it with two toddlers! And no other adult help at all. My only companions being my nearly 15 month old son and almost 3 year old daughter. My husband works a lot, so most of our leisure travel sadly doesn’t include him. He knew when we started dating that I had a major wanderlust and that it wouldn’t stop even when kids came along. I didn’t really picture traveling with kids to be stressful, but as a challenge I looked forward to tackling head on.
For both of the kids, I went on the first road trips within 2 weeks of their births. 9 days old for Leona and 14 days old for Jensen! Leona’s first trip was down to Biloxi with my mom to visit family and Jensen’s was to East Tennessee on my own to see my father.
Thankfully, newborns usually sleep majority of the ride. Just stopping to nurse on demand, allow momma to pee, and load up on calories to support my regulating milk supply. The real challenge came when they became mobile!
So, here are some helpful tips to make things a bit less stressful, and help you prepare for your adventures with your growing family. Travel doesn’t have to be terrible for anyone involved! Making memories with my children is what I live for. These go beyond the basics of “what to pack”.
1. If you think you have enough wipes/diapers/clothes, pack even more
Seriously. Pack double the amount of wipes you normally would use in a day, per each day you’ll be traveling. Wipes aren’t just for diaper changes or potty learning accidents. They’re also great for wiping faces, cleaning hands, and quickly wiping off a foreign place your child will be touching. Pack ALL the wipes!
A second and third part to this one: pack 1-2 days extra worth of diapers than what you think you’ll need. You never know when plans will be extended or if a sudden need for more diapers will arise. And pack 1-2 extra changes of clothes too. My kids tend to be extra messy while eating on trips.
2. Make sure your plans include breaks
Remember the care free days of traveling alone or with your partner? How you could easily drive straight through a road trip without more than a quick bathroom break? Even having one child, it will slow you down some. Plan your road trip or flight connections so that you have plenty of time to move at a slower pace. Plenty of times for grabbing a quick snack, stretching legs, seeing local sites, and other miscellaneous things. Unless you’re driving at night while the little one(s) sleep, then they’ll likely need freedom from their car seat prisons at least every 2-3 hours. And there’s only so many times I can hear ‘wheels on the bus’ before I’ll go insane.
3. Three Words: “Portable DVD Player” (or other video playing devices)
Whether it’s a plug-in DVD player for the vehicle or a battery powered one for the flight with head phones, I promise these will make the trip much easier for your toddler. Especially when loaded up with their favorite DVD.
A good alternative would be downloaded videos on your phone/tablet and putting them in guided access mode (where a toddler clicking the home button won’t exit out). To enable guided access on an Apple product, rapidly click the home button 3x in a row. You’ll need a password to end guided access (again by triple clicking the home button).
Netflix also now has a wide variety of things you can download while on wifi and watch even when you’re not connected to the internet.
4. Mess-free snacks
My go-to item for this: freeze dried apples. Super easy to open, hand behind me to a backseat passenger, and not worry to much about the cleanup at our next stop. Also easy to store in your carry-on bag for flights. Since not all snacks on board will be toddler friendly… or free. I also do snacks like: goldfish, other freeze dried fruits, teething wafers/risk rusks (even my nearly 3 year old loves), crackers, and basically anything that’s dry and easy to eat for them. I also will do pouches for flights or in the car if I’m feeling REALLY trusting. The Flipping Holder is a great product to avoid pouch squeezing messes!
5. Travel at the right time of day
If you’re able to drive while your little(s) sleeps for the night, then by all means do it. For me, I usually road trip with just my kids. So, I don’t have a backup driver to help trade off sleeps turns. If I don’t drive during the day, I don’t get any sleep at night. My kids usually wake up about 9am. My youngest naps around 11-12pm. Usually I will plan to leave about 10:30am. That way he is awake for a little bit watching videos before he drifts off for his nap. As long as my oldest is quiet, he will sleep 2+ hours. Then we take a break within 30 minutes of him waking again. This can include lunch and maybe a bit of walking around somewhere. Try to stick to a schedule that works for you at home, even when driving. The same strategy will go for flying. I try to book flights that leave right around when he would be ready to nap.
6. Wear ALL the babies!… Or in this case toddlers
Baby-wearing is a life saver for me. Especially when my second was born right as my first turned 18 months old. It also saves my sanity when I travel alone with my kids. I’m able to hold the hand of my oldest and wear my youngest, still keeping a hand free to pull a rolling bag. And I even throw a backpack on my back too! We look bulky, but we actually make it work easily. There are carriers you can back carry with even past 60 lbs! Tandem wearing may be a bit hefty with that though… My ring sling has been a wonderful thing when traveling by plane too. My son easily sleeps in them and they’re easy to adjust for nursing or nap purposes. And I’ve never had a flight attendant ask me to remove it for take off/landing either.
7. Bring a bit of home for the hotel
Once you arrive at your destination, it helps to have something familiar for your toddler where ever you’re staying. For us, it’s usually always at a hotel.
I’ve tried the cribs that hotels provide and I’m not a fan of them. Plus, they’re not always available, so don’t count on them. I always bring a travel pack-n-play for my oldest to sleep in. She’s never slept in it at home but it’s something we’ve used on every road trip. You could check it for longer trips flying, but this is likely a road trip only type tip. My son co-sleeps at home so I make sure to get a queen sized bed or larger to ensure he can properly co-sleep on vacations as well.
My daughter also likes to bring 2-3 of her favorite stuffed animals and I have her pick out a blanket to bring. These little bits of home make settling into bed for the night much easier.
Also, bring a chip bag clip or two. I use these in the hotel to clip the curtains in the room together to avoid the early morning sunlight waking my toddlers up earlier than I’d like. We aren’t morning people…
This pic was from breakfast on a solo trip to Austin, TX in June 2017
I hope you enjoyed these little tips. Feel free to comment with any questions!
Happy travels! Enjoy the memories!
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– Momma Smith ❤