How To Travel With A Toddler
Planning on traveling with kids in the near future? Early Childhood Development Specialist, Anastasia Moloney, shares her advice and product picks to make your journey a breeze!
As travel slowly begins to resume, the idea of being able to catch up with family and friends gives us so much joy!
However, if you’re traveling with a toddler, it can also bring quite a bit of anxiety.
In this article, we’ll go over:
- How to mentally prepare your child (and self) for travel
- Tips & tricks for traveling with kids
- The best suitcase for kids travel
- The best car seat and stroller for kids travel
- Must-have travel toys for toddlers
- How to make snack/mealtime easier while traveling
- How to manage meltdowns while traveling with kids
Scroll down to learn more.
Mentally preparing your toddler (and self) for travel:
#1 Stay calm
The main thing to remember is that children feed off of our energy; so try as much as possible to stay calm throughout your trip.
#2 Focus on the destination
While we know how easy it is to spiral at the thought of a delayed plane or traffic jam with an over-tired toddler, it’s important to focus on the WHY of your trip. We know people love the quote, ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination…” but when you’re traveling with kids, that quote needs to be very much reversed. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you need to constantly remind you and your toddler WHY you’re traveling for so long.
#3 Describe what your toddler will see and do
It’s helpful if you can really set the scene. If you’re spending the day in the car, try explaining that you’re going to leave before the sun rises. Describe getting to watch the sky go from dark to light. Use and excited voice and tell your tot that they’re going to eat breakfast on the road! Tell them that they’re going to get to play at a playground for 10 minutes in a completely new town! Be honest about the fact that they’ll be sitting A LOT. By setting expectations from the start, you’ll get a whole lot less, “Are we there yet?!’
Tips to make traveling with kids easier:
#1 Over-budget your time.
From meltdowns to bathroom accidents, you never know what’s going to cause you to have to pull the car over. Give yourself at least an hour of extra travel time so you don’t feel stressed if you hit a literal or figurative road block.
#2 Plan your travel itinerary around sleep times
As someone who has traveled quite a lot with a baby and toddler, I’ve found that it’s helpful to drive during nap times or even after dinner. This isn’t always ideal for everyone (some kids don’t sleep well in the car,) but it can be really helpful. Alternatively, try to make sure your tot has a good sleep before getting in the car so they’re not over-tired.
#3 Don’t forget to have snack and meal breaks
Is there anything worse than being hangry? Yes – being hangry and also having a hangry toddler. Pack snacks, take breaks. Both you and your tot need fuel! (More on travel snack tips below!)
#4 Plan your potty breaks/revert to a pull-up
One of the trickiest things about traveling with a toddler is potty-training. While it’s important to stay consistent, it’s okay if you put a pull-up on them “just in case.” Sometimes accessing a toilet just isn’t possible.
#5 Bring plenty of comfort toys and entertainment
Our favorite parenting hack is redirection and nothing helps more than a bag full of comfort toys and games to turn a frown upside down!
The best suitcase for kids travel:
When we discovered the JetKids BedBox by Stokke, we knew we had a game-changer on our hands. This versatile little box can be ridden, used as a coloring or toy space, as a foot rest, a bed and of course – for storage!
Scroll down to see it in action!
Available in more colors
The best car seat & stroller for kids travel:
When choosing a car seat and stroller, you’re going to want to focus on two very important things: lightweight and compact! Thanks to WAYB and Babyzen, we have options that can fit in airplane overhead compartments and ride on our carry-on luggage.
Available in more colors
Available in more colors
Must-have travel toys for toddlers:
It is helpful to be equipped with the right tools so you don’t add ‘boredom’ to the list of possible reasons for a meltdown. Traveling is one of these times that it’s ok to pull out the stops and bring out some exciting and portable toys /activities. But, don’t think that you need to buy a new toy EACH time they travel.
Getting the right toys /activities and limiting their use except for travel is a great way to attract (and hopefully keep) your child’s attention and focus.
Here are my picks from The Tot:
#1 A Comforting Object
Be sure to bring a comforting object, travel—especially flying—can be an overwhelming experience and your kiddo’s reassurance item (e.g., a plush toy, a blanket) is a must-have when you need to quickly soothe an upset child.
Books are a great travel item. Find new ways to read them, such as talking about the pictures or playing “I spy.” You can also opt for an interactive book like the language books from Habbi Habbi or the musical books from The Story Orchestra!
#3 Magnetic Toys
As I have learned, searching for parts and pieces of toy sets is NOT an ideal activity on a plane. To avoid this, I LOVE magnetic toys /activities like these magnetic game boards from Floss & Rock and magnetic dolls from Petit Collage.
#4 Mess-Free Arts & Crafts
The good news is: crayon does come off an airplane wall. Markers? Probably not! Here are our picks for mess-free arts & crafts!
Personally, I like to try and exhaust my other options before pulling out the tablet. However, I must admit, a tablet can be a great travel buddy for a toddler. You can explore a new app together; let them listen to some favorite songs, etc. There are so many great apps now that are fun and can promote a child’s development—so try to focus on these instead of cartoons /movies.
Alternatively, you can try something like the Lunii! Complete with a headphone jack, kids get to choose the hero, setting, second character and object of their story and then voile: story time!
How to make snack/mealtime easier while traveling:
Snack or mealtime can be a great activity on a plane, but it is not the time to try a new food or load kids up with sugary treats.
Be conscious not bring food that is loaded with sugar which will induce a sugar high followed by the inevitable crash. This can lead to challenging behaviors and let’s be honest, it’s not good for their little systems. Some great snack ideas include pre-cut fruit or vegetables, crackers, dips etc. However, I do think it’s always helpful to have some type of special treat on hand just in case you need it – but this is up to you.
Here are my favorite non-toxic travel food storage containers and drink bottles:
Available in more colors
How to manage meltdowns while traveling with kids:
If your child has a meltdown, don’t feel embarrassed; most people have been in the same situation.
You need to remember to stay calm, do what you do at home, do not yell or threaten, focus on your child, and try to redirect them. Most likely they are tantruming from the change in schedule or the unfamiliar situation, which can be reasons for fight or flight behaviors. To help calm your toddler try things like walking, singing, playing with an item, offering a snack, and giving lots of cuddles and kisses.
Learn more in: Seeing Red: How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums
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- Learn more about the WAYB Fold & Go Car Seat That Will Change The Way You Travel