July 2, 2017

If you are planning on traveling with toddlers this holiday week, then you might have some anxiety (or dread) about leaving home, but I can tell you that IT CAN BE DONE.

And more importantly, it can be FUN.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

#1  Be Prepared to Bring A Lot of Stuff

Now, obviously, this is if you are traveling by car.  If it fits…bring it!  Seriously.  Because babies and toddlers don’t always do well with change.  The more familiar things you have, the more they feel like they understand what is going on.

For real…one time we took apart our twin boys’ CRIBS, packed them in our van, put them together in our cabin and then took them back apart for the road home. Just because we knew they would sleep in their own cribs.  And they did..and let me tell you, it was so worth it!

#2  Traveling By Plane (CHECK IT)

So, take advantage of the ‘kids under 2 fly free’ while you can.  You can’t bring cribs very easily, but you can check A LOT of stuff for free.  Like THREE infant convertible car seats (you know, the super heavy ones).  Yup…you don’t have to pay to check those.   Some people complain about them getting banged up but ours made it just fine.  Bonus: kids can chill in them while you are waiting for your rental car!


And you can check your stroller at the gate.  You would be surprised how helpful strangers are when they see you lugging all of this stuff around.  (And no, we did not hand out goodie bags to the passengers on the plane as suggested by some and it was all just fine).

#3  YouTube Is Your Friend (But Not For Daniel Tiger or whatever is your go-to cartoon)

This tip is for BEFORE you leave.  Go on YouTube and search for wherever you are going.  100% guarantee that there is a home movie of someone going there too.  (Now, if you are going to Grandma’s…find a video of the town-or have Grandma take a video of their house)

Show your toddlers videos of people going to the places that you are going.  This builds excitement about your trip by including them in the planning but it also makes them feel like they have been there before.  (A little bit of recognition of the place when they arrive makes it feel familiar which is good!).


Everyone says that it’s not possible to keep a schedule when you are traveling.  That is true to some degree, but at least try.  We work really hard to maintain naps (we left Sesame Place amusement park, took naps in the car (with A/C of course), and then went back in).   It can be done.

Now, your relatives might try to convince you to “Loosen Up” or as my uncle once said, “Take them off the clock” but don’t listen!  It’s a trap.  You know as well as I do that children that do not nap are no fun to be around.  AND, you’ve seen this chart that explains what time your children will get up depending on how late they go to bed, right?


Do everyone a favor and just put your children to bed at their normal time.  It’s better for everyone involved!


Okay, so if you were going to be strapped into a five point harness for a 7 hour road trip, you would probably need something for entertainment.  Same is true for toddlers.  Plan ahead with multiple options for entertainment.  And yes, use the screens here.  Movies, TV shows, games…whatever they fancy.

This summer, the Moana soundtrack is on heavy rotation.  And, I have to say I actually love it.  Just be prepared to sing this in the shower because you can’t get it out of your head.


This one goes without saying, but never travel anywhere with toddlers without snacks of some sort.  Be the mom that gives them Gummy Bears and M&M’s or the one that has portioned grapes in a container but just have snacks.  Always!

We’ve been to 14 states with our toddlers, and we have finally come to our senses and ordered an electric cooler to keep milk and fruit and PB&J sandwiches in.  Not sure what took us so long, but you know they put those picnic tables at rest areas for a reason.  It’s so you don’t have to eat French Fries at every single pit stop.   This is the one we just ordered but going old school with ice is still a winner!


Most people go on vacation to relax, but there is really no such thing when you have toddlers around. They are going to get into stuff.  They are going to get into Grandma’s collection of breakable, expensive things.  They are going to climb on things and jump off things. They are going to drive you crazy.

Stay busy!  Go places…even if it’s just the neighborhood playground.  Find something for them to do where they are allowed to run and jump  and climb.  And do this on the daily! And do it until they are ready to take a nap or go to bed.  Wear them out!


You have to be careful with #7.  When traveling with toddlers, there is a delicate balance between keeping them busy and running them ragged.  Typically, this means do something active for a couple of hours and then stopping to either rest or eat.

If you push too hard (especially if you miss too many naps or stay up late), then this crazy thing happens where they get uncontrollably hyper and wild.  That is bad!!!

#9 Make Sure You Are IN The Photos

Mom’s are usually pretty good at snapping great pictures while traveling with toddlers.  But, are you in any of them?  These times are priceless and it is important to have evidence of all of this fun.  Get a selfie stick if you must but most strangers are more than willing to snap a photo for you. Don’t even try to get everyone to look in the same direction.  Just take a few and pick the one where YOU look the best.

 **My tip here is to always ask someone who has a nicer camera than you do! And that’s not because I’m worried that they will steal mine.  It’s because they probably know how to take a picture that is in focus and actually has the background of the place you are visiting.


And last but not least…


And my absolute best tip for traveling with toddlers is to schedule a recovery day for just you.  That means, the day after you return from this epic trip, your kids go to day care and you stay at home.  You can spend this day unpacking, doing laundry and getting your life back in order.  OR, you can spend it actually relaxing (you know, that thing that you are supposed to do on vacation but can’t).  I promise you…you will thank me for this one.


Where are you going with your toddlers this summer?  Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

  • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for this informative article. I’d like to add an item to the list of things to take care of when traveling with a baby, a stair barrier. Everyone pays attention to baby proofing their home but we forget that kids are also very active when having fun on a vacation. You can baby proof your holiday accommodation with portable fabric stair barriers.

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