Traveling with a toddler (8 months to 5 years) can be heavenly…or hell-on-wheels! But, here’s the good news: What you do now (and on the trip) can totally stack the deck in your favor! Here’s how to make traveling with your toddler a breeze…from start to finish.

Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

Prepare before you leave.

Meltdowns are inevitable! So practice some special steps to boost toddler cooperation a week or two before you go away: Toddler-esegossiping and patience stretching—all techniques discussed in The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

Make a little book of the trip (with photos of the plane, hotel, sites, etc) to read every day before you leave. This will help your tot know what to expect on each step of your journey.

Take time now to perfect your sleep routine. Use familiar sleep cues you can replicate when away from home—use a lovey, massage, story, and our special rumbly, low pitch white noise (for all naps and nights), which you can find both in my SNOObear—a cuddly teddy that plays my signature SNOO sounds—and SNOObie—a portable nightlight and sound machine. Learn more about Happiest Baby's white noise products!

Get there without breaking a sweat.

If driving, make frequent stops. On jets, walk—a lot!—and bring special treats, and surprises. Hide them in different pockets of your purse, coat, etc. Read your trip book to keep your child engaged with all the fun things that will soon happen! (See more tips for flying with a baby.)

While tablets and the seat-back screens can be a godsend, you can also fill your carryon with engaging toddler travel toys. Another pro tip: Dole ouut stickers, tokens, checks on hand, treats, etc., to reward your tot for being cooperative/quiet (every 30 to 60 minutes).

When meltdowns do happen, first use your best Toddler-ese and Fast Food Rule to acknowledge your tot’s feelings. Then try distraction, explanation…or bribery. (In the middle of a flight it’s okay to use cookies to get through the rough spot… unless your child tends to get wilder with sugar!)

Protect against sleep-stealers.

If you’re crossing time zones, know that lots of morning sun the first one to two days helps to overcome jet lag. And consider limiting naps to 90 to 120 minutes. (Too much daytime sleep can hurt nighttime sleep.)

Keep your sleep routine. Predictability helps tots relax. An hour before bedtime, dim lights and turn on white noise in the background. Use white noise for all naps and nights (it’s a “teddy bear of sound” and it covers outside disturbing lights, sounds and smells in a hotel room). And bring along sleep staples, like a cherished lovey or familiar white noise! More tips on sleeping away from home!

Plan ahead to avoid traumas (big and little).

Bring basic first aid supplies (such as Band-aids), pain reliever and dosing syringe/spoon (ibuprofen is excellent for fevers and pains for children over 6 months), sunscreen, illness medicine or any other special treatment your tot needs. 

Have the phone number and location of a local doctor and hospital on hand. (Ask your doctor, family, and friends for recommendations before you leave.)

It’s also a good idea to travel with some childproofing supplies: duct tape, electric plugs). Once you arrive, scout your hotel room or vacation home for potential dangers (cords that can be pulled down, scalding hot water, sharp corners). 

Navigate your destination like a pro.

Once you’ve survived perils of getting from point A to point B with your tot, there’s still some planning you could do to make your trip go smoothly!

Prior to your arrival, pinpoint kid-friendly spots (think: parks, museums, zoos). Keep activities short. Limit yourself to one hour in a museum then 30 minutes playing chase in the garden. Use a carrier for little kids and consider a harness/leash for bigger kids.

Once you’re out and about, plan lots of stops, always carry food and water. While you might be tempted to let everyone indulge on vacation, consider limiting candy and treats. Wild sugar swings can trigger outbursts.

Ask your tot’s opinion many times a day to boost their sense of being respected. A good rule of thumb: Offer two choices—both of which you’re on board with!

Final Thoughts on Traveling With a Toddler

Traveling with a toddler is not for the faint of heart, but armed with these tips, you’ll make the journey easier for everyone involved. By preparing beforehand, stocking up on stickers and snacks, and prioritizing sleep, you can set yourself up for a calmer, more enjoyable trip.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.