Lifestyle

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Over the years, my husband and I have taken many trips, and when our daughter was born, we included her in our adventures (even though I was so nervous about traveling with her that we didn’t until she was a toddler). My husband and I have always loved travel, and we knew that we wanted to make exploration of the world a priority of our family. We’ve even foregone Christmas presents in favor of saving for a trip we really wanted to take together.

But when it came time to take our first big trip with our daughter, I was terrified. By that time, she was about 18 months old, and I had no idea how to travel with a toddler. Naturally, I took to the internet to discover what more seasoned moms had to say on the subject. In case you’re wondering if traveling with small kids is possible, I wanted to share some of my best tips for traveling with toddlers.

My Big Fear

Before our first airplane trip, I was terrified about traveling with my daughter. Actually, I was more terrified about flying and pumping. If I had flown before I was done pumping, I would have had to pump in dirty, public bathrooms, lug around the pump and a cooler full of milk. I was worried about TSA touching the milk or worse pouring it out and being treating me like a terrorist like this mom was. I was also worried about the TSA touching her for a pat down.  Thankfully, no body ever laid a hand on her.

But even without the added craziness that is exclusive pumping, I was still very nervous to fly with my girl. She is what I like to call a wild child. You know the ones. Highly spirited and energetic. Not so keen on listening. She likes to do exactly what she wants to do, at exactly the time she wants to do it. She doesn’t want anyone to help her or hold her hand, she is off like a rocket to explore. I can’t blame her much, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I knew I needed additional backup ..

My Advisors

First, I checked out lots of blog posts to get some advice. There were my favorites:

A Cup of Jo– Tips for flying with toddlers and babies.

Rhythm of the Home– Tips for flying with toddlers and babies.

Mamapedia– An article about how traveling and doing new things, meeting new people can be really over stimulating, especially for sensitive children.

Travel Mamas– Just an all around cool site for traveling with kids.

Baby Center – This one has a few good tips in their packing list. I like the bring a clip on reading light so you can read if you child has fallen asleep on the plane. And bringing outlet covers for the hotel or house you will be staying at. Luckily for us, we were visiting friends who have a 4 year old, so the house was child proofed and filled with toys!

I also asked everyone in our lovely Facebook community for tips. I really liked the tip about boarding the plane LAST.

After all that research and my personal experience, here are my tips for traveling with babies and toddlers.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

  • BUY AN IPAD. Seriously. If you have been considering if for a long time, like we have, just go for it. Just go and buy it. We have a DVD player and thank God for it, because seriously, I do not know what I would have done with out it, but an IPAD is slim and light, no fumbling around for DVDs and then scratching, said DVDs. You can put games and other things on it, other than cartoons, so it is multifunctioning. When your kid is asleep (hahaha), you can use to read or whatever. I realize this is not the ideal for everyone, due to money and parenting phiolospohy about toddlers watching cartoons, but if you can afford it and don’t mind your tot watching a little TV, then is the way to go. Trust me.
  • BUY A DVD PLAYER. If you can’t swing an IPAD, get a DVD player. I let Sweet P watch about hour of TV a day on our normal days at home. This started a couple of months ago. I realize that some people don’t want their toddler to watch TV till age 2, and follow the AAP guidelines on it, but this is where we are as a family. When we were traveling, she watched more TV on some days and none on others, so it even out.
  • NEW TOYS. I realize I am making quite the consumptive and materialistic list here, but what can I say, it’s what we did. I went out and bought several new toys for my daughter. I wanted her to be suprised and entertained by whatever new toy I pulled out of my bag. And it worked. Anytime she was getting antsy or fussy. I whipped out a new toy. Now, they were not expesive toys. A coloring book, some spinning tops, a travel art easel, etc. I talked to another mom on the plane home, and she wrapped all the new toys, so her daughter had the added fun (and time killed) on opening up the new toy. I liked that idea a lot.
  • FAMILIAR TOYS. I also packed several of her most favorite books and stuffed animals so she could have the comfort of toys she new. When we couldn’t watch a DVD, during take off and landing, we nursed and read books. Which brings me to my next tip.
  • BRING SNACKS. Toddlers will always get hungry when you least expect it or when it’s least convenient. It’s in their blood. So even if you don’t think you’ll need them, pack lots of snacks they’ll be sure to eat! It’s even easier if you can …
  • NURSE. I know not everyone can nurse, so use a paci or a bottle, if you can’t nurse. But if you are so lucky to be able to nurse, this is the Magic Wand of travel tips. Anytime, anywhere, the boob helps. Whether to nurse your little one to sleep, calm them down or help with ear pain. The boob works wonders. I also brough organic lollipops with me. I was afraid she wouldn’t want to nurse with all the excitement and new things to look at. And since she is weaned from her bottle and she doesn’t have a paci, a lollipop was the next best thing she could suck on. I also brought them in case a melt down occured. I gave her one on the last flight, way past her bedtime and she needed something to help get to the finish line. She only ate half of it. Each lollipop has about 5 grams of sugar, not too bad.
  • GIVE THEM THEIR OWN LUGGAGE. This Melissa and Doug suitcase was a good purchase. She would sit on it while we waited in line, and I would pull her on it while we walked through the terminals. It housed her diapers, some toys and a change of clothes in case our luggage got lost. She really loved having her own suitcase, and of course, I let her pick out the color and she had to have pink and purple, her favorite colors.
  • LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. No matter how prepared you are, traveling with toddlers is completely different than traveling alone or with other adults. You will have moments when you feel frazzled and like the whole airport can see you sweating. Just remember that it’s going to be a different travel experience. I find that helps me role with the punches better.

A Look at Some of Our Favorite Travels …

Over the years, we’ve been very lucky to see some amazing sights. Most of them involved traveling with our baby/toddler, and some were solo trips for “work”. Whenever I start to get overwhelmed about taking a trip with a child in tow, I like to revisit these wonderful memories to remind myself that it’s allllll worth it!

Alligator Point

Alligator Point-1 2015

Alligator Point is the closest beach to Tallahassee. It’s a gorgeous place about 30 minutes straight south. Before we moved to South Florida, it was never good enough for my surfer husband because he wants a “real” beach, which means with waves. But now that we have moved back and are living away from the beach, he will take what he can get.

Alligator Point-4 2015

Asheville

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I knew I would love it, but I didn’t realize how much. I immediately felt at home. It felt like this was the answer to what I had been searching for for a long time.

Pretty much, a couple hours into our trip, I was daydreaming and made a goal of buying property here one day!

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Beech Mountain

We went to Beech Mountain, North Carolina and Beech Mountain Resort. The highest resort in Eastern America, Beech Mountain Resort (Ski Beech) is home to some of the finest snowboarding and snow skiing in North Carolina. And it is actually the same ski resort that I first learned how to ski too! My Dad took my brothers and I skiing there one time when I was ten and that trip was one of the happiest memories of my childhood.

Check out the video below to see our daughter’s first time skiing! So fun!!

Yosemite National Park

There’s something almost transcendental about sleeping outdoors–dozing off beneath the stars, waking up to the cool, damp air and earthy scent.

When we went to California, it was a cold and wet spring up there, so there was still snow at Mammoth Mountain and the waterfalls were peaking when we arrived at Yosemite just before the July 4th holiday.

Yosemite-National-Park-Family-Vacation

The weather was perfect and we had some really great family bonding moments and made lots of precious memories. It was so relaxing for my husband and I, as we both needed a vacation desperately. I’m not sure what it is, but being in nature is an instantaneous chill/happy pill for us.

We went on several hikes and carried our daughter on our backs every where we went. We alternated between our Ergo (my preference) and a Kelty Pathfinder Backpack Carrier (my husband’s preference). I am big fan of baby wearing and my collection is almost embarrassing, but Ergo is probably my numero uno pick for everything. I did see several people with strollers, but you just can’t do as much. And our daughter is much happier being carried and we can be out longer than if we push her in a stroller.

P.S. You can check out this guest post to read more about our travels!

Boulder, CO

Oh Boulder, how I love thee. This was the second time I have been to Boulder and just like last time, it has this magical/mystical feeling to me. I feel like I have come home. Where yoga, eating your placenta, and obessing about food is not weird – it’s cool.

Hotel Boulderado

Hotel Boulderado was a historic hotel and one of the nicest places to stay in Boulder. It has one of those old school elevators that require an operator to go up with you. My daughter loved it!

We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant on our second morning and I was so excited to see gluten-free pancakes on the menu. They even made a smiley face with fruit and bacon. Our girl was thrilled. At pretty much every restaurant we ate in Boulder, there was plenty of farm-to-table and gluten-free menu options. I was in heaven the whole time.

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Chautauqua Park

On our second day in Boulder, we went to Chautauqua Park and attempted to do a little hike.

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Boulder Falls

Just a few minute drive outside of downtown Boulder is Boulder Falls. It was literally a 5-minute hike, so it was a perfect thing to do on your ease-into-the-altitude and relax days.

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Boulder Farmer’s Market

On our last day in Boulder, we got to go to the Boulder Farmer’s Market. I about peed in my pants I was so excited to get shots of food and talk to farmers. Some of the farmers there have been at the market for over 25 years.

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Winter Park, CO

We did the best thing we could think of to do here: hike!

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Grand Lake Lodge

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After our hike we went up to Grand Lake Lodge and had dinner and drinks. It is just north of the town of Grand Lake and very close to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. We sat by the window and had a beautiful view. The Lodge closed for the season just a couple of days after we were there. I love snowboarding and hate that I haven’t been in such a long time, but it was great going to the mountains in the off season. Things were still open but slow, so it was super chill.

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The town of Winter Park was low key but awesome. I definitely want to come back in the winter and do some snowboarding. We stayed in a condo that was very comfortable for four nights. It was great to have a kitchen and be able to do some cooking in the middle of the trip. We spent lots of time curled up by the fire after our day hikes. You can find out more information on the condo we stayed at here.

Winter Park Resorts Ski Trails

We hiked on Winter Park Resorts ski trails one day. It was so hard hiking up, dealing with the altitude AND carrying a 35 pound toddler on my back, but it was a great workout!

winter-park-colorado

They had an awesome city park, it has a skate park, and a rock climbing wall for all skill levels of kids including toddlers, a fire pit just to keep you warm and outdoor pizza brick oven. How cool is that?

Telluride, CO

Telluride has a free public gondola and the hotel we stayed at, the Hotel Columbia, was right in front of the gondola. We went on it at least once or twice a day, Penelope got such a kick out of riding it. It takes you from the town of Telluride  to resort at Mountain Village.

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Colorado and its playgrounds! They were all amazing. We loved exploring the playground after a little shopping downtown. I had such fun shopping downtown. I found a Chole skirt for 90% off at a super fancy boutique and great pair of hiking sneakers 40% off  at Patagonia that I was super excited about.

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Dave’s Mountain Tours

We also had a great time on our jeep tour up Tomboy Road to Imogene Pass with Dave’s Mountain Tours. Our tour guide was great and full of information – it was really cool learning about the old mining towns and the history of Telluride.

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See that tiny little road? That is what we drove up the mountain. It’s a one-way road. It was pretty terrifying in some spots.

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Hotel Columbia

Oh Hotel Columbia, I hope to come back to visit you too. Every morning we were treated with the BEST continental breakfast I have ever had. It was bed and breakfast gourmet quality. Every morning there was some sort of quiche, some sort of sweet baked good and a spread of other fancy foods like lox and cream cheese. Every morning I ate everything – gluten, sugar, I didn’t give a hoot. I even had a full cup of regular coffee every morning too. Ah, it was such a treat.

telluride-colorado
Cosmopolitan

We ate at Cosmopolitan, the restaurant attached to the hotel one night (which is the same place where you get breakfast) and it was so delicious. The atmosphere is so warm and cozy, but it was kid friendly. The wine list was probably the best we saw the whole trip, and there was lots of local, in season foods on the menu.

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Denver, CO

The Ritz-Carlton

When we arrived in Denver we went straight to our hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, Denver. When we got to our room, our daughter went straight to the big, king sized bed and jumped in. Our room, or rather our suite, was HUGE, a little over a thousand square feet. It was so NICE to be able to have some space for play and a huge walk-in closet to keep our three big suitcases organized and contained to one area. We also enjoyed the in-suite espresso maker. We played barista/coffee house at least twice a day.

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We had such a great time exploring Denver. It was cool to do lots of city things after two weeks of nature adventures.

Butterfly Museum

My daughter and husband went to the Butterfly Museum, and they had a blast. I really wanted to go, but it gave me a chance to finally have some alone girl-time with my friend Molly, who were also visiting on this trip. If we had more time we would have checked out the Denver Zoo, Elitch Gardens, the Nature and Science Museam and the US Mint.

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Duo Restaurant

We ate at Duo Restaurant one night. It’s one of the first farm to table restaurants in Colorado and it was amazing. I drank red wine like I always do, but Molly tried one of their signature drinks, a peppadew margarita. I was intrigued that it had raw egg yolk in it, and it tasted great!

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Denver Children’s Museum

The Denver Children’s Museum was so much fun! Next year when we move to South Florida it will be cool to be closer to a big city and be able to do more stuff like this with Penelope.

Here we are making some crafts out of recycled materials.

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Downtown Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium was pretty cool too. It was really crowded the day we went and since it is all inside, I felt a little claustrophobic, but Penelope really enjoyed it. Especially the live mermaid show! She really loved watching that.

denver-colorado

Belize

I’m a big believer in taking time out to fuel your passion and work on your craft, whatever that may be. And if it involves traveling somewhere exciting? Double bonus!

arvigo belize training

I went to Belize for the Arvigo Technique of Mayan Abdominal Therapy (ATMAT) Professional training (in case you are new here, I have been an Liscensed Massage Therapist since 2001!). Back in January of 2012, I took the introductory level training and it blew my mind. Since that first training, I have been OBSESSED with learning about the uterus and pelvic area. For the last two years, I’ve done self-care massage to get my uterus back into proper position, as well as seeing other Arvigo Technique Mayan Abdominal Therapists for treatments. The results have been amazing for me.

What I love most about ATMAT is that it helps women heal, both emotionally and mentally, by releasing the “issues” on a physical level. The saying, “our issues are in our tissues” is no joke! This work has helped me so much in healing from past miscarriages and sexual trauma. All that sadness and shame I felt was trapped in my body, especially in my pelvic area, and this type of massage therapy releases it without me having to yap about it in traditional talk therapy for the rest of my life.

Exploring Belize

My training was so inspirational and restorative. I was in Belize for 9 days, learning, getting and giving massages, relaxing with new friends, and learning some more. One of my favorite parts of the trip was going to Dr. Rosita Arvigo’s house, getting to meet her and learning all about rainforest remedies. It was a honor to meet her and learn directly from her. Mayans are big about passing on information in a sacred way, person to person, mentor to student, and I am grateful to be a part of this healing lineage.

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So there you have it. Some of our favorite family trips and my best tips for traveling with toddlers. Tell me, what is your best tip?

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  • Stines Hjem - Livet på landet
    July 13, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    LOVELY tips! I'm going to write my own list in a couple of days. We came home from Spain on Saturday. I'll link to your tips 🙂

  • She's crafty, and she's just my type.
    July 13, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I needed this! Thanks. I'll be flying with my 15 mo next week on a 5 hour flight. Send me positive vibes! She has flown many times before, but not since she started walking. She has her own seat and luckily still loves to nurse.

    Now if only we can pry the iPad away from her dad….

  • Jennifer
    July 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    In Babycenter's Community area, there is a forum called "Traveling With Children". Another great place for tips!!

  • Nicole
    July 14, 2011 at 1:42 AM

    I posted about toddler travel a few months ago as well – http://www.babyfoodscoops.com/traveling-with-toddlers-part-2 .. my favorite tip is to KNOW YOUR CHILD. If you tire some kids out before a plane/car ride, they'll sleep great… others (like mine) will turn into little scary monsters when too tired and in a new place. We tend to keep her awake on the plane and walk her around for naps during layovers! Great post, thanks for sharing!!

  • Stephanie
    July 14, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    @Stine…so jealous! I lived in Spain in college, I can't wait to take Penelope.
    @She's Crafty….good luck! Let us know how it goes. And good move on getting her own seat. It was so cramped having her on my lap the whole time.
    @Jennifer…good to know, thanks!
    @Nicole…such good advice, thank you!

  • Laura
    July 15, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    My mom used to do the new toy thing with me whenever we flew (military family moving across coasts every year meant lots of air time). She wrapped each toy then made a label with a time on the toy. I wasn't allowed to open the toy until that hour. It was so fun, the anticipation of getting to open it, playing with it, then knowing there'd be something else next. I highly recommend it!

  • ~ Alecia
    July 17, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    This may seem like a silly question, but did you fly with a carseat on the plane? I flew out to Hawaii at the end of June and will be flying back to Orlando in a couple weeks. My son is at that spirited toddler age where he really hated being in it for so long. But on the second flight (we flew first to LAX then LAX to HNL) he did fall asleep in it and slept the majority of that flight. I have been doing a lot of reading on the matter and I can't seem to decide what to do to get us home safely and as unscathed as possible. Oh, and I will be flying by myself 🙂

  • Stephanie
    July 17, 2011 at 12:33 AM

    Alecia, I flew with her on my lap. She is 26 pounds and when we fly next I will get her own seat. She was just at the cusp of it being ok being on my lap for a long time. It was super cramped too. It would have been nice to have the extra seat for storing crap. I am not sure I would like to lug a car seat around though, I would rather get a little booster seat and just buckle her in, but I don't know what the FAA guidelines are on that. Good luck!!

  • Maureen
    July 23, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Oh, the iPad. That sounds like a traveling mothers dream! Since the girls rarely watch TV, I would be absolutely AOK with a days worth of movies to keep them happy on such a long trip. I've read really good things about the iPad as far as apps for children, and great benefits children with autism can have. The photos are adorable.. I can't believe how big she is getting!

  • kandiapple
    July 29, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Just got an iPad for our flight from southern California to Texas. Thanks for the tips! Any good apps you can recommend? My daughter is 16 months. My hubby & I are flying together but we didn't get her her own seat.

  • Stephanie
    July 30, 2011 at 3:04 AM

    How lucky, kandiapple!! We haven't bought ours yet, gonna get it for her 2nd birthday in early November. So I am not sure on good apps yet, let me ask my friend who has one and I will get back to you. Or better yet, I may ask that question on the facebook page and see what everyone says. 🙂

  • Cassandra
    August 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Stephanie! Help! I'm going to be on a train for 6 hours on Friday. What on earth do I pack for food?? String cheese is about the only healthy thing I can think of and even then it's not very healthy…

  • Colleen Lanin
    August 17, 2016 at 4:27 PM

    Great tips! Thank you for including Travel Mamas in your blog post. Next time, print out one of our packing lists for babies and toddlers before you go!