A lot of families often ask “how to survive traveling with a toddler“? As the mom of a 1-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, I have quite a bit of experience flying, driving, and traveling with toddlers. I met my husband while living and teaching in India and we have since returned to my home in Australia. In addition, we regularly travel to India to visit his parents, as well as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. But I know not everyone may be as willing to take a longer trip with younger children. To help you enjoy traveling with your toddler in tow, here are some tips for traveling with a toddler we’ve gained from our experiences!
1. Reduce Your Expectations
Try to put yourself in your children’s position. A new place can be overwhelming, exciting, and intimidating – all at the same time. Your child’s behavior may not be the best when you arrive at a new destination. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including the climate being different, having to sleep in a different bed, differences in food, smells, changes in modes of transport, etc. In addition, they may be jet-lagged. They may also not be used to having both parents with them all day, every day. All of these things are different and may be difficult to understand for a toddler. Try to be understanding of their feelings and not get too frustrated with them if they feel overwhelmed or get upset. This is normal behavior for a toddler, especially in a new environment.
If possible, make adjustments if they are not enjoying themselves at a particular time or place. For example, if they seem overwhelmed, stop for a snack or drink, or even go back to your accommodation for a rest if they need it. Adjusting your own expectations and accommodating their needs, when possible, is an essential tips for traveling with a toddler!
2. Pack A Lot of Snacks
I highly recommend having multiple snacks available at all times (e.g. banana, apple, raisins, corn thins, rice crackers, etc.). I always bring these when I leave the house with kids. It is an essential tips for traveling with a toddler to have snacks on hand – trust me! I find they enjoy having multiple options, as this gives them some sense of control in a new environment. Additionally, they also enjoy being able to go to the diaper bag themselves to choose what they’d like to eat. Having snacks that are familiar to them can be really helpful in adjusting to a new place. It gives them a sense of home. This is one of the most important tips for traveling with a toddler!
3. Bring Travel Activities
Having new activities or toys for your toddler is a great way to keep them entertained during your travels. I recommend buying a travel activity pack, such as this Jumbo Activity Pack, which has a lot of hands-on crafts, games, and activities to keep your kids entertained. Since it’s portable, you can use it while you’re out and about waiting for food, or on a train or plane. It also comes with a travel journal! This way, you and your child can sit down and record each day together, including the weather, their favorite part of the day, and how you traveled. It even has a place for them to draw a picture. I can’t think of a better way to capture your amazing travels with your little one!
Anything that is similar to home will help your child feel more comfortable. One of my tips for traveling with a toddler is to bring their normal drinking bottle or cup with you. Having their normal bottle or cup from home will help give them a sense of their regular routine. It will also give them something familiar when they want a drink. Plus, finicky drinkers are sure to take in more liquids if they have their regular supplies. This will help ensure kids are eating well and hydrated while traveling – an important aspect that will also help you enjoy your time traveling together!
Speaking from experience, pack more diapers than you think you will need! In case your child gets an upset tummy and you go through a lot of diapers, you do NOT want to find yourself without any available during the day or on your trip. Always bring at least 5 more than you think you will need for the day. You don’t want to be caught without diapers at the airport or out and about. Plus, new diapers may be uncomfortable for toddlers or could give them a rash. If you have brand loyalty to a specific diaper, you may not be able to find this brand or style abroad. Having plenty of your typical diapers will ensure happy toddlers and happy parents! Not to mention it is among the 13 tips to make your vacation go smoother with a toddler!
6. Bring A Change of Clothes for Your Child AND Yourself
This is one tip I learned the hard way. When my daughter was 14 months old, she vomited on the plane — all over both of us. I had a change of clothes for her, but not for me. So I had to sit in a shirt which smelled of vomit for the rest of the flight. Not at all an enjoyable experience! Carrying an extra change of clothes for yourself and your toddler will pay off. Better to have them and not need them than the other way around! This is one of the most essential tips for traveling with a toddler I give to parents.
7. Stay in Kid-Friendly Accommodations
Not every hotel is designed with toddlers in mind. Choose a hotel close to restaurants, activities, convenience stores, etc. This way, you don’t need to walk or travel too far when you need to get anywhere, as a lot of walking — especially in hot climates — can be very tiring for kids, which can lead to whinging. Also, try to get a room close to the breakfast restaurant. This will help with early mornings and sleepy kiddos. Plus, a hotel without (too many) stairs will limit needing to haul toddlers and their stuff up and down every day. Finally, select a room close to the pool. This way, you don’t have to lug the kids and all their pool toys too far when you leave the room. Having a pool on-site can also help you adjust your day or itinerary when needed, as kids can get tired when traveling.
Next on my list of tips for traveling with a toddler, plan your day carefully. This doesn’t mean having a tightly scheduled itinerary, it just means managing your kids and their needs, as well as possible. This will help them (and YOU) enjoy the trip so much more! Be up and ready to have breakfast when they are up. This means you should have a couple of hours (depending on their age) where you can go straight to an activity where they will be fairly happy, not hungry, or tired. When they start to show signs that they are grumpy, tired, or hungry, go back to the room for a rest, and then go out again later in the day. Planning your activities around their typical schedule can be a great way to see the sights, without the meltdowns.
9. Plan Around the Heat
If your travel destination is hot, or warmer than your usual climate, plan your itinerary and day around the heat. It’s best to go out in the mornings and late afternoons if you are staying somewhere very hot, especially if your kids are not used the heat. They may find it very difficult to manage the heat, which can make them extra cranky or uncomfortable during the day. Plan naps for the hottest part of the day, this will help keep toddlers cool and well-rested. If your kids don’t need to sleep during the day, you may like to spend time in the pool instead. Be sure to pack for the heat, as well, including hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and other supplies you may need to beat the heat. This is definitely one of the most important of my 13 tips to make your vacationgo smoother with a toddler !
10. Don’t Get Sunburned!
Speaking of the heat, I want to make special note of sunburn, as it is more likely to happen on vacation than at home. Sunburn can lead to skin cancer later in life. As such, we should all avoid it. It can also lead to a miserable holiday! For these reasons, it is important to be prepared before departing on your family trip. Stay out of the sun at the hottest times of the day, or remain in the shade. If you plan to swim, ensure your kids have swimsuits that cover them well, like a rash vest over their bathers. Finally, have sunscreen on at all times, as well as a hat when in direct sun. Sunscreen should be applied regularly throughout the day, following the instructions included on the bottle. Those traveling with infants should check with their medical provider about the best option for sunscreen.
11. Maintain Bedtime Routines
One of the most important tips for traveling with a toddler is to maintain their bedtime routines. While some kids can deviate from their routine, others cannot. You know your child best. My advice is to help your kids get to sleep as easily as possible. Firstly, try to replicate the bedtime routine you have at home. If they have a bath before bed, give them a bath (if available.) If they read a book, bring a couple of their favorite books. Bring their favorite teddy bears and toys for them to cuddle! Put them in the same pajamas they would normally wear, as well as sleeping sacks if they use them at home to sleep in. If they use them, don’t forget sound machines, pacifiers or soothers, blankets, etc. Helping them sleep comfortably will help you have better days!
12. Avoid Too Many Late Nights
As much as it’s nice to enjoy your holiday with lingering dinners out, kids need a lot of sleep. A few late nights are usually not a big deal. But if you keep the kids up late every night and they are still waking at the usual time, they will end up tired and grumpy. This can lead to frustrated parents. If possible, get your kids to bed at a similar time to home. Time Zones, local cultural norms, travel days, and other factors can all impact sleep and bedtime routines. You know your child best. Mitigate potential issues or stressful situations. Allow your child the opportunity to nap during the day. If your child doesn’t typically nap, they may still need one during busy days. Plan quiet afternoons to allow your toddler time to rest. This is definitely one way you will survive traveling with a toddler!
13. Treat Yourself!
Finally, find time to treat yourself! Traveling with toddlers in tow can be hard, but it will still be a blast! Especially, if you use some of my 13 tips to make your vacation go smoother with a toddler. Have a cocktail by the pool while the kids are playing. Tag team with your partner and go have a massage to relax and get some alone time. Don’t forget you are also traveling to have a good time and relax, too! I hope you found these 13 Tips For Traveling With A Toddler useful in planning your upcoming family vacation. I wish you the best on your adventures and hope you enjoy the extra time together exploring a new location and making family memories.
About the Author
Written by Families Love Travel Contributor, Kristen Dias. Find more from Kristen on her website, Travel Karma!
Hi, I’m Kristen! I’m a mum, teacher, former ex-pat (she taught in India for six years), corporate education professional, and entrepreneur. I recently started my own business, Travel Karma, which creates travel activity kits for kids. My family is all about adventures, new experiences, and creating unforgettable memories! We took our daughter to Thailand when she was 7 weeks old and she has since been abroad every year; including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, and Vietnam, as well as lots of trips in Australia. Our son traveled to Perth and then Vietnam when he was 14 weeks old. He also traveled to India before he turned 1! If you can relate to our story or want to see our other adventures, then you may like to follow us on Instagram (@travelkarma_official) and Facebook.
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