Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

traveling with a toddler

David and I love to travel! We don’t get to do it nearly enough with jobs and PTO and lives here in Virginia. However, one thing that we refuse to let hold us back is Finn! In fact, he is the reason we want to travel more. I grew up traveling a bunch. I think by the time I was in high school I had visited every state on the East Coast. I want to give this same lifestyle to our kids. Adventure is always a good idea and there is so much to see in this world. Money, time, and certainly not kids, should hold you back!

However, I am going to admit that traveling these days is much more chaotic than it used to be. We’ve gone on a few trips with Finn and I thought I’d share some of our tips for successful traveling. Whether you are in a car or on an airplane, these are some rules we live by when traveling with a toddler.

1. Food is always a good idea.

One of the biggest things I’ve realized when traveling is that on-the-go-food (ie. sandwiches, subs, etc.) is not conducive to toddlers. For one thing, I try to feed Finn a well-balanced diet at every meal, and second I’ve yet to see an 18-month old hold and eat his or her own sandwich without throwing it everywhere. Instead, we like to bring our own food along. Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, sliced fruits and veggies, these yogurt pouches.

When Finn was bottle/breastfed, we always kept extra to-go formula packages and a bottle of water in the diaper bag. Those days seemed so hard at the time, but now looking back, everything was laid out for us. Finger foods and snacks are always in our bag these days. Along with a spare sippy cup!

2. Bring only what you need. 

The first time we traveled with Finn he was only 6 weeks old. I overpacked and ended up stressing out everyone around me. I realized after that trip that just because he sleeps in a certain bed at home doesn’t mean he won’t sleep elsewhere on the other end.

Ask the hotel you are staying in if they have a crib or pack-n-play option. You only need one sleepsack or blanket. You only need one or two bottles, max. If you are flying and don’t have a carseat, Uber has an option where you can pick cars with a carseat in it. And if you’re only going a short distance and you’re comfortable with it, most states don’t require a carseat in cars for hire.

I do suggest bringing a stroller everywhere. Unfortunately it’s the bulkiest thing we own for Finn, but not only does it give him a place to sit and potentially nap in, but it also acts as a carrier for all the other stuff you are bringing along. Another great tip, bring a baby carrier (we loved our Bjorn) for those occasions when a stroller isn’t going to work.

3. Forget the schedule. You’re on vacation!

The best thing we ever did for Finn was get him on a schedule. He goes to bed at 7pm every night, like clockwork. Now that he’s older he typically takes only one nap from 12-2pm. When we are home, we are pretty strict with the schedule because no one likes a grumpy baby. However, when we are traveling we tend to be a little more flexible. For instance, last weekend when we were in Boston, we didn’t want to head back to the hotel at noon to sit and wait for him to nap. Instead, we kept pushing through, and after fighting it for a few minutes, he collapsed in his stroller and got in a pretty decent nap. I’ve found that as long as he gets some kind of nap, he does pretty well.

That being said, we do make sure that he gets to bed early if he skimped on nap time. One great piece of advice I was given – as long as he naps the same amount in a 24-hour period it doesn’t exactly matter when those hours are!

4. Go hands free!

I recently invested in a backpack diaper bag and it’s a game changer with a toddler. I loved my shoulder diaper bag when Finn was a baby cause it was so big and easy to access. Now that’s he’s running everywhere I need both hands to wrangle the crazy kid in. I love having this backpack with me! It’s one less thing that needs to be jammed under the stroller and also counts as a personal item on an airplane!

Here are some great backpack diaper bag options:

Mamas, do you have any other tips or tricks?

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