The name of the game when it comes to travel with toddlers is PREPARATION, and a mindset of ease. I sooo get the stressful feeling of not knowing how your little might react to a new space or environment (…. especially one that’s crowded with people and thousands of feet in the air).
But like so many other things with little ones (teaching them to eat, taking them on errands, introducing them to new people, taking them to new places), they feed off of OUR energy as parents.
So if we go in calm, cool, excited & optimistic (or as much as we can be)— there’s more of a chance that your toddler will be excited, too. Or….. at least not a total mood.
If we go in frantic and frazzled, well…. they’re looking to us and modeling after us, even from this young age. In this specific scenario for travel with toddlers, the “fake it til you make it” approach with practicing calm vibes (even if you feel a bit stressed out…. or a lot) really can work wonders.
I’m not saying you need to be all smiles even if your 3-year-old is fully having a tantrum, but practicing staying calm and flexible even through tense moments can be so powerful for your whole fam.
But then again, this is toddlers we’re talking about. Some days you can have the best mood and energy in the world and they’re still going to have a little funk or some attitude. Those little bodies can carry some big feelings, and it’s all totally normal and natural. Take all the deep breaths & know that you are doing a great job, even in the hard moments.
It’s just how it goes sometimes, and so in THOSE moments (you know the ones), it’s best to be prepared and have things to keep their little hands and brains (and tummies) occupied while on the go.
My best tips to travel with toddlers
We’ve traveled a bit with Noah over the past couple of years both by plane and by car, and actually my approach for both ways of travel are the same: bring plenty of games, activities and snacks so they have different things to focus on during the travel time.
And, set up your destination environment as close as you can to their home environment (dark room for sleeping, bring plates/accessories you use at home, etc.). It helps having a loose plan and back-up options as you go.
Here’s what we’ve found to be really helpful:
Tip 1: Pack interesting games and activities for the plane or car. It’s really key to have a variety, and ones they don’t see all the time at home (new/different = sooo much more exciting on the go). We specifically like these window clings to play with and make stories and stick up on the window, this sticker book (endless!), this non-messy drawing board (all you need is water to fill the markers) this Montessori Busy Book to practice colors, shapes, numbers & more, and Picasso Tiles for fun little construction and puzzle projects.
Tip 2: Bring along plenty of snacks. I’m really not a *big* snacker at home and don’t serve them often because I think they can affect how much Noah wants to eat at his other mealtimes. But for travel? This mama is a healthy snack FAN. I pack an assortment so that we can all have healthy options on the go for long travel days.
Which brings me to….
Tip 3: Schedule in time to go to the store before your trip. I know this sounds basic (and who has extra time before leaving for a trip?!), but it seriously saves soooo much hassle during the act of travel– for your little ones AND YOU. And money. Balanced blood sugar is everything, when there’s a lot going on. Ditto for when you get to your destination. These 2 tiny things alone can change how everyone feels for the entire trip (and thus impacts their moods, emotions, tiredness, etc).
Some of my favorites:
- Peanut butter/sunflower butter/almond butter on rice cakes (bring some wet wipes, but these are like an activity in itself and take a while to eat (wink)). I like to make into “sandwiches” and wrap in paper towels then foil and toss into a big ziploc bag.
- Sliced apples (in our fav snack cup )
- Cottage cheese and blueberries,sliced cucumbers and baby carrots and the mini individual hummus packs or guacamole packs from Costco (I put these in our mini freezer cooler bag, which is soo clutch for toddler travel and fresh snacks)
- Cashews/pumpkin seeds/almonds/sunflower seed
- Banana chips
- homemade muffins/bread/baby cake if I have time
- coconut chips (I love this brand and get it in my Thrive Market orders).
- Mary’s Gone Crackers or Simple Mills Crackers (with above dips, or cheese in the mini cooler)
BTW, I have tons of easy toddler/baby meals and simple snacks in the baby food guide if your little is just getting started with solids & you don’t know where to begin. This is the simplified, safe & healthy way to introduce solids to your little one. Learn more here!
Tip 4: Don’t forget the essentials for when you get to your destination. Okay last but not least— packing the essentials. (And I don’t just mean your gua sha and travel matcha sticks for you!) It’s important for me to look at our habits & routines at home and try to duplicate them as much as possible while away. So….
- Keeping Noah’s sleeping space dark (we use a Slumberpod to cover and keep his travel crib dark— umm best invention ever?!)
- This is also a great backup, before we had the slumberpod, I’d bring these travel suction shades.
- A compact travel stroller (we have this one, and it’s been great, especially for the airport, morning walks and when the little guy gets tired)
- Bringing an easy monitor for travel (we like this travel baby monitor)
- Packing his usual plate, bowl, bib & eating utensils so he can eat on the go (with above snacks, or at a restaurant).
- Packing his stainless steel waterbottle (to refill on the go)
- Packing a travel natural soap for bathtime (to avoid the chemicals in most soaps)
- Bringing any extra-weather appropriate things (hat, portable fan for the stroller/crib in hot destinations & sunscreen— see this post for natural sunscreen options for the whole fam!)
Whew. No matter where you’re going and the journey it takes to get there, I promise you can have a fun time traveling with toddlers! Maybe not totally relaxing, but definitely fun. 🙂
There might be a sticky moment or two (literally or figuratively when it comes to toddlers), but it’s so worth it to experience new places and make forever memories together. With a little bit of planning, you’re (all) going to do so great! Happy travels to you, mama.
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