A survival guide to traveling with young children

Nov 16, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. ET

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be traveling to visit friends and family. And if you have toddlers, be prepared for a challenge.

Toddler crying

Traveling with toddlers isn't simple, but it can be a whole lot easier with these tips on what to bring with you and how to avoid meltdowns along the way.

Drive or fly?

Whether you are driving or flying with young kids, it can be difficult. You might think that driving will be easier because of the flexibility (you can stop and get out whenever you need to). However, you should also keep in mind that flying is much quicker.

Flying tips

If you do fly, be sure to:

Bring your car seat

Your child will be much more comfortable and safe on the plane in a familiar seat. Plus, you'll probably need it at your destination anyway.

Ditch the stroller

Unless your stroller is really lightweight and compact, it might be in your best interest to ditch it and let your child walk.

diaperChange diapers before boarding

It's extremely difficult to change diapers in a tiny airplane bathroom. If your toddler is still in diapers, change him right before boarding... and then pray he stays dry on the flight.

Bring your iPad

In flight, you want to keep your child entertained as much as possible to avoid breakdowns and tantrums. Even if you don't normally let your little one have much screen time, make an exception. Download some of his favorite shows or a movie to your iPad. Let him try out a few games and apps before the trip, and then allow him to play all he wants while you are in the air.

Give him protein

Skip the sugar and processed carbs and let your little one eat protein snacks like cheese sticks and rolled up lunch meats. Protein snacks will keep him balanced rather than dealing with the highs (and the lows) caused by sugar.


If your child does have a full-on breakdown, do what you can to calm him down and then apologize to those around you. You don't need to make a big deal of it but a little courtesy is a big plus. Everyone is stressed during the holiday and thoughtfulness and kindness can go a long way.

Car trips

If you are driving with toddlers or other young children this holiday season, be sure to:

Make a practice run

If your child is not usually in the car for more than 20 minutes at a time, practice leading up to the day of your trip. Take him for a drive for an hour or two so he can start getting used to being in the car for longer period.

Bring plenty of entertainment

Just like with flying, you have to keep your wee one entertained in the car. Travel toys, computer tablets for kids, Hot Wheels cars, action figures, books and other small toys are essential. Burn CDs of their favorite music and turn up the volume, so they can sing-along to pass the time.

stopwatchStop every 90 minutes

Plan out your trip in a way that you can stop every hour-and-a-half or so. Make your stops in kid-friendly areas where everyone can walk (or run) around for a few minutes, stretch their legs and burn off some energy.

Travel at night

If at all possible, travel at night and allow your kids to sleep. Just be sure that you aren't drowsy yourself. For example, if your kids normally go to sleep at 8 p.m., and it's a four-hour drive to your destination, then leave your home at their normal bedtime. You'll arrive at midnight or shortly after — and your toddler will sleep the majority of the way.

More travel tips

Holiday travel survival guide
How to beat the holiday madness when flying
Travel with kids: Should you take technology?