How to travel with a toddler

Feb 27, 2013 at 9:23 a.m. ET

Toddlers are crazy — they’re constantly on the go, they explore their surroundings and get into everything, and they need constant entertainment. It’s hard work having a toddler at home, worse yet traveling with one!

Toddler girl at airport

Toddlers are classified as anyone between the ages of one and three. They’re learning to walk, developing their motor skills and growing emotionally and physically.

Most would describe the toddler years as the toughest, since communication is difficult and tantrums are at an all-time high. While we love toddlers and their knack for learning and exploring, it can be rather difficult taking them places — especially places that are far away. Whether traveling by plane or by car, we have some tips to help make the trip a little more enjoyable with a toddler in tow.

Tips for traveling by plane

The good news is that if your child is under the age of two, they fly for free. The bad news is they will be sitting on your lap the entire flight. To make the plane ride a little less stressful, utilize the following tips:

  • Bring plenty of food and drinks to avoid ear pain. Keep their jaws moving! We suggest bringing snacks that are harder to chew, such as fruit or chewy granola bars. During takeoff and landing, offer your toddler water or milk to keep their ears from hurting.
  • Fly during naptime or nighttime. If you can handle a red-eye flight, go with that. More than likely, your little one will sleep the entire way. If you must fly during the day, try to choose a time that’s closest to their naptime. If your toddler ends up sleeping the whole flight — consider yourself the luckiest person on the planet!
  • Allow extra time for everything. Get to the airport earlier than normal, allow extra time between flights if you have a layover and plan for the unexpected. Giving yourself and your toddler plenty of extra time allows for bathroom breaks, snack time, exploring and even temper tantrums.
  • Bring toys — and lots of them! DVDs are great, too. Now is not the time to worry about how much television they’re watching — flying can be stressful for little ones, so if their favorite movie relaxes them, let them watch it. Bring plenty of books and even paper and crayons for them to draw with. iPhone apps are another great tool for keeping your little one occupied.

Tips for traveling by car

The nice thing about road trips with toddlers is you don’t have to worry about them causing chaos around other people. You also set your own schedule and can take breaks as you please. To make road trips a little easier, we recommend the following:

  • Drive at night. Just like with flying, if you can plan the trip so the toddler sleeps the majority of the way, it’s a win-win.
  • Assume it will take longer to get there. If the trip normally takes 8 hours, plan on it taking 10. By giving yourself plenty of extra time, you won’t stress every time you need to stop or pull over.
  • Bring toys. If possible, install a DVD player behind your seat so your little one can watch a few movies. If not, bring plenty of toys and games to keep your toddler occupied. For specific toy and game ideas, check out these top travel toys for kids.
  • Bring a trash bag. Bring a bag — or two — for all the trash your little one will accumulate on this trip. Empty snack bags, diapers, wipes, tissues and empty drink containers will need to be stashed somewhere!
  • Have plenty of snacks available. Try to bring snacks that won’t make too much of a mess — such as goldfish crackers, sliced apples, banana chips and granola bars. Make sure to bring plenty of water and juice, as well!

Tell us

Do you have any tips for traveling with a toddler? Share in the comments below!

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