Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
I love to travel, but I absolutely hate planning the details
of my trip. I mean, I’m great at saying
let’s go to ____________ (insert well known tourist destination), and make sure
we see/do ____________ (insert landmark/activity destination is known
for). When it comes to actually planning
out the details that will make that trip happen, I’m an awful procrastinator.
I fall into the habit of getting overwhelmed at the thought
of planning and everything that goes into making a trip happen. Luckily, my husband is great at planning out
the details of a trip, but he doesn’t like to be left completely on his own to
do it. Therefore, I had to find some way
that I could get myself to plan a trip without dragging my feet so much we
never went on the trip.
If I thought planning for my husband and me was hard, a baby/toddler adds a whole new level of difficult to the planning. Despite my initial planning dread, we have had a bunch of great trips as a family, and my 1.5-year old son is more well-traveled than some adults. Read on for my tips to make travel planning with kids easier and have those family trips you imagine.
Plan to Plan
If you want to take a family trip 3 months from now, you
will want to start planning soon, so that you can book flights and lodging
early enough to get the best rates.
While you are still excited about the trip, sit down and spend 10
minutes making a list of everything you need to do to get that trip planned. This could include be start off as follows:
Book rental car
Book baby rental items
Once you have a list of everything you need to do, grab your
planner, and start scheduling yourself planning blocks. These are blocks of time where you schedule
yourself time to check one item off your planning list. 30-minute blocks are likely sufficient for
most tasks. Once you have a time block
for each activity on your list, commit to yourself that you will treat it as a
mandatory activity like everything else on your calendar.
Pro Tip: Make sure things that requiring booking
something are early in your planning period.
You will want to make sure to book early enough before things fill up or
Organize Your Thoughts
To make you planning time blocks as productive as possible,
have an idea of what you need to consider and how you want to organize that
information to make the best decisions.
I really like using worksheets that allow me to write in specific info
for hotels, or flights, etc. If the
thought of creating worksheets is overwhelming, you can grab my travel
Keep an Idea List
For lists that you need to always have handy, I love using
the cell phone app Wunderlist. I pretty much always have my cell phone handy,
so this method ensures my list is always nearby as well. You will want to have this list to write down
anything that jumps into your mind.
Maybe this is a great idea you hear for entertaining your toddler while
traveling, or a must-do attraction someone tells you about, or a great
restaurant to try on your trip, or something you can’t forget to pack. Whatever it is, you will want to remember it
when you are actually in a position to do something with that information. The list allows you to make note of it, and
when you are busy planning, skim your list to remind yourself about all the
ideas you’ve had about the trip.
Enlist Your Family’s Help
If you are taking a family trip, get everyone involved in
the planning process. Your baby may not
be able to help, but everyone from toddler age up can take at least a small
part. Planning tasks could range from
having your elementary-aged child check the whether for the trip before
everyone starts packing, or having your toddler pick out which travel
activities he wants to take along. If
you have older kids coming along, you could have the teenagers practice
budgeting parts of the trip such as activities or meals.
Consider what each person is capable of and what would be of
interest or a good learning experience and delegate tasks. The more you include the family, the less you
feel like a travel planner, and the more they are invested in the trip.
Go to the Internet
If you find yourself stuck on a particular task, do a quick online search for the destination and whatever it is you are looking for. Trying to decide which hotel is the best choice in a certain area, Google it! There are so many travel bloggers around the world that specialize in writing guides to traveling different places. Be aware that some of these may be sponsored, but many times they do still outline the pros/cons of the location or activity.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Traveling in general can be difficult for anyone. All the planning, packing, and effort can make trips feel more like work than a vacation. When adding a baby or toddler to the mix, traveling can become even more overwhelming. However, having kids doesn’t have to stop your adventures. Try out these tips for traveling with toddlers (many work for babies too) to make your trip as stress-free as possible.
Book Hotel Rooms Wisely
When it comes to booking a hotel room, it’s better to ask specific questions when making your reservation to make sure the hotel has all the accommodations you need before you arrive. If you have a baby, you can check if your hotel has cribs available. You may want to consider booking a suite or two connecting rooms; otherwise, you may be stuck using a flashlight trying to do work in the bathroom while the kids are sleeping. Plus, you will want a bigger room to fit the crib and your luggage. Trust me, the extra square footage is worth it. When booking a hotel room, ask if you can have a room that is away from pools, elevators, ice machines, and other areas you don’t your kids to be near. Request a room that is not on the ground floor as they are easy to break in; however, make sure the balcony doors are secure, so your kids don’t wonder out there without any supervision. Lastly, check to see if your hotel room has a mini bar with sensors (meaning if you touch or move anything in the fridge you will be charged). If so, you may want to ask the hotel to empty the mini bar so you can use the fridge for milk and other snacks and not have to worry about getting charged top dollar for candy bars (your kids won’t be able to resist them!).
We have traveled extensively throughout my toddler’s life so far, both domestic and international and including long road trips and plane travel. The best tip I could give after all this traveling is to try and plan, at least the bulk of your journey, overnight if it’s a long trip. If it’s a short flight or drive then take it right around nap time! As well as making the actual travel experience much easier, keeping baby or toddler in their usual routine will make things run much more smoothly when you get to your destination.
Run through your normal routine before you leave the house or whilst at the airport. If you usually do pajamas, story time, milk and a cuddle, for example, do this exact same routine at the airport. Sure, it won’t be exactly the same but the familiarity will still be there.
We recently flew long haul from Brisbane to London. I paid a tiny bit extra to get flights both ways that traveled overnight. I was sure it would be a total nightmare and my daughter would not sleep but to my surprise she had a 9 hour sleep on one of the flights!!
Traveling is awesome, but many new parents fear traveling with a toddler. And, sometimes, I have to agree that it is not easy. However, we discovered that taking short trips by car allows us to both travel and to get back home in one day, have the child sleeping in his bed, and avoiding the stress of traveling by public transportation or airplane.
The first trip we took with our son was when he was three weeks old. We took a day trip to the mountains and we had a great time. We packed light – just the bare minimum – and it was more than enough! Diapers, food, a change of clothes and that was it. Oh, and there was another vital item: a good mood!
We had a great time that day and took many more such trips ever since. It’s something that I recommend to all those who can easily get to some wonderful places within 1-3 hours – so that you have enough time to enjoy that place and make it back in the evening.
Traveling with kids requires more planning than traveling alone. However, it can be daunting to try and remember all the details and plan them out ahead of time. I use a family travel planner to plan all the details in advance. I set a goal to work through a certain number of pages of the planner every week until the trip is completely planned. This has made traveling with my son when he was a baby and now as a toddler so much easier because we are appropriately prepared for each aspect.
It’s also helpful to use checklists to make sure you don’t forget anything. Here are a couple of my favorites:
One piece of gear we always seem to need on our family trips is a car seat. Our best hack for making flying with a car seat much easier is to bring a lightweight travel car seat rather than the bulky full-featured car seats we usually use at home. They all pass Federal safety testing and are fine to use, but a travel car seat could weight nearly 20lbs less! It’s easier to transport through the airport, get through security, install on the airplane, get to the rental car… and do basically everything else you’ll need to do during travel days. There are many different options for travel car seats depending on your child’s age and size, so check out this extensive guide to choose the right one.
Get a Lightweight Travel Stroller
One of our hacks for traveling with a baby is to take a compact travel stroller with us. There is only so much baby carrying that my back can cope with so to have a stroller when we travel is an essential item. But, when we first traveled with a baby we took a full size one and it was such a pain to have to haul it around with us on and off the buses and trains. I started to resent having it with us even though it came in handy at times. So, we did a bit of research and discovered that compact strollers have really come on in the last few years. Forget about flimsy umbrella strollers that are no good to anyone, things have moved on and you can now transport your little darling in complete comfort and luxury in a stroller that folds up to the size of cabin baggage. You’ll be amazed by the latest lightweight travel strollers. They weigh almost nothing and can fold up small enough to take on the airplane with you. There is even one that would fit in a handbag!
I have three young kids including twins (at one point I had three kids under three!) so I know how challenging it can be when traveling with multiple toddlers and a baby. They are older now, but we still face challenges if we go for a day out to the beach or the zoo. There is always a lot to carry with drinks, snacks, picnics, hats and sunscreen….and the kids don’t want to carry anything! Plus our youngest always gets tired legs and she is just too big now to be carried.
Thankfully we discovered a folding beach trolley solved all of our problems! A folding wagon can carry all of your things to the beach, park, sports event or festival and the bonus is that it can also carry tired toddlers when they can’t walk anymore! You can even use an empty wagon to lay down a sleeping baby or toddler when you’re on a day out or a night out for dinner. It has been a game-changer for our family. Plus everyone wants to pull it, so we no longer have arguments about who is carrying what. It folds down small meaning it is really great for road trips, even if you are short on space.
When it comes to traveling with kids my first tip is always “get a carrier!” It keeps a runner contained, a doddler moving, a fussy baby close and (more) content, and your hands free. Baby is close to you, easier to monitor, and you don’t have a bulky stroller to navigate through crowds, over stairs, and around obstacles. We use carriers for our kids from newborn until they are three or four years old (and I know people who have put older kids “up” when they needed that close connection).
Most people are familiar with a soft-structured/buckle carrier (think Ergo, Beco, BabyBjorn, Tula or the dozens of others on the market) and stretchies (K’Tan, Moby). Other options include Ring Sling, woven wraps, meh dai/mei tai, hiking carriers and so many more. Just as every parent and child is an individual, the carrier that works best is individual. I found woven wraps tied a certain way worked best for my daughter on me, and my son preferred a ring sling, while my husband has always worn a buckle carrier.
Carriers exist at all price points, but I recommend spending over $100 if buying new. Quality is important! If you can only get one carrier I prefer a meh dai. The basic carries are quick to learn, it’s easier to tie on someone else, there are no metal bits to worry about if you’re dealing with security scanners, and you don’t have to adjust anything between wearers.
A baby carrier is an absolute essential when traveling with kids and toddlers especially if you will be flying. A stroller can definitely be useful when traveling but if you are flying somewhere in particular, a carrier is likely to be more useful. This is because a carrier is easier to use to navigate through security and immigration checks both on arrival and departure. In fact, often flights will check in your stroller, even at the gate, and you won’t get it back until luggage collection.
A carrier is also invaluable once you are on the plane especially with a non-walking toddler or baby as you can use it to walk around the plane and help calm your baby. Depending on where you are going, a carrier can be very useful at your destination if you are going somewhere without good sidewalks or with lots of stairs. This can particularly be the case in Europe where apartments can be upstairs and streets can be filled with cobblestones or in Asia where sidewalks are often non-existent.
As fun and inspiring as traveling with your children might be, it can be very, very tiring as well. Every parent wants to avoid a meltdown on a flight or in the middle of a hot square. Of course there are many ways to calm them down, but I find that the best way to deal with a difficult moment is to nurse them. From the moment we started traveling with our daughter (at about 4 months), breastfeeding has been our biggest asset.
Apart from tackling a
(nearing) tantrum, it is perfect for nappy time as well. Whether we would be on
a long-distance bus or in a restaurant, when she was tired I would latch her on
and she would fall asleep in a matter of minutes. The same goes for night time
sleeps, a new bed did not matter as her ‘titi’ (and mommy of course) were
Another big breastfeeding plus has to do with eating. When traveling, it might be more difficult than at home to have snacks and food at hand at all times. Nursing your child will provide them with everything they need, even when you run out of something solid to give them.
Breastfeeding as long as possible is my ultimate hack for traveling with (young) children as it will make your trip so much easier and carefree.
Use a Puddle Jumper for an Easy Time at the Pool or Beach
When we first started traveling with our young kids, one of the problems we encountered is that our kids were petrified of the water! We would plan a week-long trip to the beach or a resort and our kids wouldn’t want to get in and swim! Finally, we discovered the puddle jumper, which is rated for toddlers 30 lbs and up. The puddle jumper brings kids faces up out of the water preventing them from getting a huge gulp of water and I think this really helped our timid kids be comfortable. The natural swimming position makes it easy for kids to learn proper the swimming position. Our eldest now can swim independently and we had no difficulties with him being too reliant on the floatie. With the puddle jumper, our kids are really independent in the water and this means that aren’t clinging on to dear life and we can actually enjoy our vacation. We don’t go anywhere warm without this kids travel hack now!
A must-have for any road trip with an infant or toddler is a travel sound machine. It can easily hook on the infant car seat carrier bar which makes it easy to stay secure and for the baby to be surrounded by the relaxing white noise sounds while traveling.
Our family arranges our road trips around sleep times for our baby and this travel sound machine makes naps on the go possible! Our children use white noise at bedtimes at home, so having that familiar hum is relaxing, calming and comforting to our baby when traveling. It reminds the baby of home and signals to them that it’s time for sleep.
This is also handy when out and about with baby during your vacation. The sound machine can also easily be attached to a stroller to allow for sleeping while touring too. It is my favorite baby shower gift to give and a must-have infant item for every family who ever leaves the house!
A great tip, especially for those with younger babies, is to take a night light on your trip. We love taking battery operated ones so that we don’t have the hassle of having to take a plug converter with.
When we travel to a few different destinations and hotels on one trip, it can be a bit confusing when you are sleep deprived and you have to remember which hotel you are in and where all your baby supplies are located, so the night light can be a life saver! The night light is fabulous as it gives you enough light to change nappies during the night, to make bottles or to breastfeed your little one without them having to fully wake up from the bright light.
We found it especially beneficial when our little one used to wake up regularly during the night, but just recently we reached the age where our toddler is scared of the dark, and so the night light has been super useful in taking away that fear, allowing her to sleep more peaceful. The night light is a small item that takes up little space, so we never travel without it.
Traveling – whether by car or by plane – can make you feel a bit grimy on the best of days. Add a little kid to the mix, and you can pretty much count on some evidence of lunch – or, much worse, your toddler’s tendency to reverse his lunch thanks to motion sickness – to end up on your shirt. That’s why I always travel with an extra set of clothes for myself and the kids. Diaper leaked all the way through onto my pants? No problem! Lid wasn’t on the sippy cup properly? No big deal. Try leggings, light tee-shirts and other items that can be rolled up and compacted easily. I like storing them in a small zippered packing cube. Bonus tip: bring a plastic bag to hold the dirty clothes, since they’ll likely be wet and/or gross.
Traveling with a baby is a whole new level of adventure. Though they are tiny little people, babies require a lot of items for general care and well-being. From an abundance of diapers, to burp cloths, multiple changes of clothes, bottles, wipes, and a million other items. Where should parents put all this?
The best and most efficient baby hack when traveling is to purchase a backpack diaper bag. Backpack diapers bags are significantly different than backpacks and diaper bags in that they are more portable, made for travel and comfort and provide all the essentials that parents need to store all their baby items. Diaper backpacks typically have the proper function, capacity, design and storage options needed such as bottle holder pockets, wipes pocket, padded straps, insulated compartments and a host of other pockets and storage areas not typically found in regular bags. They are compact and designed with parent and babies in mind. Many diaper backpacks are waterproof and have amazing storage capabilities, which is great for parents. Check out our guide on finding the perfect backpack diaper bag for your needs at The Elusive Family.
We love this suitcase for toddlers as it has so many advantages when flying! Our 2.5 year old daughter played with this ride-on suitcase for hours at the airports which was great. She loved to move around on it and we loved the fact that she was happy and that we didn’t need to carry her around. We could take the Bedbox with us as carry-on luggage into the plane where she would enjoy having her own suitcase with her books and teddy-bears. The best part though was the fact that inside this ride-on suitcase is a small mattress / cushion which you can put on the aircraft seat. When using the tray of the suitcase you can easily build a small bed. Our daughter felt so proud and loved to just lay down on it. Anyone with a toddler knows how special that is 😉 She slept for hours on her seat / bed. Definitely the best toddler travel hack for us at airports as well as in airplanes!
Flying long-haul with toddlers can be a challenge. However, that doesn’t mean that parents should shy away from traveling the world with their tots in tow. Everyone knows that sleep is absolutely essential for children, but getting a toddler to sleep on a plane isn’t always an easy feat. Once we discovered a few ways to make a toddler travel bed on an airplane, those long-hauls got a bit easier. While there are actually quite a few options for creating a bed, such as a suitcase that converts to a bed, or a hammock for a baby, our favorite is using a blow up foot pillow. While some are marketed as just for toddlers to sleep on during flights, any ‘ol blow up foot pillow will do. They are extremely affordable and incredibly easy to use. The only caveat is that some airlines have restrictions on items that could be a tripping hazard, so just check before your flight. However, we’ve been on dozens of flights and have yet to have an issue. Knowing that our kiddos have a safe and comfortable place to sleep makes those long flights so much more bearable for everyone involved!!
Invest in Sticker Books
Entertaining young kids during long car trips or airplane flights is a big headache. My life saving trick has always been sticker books. These books usually contain several pages of stickers and several pages of scenes (backgrounds) where the stickers can be applied. Some sticker books have glossy pages and repositionable stickers for endless fun. These books are easy to pack, light in terms of weight, mess free and typically cost less than ten dollars.
Another thing I like about the sticker books is that they are usually themed. If your child is into dinosaurs you can buy one with prehistoric scenes; if your child is into space exploration, you can find one with planets, spaceships, etc. When the “sticky” part is done you can ask you child to “read” the book to you, i.e. explain what is the story behind the scene he/she has created. Sticker books never failed us on any long trips and my kids are actually looking forward to trips because there is a new surprise activity book waiting for them.
At home, I am a strict enforcer of no screen time. This rule also applies to parents so we’ve made it a habit to even limit our smartphone use around the kids. Travel days, however, are a whole different story. On those days, I am a strict enforcer of do whatever works and make everyone’s life (including fellow passengers’) easier. This is why our trusty Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablet is always packed whether on a road trip or on an airplane. I only pull it out when absolutely necessary but it has been a lifesaver during delays or flight cancellations when meltdowns are most likely to happen. We preload educational books, apps and shows and while my kids are always entertained, I don’t have to feel too guilty as the rest of the time we are talking, playing, etc. The best part is you can limit the amount of total time or show time if you want to ensure you don’t go over the recommended screen time for their age. Free Time Unlimited from Amazon is a great way to curate the educational content for your kids. You can get a month for free here.
I’ve traveled with my 3 children since they were infants. Now that they are 3 (twins) and 5, I’ve only found two things that are successful in keeping my children happy and entertained while traveling. Two words: screens and snacks.
Maybe it’s partially due to the fact that we are pretty limited in screens and snacks at home, but it works amazingly well. Whether we’re driving or flying, my kids get grumpy from not being able to move. They aren’t entertained for long by new toys or coloring books, AND they tend to drop them. Screens and snacks to the rescue!
I give them each an individual snack cup and fill it up with whatever they want. Once they are a little older, they will graduate to a baggie of snacks, but for now, snack cups it is. If we’re driving, they all watch a movie on the DVD player in the van. If your children are farther apart in age than mine, you could give them separate tablets. Free Time Unlimited from Amazon is a great way to make sure the screens provide educational entertainment. If we’re flying, we use portable DVD players and tablets. It’s been brilliant for us and I couldn’t imagine traveling without them!
One of the things that has really helped us during our extensive travels with a toddler is surprise gifts. I don’t mean big, flashy, expensive toys or anything like that. We simply take a trip to Kmart or the dollar store before we travel and get whatever little toys and trinkets we can for a dollar each.
Usually I will wrap them up and hide them in our carry on luggage before we leave. Then, either at set intervals or just when my daughter seems to be getting cranky, I’ll whip them out as a little surprise. She loves unwrapping them and discovering what is inside.
We have had varying degrees of success and I would recommend getting a few extra than you plan on needing. Sometimes the unwrapping is the part she enjoys and whatever is inside gets tossed pretty quickly, other times the trinket has kept her occupied for a good 30 minutes. That half hour could be all it takes to make you feel a bit more sane! Then there have been a few occasions where I’ve hit the jackpot and randomly found something that she has been obsessed with for an eternity.