With Spring Break around the corner, I decided to share my lessons learned from traveling with a toddler. If your family is like ours and has extended family in different cities and states then you will be traveling with your kids to see them at some point. I know it seems like a ton of work but if you plan it right, it is completely worth it.
We planned as much as we could in advance and tried to find ways to make the trip a little easier. Our trip consisted of flying to Chicago, driving to Grand Rapids, MI for a few days to see family then driving back to Ottawa, IL (a small city about an hour west of Chicago), to spend a few more days with family, then flying home to Austin, TX.
We had to make some decisions before traveling with our toddler on what we could and should bring with us. Somethings we decided to ship like diapers and a pack and play, because they were too much to travel with. And somethings had to stay home.
TIP: We weighed our options for the carseat and decided to rent one through Enterprise Rentals, since we were renting a car anyways. Full disclosure, it is a cheap carseat, but it is clean and meets safety requirements.
Here are the 6 must-have items that were complete life-savers for us on our trip. We will definitely make sure we have these when we travel again! (I want to add a caveat. I do include affiliate links, but they are all for products that we genuinely use and love. We know you will too.)
- The number one can’t leave home without is his lovey. I would rather miss my flight than leave without his lovey, or as we call it “Blankie“. My son loves this Blankie more than anything, we even have a back-up and a Tile Mate, just in case we lose it. (Been there done that, and if you have you know what a terrible experience that can be!)
white-noise machine for sleeping. It is hard for my son to sleep in new places. When he is out of his routine, the sound machine helps keep new noises from waking him up. We stayed at 3 different homes during this trip so trying to keep anything we could consistent was important for us. If he doesn’t sleep well, no one sleeps well.
- Entertainment for the plane ride. Toys, iPad Mini fully charged with a new movie. We buy our movies on Google Play. We bought the entire Cars Movie series and he loves them. He was so tired on the flight and could not get comfortable so it did not work as well as I thought it would. Make sure your Movies are downloaded on the iPad before you leave the house. We had the Cars movies, but we didn’t have some of his favorites, so when he got bored, we didn’t have the option to play his go-to movie, the Minions movie.
- A stroller to push him around in. We love our jogging stroller. Mostly because he loves it and it doubles as a high chair. We can make sure he eats and has his sippy cup handy. It is not the most convenient to travel with because it is heavier and bulkier than an umbrella stroller. We found that it moves around better and all airlines will check it at the gate for free. Another potential downfall, is you have to take the wheels off to get it through the security scanner, but the literally pop right off and right back on. It isn’t that difficult, but I suggest practicing before you get to the airport. It can be a little stressful when you are in line and have a screaming toddler that did not want to get out of it in the first place. =)
- And a baby carrier for when he gets bored from the stroller. We use the Baby Tula. You can see the one we have here. I love the design too, very stylish! It works great and it is light weight and can fold up easily into your carry on. You can put your toddler on your front or back depending on what you prefer. My son likes both the front and the back. It is easier for me to give him snacks and water if he is on my front, so that is what we do.
- Lots of snacks – I am sure this is obvious to most parents but a fed baby is a happy baby. (Unless your child is like mine and refuses to eat.) TIP: On our flight home we learned that United Airlines has an amazing kids snack pack that also comes with colors and coloring pages for only like $6. When you have a a screaming/squirmy toddler that won’t sit still and you still have 3 hours to go, you are will to pay $50 for this pack. The best part is they are a variety of snacks and it is something new to your toddler so they are likely to enjoy something from it. (At least, for 10 minutes!). I definitely recommend this even if it is as a last resort.
There were some things we struggled with throughout the trip and are open to suggestions from other parents out there! We could not get our child to eat. He did not want to sit in a high-chair for more than 5-10 minutes and even when he did he would not eat anything we put in front of him, even favorites. He did resort to his bottle a lot.
I hope everyone enjoys their trip and traveling with a toddler. Just remember there will be some struggles. Traveling is stressful for everyone including you toddler, but it is worth the trip! I hope my must-haves help you with your travels.
Leave a comment below to tell me about your trips and any tips you have!