Traveling With a Toddler


Traveling with a child can be a little bit scary in your mind–especially if you haven’t done it much or if you have had a bad experience.


On Becoming Toddlerwise has some ideas for traveling with a toddler. These are found on pages 162-165. Here is a brief summary. 

  1. Prepare for sleeping in other places: a few weeks before traveling, have your child sleep in the playpen for a nap or night sleep in various parts of the house. 
  2. Use towels around playpen: using towels or blankets around the playpen block the toddler’s view of where she is in a strange place. Do not do this if your child just pulls the towels or blankets into the playpen.
  3. Time zone change is another issue. Split bedtime by half when you arrive (so if it is 10 your time and 7 real time, go to bed at 8:30 night one), then continue to shift each day.
  4. Limit sweet drinks and snacks. Sleep is already going to be disrupted. If you add lots of sugar to the event, sleep and behavior will suffer.
  5. Maintain sleep as best you can. You can’t always get naps in while on vacation. If you miss a nap one day, try to have an earlier bedtime that night. 
  6. Get babysitters. If you are visiting people you know well, they might know of some babysitters who would be good to come stay at the house while you go out after bedtime. This will help maintain sleep for your child.
  7. Eat real food. If you can, try to eat food you make rather than just eating out. Food does affect behavior. Even just making a peanut butter and jelly for lunch can be better than going through the drive through again. 
  8. Take a bed if possible. Take your playpen (or peapod) along if you can. 
  9. If driving, plan activities. Long car rides can be hard on kids, so plan out activities to make the trip MUCH smoother.
  10. If driving, stop for potty brakes. Let your child burn some energy. When we drive long distances, I have races with my kids when we stop. Think about being strapped in a five-point harness and unable to shift your weight around for several hours straight–it wouldn’t be comfortable! So give your kids breaks as often as practical.
  11. If flying, you might want to pre-board. Just like driving, take activities for the flight. Before getting on the plane, let your child work his energy out. Don’t keep him strapped in a stroller or carseat while waiting to board.
  12. Take favorite toys and comfort items. Whether flying or driving, take along favorites.
  13. Take a stroller. If you will be doing any sort of site seeing or walking around, a stroller is a great idea. I have many times thought Kaitlyn could just walk only to be carrying her a short time in. 
  14. Consider the sun. The sun zaps energy, so if you are in the sun a lot, try to have some shade breaks and keep your child well-hydrated. 

Tomorrow, I will share my own traveling ideas. Feel free to share your own either today or tomorrow!


See also these posts:


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8 thoughts on “Traveling With a Toddler”

  1. If you have any tips on jet lag that would be great! We are flying home from Russia and will be on an 8 hour time change! Thanks for your great blog!!

  2. Here's a bit of advice on draping blankets or towels over the side of the pack and play. I love doing this and find it so helpful, but here's how we do it to avoid creating a suffocation hazard: if you drape the blankets over the OUTSIDE of the wall, then they'll only hang over a little bit into the inside, and you won't have to worry about the baby pulling blankets in. By the time the child is a toddler and can reach the blanket, they can stand up and see you anyway, so you probably won't bother with draping anything over the sides.

  3. We're on holidays right now with our 7mo and 2yo (27months). We've flown quite a few times with one or both of the kids and have always pre-boarded. On this trip we got to the gate for our second flight after most people had boarded because our first flight had run late. I actually found the combo of sitting near the rear of the plane and being one of the last to board was actually easier. Since we were at the back, we weren't holding anyone up as we got settled. Boarding later meant less time keeping the little ones busy as we waited to take off. You always have to wait a good 10-20 minutes for take-off even after the flight has boarded, so it's not like we were holding things up.

  4. pkgormong, I don't have any jet lag tips specifically. Time Change wise, that is such a big difference I would just do your best to switch right to the time. I have heard internal clocks set best if you get outside around noon for some sun for even just a couple of minutes, so you might try that each day after you get home. When are you traveling? If you haven't traveled yet, I could post this as a "help a reader out" question to see if other readers have some jet lag tips for you. Let me know if you would like me to.

  5. Sara, I am glad you brought that up. I have always wondered why pre-boarding is nice with little kids who don't like to sit still 🙂 It would be interesting to hear more viewpoints on that topic.

  6. Hi! Your blog was a complete lifesaver for us when I sleep trained my daughter at five months. It took one night of CIO for her to go from waking every hour or two to sleeping straight from 6pm-6am. Now she is 14-months old and we are experiencing a relapse. It occurred after a month of time-zone jumping (Europe to the west coast USA and back and then Europe to the east coast USA and back all in 30 days). Now she wakes up randomly in the night inconsolable. I was wary at first to let her CIO because she's been nonstop teething and has a cold, but her night-time waking only seems to be getting worse while her teething and cold are better. Do I practice CIO again with her? We had gotten so used to 12 hours of silence at night and we want it back, especially now that we are expecting our second child soon. Any tips would be much appreciated, and thanks again for your invaluable blog.

  7. KM, I would. I don't have specific tips because I haven't had to do it with an older child. I think that it would be harder in some ways because she will have developed stubborness where a baby won't be stubborn, but she also will be able to understand "you need to go to sleep now." It should be fast since she already has the skills. That is a lot of disruptions!


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