I recently flew to Atlanta for a week with my 15-month-old. There was a lot of anxious preparation but we survived the journey, and overall it was well worth the stress. As we approach the holiday travel season, here are 10 tips for traveling with a toddler.
- Plan ahead! There are tons of helpful packing checklists on the internet. Try to think of everything you use on a normal day for your child(ren) and decide how you will mimic that at your destination. Toys? High chair? Meal supplies? Etc.
- Shop at your destination and utilize delivery/pick up services. If possible, save space in your luggage by not packing consumable items. I only packed enough diapers and wipes for my travel day in my diaper bag. Before we departed I scheduled a Target pickup order in Atlanta where I ordered enough “supplies” for the week. For me, this included items like diapers, wipes, snacks, and fruit.
- Plan for YOUR child. Several people suggested that I bring a tablet preloaded with videos and games. I packed one, but I know my child, I knew that nothing on the tablet would keep my son’s attention over the hustle and bustle of the airport and airplane. But I do know what makes him light up… snacks. I packed a bag full of snacks. We never took the iPad out on either flight, but he did snack the entire time and was as happy as can be.
- Be strategic about your equipment. Ask other parents what gear they may have that you can borrow to make your trip easier and save you some money. If you are traveling to a hotel, ask in advance what supplies they have available. If you are staying with family or in a vacation rental, ask family there if they have items you can borrow or utilize a baby equipment rental service.
Use an umbrella stroller instead of your bulky travel system and bring a lightweight car seat or plan for one at your destination. Two items I would say are worth purchasing: a slumber pod if your child requires a dark environment to sleep or if you have to share a sleep space and a portable booster seat.
- Pack extra outfits in your carry on. My son squirted a green spinach pouch all over himself before our plane took off. I was thankful that I had extras of everything. Don’t forget an extra shirt for you, too, mom.
- Let others help you. Repeat: let others help you! Trust me, other people understand and they are looking for a chance to help. I was shocked by the amount of assistance I was offered at every step of our journey.
- Flexible Schedules. We are a schedule family. We anticipate and plan for flexibility while traveling but I do try to stick to our normal sleep/nap schedule as much as possible. Sometimes when traveling naps end up being in the car instead of a crib, and 2 nap days sometimes become 1 nap, but I try to avoid a cranky kid as much as possible.
- Stay hands-free. This is not the time to have your hands boggled down. Pack your diaper bag strategically and nix the idea of an additional purse for the travel journey.
- If you’re flying- take advantage of the family-friendly accommodations. Most airports have a separate stroller line at TSA and they will walk you through what you need to take out, break down, etc. Once you are beyond security take advantage of mother’s rooms if you are a nursing/pumping mom and need a feeding break. If you need to change a diaper or need to use the bathroom yourself, utilize the family restrooms that are much larger and have a changing area, and sink inside.
At the gate, gate check everything you are not bringing on the airplane, such as your stroller and car seat. When boarding, if you want time to get settled on the plane, utilize the family boarding time. Once on the plane let the flight attendants guide you if they have tips. One flight attendant asked me in advance if my son could have the airline disbursed snacks when it was time, my answer was no. When he was passing out snacks he swiftly bypassed my row, helping me avoid the meltdown of my son having to see a snack he can’t have. Another brought my son a stack of cups to play with, he was ecstatic.
- Focus on the destination. Traveling with a toddler isn’t the easiest thing to do. But I’m here to tell you it’s possible and very worth it. When you get overwhelmed with the planning and the actual doing, try to remember the “why” and know that the destination is worth the hectic journey.