Family Travel » 12 Toddler Travel Tips From A Mum Who Knows!

12 Toddler Travel Tips From A Mum Who Knows!

From picking a destination and booking accommodation, to entertainment and safety, these toddler travel tips will make your trip as stress-free as possible!

You’ve taken the plunge and booked a trip with your toddler. Firstly, from one parent to another – WELL DONE! I’ve found planning our trips quite daunting, but the reality is actually a lot easier! Once you’ve made it to your destination, you’ll feel a sense of achievement, and enjoy all the new experiences.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida
We’ve been on some amazing travels with our toddler

Before kids we could be as selfish as we wanted, planning spontaneous trips, staying up late and leaving details to the last minute. We took it for granted – how about you? I bet you were the same!

Now there’s a little person’s needs to think about, we really do have to plan things in a lot more detail. One of the most important things is to make make sure your child is comfortable and safe throughout the journey. With toddlers (more so than small babies) you’ll want to keep a reasonably strict routine. I find my toddler is happiest when we keep to his usual schedule. Missed naps or big changes tend to cause stress and anxiety (for us and him!)

playing with cooper
Home life is great, but it’s lovely to step away from routine too

If you can, I’d recommend thinking about your toddler’s nap and meal times when you’re planning your trip. The more comfortable and settled they are during the journey, the smoother the trip will be (and your stress levels will be lower!) P

Don’t forget to pack a few familiar items such as their favourite toy or blanket to help them feel more at home. We always pack our son Cooper’s favourite toy “Rainbow” from the Lovevery play kits and a little comforter, even if we’re just away for one night.

Unless you’re going camping or off-grid, safety shouldn’t be a huge concern. However, medicine like Calpol should always be in your toddler’s bag! I mean, it’s been a lifesaver over the last few years – it really is magic! You might also want a few basic first aid items too, just in case of emergency.

I’ve got lots more toddler travel tips coming up. Ready to get planning? Here we go…

12 Toddler Travel Tips For Stress-Free Travel

Planning Your Trip

Ok, it’s time to put your fear and anxiety to one side! I know travelling with a toddler might seem challenging, but trust me – with proper planning, it can also be a really fun and memorable experience.

Also, I’m a firm believer that parenting can be tricky wherever you are… but with a change of scene, you’ll feel re-energised! Here are a few quick tips to help you plan your trip.

beach holiday with toddler
Are you planning a beach holiday with your toddler?

Choosing the right holiday destination for a toddler

How much research have you done about the destination you’ll be visiting? Lots hopefully! We always do, just to make 100% we’ll have everything we need close by.

Depending on your toddler’s age, it’s a good idea to look for a destination that is family-friendly and has activities that are suitable for young children. A lot of resorts have excellent kids clubs where your little ones can enjoy playing, arts and crafts and sports.

Pine Cliffs Hotel
Pine Cliffs Hotel is great for little ones

Recently, I wrote a really detailed guide about the best hotels in Europe with kids clubs that are suitable from babies and up! Resorts such as Pine Cliffs Resort and Martinhal Sagres Resort in Portugal, and Sani Resort in Greece are all amazing for kids (and adults too!)

It’s also worth looking at the average weather in the destination. Travelling during really hot periods can be a challenge with little ones. My son is always a bit grumpier when he’s hot. Plus, it’s not great to have their fair skin out in hot sun all day. Travelling in late spring or early autumn may be a little more comfortable for all of you.

Booking toddler-friendly accommodation

What kind of accommodation is best for toddlers? In my opinion, the easiest set up is a villa or apartment, where you’ll have space to spread out as a family. If you only have one hotel room, there’s that awkward time when your toddler is in bed and you’re creeping around in a dark room, trying not to wake them!

If you do book a hotel, see if you can book a suite or adjoining rooms, so you have a bit of space to relax after your child’s bedtime.

When we book accommodation, we often look for places that have amenities for families such as cots and high chairs. Some family-friendly resorts we’ve visited have even had baby baths, sterilisers and pushchairs. It really takes the stress out of travel when you don’t have to pack as many big items.

baby in a high chair in thailand
It was great to have high chairs available at our Thai resort

Toddler packing essentials

While we’re talking about packing for a trip with a toddler, I’d recommend packing essentials such as nappies and baby wipes. Yes, you’ll be able to pick things up in the destination, but they might not be what your toddler is used to at home. We always take a big pack of nappies with us, and if we run out, we’ll figure things out at the destination!

Travelling with a toddler – Airports, Transport and Cars

So, you’ve booked your trip and started planning all the details. Well done! Now it’s time to think about the actual travel. We’ve done a range of trips with our toddler, from long-haul flights to Vietnam and Florida, short breaks in France and Spain, and fun road trips around the UK.

Whether you’re packing up your car and driving to your destination, or you’re flying somewhere more exotic, here are a few tips for travelling with a toddler.

Flying with a toddler

My biggest piece of advice for flying with a toddler? TIME! Leave plenty of time for getting to the airport, checking in all your luggage, clearing security and boarding the flight.

ready for take off on plane with a baby
We’ve been on lots of flights with our son

We’ve found everything takes a little bit longer with kids! In the past, there were times when I was racing through security and legging it to the gate! Those days are behind me now!

That being said, some parts of travel are quicker. Many airports have family lanes at security, and often the crew will allow families to board first.

We’ve found it helps to pack in a compact way for the airport. A couple of bags, with easy-to-access pockets for important documents. We sometimes check our travel stroller and just use a baby carrier for the airport, but this option may be dependent on the size of your child and whether they’re walking.

One more tip here if you’re flying with a toddler: I’d ignore the flight attendants when they suggest boarding first. While it means you’ll get settled and organised early, it adds to the ‘cabin fever’ (literally!) for your kids. Being trapped in a plane for longer than you have to? No thanks!

The best option? Send one parent on early to get your bags in place, before bringing your toddler on board towards the very end.

tips for flying with a toddler
I hope these tips for flying with a toddler are helpful

Another important thing to think about: if you’re flying somewhere, then hiring a car, don’t forget to book a car seat for your child, or take yours from home. The safety rules are different in each country too, so make sure you’re following the law carefully.

Road trips with a toddler

Travelling by car can be a great way to explore, but it can also be challenging with a toddler. Short attention spans, boredom and hunger can all lead to backseat meltdowns! I bet you can already hear them shouting “I’m BORED!”

I’d recommend planning frequent stops to allow your child to stretch their legs, go to the toilet / have a nappy change and eat a snack. It can be a good idea to have a bag specifically for the car, packed with toys, books, and games to keep them occupied during the journey.

I often think about the music and entertainment my son likes, and figure out ways to have that available on the journey. You can hold a phone with videos on, download entertainment to a tablet or play your kid’s favourite songs over the car sound system. We don’t give Cooper a lot of screen time, but it’s a handy way to occupy him when travelling.

toddler car seat
Think about how you’ll keep your toddler entertained on the car journey

A friend’s toddler is really prone to motion sickness, and her advice is to avoid giving her heavy meals before the trip and offer distractions throughout.

Using public transport with a toddler

A lot of toddlers LOVE travelling by public transport! Getting on a bus or a train is such an adventure! In fact, it’s often better than the holiday itself!

Even though they might love the experience, it can still be overwhelming for you. I’d recommend planning your route in advance and allow plenty of time to get to your destination. If your toddler is still in a stroller, make sure it’s lightweight and easy to fold. We love our Babyzen Yoyo2 for travelling around cities, such as our home city of London. It’s super compact, and easy to manoeuvre.

Using our yoyo pushchair in London
We love our Yoyo travel stroller

I’d also recommend using a baby carrier for crowded trains and buses. Cooper has always loved being in the baby carrier, especially once he was big enough to face forward. I think he enjoys seeing the world at that height, while feeling secure by being so close to us.

Keeping Your Toddler Happy While Travelling

Snacks? Entertainment? Toys? All of these are important to think about before you leave for your trip! Here are a few tips from my last few trips that should help you plan your next adventure.

Entertainment and activities for your toddler

Keeping your toddler entertained and engaged during a long journey is essential to avoid meltdowns and tantrums. I always make sure I pack some of Cooper’s favourite toys, books, and games to keep him occupied. Depending on the age of your toddler, it might be worthwhile downloading some child-friendly apps and videos on your phone or tablet.

If they’re talking, how about playing some good old-fashioned car games?! For example, “I Spy” or “Spot the red car”. It’ll make the journey go quicker, plus it’s a great way to develop their speech and language skills.

Meals and snacks for your toddler when travelling

Wow do toddlers get cranky when they are hungry! I’ve been shocked by the speed Cooper goes from absolutely fine to total meltdown when he’s hangry.

plane food for baby
Don’t forget to pack some snacks for your toddler

You can’t go on a big trip and not think about meals and snacks for the journey. I often make a batch of pastry pinwheels with lots of hidden veg, before a holiday. They are ideal for lunches on the go. Sandwiches can also be a good option.

And then there are the snacks! Small finger foods like rice crackers, vegetable crisps and breadsticks are easy to hold and will sate appetites for a while. I’d also recommend packing fruit such as berries, slices of apple or orange, or a banana. I think it’s good to have a mix of healthy items and treats to keep them happy.

Don’t forget to pack a spill-proof water bottle too. We currently use the Munchkin tip and sip straw cup, which is pretty leak-proof and handy for travel.

If you’re travelling by plane with your toddler, check with the airline beforehand as they may provide special meals them. They might also offer you a bassinet row, where you’ll have a bit more space to roam around.

Think about your toddler’s nap times and routine

There’s no way around the fact that travelling will disrupt your toddler’s routine, but you should be able to keep some semblance of their regular schedule. We always try to get Cooper onto his usual nap schedule once we reach the final destination, and if we can, we’ll think about how his sleep will work on our travel day too.

If you’re travelling by car, your toddler is likely to snooze a little on the journey. Try to avoid long sleeps close to bedtime. If you are travelling by plane, you could book a night flight, if you think your toddler will sleep through most of the journey. If they’re not great at napping in stimulating environments, you might find a day flight easier.

baby asleep on plane
Cooper often sleeps on me on flights

The most important thing is to be patient and go with the flow. Toddlers behave how they want, so there will always be things that are out of your control!

Health and Safety

Toddlers really are their own bosses! They can be crazy at times, and with added stimulation and pent up energy, they’re likely to be even more unpredictable! Here are a few safety tips to bear in mind before you set off.

First aid and medication for your toddler

We always have some basic items in Cooper’s diaper bag, such as a thermometer, nappy cream, teething gel and Calpol. You might also want to pack a more comprehensive first aid kit with plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream, and any other medication your kid might need. It’s often a good idea to have these items in your hand luggage, in case of any hold ups or issues with lost luggage.

Sun protection for your toddler

Are you visiting a hot destination? I worried a lot about Cooper’s fair skin when we travelled to Florida and Asia. It was 25+ degrees every day, and the sun was very hot.

I’d recommend buying sunscreen with a high SPF, and apply it frequently. There are a few that are kind to their sensitive skin, such as this one by Child’s Farm. You’ll also want to pack a hat, sunglasses and UV protection swimwear.

toddler on the beach
Think about sun protection for your toddler on holiday

Or, are you planning a break somewhere cold? Think about the opposite – layers! Warm coats, hats, gloves, and warm boots or wellies could all be useful.

Safety when travelling with a toddler

So, you’ve spent time making your home safe for a toddler, but now you’re in a random destination, which at times feels like a danger zone?! Yes, we’ve all been there!

When you arrive at your hotel or rental property, I’d suggest having a quick walk around and remove any immediate dangers. You might want to cover up plug sockets, move items of furniture, or simply get dangerous items out of your toddler’s reach.

Many holiday homes are set up for families, and will include items like stair gates and have child locks on cupboards.

If they don’t, just take it in turns to keep an eye on your toddler. You’ll still have plenty of time to relax!

travel tips with a toddler
I hope you’ve found these toddler travel tips helpful

I hope my tips for travelling with a toddler help you navigate this challenging time! Yes, it may feel daunting, but once you reach your destination, you’ll realise it was 100% worth it!

If you’re looking for other helpful tips about parenting or life with a little one, have a read of these posts:

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toddler travel tips

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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