Traveling with a toddler (8 months to 5 years) can be heavenly…or hell-on-wheels! But, here’s the good news: What you do now (and on the trip) can totally stack the deck in your favor!

Here are five tips and ideas to make traveling with your toddler a breeze…from start to finish.

Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

Get ready before you leave.

  • Meltdowns are inevitable! So practice some special steps to boost toddler cooperation a week or two before you go away: Toddler-ese, gossiping and patience stretching — all techniques discussed in the Happiest Toddler
  • Perfect your sleep routine and start using a lovey, massage or reading and our special rumbly, low pitch white noise (for all naps and nights). SNOObear—a cuddly teddy that plays my signature SNOO sounds—is also the perfect travel companion. Learn more about SNOObear here!
  • Make a little book of the trip (with photos of the plane, hotel, sites, etc.) to read every day BEFORE you leave.
  • Ask your doctor about Benadryl. It can help when flying with a baby or toddler for long flights, but ask how to test to make sure it doesn’t make your child hyper!

Get there without breaking a sweat.

  • Keep your kiddo busy! iPads and tablets are a godsend. Make frequent stops, if driving. (Use Benadryl—as described above—if needed.)
  • On jets, walk—a lot!—and bring special treats, and surprises. Hide them in different pockets of your purse, coat, etc. Read your trip book, to keep your child engaged with all the fun things that will soon happen! (See more tips for flying with a baby.)
  • Use stickers, tokens, checks on hand, treats, etc., to reward your tot for being cooperative/quiet (every 30 to 60 minutes).
  • For meltdowns, first use your best Toddler-ese and Fast Food Rule to acknowledge your tot’s feelings. THEN try distraction, explanation…or bribery. (In the middle of a flight it’s OK to use cookies to get through the rough spot… unless your child tends to get more wild with sugar!)

Helping sleep...even with time zones changes.

  • Lots of morning sun the first one to two days helps to overcome jet lag.
  • Limit naps to 90 to 120 minutes. (Too much daytime sleep can hurt nighttime sleep.)
  • An hour before bedtime, dim lights and turn on white noise in the background.
  • Keep your sleep routine. Predictability helps tots relax. Use white noise for all naps and nights (it’s a “teddy bear of sound” and it covers outside disturbing lights, sounds and smells in a hotel room). Don’t forget your tot’s lovey.

Avoid traumas (big and little).

  • Bring first aid/illness medicine including any special your tot needs.
  • Indoor safety: Childproof the room (duct tape, electric plugs, etc.). And, scout around for dangers: cords that can be pulled down, scalding hot water, bedbugs, etc.
  • Outdoor safety: Avoid sunburns. Keep bugs away with natural repellents or even DEET (only put this on clothing, not on skin).

Keep it simple when traveling with a toddler.

  • Before you go, find the kid spots: parks, museums, etc. Plan lots of stops, always carry food and water.
  • Use a carrier for little kids and consider a harness/leash for bigger kids.
  • Keep activities short. Limit yourself to one hour in a museum then 30 minutes playing chase in the garden.
  • Avoid candy and treats. Wild sugar swings can trigger outbursts.
  • Ask your tot’s opinion many times a day to boost his sense of being respected. And, be ready to do Toddler-ese when the inevitable upsets arise.

Final Thoughts on Traveling/Flying With a Baby or Toddler

Traveling with a toddler is not for the faint of heart, but armed with these tips, you’ll make the journey easier for everyone involved. By preparing beforehand, stocking up on stickers and snacks, and prioritizing sleep, you can set yourself up for a calmer, more enjoyable trip.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.