Traveling with children can kill the joy of any vacation. Their stuff, the snacks, the entertaining, the judgement – it’s enough to bunker in your home until they’re 18. While I’m certainly no expert, I want to share with you some of our strategies for surviving travel time with your toddler since we will be heading to Disney in less than a week!
Toddler Travel Tip #1:
We have both flown with and taken long car trips with our daughter and on not a single one of these trips has she spent any time napping while we were en route.
If you can travel during the times when you child/ren nap, DO THIS. This was always our first go-to until we realized that this trick doesn’t work on Caleigh. She’s a mystery. Resume Tip #1.
For car trips, we packed two prep bags: the no-mess snack bag and the entertainment bag. The snack bag had a variety of treats in it that she could independently eat without making a mess. We also invested in snack cups that wouldn’t spill (worth it!). We love Skip Hop as a brand and own this little unicorn cup. We still use it for packing her lunch every day.
Snack items included:
- Fruit snacks
She most definitely did not eat all of these, but we had them ready to go, pre-measured in cups for the ride there and back. No refrigeration, no pouring, no mess!
The entertainment bag was a little more detailed. Because I knew she’d be bored with the same toy if I expected her to use it for 5 hours, I brought 5-6 different toys that ranged in purpose:
- No Mess Coloring
- Magnetic letters in a cake pan (the edges are great to keep the letters inside!)
- Interactive book (includes sounds)
- Small set of Disney toy figurines
- Favorite “buddy” (her Duffy bear)
The key here is in the rotation. I never gave her more than one toy at a time. When she was done with one, we rotated it out. We did this basically every hour. Between the snacks, conversation, and toys, she was a pretty happy camper.
I’ve been collecting things for her to do that she’s never played with before in the house.
- The No Mess Coloring is an absolute must and I’ve packed stickers for her to use with this as well (it’s Disney themed, of course!)
- Magnet Tin – ours is Beauty and the Beast and it was a gift from Christmas. I like this because the tin can also hold other items as well.
- Find It Princess Book – we are VERY into item finding in books. One page will have a visual list of items that need to be “found” on the corresponding page. Caleigh actually won a book from one of our favorite local stores that does this with princesses. I’ve been hiding it from her so she can go nuts on the plane!
- Downloaded movies onto the iPad – we are letting her pick a few movies for us to download so that if she just wants to relax in her seat with her headphones and watch Belle, she can. This isn’t something we typically do at home, so it’s a treat for her.
Toddler Travel Tip #2:
Caleigh, like every toddler, has her absolute favorite songs and they fall into different categories. She has songs she likes to listen to, songs she wants to sing, and songs I have to sing, usually to calm her down or help her sleep. We built a “Caleigh Playlist” on Apple Music with all of the songs she loves to hear and sing. In the car, she is often content to listen and look out the window or sometimes she asks us to sing along with her (especially if there is a duet. I sing a mean Gaston). When we fly, we have toddler headphones that can connect to our phones or iPad to get to this music as well. There are some SUPER cute versions of these!
Regular headphones get too loud for children’s ears, so if you have a younger kiddo, opt for a toddler version so you know their hearing is safe.
Toddler Travel Tip #3:
One of the best and simplest things we did while flying with Cal is to stock a pill organizer with small treats.
Yep, a pill organizer just like this one:
Each “day” has a new treat: goldfish, yogurt covered raisins, chocolate chips, dried fruit, repeat. It’s like a little dexterity game for your child to get the tiny boxes open and closed. Plus, there is a snack inside! We will absolutely be doing this for our flight to Orlando. It doesn’t take up much room and it used a surprising amount of time. Because we are right next to her on the plane, we can supervise the eating of messier or smaller foods.
Toddler Travel Tip #4:
Just In Case
Since Caleigh has her own seat, she is allowed a carry on and a handbag. Her handbag is actually a Minnie Mouse backpack that contains her entertainment and snacks and the carryon has actual necessities. In this we put all of the things we need for the first day and night just in case our luggage doesn’t make it. I do the same for myself in my own carryon and if I pack well, I can combine her things and mine. For her, this includes:
- Mella – OUR SAVIOR. Mella is a sleep trainer that tells her when she can get out of bed based on color. We set this for both bed time and nap. It also features and alarm we never use, but also a sound machine. So instead of needing to pack the Dohm AND a sleep trainer, we can just pack one! We absolutely LOVE this device.
- baby monitor & camera
- extra outfit & undies in case of accidents, comfort, etc.
- hair & toothbrush
- hair elastics
- Duffy bear
- small amount of diapers & wipes
- reusable water bottle
Toddler Travel Tip #5:
Practice & Patience
Mama, you could do everything in the world for this to go right and it just doesn’t. That is 100% OKAY. Kids have meltdowns, even when you’ve thought of everything and planned right now to the minute. Take a deep breath. It’ll pass. The plane will land. And your vacation will still be epically awesome.
Caleigh is a child who likes to know the plan. We’ve been reading books on planes and playing with the Little Kids Plane Set. We are talking to her about how we’re going to have to wait a lot at the airport and how waiting can be hard. (There is a Daniel Tiger episode about this – number 113 – and the song is one that Caleigh often sings about what you can do when you need to wait patiently.) We’re trying to expose her to as much as we can so she feels comfortable.
You’ve got this, mamas! Don’t let your fear of traveling with your kiddo stop you from something you love to do that will also be SO GOOD for them! The more you do this, the better they’ll become which means you’ll get to travel more often.
If you haven’t yet, please SUBSCRIBE to By the C! I’d love your comments here about how you and your family travel and what you do to keep them happy along the way!