Traveling with your Little Wonders

Ski week is upon us, and Spring break will be here before we know it. Now is the perfect time to consider taking a trip with your toddler! This is a road fraught with both stress and fun— much like the rest of parenthood. Here are some snippets of advice as you prepare to adventure with your Little Wonder.

What to Bring
Gone are the days of traveling light, my friend. Luckily, by this point, this should come as no surprise! Here are a few things that might not come to mind right away, but that experience shows should NOT be left at home:

1.Plans for a sick toddler
There’s nothing worse than your sweet-pea getting sick while you are on a trip—believe me, I know. Unfortunately, it happens. Luckily, you can plan ahead to mitigate the awfulness! Take a few of the basics with you: your insurance card, your pediatrician’s contact information, a thermometer, infants’ or children’s Tylenol, saline nose drops or wipes, a pack of tissues. If you have room and know that you are going somewhere with dry air, you might also consider taking a portable humidifier. If you are going somewhere new, consider looking up local pediatricians ahead of time in the event that you need to see a doctor in person. It is much less stressful to research pediatricians and urgent care options when your baby isn’t suffering from a seal-like cough at 2am in Mexico City … for example ...

2. Food for the “road”
You know your toddler is going to want a “nana” and yogurt just when there are no bananas or yogurts in sight, right? And that you’re going to hit traffic, or flight delays, or SOMETHING that keeps you in travel mode for an hour or two longer than you anticipated, right? And that you and your SO are also going to get hangry at some point while traveling with a toddler, right? Good, now that we’ve clarified that, PACK LOTS OF SNACKS FOR EVERYONE for travel day. My secret weapon is small cans of tuna with crackers -- protein and carbs, plus their shelf life is looooong if they don’t get eaten on this trip.

3. Diversions
Take more than you think you need. Make a list of what and where they all are so that when you hit hour five of close confinement, your brain doesn’t just implode with the next round of toddler squeals. (I say this as a pretty darn patient mom.) Some inexpensive suggestions include:

  • Sticky notes (less sticky than stickers, still lots of fun!)

  • Large pom-poms (big enough not to be choking hazards, fun to sort)

  • Window clings (sticky, but non-staining things that are fun on windows)

Teacher Mireille also recommends wrapping all of your diversions in wrapping paper—the extra step makes each item more fun (and more time consuming to open!).         

4. Back-up toddler transportation
Sure, those little feet want to go, go, go, but you need something for when they don’t want to go, go, go where you do! An umbrella stroller doesn’t take up too much room, nor does a baby carrier (e.g. Ergo, Beco, Tula …).

What NOT to bring
1.ALL of the diapers/wipes you will need
Unless you’re going camping or will be somewhere rural where they don’t sell diapers for some reason. I use cloth diapers at home, but have had no trouble buying disposables when traveling. I buy enough diapers and wipes for travel day and maybe a few days after, then figure I’ll be going to a grocery or drugstore for something once we’re settled in at our destination anyway. The fewer things to lug around on travel day, the better!

2. ALL of the snacks
Will there be food at your destination? If the answer is no, I struggle to understand why you are going there … unless you’re camping, in which case that makes sense and more power to you for camping with a toddler! Unless you are going out into the wilderness, or unless you have a food allergy to take into account, you can and should find food to try at your destination. There are children everywhere, and they all need to eat. You can buy and try the local crackers, yogurt, milk, fruits, veggies, etc. that are consumed by the toddlers at your destination, and that way you don’t need to fill up your suitcases with your own food from home. (More room for clothes, toys, and souvenirs!)

1.Buy a seat for your toddler
If you are not completely put off by the idea of paying full price for your toddler to have his or her own seat, I cannot recommend it highly enough. (Of course there isn’t a choice once your kiddo hits age two—I’m talking lap-eligible kidlets.) Yes, your toddler will likely end up in your lap or in the aisle or somewhere else weird at different points in the flight. But take-off, landing, nap time, and turbulence? The safest place for your mini-me is strapped into a seat using an FAA-approved car seat or FAA-approved Child Harness Device (CARES). For more information on FAA-approved restraints, see 

2. Check bags
The last thing you need is something else to lug around while you are trying to chase down your toddler in an airport. Take what you need for one day and one night in your carry-on, and check the rest. If the airline loses your bag, you can make due with slightly stinky clothes until they find it or you buy replacements. Just make sure your toddler’s favorite toy isn’t in the checked bag … just in case.

3. Board early … or not
There are definitely two camps on this one. On the one hand, boarding early allows you and your toddler to get yourselves and all of your gear settled in without the hassle of every other member of humanity trying to shove things in bins and under seats. You can strap in your FAA-approved carseat, take your little one for a diaper change or potty break, and engage entertainment round one before the aisles are full. If you are travelling alone with your toddler (i.e. one adult, one toddler), family pre-boarding is practically a must. However, if you are traveling with a second adult, you might consider skipping the pre-boarding … partially. Send one adult ahead with as much gear as possible. Have Adult A set up the carseat, load up the rollerboard into the overhead bin, and start making snacks accessible. Adult B continues to run toddler around the gate area as long as possible. Toddler then needs less running around once on the plane and is more content to sit and be entertained in other ways. (Of course, if you get anxious about being late or planes leaving without you … this probably isn’t the plan for you.)   

Hopefully this has been a useful (or at least entertaining) read as you prepare for your trip. We would love to hear your travel stories and other helpful tips when you return from your own toddler adventure! Bon voyage!