For many parents, there’s nothing more terrifying than the thought of being on a 10-hour plane ride with a baby or toddler. Even road trips with wee ones can send rational adults into a tizzy of stress and anxiety.
Are we there yet?
Parents of every generation have worried about risk, safety, convenience and whether kids will cramp their trip style. And these are still valid concerns for new parents in the 21st century. But having kids doesn’t mean the end of travel. It’s the beginning of a whole new way of travel.
“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aesop
The good news is that great advice on how to travel with kids is close at hand. So who’s afraid of a baby with a suitcase? Not you, savvy traveller! Not with these super helpful tips from experienced family travel experts on how to travel with kids and babies.
How to Travel With Kids, Babies and Toddlers
1. Pack For Emergencies
When packing your diaper bag for a plane ride with a baby or toddler, pack it in anticipation of a disaster (vomiting, diaper explosion etc.). While such a situation may occur only rarely, it is empowering to have the tools you need (extra clothes, wipes) to handle it with confidence!
Tara Cannon – Pint Size Pilot
2. Really – Pack for Emergencies!
Here’s my (hard-learned) tip: Pack double the diapers, wipes, ziploc baggies and clothes you think you’ll need for air travel. Air pressure changes cause gas, and gas causes blowouts.
Dia Adams – The Deal Mommy
3. Book Flight Times that Work
When my kids were babies, I knew they were far too nosy to sleep on planes, even if I booked our flights for their usual nap times. So, when I was able to, I scheduled our flights for times I knew they’d be the most cheerful; for us, that was first thing in the morning. However, even red eyes can be ok with babies and toddlers with some preparation.
Follow your usual bedtime routine–jammies, stories, bottle or nurse–and keep distractions to a minimum. If they have a special blanket or lovey, make sure you have it on board (and guard it with your life!)
Corinne McDermott – Have Baby Will Travel
4. Buy a Seat For Baby
If you’re booking air travel, purchase a seat for your toddler. We’re now travelling with a toddler in tow. And not just any old toddler; a tall, solid, energetic 19-month-old. I did one long-haul flight where I shared my seat with him and vowed never to do so again. Pay for the extra seat if you can, even if you are not obliged to by the airline. You’ll all arrive happier, (relatively) more rested and ready to start your holiday.
Katja Gaskell – Globetotting
5. Stay in the Zone
If it’s your first time travelling with baby or toddler, try to pick a place that is in the same time zone. This way you don’t have to worry about adjusting sleeping patterns when you leave or when you get back.
Christina Wagar – Wandering Wagers
6. Choose Accommodation Wisely
My best piece of advice for families travelling with babies or toddlers is to make comfortable accommodation a priority. A little extra space, whether it be two connecting rooms or an outdoor patio to potter and play, often means you will be able to relax after the baby is asleep.
On our first trip with our son, we didn’t think this way and ended up spending our evenings in our room, in the dark, reading with a nightlight for fear of waking him! We have learned from it and now family holidays are our favourite way of spending time together.
Marta Correale – Learning Escapes
How to Travel with Young Children – Ages 2 – 5 Years
7. Do Your Research
Spend some time exploring places online before you travel so kids can understand where they’re going. They’ll be less overwhelmed if they know they have “seen” it before. This is especially helpful for kids who struggle with changes in bedtime routine — you can walk through the routine while looking at photos of the hotel bathroom and bedroom to help prepare them for the adventure.
Karen Dawkins – Family Travels on a Budget
8. Pack a Backpack Carrier
If you are planning on doing a lot of walking or hiking, exploring a location, or visiting museums, I recommend bringing a backpack carrier. We still put our 4 year old in one when we go hiking. It is a great way for them to feel connected to you and allows you to go further then you could if they were walking on their own. Plus it is much easier to manage than a stroller.
We use an Ergo. Yes, our son is out of the weight range but it still works great! Check out this post for advice on the best baby carrier for travel.
Bryanna Royal – Crazy Family Adventure
9. Make Packing Easy
My advice would be to not let your kids pack their own bags. I’ve seen too many families giving each child a bag to carry and that just slows everyone down! Streamline the process and organize the necessities into large plastic bags and put them into one larger bag for mom or dad to carry. This way they can easily be found during a plane or car ride.
When things are organized by child or by category (electronics, toys, snacks, etc.) into individual pouches, it makes everything a lot easier to locate when you need it.
Kirsten Maxwell – Kids are a Trip
10. Feed the Kids before Dinner
Feed your youngsters a substantial snack or mini-meal before heading to a restaurant for dinner. Taking the edge off of a small child’s hunger will make your entire dining experience more pleasant. Consider bringing a small snack to the restaurant in case it’s a long wait for the food.
Pack plenty of quiet activities to occupy your child while waiting in the restaurant. Good choices, depending on ages, are play-doh, crayons, small dolls and cars, and books.
Lisa Grabelle – Hilton Mom Voyage
11. Plan a Trip for Everyone
When traveling with young children you have to adjust your expectations. Take your kids’ interests into account and plan a trip with a variety of activities. It’s great if you can do some different activities every day: spend one day on the beach and go sightseeing the next day; visit a local market, book a scenic boat trip, organize a picnic in the park, see if you can find some animals (animals are always a big success with kids of any age).
Jurga – Full Suitcase
12. Take It Easy
Our top tip is to relax and throw away plans. There’s no need to see it all. I remember a few days into our first trip with our kids I made everyone miserable because we were always running late. Home or on trips there was still a schedule to keep. We were on the brink of giving it all up, then we tried a different approach: a vacation kind of travel.
Now, we sleep in late, we eat pizza at the beach, catch or don’t some nap time when we drive around. I no longer feel guilty for having our breakfast when we should be queuing for the museum. We’ll get there, eventually. If we don’t it means we had found something better.
Inga Batur – Coolkidzcooltrips
13. Just Do It
Be adventurous and go for it – travel with your kids. It doesn’t matter whether you pack the car for a long weekend camping in the woods, or stuff that diaper bag full of wipes and extra diapers for the transatlantic flight to visit relatives in Italy or Japan. You will survive the trip, and so will your child. Yes, you may be tired, and yeah, you may not get to read the book you brought. Welcome to parenthood, where your time isn’t your own anymore. But just do it anyway.
Creating family travel memories is something that outlasts today’s inconveniences and temper tantrums. The day may come – it did for us – when your 18-year old Gen Z kid posts a family selfie on Instagram, declaring to his friends that “Family trips are the best.” We know that we’ve done something right, and that’s worth its weight in gold.
Claudia, The Travelling Mom
More family travel inspiration
Why family travel matters for your family
How to travel with a dyslexic child
How to cruise with kids of all ages
How to survive a road trip with older kids
Pin for Later
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock or as noted.
Are you nervous about travelling with your child? Share your questions, tips or comments below.