10 Tips For Traveling With A Toddler
Planning a vacation for yourself, with a significant other, or even a group of friends can be fun. What happens though, when you are traveling with a toddler for the first time? There are a lot of things to think about before you can hit the road.
To help ease some of the stress and ensure you don’t miss anything on your checklist, here are the top tips on how to travel with a toddler, starting with flying, followed by driving, and finally, tips for staying at a hotel. Get out that pen, cross some things off your to-do list, and get ready to have some fun with your family.
Plan Ahead and Call the Airline
If you plan on flying with your toddler, give yourself ample time to plan. All airlines will allow your child to fly for free but there is a catch. Your toddler must be under the age of two and they have to sit in your lap. If you decide to go that route, some airlines require a copy of the birth certificate and tickets for the whole family must be purchase over the phone. Figure out which airline you plan to use and read over the policy for traveling with young children. When in doubt, call the airline and a representative will be able to walk you through the process.
Take Your Car Seat on the Plane
If your toddler is over the age of two, you will be required to purchase their own seat and either use a car seat or a CARES harness. Flying, especially with a car seat, can be frustrating, confusing, and a hassle. Why? There are a lot of logistics and a lot of planning when traveling and flying involve a car seat. Do you check your car seat and risk potential damage, or do you carry it around? What about using a car seat from a rental car agency?
Every airline will allow you to check a car seat free of charge at the baggage counter or at the gate, but there is the potential for a car seat to get damaged if it is checked. To minimize damage and to keep it clean, consider purchasing a car seat travel bag with wheels. If you are too uncomfortable with the idea of potential damage, you are allowed to bring your car seat on the plane but only if you have purchased a seat for your child. Depending on the airline, the car seat does not count toward your carry-on or personal item.
Purchase Front-Row Bulkhead Seats
If you are flying internationally, plan ahead so you can secure front-row bulkhead seats. You will need to call the airline to purchase seats because those seats are usually blocked out from online sales for families. Almost all airlines will provide a bassinet for international (and some national) flights. Once your plane has taken off, the crew will secure the bassinet to the wall in front of the seats.
Take Your Food on the Plane
When it comes to food, liquids and snacks for your little ones, TSA makes exceptions — they allow milk, formula, and even snack pouches through checkpoints even when it exceeds 3.4 ounces. Keep all food, liquids, and snacks near the top of your toddler’s bag in a ziplock bag. As you get close to security, all you have to do is remove the ziplock bag and give it to a TSA agent. TSA will examine all food items by hand if you don’t want it going through the X-ray machine. Everything else will go down the conveyor belt.
Driving may seem like a better option than flying for some — the cost savings may be worth it especially if you have an eco-friendly car. However, this method of traveling can still present some challenges, especially if your toddler does not enjoy being in a car seat for long periods of time. If you do choose to travel by car, here are some tips for traveling with your toddler.
You should make plans to drive overnight; your little one will be nestled in their car seat hopefully fast asleep. This will allow you and your significant other to drive without having to stop too much. All you will need to do is stop for the bathroom and gas; keep a food bag in the car with you so you have snacks during your overnight drive.
Buy New Toys
Don’t be afraid to buy some new toys prior to the trip. If your toddler starts to get fussy or wakes up during the overnight trip, you will be able to offer the new toys. Toddlers are often interested for longer periods of time with new toys because the old toys just aren’t as exciting.
Make It Comfortable
Some other things to keep in mind — dress your toddler in comfortable clothes and keep lots of snacks at hand. Nobody likes to be uncomfortable and hungry during a long drive, so why should your toddler? Don’t be ashamed if you have to sit in the back seat next to your toddler and blast some “Baby Shark.” Even if you, as a parent, are not keen on your toddler getting a lot of screen time, it will help distract your toddler and keep everyone sane.
Call the Hotel
If you are staying at a hotel, call and speak to a front desk clerk. Let them know that you have a child and if possible, request for a room at the end of a hallway. Most of the time, hotels will put families on the same floor. Make sure to ask them if they have a crib or pack and play; they will be free of charge for you to use. Just make sure to pack extra crib sheets or a portable crib mattress for extra padding because hotels usually don’t supply those. Larger hotel chains may even supply bottle warmers, diaper pails, and white noise machines.
Make DIY Room-Darkening Curtains
If your toddler likes to sleep with room-darkening curtains or clothing items like a wearable blanket, don’t forget to pack them. If you don’t want to take room darkening curtains with you, buy some black trash bags and duct tape when you get to your destination and tape the trash bags into the windows.
Get a Suite
If your budget allows it, get a suite so your toddler can sleep soundly in the living room; you and your significant other will be able to move freely within the main bedroom and bathroom without waking the toddler. If a suite isn’t an option, don’t be afraid to get creative — put their pack and play in a closet if it’s walk-in or even the bathroom. Some parents will sneak down to the bathroom in the lobby to use the restroom if it allows their toddler to sleep in peace.
There you have it! Now you’re ready to travel with your toddler. Enjoy your trip!