10 Tips for Toddler Travel

Trust me, I know travel tips for children has been written about, written about, and then written about some more. But, I wanted to share the lessons and tips from my travel that I hadn’t read somewhere or received a suggestion for.

While traveling went so much better than I anticipated as I wrote about on Tuesday, our Burbank trip did start off with one awkward moment. We flew out of our local airport which made check in and security a breeze. Waiting at the gate about 15 minutes before I thought they would board our flight, I ran N into the restroom to change his diaper. Since this is our local airport and there are about three gates, the bathrooms are also pretty small and they have no changing table! So, I improvised and changed his diaper on the floor which was the beginning of my fluster. Changing N on the floor is challenging because he can roll around and escape. I did my best to make this quick and keep a firm hold on him but there were a couple of close calls. The second I exited the restroom they made an announcement for people who needed extra time to board the plane. I was the only one with an infant and our belongings were totally a mess from trying to entertain a toddler in the airport. To make matters worse, this was the only plane boarding so it felt like all eyes were on me. We headed up to the gate where everyone was standing around waiting for me to board the plane before they could. I grabbed all of our stuff and pulled N out of the stroller. My hands were so full that my phone went flying across the room. As I went to retrieve it, N bolted. Let’s just say I was a hot mess and people were giggling. Thankfully, the man working the gate was well versed in strollers so he was able to collapse mine and assist in getting it gate checked. As I finally corralled N and all of our things, I’m pretty sure a few people clapped. This was the worst part of traveling. So not the bad right? Which leads me to lesson number one:

  1. Have Belongings Ready Before Heading to the Gate to Board

Many of the other passengers have fewer bags and humans they are responsible for, so they are standing close to the gate eagerly ready to board the plane. If you’re boarding early, which I chose to do in order to get overhead space for our diaper bag, use your loudest voice and biggest smile to make your way through the crowd once you are ready. They only leave a minute or so before they call for the next group, so check with the gate attendant to find out what time they are planning on beginning boarding.


  1. Layovers Aren’t All Bad

On the way to Burbank, we flew early in the morning so N slept through the first flight. I was dreading our four hour layover in Salt Lake. But it gave N a chance to run, eat and burn some energy. We found a corner that we took over and were able to have a little of our own space. Then we took a walk and met all sorts of people and babies. When our plane left Salt Lake for Burbank, it was around naptime and N slept through the whole flight. On the way home we also had an early flight but only an hour layover. I let him run as much as I could but it wasn’t enough time. He had a 25 minute cat nap but then was up for the rest of our second flight (which luckily was only about an hour).


  1. No More Lap Travel

I chose to have N do lap travel for both our Burbank and Savannah trips. Moving forward, I will definitely purchase him a seat even though it means forking out more cash. Before he was walking, lap travel was great. I even left him in my chest carrier for an entire flight (which I’m not sure I was supposed to do). But now that N is walking and wiggly, this was hard. Even though he slept through a good portion of our time on the plane, when he was awake he needed more room than what lap seating offered us. On one flight we had an open seat next to us, it was perfect. Though he slept on my lap, I was able to stretch him out over the other seat and use his foot space for our belongings. Any future kids we have will travel in their own seat once they are walking. I do want to note that this may not be necessary for everyone, but I happen to have one of the most wiggly, busiest guys around! Once a child is two, they must be in their own seat anyway.


  1. Bring Stickers and Sheets of Paper

I got this one half right. I brought stickers but I forgot sheets of paper to stick them on. So, I had stickers on my hands, arms, and clothes; N had them on him and even ate a few; and I’m sure the plane was a casualty as well. However, these were by far the biggest hit from the “entertainment” bag I packed. The movies I downloaded, the books I brought to practice words, and the Dollar Store toys I picked up entertained him but nothing like the stickers. Plus, the stickers were so light and easy to carry.

  1. Waiting on the Plane for Departure was the Hardest Part

I found the hardest point of solo plane travel to be waiting for departure on the plane after we boarded. After our first flight, I actually debated waiting a bit to board but was worried I’d be too slow, in people’s way, and that I wouldn’t get overhead space. So, this is when I used the stickers to keep N busy.


  1. If Possible, have Someone at the Destination Buy Baby Necessities

My mom arrived in Burbank in plenty of time before me, so she went and purchased diapers, wipes and snacks for my little piglet. There was no way I could possibly bring enough snacks or diapers for our trip without packing an extra bag. N eats his way from day to day now although I can’t tell you where it goes. When we landed in Savannah, we checked into our rental and went straight to the grocery store. We packed only enough of these items to feel comfortable for traveling and purchased those for the rest of the week at the store. In both cases, we saved valuable space and weight in our bags. And this is money we would have spent either way.

  1. Be prepared to Say “No” to Strangers Offering Your Toddler Food

I was unprepared for this one. All sorts of strangers, especially in the airport, wanted to give N food. Yes, seriously! I feel confident they were all kind and good intentioned but this is like the #1 rule I remember from childhood. Don’t take food from strangers! By the end of our first layover, I had worked out how to politely decline the food but I think N may have managed to get a couple yogurt dipped pretzels before then.

  1. Does the Airline Always Board People who Need Extra Time First or Must You Pay for It?

While I had a great experience flying with Delta on both our Burbank and Savannah flights, they got me. For our trip to Burbank I paid extra money when I booked my ticket to ensure we were able to board the flight early. Since Seano was with me for Savannah, we did not pay the extra fee. However, in both cases we were invited to board early. Next time, I will check first in an effort to save a little money.

    1. Absolutely Do Not Forget the Lovie!

As I mentioned, on our way home we had a pretty quick turnaround in the airport. On the way out to the plane, I realized I didn’t have N’s lovie which is actually his pacifier with an alligator attached like this Pacifier – Wubbanub Infant Plush Pacifier – Turtle. At this point, there wasn’t much I could do, but it was chaos getting on the flight without it. N was upset and I was panicked. Once I got us settled, I looked in all of the places it could have been. Luckily, I found it and all was well once again. But, I learned to check and make sure I have all of the important things including the lovie before I board!

    1. Bring Squeeze Packs and Easy Snacks


It’s not always possible to schedule flights around meals or snacks or, like mine, your toddler may eat constantly. So, Ella’s Kitchen Munchy Biscuits, Apples & Cinnamon (5×3.5oz) and Gogo Apple Berry Squeeze Applesauce on the Go 12 Re-sealable 3.2 Oz Pouches are some of our favorite. I throw all of our snacks in a large baggy so they are easy to grab and N still gets to make some choices during the day. In our experience, TSA allowed us to bring these pouches through security even though they exceeded our allowed quart size bag. They just requested we let them know if we had additional liquid like material (the same rule applies for formula and breastmilk). More details on TSA requirements when traveling with children can be found here.

3 thoughts on “10 Tips for Toddler Travel

  1. Thanks for your posts this week. We are on a family vacation right now.

    We’ve never attempted air travel with X but have learned a lot about how to survive a road trip (both short and long). We pack his backpack with lots of fun treasures, from books (new, new-to-him, and family favs), toys, favorite snacks, movies, and games. We put the carseat either in the middle or behind the driver’s seat so that I can easily reach him and hand things back and forth. This trip I packed his magnetic doodle board (Christmas present from Grandma that he wasn’t too interested in, so it seemed new to him) and bought a viewfinder and extra reels of dinosaurs (his passion!). I had actually forgotten all about how cool viewfinders were and noticed they had them at X’s school, so he was well versed in how to use them. He done amazingly well entertaining himself.

    Our first long road trip was to Salt Lake when he was 1. We mistakenly assumed he would sleep in the car if we drove in the late evening/night. He screamed for the 20 miles before Evanston and we decided to give up and got a room. The best, last minute hotel we’ve ever rented. Plus it was his first time in a hotel so he loved exploring, jumping on the bed and being free of his seat.

    This is the second time we’ve driven to California (the first time he was 20months, this time he is almost 4). We break the trip into 3 driving days and stop every couple of hours to stretch, get a snack, and use the restroom. We traveled to Vegas last year when he was potty training and as horrifying as I imagined it being, it was actually the perfect time. He wasn’t interested in wearing a diaper or even the pull-up. It was his time to prove he was a big boy… and so much easier to have road side stops as a boy.

    1. We also do a lot of road trips, especially to see my parents in Iowa, and I love suggestions for those too! Thanks! Inevitably, it seems like N always has a meltdown 20 minutes before we arrive at our destination. And I’m a maniac about him being in the car seat so we just let him melt.

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