6 mom-approved tips for traveling with toddlers

Last September we flew to Florida with our then 3-month old. Being a nervous flyer anyway, I definitely had some flying-with-baby jitters. Instead … absolute bliss. He fell asleep on take off and didn’t wake up until we were almost on the ground. I sat back with my coffee in hand and my snoozing baby on my chest and thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t the mom a few rows back chasing her toddler as he wiggled past the beverage cart.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago while I was preparing for another flight with our little guy. Nerves again frayed. He’s older. He’s crawling. He only takes one good nap a day. He gets bored. Really bored. Naturally I consulted Google, the keeper of all answers. (Terrifying answers — ever notice how Google never gives you the “everything is fine” answer you’re looking for?) Then I remembered, not only do we have to survive this flight, we have to also make it through a 12-hour drive to North Carolina in a few months.

I knew if I was going to arrive on vacation with any fragment of my sanity, dignity and confidence intact, I had to pull out the big guns, the generals, the women who have been right there in the trenches dodging mid-flight disasters and wrecked road trips. THE MOMS. And so I took to Facebook to poll some of these wise women on how to travel with toddlers (and not completely lose your mind).

Here are 6 mom-approved tips for traveling with toddlers:


Remember those fossilized french fries between the seats that you meant to vacuum out before you left? You’re looking at lunch, my friend. Do not stop the car if the kid is sleeping or quiet. Just. Keep. Driving. When you absolutely must stop, only stop at restaurant play-places or rest areas with room to run. One mom suggested stopping at a rest area for a picnic lunch and bubbles.


I know you’re thinking, “You just told me not to stop!” In this case, it’s overnight. If your trip schedule allows, stop overnight half way. Book a hotel in the middle of your trip to break up the madness. Don’t forget bathing suits for the kiddies if your hotel has a pool … and a bottle of wine (and an opener!) for yourself. If you’re planning to stop overnight, pack a small bag with a spare set of clothes for everyone and toothbrushes etc, that way you won’t need to unpack the entire car for a pair of socks in the morning.


Overnight seems to be the most efficient if you can do it safely: a sleeping child is a happy traveler. However, my husband and I would hardly make it out of the neighborhood if we were driving at night. For our trip, Our plan is to leave around 5 a.m., hoping and praying and crossing every finger and toe that he will go back to sleep once in the car seat.


New toys, books, snacks, DVD’s, etc. Things they’ve never seen, heard or tasted will hold their attention longer than things they see every day. Our son had never had a Tootsie Roll Pop … the mid-air squirming and squealing was squelched with this one little trick. Tips imaginary hat to the mom that suggested bringing suckers. For the older kids, bring a paper map of your trip and help them follow along throughout the trip, you might even mark where you plan to stop ahead of time.


Speaking of snacks… pack a ton of them. For yourself and for the little ones. Unless you enjoy the aforementioned french fries and stale, half-eaten, carseat-graham-crackers, I suggest you load up on snacks or pack a lunch to avoid unnecessary stops.


Be very prepared. For anything. Try to think ahead of anything that could (and probably will) go wrong and pack accordingly. If you’re flying, bring double the snacks and diapers you normally pack, along with lots of snacks, and an extra set of clothes. You never know when you’ll have a 3-hour delay (like we did recently.) If you’re driving, have a caddy or box in the back of the car with everything you need for diaper changes or a snack break to avoid tracking down a clean changing station.

emilydaffinAbout Emily:

Emily grew up just north of Cincinnati in Hamilton, OH and now lives in Western Hills with her husband Jim, their son James and their lunatic yellow lab, Rosey. Emily graduated from Xavier University (Go Muskies!), and is now a stay at home mom after working in marketing and promotions for local radio and TV stations.

Emily spends most of her free time visiting the manatees (James’ favorite) at the Cincinnati Zoo, shopping at local antique shops, or singing Beatles songs with James who typically just stares at her like she’s crazy. Emily hopes one day he’ll join in but for now she enjoys his giggles. She also enjoys photography and has quickly turned into a Pure Barre addict while trying to melt away the daily milkshakes she consumed while pregnant. So far it’s going well, but Skyline frequently gets in the way.

Emily loves to write and is looking forward to connecting with other Moms in Cincinnati while writing for Cincinnati Parent.

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