How to Travel with Toddlers for the Holidays :: 5 Tips to Get You There

We traveled to Phoenix, AZ over Thanksgiving to get my brother married. I had grand ideas about how wonderful our 8 day trip would be, a family vacation filled with so much fun, and then I came back down to reality and remembered that traveling with kids is really more of a work trip versus a vacation.

My kids are 3 and 1, and I am pregnant with baby boy #3. We have traveled with our boys many times on long road trips as my family lives a day’s drive away, and we flew to Hawaii last year when I was pregnant with #2. We try to give them so many adventure experiences all the while keeping in mind that, as parents, my husband and I are working to get to the little moments on our trip that are the vacation moments.

Here are my tried and true tips to help you get through the holiday travels:

traveling with kids
traveling with kids in the airport

1.Travel essentials. We take our wagon everywhere, including the airport! Here’s the love letter to my wagon if you want one too. It is easy to get through crowds, fits the kids + luggage, folds quickly to get through security, and compactly folds to fit into whatever rental car we end up with. Nap mats are also a must! When the kids are cranky, one goes in the bottom of the wagon and we wheel them through the airport, park, wherever to rest. My kids nap on their nap mat at school every day, so it is a ‘normal’ sleep comfort of home that is easy to carry on the plane. In the same everyday comfort vein, lunchboxes always make the packing list. We pack a lunch ahead of time and easily pop it open when the hangry-ness hits. 

children's museum
two toddlers at the children’s museum

2. Get your mind right. As with all things in motherhood, expectations are everything. Understanding that just like at home, tantrums, meltdowns, happiness, hangry-ness, and sleeplessness will all still happen on vacation just as it does at home. I try my best to keep our family on our normal routine and for us, that means we are out the door every morning by 8am. I talk about this for travel days too; you can read about it here if you’re doing a road trip. We plan one activity per day to do with the kids. We get out of the house, explore our surroundings, and make it home for everyone to nap as usual.

3. Get a minivan if possible. I am 100% anti-minivan in my everyday life as it is too short for me to get my kids in and out on a regular basis, but on vacation, it gets my highest praise. Holds luggage, car seats, and has room for grandparents who want to come along for the adventures. Rent the car seats if you can, or send them ahead of time. Airport travel with car seats is unnecessary and brutal on your back. When we traveled to Hawaii, we rented car seats from the rental car company and installed them ourselves, simple and easy with no hassle on our part. 

travel tips with kids
stickers and technology to hold over toddlers on the plane

4. Get new toys for travel.  These sticker books are a huge win for all age groups. We pack one of the kid’s school backpacks full of special travel toys, an iPad downloaded with favorite shows, and fidget toys we normally don’t allow at home. This backpack is my oldest son’s carry-on and fits nicely under his seat while on the plane. Take advantage of the inflight entertainment too and connect the iPad to view while in the air.

traveling with toddlers
stickers and window time traveling with toddlers

5. Pack snacks and then pack more snacks. We have had a few flights where flight attendants have run out of snacks and water, so we try to pack a water bottle for each family member traveling and then high-calorie snacks. Mainly peanut butter crackers, nutter butters, Cheetos (a fun surprise!), and fig bars. The Lean Green Bean has some great snack ideas that are easy to travel with! 

Ultimately, be gracious with yourself and everyone in your family as traveling with kids can be difficult but full of fun! Take the car naps where and when you can, let family members help as needed, and try to have some fun along the way. 


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