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Traveling with Babies + Toddlers

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

I had a few friends ask me about traveling with a baby and/or toddler. I thought I’d post about it since I wish I had known these tricks before we started traveling with Ryder! Traveling with little ones can be tough, but I really didn’t want to be the family who stopped traveling just because it’s difficult. EVERYthing you do is harder with kids! LOL But I didn’t want that to stop us from taking trips and experiencing new things as a family.

Things are different traveling with a baby vs. a toddler. Once Ryder could walk, it was a MAJOR game changer. Gone were the days he’d sleep in my arms. Gone were the days I could nurse him to soothe him. Enter the days where he runs FULL speed from me while I’m standing in line at security, to board the plane, etc. HA.

Plan Ahead for Sleep I always reserve a crib through the hotel we’re staying at. Almost all hotels and/or homes you rent for vacay offer some sort of crib. I prefer a pack-n-play because some of the “real” cribs are HUGE and take up the whole room! Also, with a pack-n-play I can put on my own sheet from home for Ryder and it just feels cleaner and he loves his super soft sheets from Pottery Barn!

The last couple times we’ve traveled I have called the hotel in advance to ask if the pack-n-play will fit in the bathroom. LOL Sometimes they answer and it’s no biggie. And sometimes they act like that’s the weirdest question they’ve ever heard!

There have been a couple trips where we needed to bring our own pack-n-play and we just curbside check in at the airport. Check all our bags, car seat (if baby doesn’t have own seat on plane) and crib. Easy. And baby things are FREE to check!

When we get to hotel I always try to make the crib/pack-n-play fit in the bathroom. This way I can shut the door at naptime/night and he’s in a dark room with his sound machine on. This gives us the best results for sleep and then Tooth and I can still stay up, order room service or watch a movie on TV. Ryder sleeps so well when he is in a dark room. Just remember to brush your teeth and pee before you put the baby to bed! LOL ☺

One time we couldn’t fit the crib in the bathroom of our hotel. It makes it so hard for him to fall asleep and stay asleep when he can see us and/or when the room isn’t dark. This is hard on you and your hubby, too, because then when the baby naps or goes to bed at night, you have to sit in the dark. Sometimes taking a nap sounds wonderful and other times it sucks because you’re not ready to go to bed at 7:30 on vacay! So we started packing a dark sheet and some pushpins to use at hotels. We then tucked the pack-n-play in the corner of the room and hang the dark sheet up (tacking it into the ceiling) so he can’t really see us. This is not ideal though because he can still hear us and we have to turn the TV off and be very quiet.

This is where renting a house comes in handy because then the baby can have his own room and you don’t have to worry about disrupting their sleep. We’ve also considered getting two hotels rooms that conjoin so that he has his own room and we don’t have to sit in silence when he goes to sleep early at night.

When we’re home I like to keep Ryder on a schedule as much as possible. I HATE not being home for naptime. For Ryder’s sake, and mine. But when we’re traveling, the schedule goes out the window. It’s too stressful for me to worry about him being on a specific schedule, and it isn’t realistic. We let him sleep on us, in the car, in the stroller, etc while on vacation. I used to be really worried about getting back home and him refusing his usual nap schedule and sleeping in his crib, but to my surprise he LOVES getting back home in his own crib. Sometimes the sleep schedule is a bit off for a day or two, but then it’s back to normal with little to no fuss.

Pack-n-Play I use if hotel doesn’t have one is HERE. Pottery Barn sheets Ryder loves HERE. Dark sheets (to create a wall) HERE. We always get a second carseat to travel with. Something less expensive that we don’t mind getting banged up. (We also use this as our second carseat in Tim’s car when we’re home.) Infant carseat HERE. Toddler carseat HERE.

Diaper Bag Laptop (I rarely travel with this), Nursing cover (with baby), headphones, iPhone, Baby Advil, Chapstick, wallet, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wet wipes (I try to wipe down the tray, armrests, etc., once in our seats), sunglasses, lots of snacks, blanket, toys, sippy cup with either milk or water and books. I have a couple movies for him downloaded (or some music/lullabies he loved when he was a baby – helped put him to sleep) on my iPhone so he can watch a movie (sometimes only in 5 minute increments, but it works!). I just turn the volume loud enough that he can hear it but not so loud that it’s annoying everyone else on the plane. But honestly, if you were sitting by a toddler, wouldn’t you rather listen to “Frozen” then a screaming kid?? Or be the mom of the kid who is happily entertained? For me the answer is YES!

You can see my favorite diaper bags HERE. Nursing cover HERE. If you’re interested, my favorite nursing bras are HERE.

In My Extra Carry On Small Sony Camera, extra shirt for me (in case I get pooped on, etc.), extra top and bottoms for Ryder, crib sheet, black sheet to create dark space in hotel, more snacks (or baby food pouches when younger – they let you carry this through security. You just have to take it out as a “liquid”), sound machine, sleep sack (when he was little), extra binkies, extra blanket, extra diapers, and anything else that he can’t live without. Just depends on age, etc. But usually some toys, or maybe an extra bottle with some formula (I carried formula even when I was exclusively nursing just because … you never know! Right?!).

Sony Camera HERE. Sound machine HERE. Binky Ryder loves HERE. Binky cord (so you don’t lose your binky) HERE.

Play Mat I bought a play mat that I love (Monkey Mat) that folds up really small. When he was little I’d pull this out on the floor at the gate and let him roll around and play with toys before getting on the flight to get his wiggles out and try to get him really sleepy. I just couldn’t handle the thought of him crawling around the airport floor. EWW. So gross!

Monkey Mat HERE.

Stroller I always have a stroller with me at the airport (see Security below). This makes my life so much easier. I love traveling “hands free” and having my basket underneath the stroller to hold my stuff. I put Ryder in the stroller, my diaper bag in the stroller and have my very easy rolling carry on. I can also shove the car seat underneath his seat, too! Super easy.

Security Security is always a pain. No way around it. But I’ve gotten faster and know what they’re going to give me a hard time about. If you have any formula, milk, water, baby food in pouches, etc., they are considered “liquids” and need to be visible. So I put his snacks, baby food, etc., in a big plastic baggie in my bag so that at security I can just whip it out and they can see what it is. I take the baggie out, take the seat off the stroller and put them both in a bin and send them through the x-ray machine. This is an annoying extra step but I really prefer to travel with my Uppa Baby stroller rather than my umbrella stroller. Some people much prefer to travel “light” with their umbrella stroller but I personally love having my big basket and extra space, so I never travel with my umbrella stroller.) Then I put my bags through the x-ray machine. If I have a laptop, this needs to be taken out as well.

I try to take everything out and apart while Ryder is still buckled in his stroller. Then at the last minute I take him out. Hold him while I take apart the stroller and then carry him through the x-ray machine. I used to be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. I’m always surprised how little people offer help! But I ask now. If I need help folding my stroller or picking up the car seat to put on conveyer belt, I ask an employee. They are usually very nice and willing to help. I think they just don’t know how to help so they just stand there watching. LOL

Once we’re through security and near our gate I let Ryder out of his stroller so he can walk and run around. Again, just trying to get the wiggles out. When he was a baby I carried him on me in my Lille Baby carrier. You can wear them through security and this was so easy! Also, when they’re little I check the car seat because I didn’t buy him his own seat yet – so there is one less thing you have to worry about carrying around.

Uppa Baby Vista Stroller HERE. Double City Select HERE (second seat HERE). Umbrella stroller HERE. Lille Baby carrier HERE – love this!

Before Boarding I always change his diaper last minute before boarding the plane. When he was really little I could change a wet diaper in my seat with him on my lap in one second flat! But once they get a little bigger this is hard. Most planes have changing tables in their bathrooms, which is nice. But it’s tight in there!

You’ll need to get tags on your stroller and anything else you plan to gate check. Just ask the employee at the gate when you get there and that’s it!

Boarding Getting from where I’ve gate-checked my stroller to my seat is always hard. I’m usually holding Ryder, (he’s a runner and I am looking forward to when he’ll understand that he needs to stay next to me), my diaper bag, a car seat, pushing my carry on and holding his drink or some food I got for us in the terminal to eat on the plane. This is why I dress comfy! LOL It’s hard work traveling with a baby/toddler!

Usually someone standing in line near me waiting to board plane will say “can I carry something for you?” and I’ve learned to gratefully accept the help. If no one offers I just wait until I can see a flight attendant. Then I’ll tell her where my seats are and ask for help. They are almost always friendly and willing to help. I usually give them the car seat, since that is the hardest thing for me to carry, while also holding Ryder. Sometimes the “help” spreads like wildfire and suddenly three people are helping me carry all my things onboard. This is a HUGE help and I am so thankful for their kindness! Note to self: When traveling alone, always offer a helping hand to a mom in need! ☺

Flying Time When they are babies this is so easy because you can nurse them or give them a bottle and they’ll usually take a nap for at least part of the flight. I always tried to keep Ryder up through lines, security, etc., until we got on the plane and he always slept most of the flight until he was about 14 months. Now he won’t sleep on the plane no matter how tired he is because there is so much noise and so much to look at. We took Ryder to Hawaii when he was 5 months old. This was his first flight. We were nervous about flying with him. But we had a red eye flight and he slept the ENTIRE TIME to Hawaii and on the flight back! Which was amazing. I just nursed him to sleep and then kept the blanket kind of over one side of his face so the lights and noises wouldn’t wake him. If they are awake, it’s so much easier to entertain a baby than a toddler. One flight he played with his sock and a water cup the entire time. HA!

Here is my usual routine: watch a movie for 5 minutes, eat a snack, watch a movie for 5, read a book, watch a movie for 5, walk the aisle of the plane ten times. You get the picture. Letting Ryder get up to walk around once or twice (depending on the length of the flight) really helps get the wiggles out.

Since he could walk, we’ve gotten him his own seat for flights. This is a HUGE help because you can take their car seat on the plane and lock them in! He doesn’t dislike this because he’s used to it in the car. No wrestling with them and trying to explain to a one year old that they “have to sit still” or “you have to wait until the captain turns the fasten seat belt sign off.” Impossible!

Last Resort Secret I always carry Dum Dum suckers with me. This is the only time I give Ryder suckers and he loves it! I try to save it for moments he really needs to be distracted. We usually make it until we are at the end of the flight before I resort to this.

BAM. Done and done. It isn’t easy, but it’s totally manageable!! When I travel somewhere with Tooth, it’s just a bonus to have extra hands. I am, however, afraid to travel with TWO little ones! Do you have any advice for traveling with two babies in tow??

Other things I always have:

Headphones (for toddler)

iPad + kid-proof case HERE

Swaddle Blankets – LOVE this compant

What are your tricks to make things go smoother while traveling with kiddos/babies? I’d love to hear your ideas and comments.

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