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Avoiding traveling with a baby or toddler?

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One of the most annoying comments I was told prior to having a child was: “Enjoy all your traveling. That ends when you have kids.” 

Now the pandemic did throw a wrench into many of our travel plans, but traveling does NOT have to be avoided when you have kids. Your kids can become a part of your lifestyle (including traveling).

This blog doesn’t go over COVID precautions while traveling, but simply travel tips in general.

Here are some travel tips to get started:

  • Set low expectations and be pleasantly surprised. Don’t expect your children to sleep a certain way or act a certain way. Of course, as parents our job is to guide them and prepare what’s in our control, but you can’t control every aspect and you can’t control somebody else’s actions or mood at every given moment!
  • It’s okay to break the rules. If you normally use minimal screen time for your toddler, you can decide if you will use more on flights. Don’t let screens be used for the first time ever on the flight, but it’s okay to break the rules a bit. We break rules on vacation, so it’s okay if you choose to do that for your kids. This also includes routine or schedule adjustments.
  • Go into it with a “go with the flow” mindset. Going into traveling with kids with dread will only mean dread. Go into it with a mindset that you will enjoy your trip as much as you can and not look at bringing your kid as an inconvenience but exposing them to an experience. 

Things to pack for trips with children:

  • Medicine kit (more ideal if traveling internationally and unable to get to a pharmacy. You can avoid this if traveling domestically where pharmacies are nearby): thermometer, children’s Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen, nasal saline, baby chest rub, children’s Zyrtec. 
  • Clothes (check weather). Less is more to avoid overpacking. Use packing cubes to pack items by type for easy-finding on your travels. Check it out on my Amazon storefront under travel and this Instagram reel on why I love packing cubes.
  • Diaper changing items
  • Ointments, sunscreens, lotions, and other hygiene items 
  • Breastfeeding/formula supplies. If traveling domestically, check this link out before travel about transporting formula and/or breastmilk on flights. 
  • Travel crib, stroller, sleep items. (You can also call ahead to destination to see if they have these items at your destination).
  • Shoes
  • Mealtime items (for BLW kids or puree-feeding: utensils, bibs, etc)
  • Age-appropriate toys. I always go to the Dollar Store for new and affordable items. 
  • Swim items if going somewhere with a beach and/or pool

Airport Logistics

  • Plan for extra time. Rushing to the gate isn’t fun without kids and you don’t want to do it with kids either. Getting kids through security can take longer, so account for this. 
  • Allow your toddler to take energy out if there is a layover or delay
  • Gate check stroller. On one trip we didn’t take a stroller and it was a mistake as Ryaan was 22 months and all over the place.
  • Take a lovey item for them on the flight

Should you take a car seat on?

  • Taking a car seat on is a safe way to keep your child secure in case of turbulence and many kids can be more comfortable and nap in their car seat. The FAA doesn’t require this because it would mean you would have to buy an extra seat, which some families cannot afford. But, it is highly recommended. For more information about taking a car seat on board, visit this website
  • There is a lot of judgement towards parents and how they travel with their kids. Those who take car seats on airplanes are met with judgement AND those that don’t take them on are met with judgement by those who do. It’s important to know the information and decide what works best for your family—there is no safety shaming here. I have had some parents take the car seat on and tell me their child screamed the entire time to get out and others whose child napped and relaxed the entire time. So, decide what works best for you for resources, understand safety aspect, and child.
  • We haven’t traveled with a car seat out of personal choice, but we have used a safety harness (see my Amazon storefront). The CARES Child Safety Device is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint device for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. To be honest, Ryaan used it for 20 minutes for take-off and landing but didn’t love being restrained beyond that.
  • If you don’t take a car seat, you would have to rent one with your rental car and some facilities are notorious for giving you the wrong size. They also will not install it for you, so you have to install a car seat yourself for a brand you are not familiar with. Many people like traveling with their car seat because they are familiar with installation. You can also check your car seat with your luggage, but there is some risk to damage so be aware and take a look at your car seat after you receive it.

Travel Tips: on the airplane

  • During take-off and landing, rotate in new and interesting toys, snacks, or books. 
  • For infants, feed BM or formula at take-off and landing for ear pressure
  • Wipe down surroundings if you feel (not necessary, but our personal preference)

Travel Tips: in the car

  • Plan for breaks every 2-3 hours or when feedings are due
  • Map out breaks if driving far (find local playgrounds to play in to get out energy)
  • Take familiar toys (My Amazon storefront has my favorite car toys under car rides) 
  • Consider screens for older toddler/children, but try to utilize toys, music and singing. I find some kids can get car sick focusing on screens so I like to use this as a last resort. 
  • Utilize snacks and toys to get you through the long drives. Also remember, it’s okay if they’re bored. Constantly filling them with activities reminds them that they can’t be bored. It’s OKAY to be bored and not occupied at every given moment.

Travel & Sleep: handling sleep in a new environment

  • Plan for good rest the night before traveling
  • Consider sleeping accommodations at destination
  • Try to mimic sleep environment (this includes sound machines and black out curtains if you use them) My Amazon Storefront has travel curtains under SLEEP
  • Understand that the first 1-2 days may be an adjustment especially if changing time zones
  • Try to re-create a mini bedtime routine at destination
  • For naps, it’s okay if they skip a nap with all the hustle and bustle of traveling. If they do, put them to sleep ½-1 hour earlier to avoid them being overtired. 

Travel & Time Change

Time-change can be hard for kids just like us, BUT they WILL adjust. You can go-with-the flow (what we do) or guide them.

Goal is to go by the clock at local destination and use naps, snacks, meals to get you to bedtime. 

Time-change is hard because we have internal clocks and when we travel quickly across time zones, our body is confused. It can make us groggy, feel nauseous, and babies and toddlers can also be confused. 

So here are some tips when it comes to time change:

  • Traveling West to East may be easier. Put baby down at their usual sleep time (local time) or whenever you can and let their rhythm adjust like ours.
  • Traveling East to West can be more difficult. Consider cat naps if needed to make it to bedtime. If all the new fun is keeping them awake and they are not super tired, you can wait until their bedtime. Put them to bed 30 min-1 hour before their usual bedtime in the local time zone. So, if traveling from Florida to California, you can put them to sleep at 6pm local California time if their normal bedtime is 7pm. Utilize naps if needed to get you bedtime.
  • Expose your child to outdoors and sunlight (weather permitting) when awake and darkness when sleeping to adjust their rhythm. This will help keep them active and promote the rhythm needed for sleep. 
  • Understand it may take 2-5 days to adjust if traveling internationally 
  • If a child misses a nap, consider putting them to bed earlier (30 min-1 hour earlier than normal) 
  • For any night time or early wakings. keep it dark and approach these wakings with your usual sleep-training method of choice. For example, if you do Ferber method, do Ferber method on your travels for any wakings as they adjust. 

Remember, travel and fun doesn’t have to end when we have children. YES, there is more to think about, but our children will get to experience wonderful places and see the people we love. 

So, take that trip! 

Checkout this podcast episode where I discuss traveling with a newborn!

Looking for more travel hacks from a mom? Go follow the @whereisbriggs and @localpassportfamily (This is not sponsored, I just really love their amazing tips!)

P.S. – We recently took a trip with Ryaan, checkout this instagram post where I share about children and new experiences!

Dr. Mona Admin

Hi there!

I’m a Board Certified Pediatrician, IBCLC, and a mom of two.

I know the ups and downs of becoming a mom and raising kids.

I help moms ditch the worry and second-guessing so you can find more joy in motherhood.


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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.