How I make traveling with my toddler a success

Unpredictable behavior, short attention span, lack of normal routine, and just overall amount of crap one (usually the mother) needs to pack are just a few reasons some would say traveling with a toddler is not something they would suggest or be interested in. You never know until you try! That’s someone else’s opinion, not yours. If I read a bad review of a movie or a restaurant, I’m still going to check it out for myself. Same with traveling with a toddler. 

For me, traveling with a toddler came down to important buckets: packing and planning.

Packing, let’s start with the basics. If you’re the mom who waits to pack, kudos to you because I was once that person too! I’ve now become a big fan of lists. I break down the packing lists into categories: clothing, toiletries, sleeping, toys, and food. I then breakdown those lists into sub lists, for example what we will need one day at the beach vs what we will need the next day at Disney or what we need in the car vs what we need on the airplane.

In theory, the concept of “packing lightly” sounds nice. Is that realistic? We are moms, we pack for the expected and the unexpected. Pack smart and what you feel your child will need and what will make you feel secure.


  • Think logically about your days and pack according. I start with clothing and go through an entire day planned out before moving onto the next. Packing and planning will go hand in hand during the process.
  • Pack their clothing in baggies/food storage bags. You can push the air out of them and it truly condense the size and it actually does make a difference in your suitcase. Keep these bags and continue to reuse them.
  • In the toiletries section pack, not only your everyday items for them such as soap, toothbrush and tooth paste but also the items that you don’t use everyday. Do not get stuck in a hotel in the middle of the night with a questionable fever, but no thermometer or medication to decrease it.

Planning for a vacation with a toddler is a game changer.  The vacation is no longer all about you. Where you eat, play, and spend your days will be determined around toddler interests, options, and food/sleep schedule. It’s inevitable that your toddler will get off routine and will becoming increasingly fussy. I had to remind myself on my last vacation that I wasn’t the only one experiencing a new place, so was he…my hyper, super observant, sponge-like toddler. Of course, he was interested in all the newness and not interested in eating or naps.

As parents, we need to do one of two things, surrender the routine and give in or not go on vacation for the next few years. I opt for surrender.

My son is good with change. He always bounces back into reality and routine when we get home. Maybe that’s why I’m ok with surrendering, but also because I’m a parent not a prisoner. We might be uncomfortable for a few days with all of the change, but it’s worth the try.

  • Pick restaurants that are kid-friendly
  • Shorten activity time/outings based on your comfort level.
  • Plan some down time together in the room so it’s not always go, go, go. Let them sit, read a book, cuddle with you and decompress.
  • Best advice I can give for planning out your days is just like when you’re at home: plan your day, but live your reality.

Vacations are always a mix of fun and stress, but if it is something you were accustomed to do prior to children, give it a go. You may surprise yourself with how fun it is and the memories you make.

Edited by Kelly Riechers DiCristina

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1 Comment
  1. posted by
    Oct 11, 2018

    My favorite line in this – “Because I’m a parent not a prisoner.” Great tips on travel. Clearly it benefits your toddler and your family as a whole!

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