Travel with Toddlers: Tips for Your Family Vacation


This blog is coming to you from a mom experiencing a major travel hangover. Yep, travel induced physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can only be caused by one thing: travel with small children. Today I am sharing some of my lessons learned or my “do’s and don’ts” for summer travel with toddlers.

travel with toddlers

Do Manage your Toddler Expectations

It is really common to book a trip or vacation and immediately imagine all the magical moments. The fun memories at the beach, the sweet moments with the grandparents. We tend to forget about the inevitable meltdowns. Yes, they are inevitable. Unless your child has superpowers, they will reach a limit when they travel.  I found that the peak of my frustration is typically when my child isn’t living up to the magical moments I have planned in my head.

Remind yourself of reality.

Toddlers will get sand in their pants. They will get ouchies. They will deny food for days on end. Sleep deprivation will make meltdowns inevitable. Your child may have flown hours to see distant family and still choose to want nothing to do with them and insist on being mommy’s shadow. This is when we have to check ourselves, not our kiddos. There is no such thing as a perfect trip.

Don’t Turn into a People Pleaser

It can be difficult if you are traveling with family or friends to want to be accommodating, but there is a time and place to stand up for the needs of your kiddo. I tend to be the mom who likes to throw the schedule out of the window for vacation (within reason of course). I personally need the break. Sometimes this just means my toddler will have “quiet time” with a book or movie mid day instead of going through the headache of trying to get her sleep. The problem is knowing the limit. Your child is not going to sit up and say, “hey guys, I really need a solid 9 hours of sleep tonight, so can we put this game away?”. That is still your job. Sometimes everyone wants to enjoy the kiddos, but really the kiddies need sleep.

travel with toddlers

Do Cut Yourself Some Slack

My kid has had more screen time this week than I want to admit. She was exhausted, cranky, and we had grown up obligations that had to get done. I bribed her with more sweets than I know is healthy, but it worked. Remember that this is not a normal week. One week of sweets and excessive screen time when you are traveling with a toddler will not break all of the hard work you have put into parenting your child.

I had to let go of that guilt.

So if a stranger at a restaurant gives you a look because your 3 year old has had an iPad in front of her face the entire meal, good riddance. That stranger doesn’t realize its the only way you have been able to feed your child a full meal in 3 days. That stranger doesn’t get to have an opinion in your parenting.

Don’t Decline Help

If you have a partner with you, or family. Give them time with your child. You will need a break. Cranky toddlers all lead to the same place, mommy’s lap. Ask grandma to do bath time. Let your husband take them to the pool. I found that because I had a tired little one who wanted nothing more than to be with mommy, I felt pressured to be there all the time. It broke me. I am exhausted. Don’t be like me. Take time for yourself. Asking if you can just go to the bathroom alone, is not an extravagant request.

travel with toddlers

I have read countless articles of “Travel with Toddlers” on Pinterest, filled with the coolest gadgets and behavioral interventions. I don’t want to say it was all a joke, but I found the most helpful tips were things that I could do.

At the end of the day, your toddler will be a toddler and you are not in control. If, as a parent, I can let go of trying to control my child’s behavior and focus more on my behaviors, I find that everyone in the family is just a bit happier traveling with toddlers over the summer vacation.