Everything you need to know about traveling with kids, from packing to meals to entertainment and more! Bookmark this one for every trip you take with children.
We recently asked on Instagram if you had any questions about traveling with toddlers or kids, and OH BOY did you guys show up for that! We’ve done a fair amount of traveling with our kiddos and have definitely found our groove, so I was excited to see lots of questions coming through that we have definitely struggled with and worked on figuring out. I condensed them all and now have the most extensive toddler and kid travel post we’ve ever done! Buckle up, gang, and bookmark this one for your next trip with kids. xoxo
Traveling with Kids // Answering All Your Questions!
How do you handle naps when traveling?
As much as possible, we try to keep a nap schedule. (This is obviously the hardest when they’re little and have two or three naps.) But while we do try to get them to keep their naps, we’re not super rigid about it. If it fits within our schedule, we’ll head back to our hotel or airbnb for a nap in the middle of the day. Maybe when we’re traveling, a nap is more like a snooze in a stroller while we walk around. Or a catnap in the car while we drive an hour to our next destination. Or even just some quiet time somewhere. Henry is now 3 1/2, and sometimes he’ll just happily skip nap completely when we’re traveling, and we roll with it. Long story short, we try to make naps happen but don’t stress if they don’t.
Traveling during day or traveling during nap/night?
If we’re road tripping, we used to always plan part of the road trip during nap time so that we didn’t have to worry about entertaining the kids. Now that they’re getting older and used to traveling, they’re pretty good on road trips so we just get going early in the day when they’re fresh and happy. For flights longer than 5-6 hours, a red eye flight is the easiest on the kids (but hardest on the parents). For shorter flights, I find that it’s easiest during the day. Naps on planes are hit and miss for us because the kids are too excited to sleep!
Sleep. How do you get them to sleep when they are away from home?
We make sure to find accommodations that facilitate good sleep. So right now, for us that means a hotel room or airbnb where Maggie’s crib can fit in its own area, and Henry has a bed or pullout couch separate from our bed. We’ve been known to put the crib in closets, bathrooms, or alcoves. We also try to keep our travel bedtime routine as close to our home routine as possible. We bring their favorite bedtime books, do a normal bath, and so on. We always talk leading up to bedtime about how we’ll lay with each of them for 2-3 minutes and then do lights out. So we set that expectation, and follow through. Usually when we travel, they’re pretty wiped out by the end of the day. So while they’re falling asleep we just lay quietly or read or something similar. They’re almost always asleep after about 15 minutes, and then we can turn on the TV or talk quietly, or work on our computers.
Multiple kids in one room. Tips?
Make sure everyone has their own space, or is used to sleeping together! (This ties in to the above question as well.) Don’t try to stick a bunch of kids in a one bed who aren’t used to that. And don’t cosleep if you’re that’s not your norm. Nobody will be rested and everyone will be miserable. Look for family suites or junior suites with fold-out couches, space for cribs, and so on. At bedtime, we each take a kid and are responsible for getting that kid to sleep.
How do you survive a long car ride with a three month old?
Use their naps! We actually love traveling when the kiddos are that little because they’re total potatoes. Leverage their nap times and do the bulk of your driving then. Don’t be afraid to take a couple of extra rest stops to take them out, nurse, stretch, play, whatever. Have a few new tactile or sensory toys that they’ve never seen before. Spread these out over time. Be sure they have a travel mirror attached to the seat behind them so they can see themselves and you. And if worse comes to worse, sit in the back seat with them to give them a little face time. We avoid sitting in the back with our kids at all costs (just because it’s uncomfortable), but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Car entertainment that is not a tablet?
Yes! We start every road trip with the goal of one hour of just driving. No entertainment, no toys, no tech. Just looking out the window and talking about what we see. After that hour is up, if the kids are antsy, we usually have a bag of tricks. Our kids love stickers and a new sticker book or packet will last them a good long time. I also always hit the dollar store ahead of a trip (or the dollar aisle at Target) and grab a bunch of small, travel-friendly (read: not a million little pieces) toys or treats that we dole out little by little. If we’re on a long car trip (5-6 hours), the kids usually end up watching a movie for the second half of the trip.
Tips for flying with two toddlers, please. I think my kiddos are the same age as yours (ages 3 & 1).
When we’re on a plane, all bets are off. We’re otherwise pretty tight about screen time, but we definitely utilize it on a plane. We have the same general plan as our car trips (see above), which is to try to pass some time right off the bat without any toys or tech. We talk, sing, look out the window, play hand games like patty-cake, and so on. Pretty soon after that, Henry’s ready to watch a movie so we set him up with a tablet and let it rock out. Maggie will usually watch for a while and then get bored, so I always have some new little toys for her to open and play with. We space them out so we don’t burn through them too quickly. Whenever it’s snack time, we put all toys and tech away and focus on eating to pass some time. Whenever our kids are using headphones, we use Buddy Phones — they have a limited volume for kids’ ears, are foldable, and wireless so they don’t get tangled.
Should we take a car seat on the airplane for a toddler to sit in?
In all the flying we’ve done with the kids, we’ve never taken a car seat on a plane. I have friends who swear by it, and I definitely understand it for more squirmy kids, or for families with more than two kiddos. It can be a benefit to strap that kid in and not have him go anywhere. We’ve always done okay without it, and honestly — if they’re under two you don’t have to buy them a seat, so we always just save that money and keep them on our laps.
When eating out how do you keep your kids entertained and seated?
I always have some entertainment in my purse when we’re traveling. This one kind of ties in to the question above, as often I’ll stock up at the dollar store. The education aisle tends to have some great sticker books or coloring/activity books which are light, easy to pack, and good for hours of entertainment. Our go-tos at restaurants are stickers, a notepad and pen, or Imagine Ink books. The Imagine Ink books are a little more expensive (about $5 each), but they usually last us a whole trip, one per kid. We usually sit down at the table, encourage them to have some conversation, and then when that fails we pull out the stickers or books. All toys and books go away when the food comes so we can focus on eating and chatting.
How do you not end up taking a metric ton of stuff for them?
When we travel, we’re able to fit all four of us into one suitcase. This includes everybody’s clothes, toiletries, diapers, and a few kid toys. We also bring Maggie’s travel crib, one backpack for each parent filled with snacks and entertainment, and a double stroller. We’ve gotten it down to a science. The kids know that they can each pick 2-3 books and a few small toys to bring with us. I bring the bare minimum clothing for the grownups and one extra outfit for each kid.
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled with kids?
LA is amazing with kids — it’s packed full of family-friendly stuff to do, and it’s relatively easy to get around. New York is also great, especially if you can wear your baby or if your kiddos can walk a fair distance. We also love taking the kids to Mexico because it’s international so they’re exposed to new languages, customs, and more, but it’s an easy destination to get to.
How do you not lose your mind when traveling with two?
Set your expectations low! Haha! But seriously. Traveling with two is neither restful nor relaxing, but it can be super rewarding. We always plan our activities so that they alternate between things that are fun for the grownups and fun for the kids (or both). For instance, we’ll go shopping for a while and expect the kids to be patient, and then hit a playground. If they know that something fun is coming, they’re usually pretty well-behaved. Also, plan to go slow and with the flow. Maybe your plans get messed up by an extra long nap or a tantrum or something. Shift focus and plan a new thing to keep the trip moving and happy. Also, whatever happens, just laugh it off. Decide that nothing really matters that much when you’re traveling and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Just please explain to my boyfriend that it’s possible so we can have kids.
Haha! It’s SO possible and SO fun. Look at this picture down below. It captures my feelings perfectly. Last year we took the kids to NYC, where we met and fell in love and started our lives together. And to see our babes looking around with wonder in their eyes at the city that we love so much filled my heart to bursting. It’s so worth it to expose your babes to different places, cultures, people, sights, sounds, tastes. It makes them aware of the world and that it’s much bigger than just their own little bubble. Also, if you start young, you make great travelers, so that later in your lives you can have fantastic family vacations with no worries. I can’t say enough how possible and rewarding it is to travel with kids!