9 Essential Tips For Traveling With A Toddler (Age 1-3)

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I’ve not been shy about how difficult I found toddler travel and refer to it as the worst age to travel with kids.

It’s the time when they find their legs, and you rediscover yours, which means travel becomes all about running after your little ones and keeping a constant eye on them.

It can be draining, but it can also be a memorable and rewarding experience.

woman and a child holding hands on the beach
Hyams Beach

If you’re thinking of traveling with a toddler, then you’re going to want to follow our tips below.

We traveled with our two girls when they were toddlers, and while it wasn’t easy, we did have some incredible moments and we still think back to those trips with fondness today.

Is It Worth Traveling With A Toddler

woman walking through the water on a beach

Your baby could slide into toddler age at any time from nine months to 18 months (maybe later) and stay in that same “high energy, high spirited, curious and wild personality”.

From when they start to find their legs to about the age of three when they finally settle into them, you’re going to be on hyper alert and constantly chasing them.

The toddler stage wiped me out, but I was not some person who could stay sane foregoing the adventures either to keep them home.

We have a lot of experience with toddler travel – more so than any other age range. We did several trips in the USA, Puerto Rico, and Australia when Kalyra was a toddler.

And with Savannah, we traveled to Thailand not long after she found her legs and we started our Australian road trip when she was two – finishing when she was three and a half.

That’s an intense amount of time to spend traveling with a transitioning toddler. I’ve just realised how insane I am!

But you know what, it was worth it.

man sleeping in hammock with toddler

Traveling with a toddler opens up a world of new opportunities for them to learn and grow.

They grow up seeing the world from a new perspective as they explore different cultures, people, and environments.

It encourages their curiosity and fosters a sense of wonder.

Travel also helps them to develop important life skills such as being adaptable to change and resilience.

Tips for Traveling With A Toddler

We believe parenting is hard no matter the age, nor where you are, so you might as well travel and fill up the moments in between with meaningful memories.

Before you book those flights, consider the following advice…

1. Choose Your Destination Carefully

man with toddler and child in mini van
Challenging travel

We soon ditched our plans to travel Southeast Asia when we took a two-week family holiday to Thailand when Savannah was 17 months.

Travelling with her in cars and mini-vans that had no seat belts was a nightmare! She would not keep still and wanted to climb over all the seats and run around.

On the chaotic streets of Bangkok keeping an eye on her was exhausting, and our boat cruise was a nightmare with the lack of child safety requirements.

We decided to evaluate and consider what would be the least stressful adventure, considering the toddler age – hello 18-month road trip around Australia.

Although 15 minutes after leaving for it, Savannah was trying to climb out of her car seat whilst throwing vegemite sandwiches at my head.

2. Think About Your Style of Family Travel

two young girls with head out  of car window

Again, we feel you can’t beat a road trip during the toddler ages. Even if your child isn’t a great car traveller, you can make it work.

Savannah soon adapted to the car and learned to love the experience.

She still gets car sick every now and then, especially on windy roads, but we can pick the signs now, prepare for it better, and can easily pull over. It’s much harder to do that on a plane.

The flexibility of road trips, the slower travel, and the ability to carry more luggage makes this a winner for toddler travel.

As you’ll see from our family travel experts, the biggest con to toddler travel is flights! So travel without them.

3. Pack Wisely

toddler in pram

Toddlers are still at that stage where they require more luggage: prams or travel strollers, car seats, diapers, sippy cup, wipes, baby food, snacks and formula, baby carriers – and that’s all within carry on luggage.

What can you do without? Perhaps you can rent car seats or prams at special attraction, or get a harness so your kid can walk.

It might be a good idea to travel once they’re toilet trained and you don’t need to carry a huge diaper bag.

In your carry on luggage, be sure to pack a change of clothes, everything you need for diaper changes, and a comfort toy from home.

You can get away with smaller amounts of clothes and buy sticker books or coloring books and toys from your destination if you need them – they’ll be more than happy to interact with the world around them, including sticks, stones, and cutlery.

When choosing accommodation, make sure they have an infant crib and high chair already included, so you don’t have to bring your own.

Want help with planning a travel experience the whole family will love? Click here for immediate and free access to the toolkit.

4. Be Flexible

Allow for your plans to change and don’t overpack your itinerary. Allow plenty of time to explore a place and allow some down time in the afternoon for naps.

Have one main activity on your schedules and then have a few other ideas for entertainment, but don’t try to do too much.

5. Prepare For Takeoff and Landing

The biggest meltdowns on the plane are going to be when taking off and landing. The pressure changes can be uncomfortable for children, particularly if they are unaware of what’s happening.

If you’re still breast feeding, allow them to drink some breast milk during take off and landing as the swallowing helps to pop the ears.

Or you can give them something to suck on such as a pacifier.

6. Book A Middle Seat

When choosing your seats on the airplane, choose the middle seat and aisle seat over the window seat.

This means they can sit on your lap and lean over onto mommy or daddy in the aisle seat, rather than fall out into the aisle.

Be sure to get up and walk around with your toddler as much as possible. You can also ask the flight attendants to help you if you’re unable to get up.

7. Pack A Copy of the Birth Certificate

You will need a passport for your toddler, but it’s also worth carrying a copy of the birth certificate as well as some airlines require this as well.

8. Stay Calm and Carry On

Melt downs happen. Don’t let it stress you out. If you feel stressed, your child will sense that and get more stressed too.

If any of your fellow passengers sigh or roll their eyes, that’s on them. They are unsympathetic and don’t know the struggle – don’t take it to heart.

Most passengers will be sympathetic towards you and your meltdown baby, so don’t worry about prying eyes and just focus on keeping your little one calm.

9. Gate Checking Your Stroller

Before you arrive at the airport, check the FAA restrictions on your stroller and see if it meets the weight and size requirements.

You may need to purchase a travel stroller instead of using your regular one.

Pros and Cons of Toddler Travel

A child wearing a helmet

If you’re undecided about whether its worth traveling with a toddler, here are some of the pros and cons to consider…

Pros of Travel with a Toddler

  • Depending on their personality, toddlers can be great fliers. Kalyra has always been awesome. I’ll never forget her first flight to the USA when she was nine months old, standing in her bassinet waving to the entire plan and then walking down the aisles to meet everyone. She’s only ever had one meltdown on a plane flying to Atlanta from Raleigh at 6am. She refused to put the seat belt on and screamed the plane down. Sorry morning commuters! Savannah is a different story and made toddler plane travel a little more challenging. (watch the video below in the cons section)
  • Toddlers still use a pram so you can push them around and let them nap. (umbrella strollers work best from a luggage perspective). (Although Savannah soon got sick of the pram and wanted to be carried instead, or push the pram herself, which meant it would take half an hour to walk 100 metres with all the side adventures she’d go on. We ended up turfing the pram and just carrying her.)
  • A toddler still interacts with the world and other people with such pure innocence. It humbles you and helps you believe in magic again. You’ll delight in their curiosity, their playfulness, their friendliness, and willingness to explore.
children holding hands
Savannah meets Alida
  • Hiking is much easier with toddlers. You can throw them in a hiking backpack and still have a fabulous time. The older toddlers will be able to even take short hikes with you. Savannah amazed us with her mammoth barefoot 4km return walk to the Pinnacles in Grampians National Park. (Update. She’s just completed a 15 mile hike, with an elevation gain of 4,000 ft in the North Cascades National Park at 8 years of age)
  • Toddler travel can still be cheap as they’ll often still get free admission for many places.
  • Toddlers get used to travelling. Starting them young means they’ll adapt and grow into better travelers. Both our girls are excellent travelers and very independent (see video below). Overcoming the challenges through the toddler stages will help you later on.
  • Toddlers grow so quickly. It’s joyful to create such precious memories with them through travel. I feel very close to my children and like I know them so well. You get so many cuddles and toddler love. Plus, if they have siblings, it’s a beautiful bonding experience. They are so playful and fun to be around.

Cons of Travel with a Toddler

dinner time with toddler
  • Toddler stage is full of big transitions. They’re learning to walk, they’re learning to use the toilet, they’re learning to give up dummies, they’re learning to move from cot to big bed. They’re learning what emotions are. It’s a huge period of emotional, physical and social development, which can be overwhelming and stressful to parents and child. Kalyra’s big meltdown in the most important temple in Thailand was a doozie. Trying to potty train Savannah on our road trip was a nightmare. She nailed number ones, but it took months to get her out of hiding under the table to do number twos sans underwear. Also, she moved from cot straight to open bed in the tent and then camper trailer. Getting her still and calm at night was a disaster – we’re still trying.
  • You’ve got to watch toddlers so carefully. Savannah escaped from our hotel room in Melbourne – we found her sitting at the reception drinking orange juice, and fell off the top bunk after I was distracted unpacking and she snuck up the ladder.
  • You’re possibly working around nap times still. Kalyra could sleep anywhere, so she was fine to put in the pram. That did restrict our movements and activities. Savannah gave up day time naps when she was almost two, so working around this was rarely a concern. Sadly, Mum and Dad required naps from the drain. It did mean early nights were important as Savannah was well and truly done by 6pm.
  • Managing the logistics of travel with a toddler demanding your attention is hard. There’s nothing like trying to check into your hotel or board a plane with a tantrummy toddler.
  • They do want to be carried a lot, and can only walk short distances. This means extra visits to the chiropractor for you.
  • Having conversations with anyone can be a challenge. Your toddler will want to pull you away, lift up your skirt, pull at your ears, cover your mouth with their hand, and interject with random “poo” and giggles.
  • Eating out can also be unenjoyable, especially dinner.

Final Thoughts

girl handing upside down

I know I’ve shared with you many horror stories of our Savannah in this post!

We love to keep it real for ya. It goes to show, if you desire it enough, you can withstand any challenging toddler to make family travel fit into your lifestyle in some way.

We wouldn’t have it any other way. Savannah is a delightful child with a strong, crazy personality we love.

She’s a definite mover and shaker of the world and has been here before as she loves to tell me with her past lives stories.

Usually following a stamp of her foot and a “you’re not the boss of me.”!!

Don’t I know it!

More Family Travel Tips

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toddler travel tips

I’d love to hear your toddler travel tips and experience. Do you love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments.

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