Traveling with a baby versus a toddler

If you ever start to feel “in control” as a parent, try traveling with your toddler 😉

But seriously, we’d traveled enough with Griffin as a baby that we felt fairly in control. Within the first year of his life, we traveled to Colorado, Utah, Florida, California and Costa Rica. Throughout that time, my husband tried to lighten our load as much as possible and we focused on streamlining the whole traveling-with-a-baby airport experience. So, we’ve put a lot of research into our travel preparations… and maybe we were feeling a little too cocky going into our most recent trip.

Everything went fairly smoothly during our time in Wisconsin — except the sleeping situation. It had been a few months since we last traveled, and we didn’t factor in how much he’d changed since then or how much he depended on his bedtime routine. It was “MAMA, MOM, MOOOM” for hours and lots of wake ups throughout the night. We felt like zombies at the wedding reception! Fortunately, we received a great tip from a family member (below) that we’re excited to try out this summer. There’s no way around the sleeping-in-a-strange-place adjustment, but it seems like it will definitely help ease the initial distractions.

We are in no way experts at any of this (who is?) but it can be helpful to see what works for others! Following are some things learned over the last few years, plus recent tips we’ve received that we’re excited to make the most of this summer:

Traveling with a baby: 

  • A front pack is GOLD (we used a Solly wrap and Baby Bjorn the first few months, then transitioned to an Ergo).
  • If you want to bring a stroller, it’s worth buying a cheap, lightweight one that folds up easily at the gate.
  • Make a sleeping plan: the first 6+ months, we just shoved our Dockatot in our suitcase. As Griff got bigger, we transitioned to a foldable pack-and-play, which I explain below.
  • Always pack more bottles/pouches, etc. than you need (and divide them between your suitcase and carry-on bag in case one is lost… yikes! We learned this the hard way in a different country).
  • Save a bottle for take-off (a tried-and-true tip that really does help).
  • Bring a few small toys for distractions once they’re a little older (Griff liked this light-up musical one and this amazing indestructible book).

Traveling with a toddler:

  • Don’t bring your own pack-and-play unless absolutely necessary! Most hotels provide them (just call ahead to confirm). We do bring a crib sheet to wrap over the pad, plus blankies/whatever your little one likes at night.
  • Ask hotels if they have any open handicapped rooms that weren’t booked so that there’s a large enough bathroom for the crib/pack-and-play (and there you go: a two-room suite! Thanks for the genius idea, Sarah!).
  • Let them burn energy before the drive or flight! I’ve had to take many deep breaths while I watch Griffin speed crawl across the gross airport carpet and touch everything in sight – but it’s always worth it when he naps later.
  • SNACKS! All the snacks.
  • Have movies and activities ready to go. We just ordered these mess-free markers for an upcoming trip, and Griff loves this magnetic drawing board!
  • There are more valuable ideas in this Everyday Mama article – I just ordered a sticker book too!

There are endless tips and tricks out there to improve your traveling experience with a baby or toddler, but the most important thing at the end of the day is just remembering: “This too shall pass.” Griffin has been “that baby” who screamed the entire flight, no matter what we did, but somehow we survived. It was just a small blip in our trip, and the next flight was better! We’re learning that parenting is all about perspective and teamwork… and those rough moments make you appreciate the good ones even more.

What has made your plane or car trips easier with little ones? Please share any advice or favorite items!

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