Traveling with very young children for the first time? Whether you’re taking a trip with a newborn or navigating with a preschooler, family travel with small kids can be a challenge. Here’s the info you need to survive baby’s first plane ride or a toddler tantrum at Disney World and more!
Our Traveling Moms have been around the world with their babies and toddlers! Here, in one place, find all of our most helpful tips, including suggestions for the best places to travel with little ones, what to pack for a road trip, essential air travel advice and how to handle naps in between sightseeing.
- 1. Taking Babies and Toddlers on Vacation: Places You’ll Love
- 2. It’s a Small World: Taking Babies and Toddlers to Disney
- 3. Road Trip: Is it the Perfect Vacation for Babies and Toddlers?
- 4. Managing the First Plane Ride
- 5. How to Handle Bumps, Boo-Boos and Naps
There are babies around the world, so why not explore the globe with your little one! What makes a destination welcoming for babies and toddlers? Consider calm beaches, terrific playgrounds and awesome hotel pools. You’ll want locations with reliable childcare, kid-friendly dining and children’s museums. These international spots offer destination activities for families.
Toddler-friendly International Locations:
- Things to Do in Paris with Kids -Jardin d’acclimatation, an outdoor amusement park with puppet shows tops the list in France for toddlers.
- Best Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids – Kids as young as 2 can zipline (with a guide) at Ecoglide Arenal Park.
- Best Beaches in Central America for Families – From Belize to Honduras, find out which beaches offer the most for kids.
- Tips for Visiting Havana Cuba with Kids – Lots of toddler fun in this colorful locale including street performers.
- Seadust Cancun All-Inclusive Family Resort – Family suites, around-the-clock dining and soft sand make this is a great beach for young kids.
United States Travel with a Baby or Toddler
Many families in the US feel most comfortable traveling with babies and toddlers on American soil, waiting until kids are older before touring internationally. The risk of illness may be greater outside of the United States, especially when water isn’t potable or if babies haven’t yet been fully vaccinated. Each family will have their thoughts and opinions on the best travel destinations with their own baby or toddler. These are some fitting Traveling Mom suggestions.
Staying Stateside with Babies and Toddlers:
- Los Angeles California with a Baby
- Baby Friendly Vacations on the East Coast
- Visiting National Parks with Toddlers
- Things to Do in Branson Missouri with Toddlers
- California Redwoods with Toddlers
- Best Things in Sarasota Florida with Kids
- Fun FREE Things to Do in San Diego
Hawaiian Vacation Tips with a Baby or Toddler:
- What to Do in Oahu with Kids
- Best Things to Do in Maui with Toddlers
- Tips for Disney’s Aulani with Toddlers and Preschoolers
Theme Park Travel with Toddlers:
Many traveling parents consider Disney parks to be an ideal first vacation spot for babies and toddlers. Both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida are kid-friendly, of course, but this extends to baby and toddler visitors as well. Disney parks are generally clean, safe and offer multiple days’ worth of family entertainment, both in and outside of the parks. That’s not to say that your “magical” vacation will be all pixie dust and rainbows! Our Traveling Moms share their tested, must-read travel tips before taking on Disney with babies and toddlers.
I first traveled alone with my baby (then 5 months old) cross-country from San Diego to Orlando, taking my baby to Disney World on a four-day trip! I felt comfortable heading to Disney, despite being alone with an infant. Going to Disney parks with a baby or a toddler is much different than touring with older children. Having reasonable expectations helps. Make sure you have done your research and figured out logistics ahead of time for smoother travels. The first trip went so well, I’ve since returned to Disney World three more times with my toddler!
Pre-Disney Vacation Preparation
Is onsite or offsite lodging better? When vacationing at Disney World, I’m a big fan of staying at a Disney hotel, especially with little ones. The Magical Express bus will pick up your family at the airport for a complimentary ride to your hotel. No car seat is required (in fact, if you have a car seat it won’t be permitted on board the bus, but stowed beneath).
Disney also handles getting your luggage from the airport to the hotel (one less thing to mess with). Disney hotels are also well-equipped for young children with pack ‘n’ play, life jackets at the pool and plenty of baby care items in the resort shops.
Research ahead of time. Pre-trip, check the Disney Parks website to figure out what you’ll want to see and do. All kids (including babies) can ride attractions that do not list a height restriction. Some rides do have height requirements. Be sure you’ve measured your toddler at home so you’ll have an idea what attractions they can and cannot ride. At Disney World, you’ll find the best rides for babies and toddlers at Magic Kingdom.
Know what to pack. You’ll want to bring a well-stocked backpack/diaper bag when traveling to Disney with babies. Disney parks allow visitors to bring in outside food, so pack in plenty of your toddler’s favorite snacks.
Conserve energy with a stroller. A stroller at Disney is a must, even if your toddler doesn’t usually ride in one. Disney parks are huge and young children can tire quickly from all the walking. You can choose to bring your own, rent one inside the parks or rent a stroller from an outside source, like Kingdom Strollers. Having a stroller to store essentials is also preferable to renting locker space. Before bringing your own stroller, heck out these new stroller rules at Disney.
Disney Parks Touring Tips
Arrive early. Most babies and toddlers are awake before the sun anyway! Disney is a great place to be early as the park lines are much shorter in the morning. Do as much as you can in the parks for a few hours, then return to the hotel mid-day for lunch, swimming and a nap.
Save time with the My Disney Experience app. Via the app, you’ll be able to check wait times on rides, find out where characters are and what time the shows start. My favorite app feature is mobile ordering, which is perfect when you have a hungry toddler! Order and pre-pay for quick service dining at many Disney World park locations. Once you arrive to the restaurant, click the “I’m here, prepare my order” button and your food will be ready in minutes!
Use caution with characters. True, everyone wants that magical photo of baby with Mickey Mouse. But not all little ones are in love with meeting characters at Disney. Before you book character dining with your baby or toddler, make sure you know how your child will react.
Have a plan (but be flexible). Have a rough plan on how you’ll tour the parks and know the best things to do at each of the Disney World parks. If something comes up (newborn needs a nap, 1 year old wants to sleep in longer), staying flexible on your scheduling will allow for a more relaxed trip.
More Disney Vacation Tips for Babies and Toddlers
Breastfeeding at Disney. If you’re looking for a clean and quiet location for nursing, feeding and diaper changing, head to one of the Baby Care Centers. There is one located in each Disney Park.
Use a baby carrier. If your baby is used to being in a carrier, using one while in line can really save your arms. I was able to use a baby carrier to nurse my daughter discretely in the parks. It also allowed her to nap while I went on certain rides (those without height restrictions).
Explore outside the parks. Disney World isn’t just the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios). Leave time in your schedule to visit Disney Springs and the two Disney water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
Consider Disneyland before Disney World. With the smaller footprint, you might prefer exploring Disneyland in Anaheim, California with your youngster before taking on the behemoth Disney World parks in Orlando.
Read More: The Best Age to Visit Disney World
Babies and toddlers often fall asleep in the car, so a road trip with little ones seems like the ideal way to travel, right? We took a drive to Palm Springs last summer. The expected drive took us nearly twice as long because we were stuck in traffic. My just-turned-2-year-old daughter was cranky, hungry and needed a diaper change. I’d expected her to nap in the car, but she ended up serenading us with her screams instead!
Just like anything, what works for some families doesn’t work for others. A successful road trip depends upon baby’s temperament and your family travel style. Our Traveling Moms suggest what to pack, snack ideas, potty training tricks and toddler road trip activities.
Make the car seat comfortable. Choose a car seat with comfortable padding and safe strap pads. Use of a toddler-sized neck pillow may extend naps. Bring a familiar blanket for your toddler to cuddle with. Don’t attempt to pad the seat with a blanket or change the seat in any way that could compromise the safety or security of your child.
Drive while they sleep. Consider planning the longest stretches of driving during the time when your baby normally sleeps. Driving during nap time is ideal. Or try to knock out a few more hours at night — but only if you aren’t at risk of falling asleep yourself.
Frequent stops along the way are a must. Even if you’re driving for a long haul, plan to work in plenty of stops. Babies and toddlers will require diaper changes of course, so plan on stopping every 2 hours or so, when your little one is awake. Babies shouldn’t be in a car seat for extended time periods, so take them out and let them stretch and get “tummy time.” Toddlers will need to run around and play, so map out playgrounds along your route.
More Road Trip Tips
Full bellies curb crankiness. Be sure you’re well stocked on toddler snacks for the road. The best snacks are easy to eat in the car, leave minimal mess and can be kept in a cooler for quick access.
Eliminate boredom with new things. Babies and toddlers get bored when stuck in their car seats for extended periods of time. Heck, I get bored on a road trip that’s longer than a few hours! Reserve some surprises for those times when your kid is about to lose it. A new teething toy or rattle for baby can regain their interest. Simple items like a water wand with glitter inside or pipe cleaners are fun for toddlers in the car. Even playing new music that’s kid-friendly can chase away boredom. (Think The Wiggles, Laurie Berkner, Raffi, or The Nutcracker Ballet).
Potty Training? You’re 15 minutes past the last rest stop without another stop in sight and your toddler has to use the bathroom! Potty training while traveling is definitely a challenge. Having a portable potty chair in the trunk for these kinds of emergencies can be worth it. If your little one is new to toilet training, have them wear pull-up type diapers while driving long distances (call them “car undies” or “road trip underwear,” but don’t call them diapers!). At least if an accident occurs, you won’t have a mess to clean up in the car seat.
Read More: Awesome Road Trips Across the USA
As I mentioned earlier, my first flight with a baby was from California to Florida. I was traveling alone, a 5 hour flight with my 5-month-old. Air travel is already tricky enough, but add in a newborn or toddler and you’ll have a new set of issues at hand! Consider the logistics of using the tiny airline bathroom with your potty training 2-year-old. Or changing diapers on a plane. Spoon-feeding and turbulence? Keep reading for the Traveling Mom tested advice for air travel with babies and toddlers.
Choose a direct flight whenever possible. Getting on and off the plane with a carry-on and a baby is less stressful when you know you only have to do it once each way.
Book baby his own seat. The airlines don’t require that anyone under 2 years old have their own seat, but consider booking one anyway. You’ll be able to buckle him in his rear-facing car seat and have your own hands free during the flight. (Be sure to check with your airline to see whether your car seat will fit in the seat on that airplane.)
If you don’t want to pay upfront for your baby’s seat, try getting on the good graces of the flight attendant, who can rearrange seating so you have an extra seat that’s open next to you on the flight. It happened to me on every flight I took with my under 1 year old!
Use a baby carrier. I personally travel with a baby carrier just about everywhere with a baby. Using a carrier to hold your baby makes checking bags, going through TSA security and getting on the plane so much easier. The flight attendant will request that you remove your baby from the carrier during take-off and landing. However you can keep your baby inside the carrier during the rest of the flight.
Airplane Travel with Babies and Toddlers
Clean everything before you sit down. Use a sanitizing wipe to clean down any surface that your baby may touch including the windowsill, seat, arm rests and tray tables.
Pack your carry-on bag carefully. You’ll want to be able to reach what you need quickly when the bag is at your feet. Include more diapers than you think you’ll need and several extra outfits. Some babies have intestinal issues during air travel because of the increased pressure in flight. Pack a zip-close plastic bag to contain anything that gets soiled in flight.
Hold off on screen time for toddlers. When I had a long flight with my toddler last year, I packed several fun new items for her to play with. Cheap plastic zoo animals, a sheet of stickers, and of course a plethora of snacks. I never once had to pull out the electronics, but I had it ready in case of meltdown. Have a tablet loaded with toddler-friendly games or movies just in case but see how long you can hold off.
Gone are the days when you could jump in the car and go! Family travel, especially baby or toddler travel takes proper preparation. Once you’ve determined your destination and have traveled the distance, these are the tips you need to read!
Transportation issues. Don’t forget to figure out the logistics of transportation and car seats for your baby or toddler.
Sick Kid? If you’re traveling with a sick toddler these are the must-know tips for alleviating discomfort and traveling with medications.
Bring reinforcements. When traveling with young children, the more the merrier, in my opinion. Consider bringing grandparents, aunts or even a favorite babysitter with you on the trip. Having extra hands to help with your baby or toddler on vacation allows adults more time to switch off parenting duties and maybe even schedule a date night!
Travel Safety with Toddlers
It’s difficult enough at home to make sure your toddlers are safe. What can you do to ensure safety on the road? Here are some tips and products for keeping your kids safe while traveling.
- Backpack with harness tether – keeps toddlers from wandering too far when they don’t want to hold hands. Particularly helpful in the airport and theme parks.
- Safety tattoos with your phone number
- Inspect swimming pool areas – use a flotation device that’s sized for your child.
- Medication lock box – store your vitamins and medications securely when traveling so they’re away from curious kids.
- Scan hotel rooms for unsafe features – open outlets, metal bed frames and loose window cords can all be hazards for toddlers.
Mix Entertainment with Learning at a Children’s Museum
Toddlers learn by doing, which is why children’s museums are some of the best places to visit when traveling. These hands-on spots often give you a flavor of the location with age-appropriate learning games and tools. These are some of the Traveling Moms’ favorites:
- San Antonio DoSeum
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
- Discovery Cube O.C. in Santa Ana, California
- Discovery Gateway in Salt Lake City
- New Children’s Museum in San Diego
- 7 Best Kids’ Museums in the United States
Managing Naps and Bedtime in a Hotel
Getting your baby or toddler to fall asleep in a hotel can be tough. The surroundings are strange and it’s often difficult to get little ones to rest with the commotion of other family members in the same room. Here are some helpful suggestions that you might try with your kids:
- Choose hotel suites with a separate bedroom.
- If you changed time zones, try keeping little ones on their usual time rather than moving them to the current time.
- Put baby in her front carrier then pace the room to help her relax.
- Pack a white noise machine to diffuse noise.
- Walk with baby in the stroller up and down the halls.
Nursing and Breastfeeding
Yes, breastfeeding mothers have rights and it’s a good idea to know them if you’ll be nursing and breastpumping while traveling
This is another time when its important to know your baby’s temperament and schedule. With time zone changes, it may be easy to lose track of a feeding schedule. Your baby also may be cutting nursing sessions short because he is distracted by what is happening around him. Make sure you’re still keeping track of wet diapers, just like at home, so you’ll know if baby is dehydrated (especially if you are traveling in a warm locale).
What to Pack for Baby on Vacation
It can be tempting to bring every single thing you think that your baby might need while you’re on vacation. Use your best judgment to pare down. I personally prefer to pack my baby’s essentials in a backpack rather than a diaper bag. Wear the backpack on both shoulders so you can be completely hands free.
My minimalist packing list for traveling with babies includes:
- Diaper supplies (changing pad, diapers, wipes)
- Wet bag (for storing wet or soiled clothing)
- Two changes of clothing per day (more if you have a baby prone to spitting up or diaper blowouts)
- Baby-friendly sunscreen
- Protective hat
- Swaddle cloths/muslins for wrapping & covering from sun
- Food/bottles/formula/baby spoons
- Front carrier and/or stroller with car seat
My packing list for toddlers includes (in addition to what is packed for a baby):
- Disposable bibs (essential when dining out with kids)
- Sippy cup
- Umbrella stroller (see the Traveling Mom suggested best strollers for travel)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Backpack with tether harness