Traveling with a toddler: What you need to know

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Traveling with a Toddler

My husband and I have made quite a few trips traveling with our son but just this past January was our first time flying with him. And let me tell ya –

It’s a totally different ball game.

I had been dying to go to San Francisco so that is where we decided we were going to go. And the flight from Chicago is about 3 hours so we thought that was something we could handle.

And let me just say that there IS such thing as being over prepared. Which brings me to my first point:

You do not need to pack your whole house

traveling with a toddler

I feel like when you are traveling with a toddler it is very easy to want to pack everything. Because you run every possible scenario in your head and want to be prepared in case something happens. I understand that. But let me save you the grief now and urge you to only pack the essentials. Please learn from our mistake. We literally had: 3 suitcases, 2 carry ons, the diaper bag, the camera bag, the car seat, the stroller, the pack n’ play and our baby carrier. Ummm… if you could see how people were staring at us. I’m still upset we didn’t get a picture of this circus. We were sweating, things were falling, one of us was swearing (take your guess who that was) and it was just an all around fiasco. We managed to make it work and were literally laughing through the whole thing but now after everything is said and done we’re still wondering how we did it and what we were thinking.

What to leave at home

  • The Stroller: Although it was nice to have a stroller with us in the airport – it was not necessary. I ended up wearing Cole as we made our way to our gate (that was the only way we could make it work with all of our stuff) so it basically came in handy for pushing around the pack n’ play. There are rental companies for strollers and other baby products if you need them. One of the companies is I have personally never used them but totally would next time we fly somewhere.
  • The pack n’ play: I was happy we had this because Cole obviously slept in this but again, there are rental companies and also a lot of places offer cribs. Even if you are renting a house a lot of times they have stuff like this on hand. There was even one time we stayed at a rental and she had offered to buy a baby gate for us while we stayed there. It ends up helping them out too because they are able to offer these items to their guests and essentially could bring in more revenue for them. It never hurts to ask! So my suggestion is either a) rent a crib or b) stay somewhere that already has one.

What is a MUST

  • The car seat: A lot of people might disagree with me on this one but if you have a wiggle worm like I do than this is a must. Seriously after lugging everything to our gate and FINALLY boarding the plane, it was SUCH a relief to be able to strap our kid in and be done with it. We did have to buy a seat for Cole but because he is a small child his seat was cheaper. I think we probably would have lost our minds if we had Cole on our laps the entire time. I mean, it was hard enough with him in his seat! I understand if you have multiple little ones this might not be doable but if you can swing it I definitely recommend it for your sanity. We had bought a car seat specifically for traveling because it was super lightweight and only $40 or $50. Here is the link to the one we bought: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat. Also, bringing a car seat (or a stroller) does not count as a carry on. So you can bring a car seat and still bring a carry on bag and a personal bag for your child. TAKE ADVANTAGE!
  • A baby carrier: Now this might depend on where you are going and what your situation is but for us this was a life saver. First off, if we didn’t have this I am not sure what kind of balancing act we would have had to put in place to get through the airport. Also, we went to San Francisco and were obviously wanting to see the red woods. Because San Fran had some inclement weather right before we arrived some of the trails at Muir woods were closed and without the baby carrier we wouldn’t have been able to hike the trails that were open. We also rode the cable car and being able to wear Cole was the only way we could do that. Here is the link to the one we have: Lillebaby carrier
  • Tons of snacks and toys: Not only is this a lifesaver for the airplane but just in general when youre on vacation. Most likely you’re going to be dealing with a time change and distractions for the little ones are key. Magnadoodles are great. We also had my computer with to watch movies on the plane. As far as snacks go, you can bring basically anything when traveling with kids. They do test your bottles so just beware of that. But bring your bottles, bring your snacks, bring your toys.

muir woods red woods traveling with a toddler pier 39 san francisco traveling with a toddler

Final pieces of advice

Traveling with little ones is hard. It really is – But don’t let that deter you from going on trips. Honestly, our trip to San Fran was THE BEST but we had some MAJOR hiccups (we lost our reservation and had nowhere to stay upon landing in San Fran, Our rental that we finally got on top of a mountain lost power when a major storm rolled in, Cole fell and we thought he broke his nose, Our rental had ants and it also got skunked while we were there….Ya, just to name a few) but we did not let those things be the focus of our trip. Go into your vacation knowing that some things might go wrong but it is all part of the journey and you just have to laugh through it.

I hope you found this information even the least bit helpful.

Happy Travels!



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