Traveling With Young Kids

Mother seated in an airplane cabin with baby asleep on her lap

Parenting takes on a whole new set of complexities when you travel with young children. Schedules, safety and discipline are re-examined because of time constraints and consideration for others. We've compiled some great tips that other parents with babies and toddlers have used to help them not just survive, but enjoy their time away from the everyday routine: 

Road-Trip Respite

We took several long car trips before our son could walk, and often the climate or location didn't allow for him to crawl or roll around at rest areas. But we found that most libraries, even those in small towns, have an area with toys and puzzles, in addition to books — a clean indoor place where we could take a short rest from driving and he could play for free!

—Tara Becker

Flying With Baby

I recently took my baby "across the pond" to visit his grandparents. Although traveling for 12 hours without my husband's assistance was daunting, a few things helped keep my baby happy in flight.

I wore a baby sling to put my son in when he was tired so he could nap in a comfortable spot, and I brought extra bottles in case he wanted to eat more often than usual. I had learned on a previous flight to give him a bit less per feeding, lest I end up with a lap full of spit-up. I also hid my baby's favorite toy about a week before we left, so that when I produced it on the plane it would be "new." This kept him entertained for quite some time in between feedings and naps.

Ultimately, what helped the most was staying calm and being responsive to my baby's needs.

—Amy Fischer

Flying With Toddlers

Last spring, when preparing to take a trip to Beijing with my little girl, I wondered how I’d keep her agreeable for the 18-hour flight.

My solution came in the form of a pint-sized backpack complete with wheels and a handle. I introduced my daughter to the pack at the airport. By the time she had wheeled that little bag up the ramp just like a grown-up, she was sold.

Opening it during flight was even better. One by one, she extracted an array of never-before-seen items, including a miniature doodle toy, a puzzle, a book with a furry friend attached and fun snacks. When my daughter wasn’t napping, the new — and inexpensive — items in the backpack held her attention.

—Tanara McCauley

Travel With Toddlers and Infants

Pack light. Some essentials can be purchased at your destination.

Plan for naps. Return to home base at regular intervals to avoid infant and toddler irritability.

Keep a routine. Maintain regular eating and bedtime routines so your child can enjoy the adventure within a predictable framework.

Ask for family-friendly services. Many theme parks, tour groups, resorts and destination sites offer unique services and set aside special travel seasons for families with infants and toddlers.

Keep it slow and simple. Reduce frustration by arranging plenty of stretch breaks and uncomplicated activities.

—Bridgette Booth

Tots on Board

Travel will be on the schedule for many families this year. A little preparation can go a long way to ease the transition from home to your destination.

  • Start road trips at naptime or even bedtime.
  • Bring a familiar toy or blanket. Pack a replacement in case the favorite object gets lost or left behind.
  • Make phone calls to gather details before a trip. Note airline rules and amenities for babies and children. Ask hotels about equipment that you can borrow or rent.
  • Bring bottled water and a small medical kit.
  • Pack a small number of diapers, and buy more when you arrive at your destination.
  • Avoid overloading your schedule so you can maintain regular eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Dress your child in a super-absorbent diaper before boarding a plane.
  • Games, puzzles, quiet activities, books on tape and electronics can be sanity savers on long trips.
  • Start your day early since most little ones are wide-awake and ready to go before the rest of the world. End the day early with relaxing activities.
  • Expect occasional meltdowns, but try to avoid them by giving your toddler time and room to run around.

Your child’s early years won’t last long, so plan well, keep expectations realistic, and try to enjoy the journey.

—Letitia Suk

"Traveling With Young Kids," the compiled article, first appeared on in June 2016. "Road-Trip Respite" first appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. “Flying With Baby” first appeared in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine. "Flying With Toddlers" first appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. “Travel With Toddlers and Infants” first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, July 2007. "Tots on Board" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, Summer 2006. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Traveling With Young Kids" compiled article copyright © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Road-Trip Respite" copyright © 2016 by Tara Becker. Used by permission. “Flying With Baby” copyright © 2015 by Amy Fischer. Used by permission. “Flying With Toddlers” copyright © 2013 by Tanara McCauley. Used by permission. “Travel With Toddlers and Infants” copyright © 2007 by Focus on the Family. “Tots on Board” copyright © 2006 by Letitia Suk. Used by permission.

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