Traveling with Toddlers- Tips and Tricks

Tips and tricks traveling with toddler

We recently packed our bags (22 to be exact) and moved to Hawaii. To get the full picture of our previous ridiculous military moves click here and to read about resilient military children click here.  Long story short – we’ve lived in Florida, Texas, back to Florida, Virginia, Kansas, Florida again, Illinois, and now Hawaii.  Along the way I’ve been fortunate to learn a few tips and tricks regarding plane rides and road trips and I wanted to share those with you. Additionally, I would also love to share with you a few things NOT to do when traveling with toddlers!

traveling with toddlers tips and tricks

Tips, Tricks, and Must-Have Items

Personal coloring books:  My incredible, loving, thoughtful and awesome mother made the girls personal coloring books.  Yep – you heard that correctly – personal coloring books! These are GENIUS!  Our girls love looking at pictures (especially of themselves) and they love to color. What a great combination. Fortunately for my husband and me, these books kept the girls entertained and busy for a very long time!  She just added personal pictures and outline pictures (found on clipart and online) and added them to a blank word document.

traveling with toddlers tips and tricks

Presents:  Every hour that passed was a small, tiny victory that deserved celebration. To signify the tiny, yet glorious, occasion, I gave each child a present. The plane ride amounted to about 10 hours so one present per child for three children equaled 30 in all.  I spent about $40 total on this project and it was worth every penny.  I numbered the presents and every number was the same for every child to avoid any fighting (example: Number 8 was silly putty for all three girls).  I even ended up splitting some things (like a memory game and bag of dinosaur figurines) into all three presents.  Some presents were simple snacks while the others were small trinkets (I tried to avoid giving them two edible presents in a row – we did not need a tummy ache). These miniature presents worked out superbly and the girls LOVED them. The passing of each hour proved a big deal and the presents served a great purpose in distracting the girls and keeping them busy.

traveling with toddlers tips and tricks

Here is a list of goodies you can wrap:



Food and Drink: I suggest packing enough food for two full meals per person.  I over-packed on food and I’m glad I did.  By bringing a decent amount of food on the plane, we didn’t find ourselves at the mercy of the food cart (the girls weren’t always awake when the food cart went by and the meals tended to be a tad expensive).  Furthermore, a few of us in our family have food allergies making many of the airline meals not much of a possibility. Bottom-line: by bringing your own food on the plane you give yourself options of what you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat, and you save money.

Loves/Blankies/Woobies: No matter the age, they will be more comfortable if they have something cherished and familiar.

Technology: I packed many tech. devices and they were all used.  Typically, my girls don’t use their tablets around the house or in the car; we’re fortunate that they tend to be pretty physical and would rather have a dance party than play with a device.  I must admit though, after being trapped in a small space it was pleasant to have the technology as an option.  It was also nice to have a few choices when one ran out of batteries or died.  Don’t forget to fully charge everything and bring extra batteries if they require them!  Bonus tip: you might want to download the airline app if possible beforehand…this would have saved me a TON of time and trouble when I tried watching the free movie.

Tips and tricks traveling with toddlers

Headphones: Good, child-sized headphones tend to shade a tad on the expensive side, but they make a world of difference!  These are the ones I bought the girls and they worked like a charm…a key feature for a mom of three is that they can work the device themselves!  My two-year-olds could easily put them on, plug them in, and adjust the volume…win for me!

Wipes: HUGE LIFESAVER. Yes, of course they helped with diaper changes, but we used them on many tasks. We wiped sticky hands, cleaned off the computer screen, and gave Barbie a bath. Having a clean cloth in your own row proved much more convenient than constantly having to walk to the bathroom and back.

Extra Clothes: We luckily didn’t need any extra clothes, but I am entirely confident that if I did not pack an extra set, one of the twins would have managed to spill something sticky and smelly all over themselves.  Kids aren’t immune to Murphy’s law…I think they are more susceptible to it in fact!

Now, what not to do:

1.  We (ok, this was all me…I) packed WAY too much for the actual plane ride.  Everyone is allowed one carry-on and one personal item, and I took full advantage of this.  We had 5 bags and 5 personal items, and I couldn’t even get to most of them.  I wanted to be prepared and I think I went a little too far!  To help decrease the clutter, store what you know you will not need.  I had a suitcase with our extra “just in case” clothes and our valuables that I didn’t want checked (camera, computer, etc.) stored above.  I had an entire backpack of art supplies because the girls love coloring.  One coloring book per child and one set of crayons would have sufficed because they didn’t even end up coloring very much.  They don’t need multiple packs of stickers, crayons, markers, do-a-dot markers, and colored pencils!  Focus on what they will really use and remember that the less you pack, the more accessible it will be!  If I could do it all over again, I would only pack the personal coloring books from grandma and a small set of crayons per child that would be wrapped as present #2, and just two or three of the following easy to pack, engaging activities:

  • Creativity for Kids My First Fun Felt Shapes Kit -This is a great felt board that lays flat and folds up…perfect for traveling!  This engages toddlers for quite a while as you create stories together!
  • Melissa and Doug DYO Headbands– My Aunt got these for the girls and they were a big hit.  They loved making their headbands and then trading with each other after modeling them down the “runway”.
  • Game Time! Dr. Seuss Write and Wipe Activities-I’m a sucker for any write and wipe book and who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss!  This is a great set that packs a lot of punch while taking up a small space.
  • Magnatiles– I am currently obsessed with these.  The girls are getting them for Easter as you can see on my candy-free Easter basket list and I wish I had them for the plane ride here.  I would not take a lot but these are the perfect blocks for kids to build with in a small space since they stick together

2.  Don’t pack the stress.  Remember that once you get on the plane, everything is for the most part out of your hands and it’s a finite length of time before you land. So, do your best to just sit back and enjoy the ride!  It’s hard to focus on the present and realize that it’s not always about the destination. When I was finally able to calm down, it was a pure joy watching Emma burst with excitement to simply be on an airplane.


All in all, the flight went much better than I expected.  This is one of those situations where you should over-prepare so you can go with the flow!

traveling with toddlers tips and tricks
We made it!

Here are more amazing posts chalk-full of traveling tips with little ones! 

 Travel Activities for Toddlers by: Moms and Crafters

Flying with Kids: One Parent, Four Kids by: Mama Smiles

Road Trip with Kids: 10 Easy Activities and No Electronics by: The Stay-At-Home Survival Guide

50 Ways to Keep your Toddler or Preschooler Busy on a Plane (or elsewhere) by: Playing with Words 365

China Day 1: Surviving a 13 Hour Plane Ride with a 3 Year Old by: Kid World Citizen


2 thoughts on “Traveling with Toddlers- Tips and Tricks

  1. Thanks so much, for including my travel activities list Leigh Ann! As a fellow milspouse, we get to travel a lot too, so simple ways to keep the kids entertained are a must-as you know. Enjoy Hawaii!

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