Tips for Traveling With Young Children

Whether your next family trip will mean traveling by car, airplane, or train, you’re likely wondering how your young child will cope. Here are 12 tips to help make traveling with your toddler or preschooler a bit easier for the whole family.

  1. Investigate airline fees and regulations. If you’re flying to your destination, be sure that you are aware of any airline fees and regulations specifically regarding infants and toddlers. These policies differ by airline.
  2. Print boarding passes at home. Printing out your boarding pass before you arrive at the airport will mean less time standing in a long line with excited or tired children.
  3. Take advantage of early boarding. These days, most flights offer priority boarding to passengers with young children or needing extra assistance. Ensure you arrive at your gate early enough to board the plane and get everyone settled in before the rest of the passengers arrive.
  4. Help your child with ear discomfort. The altitude changes of flying can be painful to young children. When taking off, feeding your infant and giving your older child chewing gum are ways you can help them alleviate ear discomfort.
  5. Bring snacks. No matter how you’re traveling, snacks are key to avoiding hunger-related meltdowns along the way. The TSA has special considerations in place for bringing breastmilk and formula on a plane, so be sure to check their guidelines before you leave home.
  6. Bring toys and games. Prepare a bag of fun toys and games, such as coloring books, stickers, pop-up books, and playing cards. Parents who restrict their child’s screen time may consider making an exception while traveling, as the novelty can be a welcome distraction. Of course, ensure any toys are quiet ones, and headphones are used if watching videos.
  7. Talk your child through the trip. Toddlers and preschoolers are endlessly curious, and being able to understand what’s happening around them can help to calm any anxieties they may be feeling. You can also turn this into a fun game – for example, on a road trip, you can point out different-colored cars, or play I Spy.
  8. Choose appropriate clothing. Dress your child in clothes that are both comfortable for them, and easy for you to get on and off for quick diaper changes. Soft, manageable layers are ideal for traveling with young children, especially when you may experience varying temperatures on the way.
  9. Bring extra clothing. If you’re flying or taking a train, pack a change of clothes for your child in your carry-on luggage, as well as some spare diapers or underwear. Accidents happen even to the most prepared parents, and having a spare outfit will ensure everyone is happy.
  10. Take breaks to walk around. If you are driving to your destination, take regular breaks to allow your children to move around freely. On a plane or train, take your child for a walk up and down the aisle so they can stretch their legs and alleviate any boredom.
  11. Set expectations. While many parents let some family rules slip while traveling for the sake of an easier journey, it’s important to let your child know what rules are still in place. For example, remind your toddler that their quiet indoor voice is to be used in an airplane, and explain why they must stay in their seat when the seatbelt sign is lit.
  12. Try to relax and breathe. Traveling is rarely a perfect experience, and this is no less true with young children. Parents are often so concerned with their children’s comfort and behavior that their own stress levels rise. When traveling with a toddler or preschooler, plan ahead as much as possible and do your best. You might just find that your journey is running smoother than you imagined.