Do’s and Don’ts for Traveling with a Toddler

Alternative Title: Don’t.

Josh and I recently returned from a birthday/early anniversary trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. In short, we had a nice, uneventful trip where we acted like the responsible adults that our toddler has come to depend on.

Traveling with a toddler
Drinking a mass at Oktoberfest. My first of several (that I remember).


Well, maybe we spent a couple of days having a little too much fun…

Once upon a time (before becoming a wife and mother) I considered myself an avid traveler and would have loved to devote a life exclusively to exploring the world and blogging about my adventures. Now that I have a child, the opportunity to travel has significantly decreased for various reasons. Our options are to bring the kid with us or try to find someone able and willing to watch him during our trip.

I initially assumed that the problem with the latter option would be finding an available babysitter. In the two trips my husband and I have taken as a couple since James came into our lives, I’ve come to the realization that whatever hormones I was blessed with during my pregnancy are the same hormones that cause me to become an emotional wreck when separated from my little boy. I cried for hours the night that we dropped Jamie at my mother-in-law’s before our trip to Europe.

Seriously, who am I? What cocktail of hormones caused me to turn into such an emotional wimp?

To try to maintain some semblance of stability with my #feels, when we flew out to California for a family friend’s wedding, we decided to bring James with us.

Let me be clear: I do not recommend flying across the country with a toddler son. Or any sort of traveling with a toddler. This is not the preferred option, but my mother heart can only take so much separation, even if the alternative is wanting to lock your child in the airplane bathroom for the duration of the flight.

To help others learn from my experience, I’ve come up with a list of Do’s and Don’ts for traveling with a toddler:


Increase your typical hygiene practices tenfold in the week leading up to your departure. It’s a sacrifice to the gods and I say that with the utmost sincerity. If you do not appease the gods, then your child will be struck with sickness which will spread first to the parent to whom your child is most attached. The cruel irony of this is that your child will still only want that sick parent to comfort him or her which leads to the other parent remaining germ free and happy. And lots and lots of resentment from me the parent covered in snot.


Feed your child fiber rich foods in the 24 hours leading up to your flight or while on the plane. Your child will choose the most inopportune to shit his diaper/pants. And if you have a child that’s wearing anything larger than preemie sized clothing who has the misfortune of still being in diapers, do not even try to change him on the changing table the plane offers. You will collapse in a pool of your tears once you see how small that excuse for a table is and it will be quite alarming to the other guests.


Engage in some weight building in the weeks leading up to your trip, specifically in your arms. You will need that arm strength to carry around the 10 bags that must accompany you on your trip (only two of which belong to you and your spouse).

On a related note…


Bring a bag for your car seat if you’re transporting one with you. You can check it in for free and it doesn’t count as a checked bag. Plus, we ran out of space in our actual checked and carry-on luggage and threw all sorts of shit in the bag with the car seat that made it through to our destination. It’s the small wins that help maintain your sanity.


Let your child have too much freedom at the airport while waiting for your flight. One would think that allowing your child to run free all over the place would burn that excess energy off before they get stuck on a flight. Maybe that works with other normal children. If your child is like mine with the never-ending supply of caloric energy, there is no such thing as burning off “excess energy”. All that happened is he felt he had an unalienable right to that freedom even after we moved to the plane. Hah! Not in my house plane, buddy.


Bring extra outfits on the plane for both parents and the kids. If you forget, there’s an 83% chance that you will be thrown up on, shit on, or peed on by your child. We were 1 for 3 on the way to California. I’ll keep some mystery alive and not say which one it was…


Stick to your parenting morals and ethics when dire times call for dire measures. Bribery is perfectly acceptable. I plied my child with the most delectable morsels of treats he could imagine to get him to sit still on my lap for the duration of the flight. When he finally tired of food, I busted out the tablet with pre-downloaded videos for him that he had never seen before. Flying with a toddler leads to situations where the ends justify the means.


Work out a contingency plan for when your child starts to lose his shit at the airport after your flight is delayed. Something preferably that won’t give someone a reason to have CPS called.

Traveling with a toddler
My son (currently protesting something on the DFW airport floor) who decided to go from a 4 to a 10 real quick while waiting for our flight.


Use up any credits you are owed by your significant other until the flight. For example, if your husband promised to finish up the laundry but instead spends his evening guffawing at memes on the Internet, don’t say anything. Smile. And remember. When you are on the plane and things with your child start to go south, immediately hand him over to your husband. Allow him to protest in vain. Once he pauses to draw breath, drop the list bomb you’ve been building in your head over the past several months. Wait for him to concede. Order a glass of wine and turn up the headphones to drown out your husband’s loud sighs and your child’s screaming.


Pack Benadryl. For yourself. You’ll need it when you are sharing a hotel room (or, in our case, an AirBnB bungalow) with your child. Or maybe I’m the only parent with the kid who decides to wake in the middle of the night to sing the ABCs to himself. Loudly.

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