Earlier this year I shared some tips for traveling with a one year old, and while I stand by all of that advice, Sophie is a year older now and more solidly into the toddler phase (it’s crazy how much of a difference a year makes!) so I wanted to share some updated suggestions!
If you’ve been here for a while, you may know that we travel a fair amount! We love to visit our family and friends that live all over the country and my husband travels occasionally for work so Sophie and I try to “piggyback” on some of those trips whenever it makes sense. All of that to say: I wouldn’t call myself an EXPERT, but I have a decent amount of experience and want to share what has worked for us!
Reusable Water Brush “Painting”
The fun of painting without the mess! Just fill the brush with a little bit of water and let your little one have fun coloring in a few pages! The water quickly dries on the pages for repeated painting and we LOVE the little storage spot to keep the brush in! The suggested age is 3+, but Sophie did great with it. Highly recommend!
Magnetic Drawing Pad
Perfect for travel. Compact, great for little hands, and infinitely reusable. Also love that this one comes with a clip so even if your little one drops or tosses it you can easily retrieve it (we love these silicone straps for attaching to high chair or car seat!). We also give this to Sophie when we go out to eat and the food takes a while to come out — it always works like a charm.
Stickers are always a hit with little ones, and these reusable sticker books are so fun. They’re meant for ages 4+, but Sophie had a lot of fun just holding the stickers and sticking them on random things (not necessarily utilizing the book pages).
There are some super itty bitty stickers in these sets so I don’t recommend allowing toddlers to play with these sticker books unsupervised (unless you plan to remove the tiny pieces ahead of time).
I can’t stop sharing about these Highlights booklets because they’re seriously the best hidden gems for little ones! Their construction is practically indestructible, they’re great for encouraging reading on-the-go, and are ultra slim which makes them ideal for travel!
Sophie has loved reading these booklets since she was super tiny and continues to enjoy them even as a two year old! I forgot to snap a pic while she was reading them on our recent flight so I included a photo of her “reading” one of them on a flight in 2022 instead. ()
iPad // TABLET
No shame in the tablet game! I try to only pull it out as a last resort, when I’ve exhausted all of our other play items, but if that’s what can get us through a large chunk of our flight (especially after delays, etc!) or through a meal after a day of traveling, I don’t even think twice about letting Sophie watch episodes of Bluey or her favorite Disney movies.
A few tips for traveling with an iPad:
(1) Be sure to download the shows / episodes you want to have available ahead of time while on reliable WiFi. If you’ve previously downloaded them, be sure to renew the licenses for any “expired” content.
(2) I highly encourage you to get a durable case for any devices that you are giving to your toddler. It should provide good shock absorption and include a screen protector (bonus if it has a carrying handle for tiny hands). If your little one wants to be able to listen to the audio (Sophie is currently fine just watching the animation and doesn’t need the sound), I suggest packing a pair of headphones. If your little one has never worn headphones before, it would be a good idea to introduce them to how they work and what it feels like to wear them at home beforehand.
(3) Pack a charging cable specifically dedicated to each tablet so that no one is fighting over getting power boosts for their devices.
I love that the foods Sophie can eat has expanded since my last travel post. There are still some things that should be avoided for Sophie’s age group because they’re considered to be choking hazards (such as nuts, popcorn, etc.), but there are a lot more portable, snacky things that she can eat while we’re on-the-go which definitely makes traveling easier.
We have a variety of travel snack containers and each one serves a specific purpose:
These are probably my favorite because they’re so versatile — they can be used for general organization, but also for snacks and even reheating food in the microwave! I use this one daily to keep extra Cheerios in to refill Sophie’s snack cup, but appreciate having an assortment of other bag shapes and sizes.
A snack cup with a lid is CRUCIAL for on-the-go storage and minimizing spills. Grab whatever style you like, but I prefer one with an attached lid so that it doesn’t get lost. I also like when the cups have the little flaps at the top to help prevent extras from falling out — it’s not a perfect system, but every effort helps!
I particularly love this snack container for travel days, but it could totally work for daily life as well. It has four separate compartments, each with their own lids — which is great for (1) making snacking easier for little ones, (2) chilling any quarter sections in the refrigerator (if needed), and (3) hopefully minimizing spills.
You could also use a bento style box with a lid or a “snackle box”, but I think this circle container works really well for little ones that can graduate to the full-blown snackle box at an older age.
I also love this cylindrical option for daily use. It fits well in a tote for trips to the park or the zoo, etc. and while being fairly slim it holds a decent amount of food! The layers also separate so you can bring as many or as few options as you need! I pack all 4 when we’re flying to a destination or going to be gone for a few hours+.
Travel snack options tend to be carb-heavy because they’re more portable and less messy than liquids, but I fully support using pouches if those work for your family (Sophie refuses to eat them, so I’m jealous!).
Some of our favorite snack ideas for trips are: bananas, clementines, cut fruit / berries, chips, pretzels, crackers, cereal, graham bunnies, and snack bars. You can find even more snack ideas here and here!
Traveling while potty training? It may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be.
(1) Choose their travel outfit accordingly (skip jumpsuits / overalls and opt for dresses or bottoms that can easily be pulled-down).
(2) Pack a slim travel potty seat to prevent their little bottoms from falling into adult-sized toilets.
(3) Put them in a Pull-Up for the flight as a backstop (and pack a couple extra for any emergencies as well as for the return flight). If your little one is still in the stage of having a hard time controlling their little bladders and the wait to use the airplane lavatory is just a few minutes too long, having them in an emergency Pull-Up for the flight / drive to your destination is a brilliant plan for your sanity (and saves you from having to clean up a major mess). After all, that’s what Pull-Ups were designed for, right?
If you’re not at the potty training stage yet, here’s a parent hack for changing your kiddo while they’re standing up (read: too tall / long for airplane lavatory changing surface).
We always bring our travel carseat on the flight for Sophie to sit in, but if we weren’t going that route I would absolutely look into getting her one of these inflatable “mattresses” to create a larger surface for littles to lay down and snooze on.
(1) Let your little one bring a comfort item (preferably not one that can’t be replaced in the [likely] event that they get lost in transit — choose wisely!). Sophie has had one of these little JellyCat loveys since she was born and after she turned a year old she has slept with it for every naptime and bedtime. Having her comforting lovey on the plane or while going to sleep in an unfamiliar location helps her to feel a bit more like she is in her usual routine and environment. And if Sophie loses the lovey somehow, it’s currently possible to buy a replacement (even if it won’t be *exactly* the same as the one she’s loved on for 2+ years).
(2) Your little one will likely be overstimulated, excited about new activities, etc. while traveling so they may be too distracted to recognize their usual biological cues (hunger, thirst, potty, etc.) so I recommend reminding them / offering drinks and snacks often. I am always at risk of dehydration after a day of travel so I have to make a concerted effort to drink plenty of water and now I try to do the same for Sophie.
*Note: I especially recommend offering beverages to your little one during takeoff and landing to help their ears pop from the change in cabin pressure.
(3) Trying to stick to a regimented schedule is just impossible when traveling. We do what we can, but it always ends up being a “roll with the punches” kind of situation. Try not to stress over these disruptions too much; you can always get back on track once you get settled at your destination or even just after you return home. It can be chaotic when nap and meal times are disrupted (causing disregulated toddlers with big feelings), but don’t let those moments ruin your trip. That’s exactly what they are: moments.
(i) Try to prep little ones with what to expect ahead of time to prevent meltdowns.
(ii) Be prepared to help them in moments of being disregulated; this will help them process through those moments faster.
(iii) More advice here.
If you’re wondering about toddler travel gear (carseat, stroller, etc.), I wrote a post all about that when Sophie outgrew her infant carseat and we had to revamp our entire travel routine.
You can read about our current setup here!
Lastly, try not to let any toddler meltdowns get you flustered because you’ll never see any of the people on your flights / at the airport ever again and it is what it is, you know? Your kids will feed off of your calm energy. You’ve got this!
Sending hugs —