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5 Ways to Prepare Before Traveling with Your Toddler

Are you packing up and getting ready to travel with your little one(s)? Maybe it’s a road trip to see relatives, or a longer plane ride with your family. Regardless, travel can bring a disruption to your child’s schedule – which can feel scary and unpredictable. Fear not! Here are 5 Ways to Prepare Before Traveling with Your Toddler.

#1 – The Lists. Traveling, whether you’re gone for 2 nights or 10 nights, involves packing just about the same things. A few weeks before traveling, make a list of all the things you’re going to need. Doing this in advance can help you figure out what you already have, what you need to borrow, and what you need to purchase. We’ve broken down how to make these lists…

Toddler Needs:

  • What clothes do they need during the day? Check the weather and prepare for spills, accidents, and layers. 
  • Consider their sleep needs and what they need to have a good night sleep (see tip #2)
  • If your child is in diapers and/or pull-ups, consider how many you should bring, along with wipes and ointments. PRO TIP: If you’re traveling via airplane and gone for quite some time, we highly recommend sending items to your location OR purchasing those items at a local drugstore.


  • Are you going to be doing a lot of walking? If so, you’ll want to make sure you have a stroller. Consider whether it’s worth bringing a travel stroller (very helpful in airports) OR if you think renting a stroller when you get to your destination makes more sense. Remember, many destinations have baby equipment rentals, which include strollers, car seats, cribs, high chairs, etc. Generally these companies charge a daily or weekly rate to rent equipment. Look into this before lugging all of your own equipment. Between the costs of checking bags and renting, it may actually even out!
  • Will you be doing a lot of driving? Think about your child’s car seat. Do they need it on the airplane? Will you gate check it? (Don’t forget the car seat bag!). If you’re renting a car, sometimes rental companies offer car seats (although we recommend making sure the car seat offered is a safe choice and one you’re comfortable with) for an additional cost per day.


  • Consider utensils (small age-appropriate ones), a high chair cover, toss away mats for the table, snack cups, sippy cups, high chair or booster. Pack these up or check with your host to see if they have some you can borrow

#2 – Prioritize Sleep. Traveling involves some relinquishing of control. When it comes to sleep, we don’t want to mess around. Especially after so many of us have worked hard to establish healthy sleep habits! Regardless of where you’re going, you want to make sure that you (to the best of your ability) create a sleep environment that’s going to support the best possible rest for all of you. Here are our Must-Haves for sleep:

  • Something to snuggle. Bring along a lovie, blanket, or any attachment object that helps your toddler sleep.
  • Shhhhhhhh. A white noise machine is great for shared rooms, new spaces and for consistency if your child uses one at home. There are great travel ones available or an app on your phone.
  • Grandma into lace curtains? While you can’t travel with blackout curtains, you can travel with aluminum foil (or black trash bags!) and tape! A great way to create a dark sleeping environment is by tapping aluminum foil or black trash bags to the window. Just make sure to ask your host if they’re okay with this beforehand 🙂

#3 – T-Day. Preparing for Travel Day (t-day) involves asking (and hopefully answering) a few important questions:

  • What time are you waking up?
  • How are you getting to the airport? (Remember, if you’re taking a Ride Share or Taxi, you need to bring your car seat. If you’re parking at the airport, don’t forget to book parking in advance and/or check parking availability.)
  • What meals will be on-the-go? Can you rely on airport food or is your toddler in a picky eating phase? If so, packing a safe and reliable meal is important. We know that toddlers are more prone to tantrums when they’re tired, hungry, and frustrated. We want to do what we can to set up the conditions for a successful day.
  • What are good packable snacks that you can bring? NOTE: travel days are always heavier-snack days. Pack extra! 
  • Pack that diaper bag – bring anything your child will need for them during your on-the-go day…including diapers, wipes, changes of clothes (maybe 2!), diaper cream/ointment, changing pad, hand sanitizer, water, any medication your child may need

Don’t forget to prepare your toddler for the travel day. Previewing the day can make it go more smoothly. Routines are incredibly important for toddlers, so when their routine breaks, they can become dysregulated. You can support them by sharing the plan in advance. However, remember to keep your expectations in check and age-appropriate – if your child usually naps from 1-3pm and you’re going to be on an airplane at that time, you might want to prepare yourself for a fussier child. This is temporary and being out of a routine is hard! Use language like “We’re going to do something different! We’re packing our bags and we’re going to visit Grammy and Pops.” 

#4 – Take care of yourself! While the days of sipping your iced coffee and watching a movie on the plane might be gone, you can’t forget to take care of yourself. This might look different these days, especially while parenting a toddler. Pro-tips on self care…because someone needs to look out for you.

  • Pack your OWN snacks and try to get some sleep before you leave. Just like your toddler, you can become more dysregulated by hunger or fatigue.
  • Staying calm is key. Whenever you can, use a mantra like, “I can’t tantrum when my child is already tantruming.” This can help to remind you that when you stay regulated, your child can borrow your calm
  • Find the small things that help you to feel good. Is it a quiet cup of coffee before the day starts? A quick workout to move your body? Maybe a good book packed away in your bag (even if there’s a high chance that you never open a page!). Lean in to what works, and don’t be afraid to think of yourself, too.
  • Ask for support, because we all need it. None of us are superhuman, and we shouldn’t expect it of ourselves. Forget your ego and lean on your travel partner (co-parent, partner, parent, sibling) and/or your network. For example, take turns switching seats with a spouse so that one of you can nap, or call ahead to the friend you’re visiting and ask if they can stock up on your toddler’s favorite foods.

#5 – Have realistic expectations. Traveling with a child isn’t a vacation, it’s a trip. When we plan for bumps, we are less disappointed. Having appropriate expectations, being prepared, and staying flexible are the key to a successful trip. Instead of setting high expectations and allowing yourself to feel like a failure, acknowledge the struggles in advance and make a plan to get through them. This will help you to enjoy the moments that do go well, and forgive and recover from the ones that don’t. Soak in your loved ones, embrace the chaos, and imagine how thrilled you’ll be to get back home after your travels. 

This post originally appeared on, your go-to for live, interactive parent coaching and curated group sessions. For discounts and member exclusives on Cooper, visit our Shop and Parent Log-In pages.

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