7 Simple Hacks for Traveling with a Toddler

Travel has been one of my greatest hobbies since I first studied abroad in grad school. So much so, that my husband and I actually put off trying to have children so we could travel more. After getting over some serious anxiety about taking our little one on long trips in cars and on planes, we’ve made a family commitment: Jack will learn to be a great traveler!

Here’s the thing, though, and let’s be really, really real here. Traveling with a toddler is hard. Like, so hard it can take away much of the joy if you don’t know what you’re doing. We all have our own ways of traveling we prefer, so this isn’t going to be one of those articles that tells you how to pick out the best hotel rooms, the best budget items, etc. 

It’s just hacks. Simple things you can do (with items you already have or can purchase cheaply) that will make your life SO. MUCH. EASIER. 

7 Toddler Travel Hacks

  1. Shop in the pet aisle. I cannot tell you how much puppy pads can be your very best friend, especially when you have a kid in diapers. Need to set up a changing station in a hotel room or AirBnB? No problem! Need to change a baby in a nasty bathroom; easy. Fold them up, put them in a bag where you’ll know where they are, and be so thankful for those babies. They’ll save you time, frustration, messes, and germs!

    Amazon Basics Pet Training Pads
  2. Stay in the pet aisle. If your kid is still in diapers, pet waste bags are an absolute must have. Yes, I’m talking about the thing that you hook to your leash. Airplane with others who don’t need to smell your kid’s poop? Stuck in a tiny hotel room where a dirty diaper in the trashcan can make everyone sick? These bags clip easily to your diaper bag and are made to keep smells locked in. Drop your dirty diapers in one of these babies before trashing it and everything will be better. (Side note: I’ll take these even once Jack is out of diapers. You never know what disgustingly messy incidents kids will get into.

    Earth Rated Dog Waste Bag Dispenser
  3. Carry a diaper bag or purse with a removable (and adjustable) shoulder strap. You find your child in all sorts of odd high-chair situations when traveling, and I’m embarrassed to admit to the number of times that Jack’s head has *barely* missed the ground after he’s plunged himself backward at a dining table. But no more of that madness! With long, adjustable straps on hand, we can tether high chairs to tables. Little dude can kick and push all he wants; he’s staying upright.

    High chair tethered to the table using diaper bag strap
  4. Carry a children’s toothbrush everywhere. It’s multifunctional, both as a way of cleaning a little one’s teeth at night and as an on-the-go teether no matter where you are. 
  5. Sticky, disposable placemats are your friend, my friend. These little guys are obviously helpful in restaurants (which we tend to find ourselves in a lot of when traveling), but they’re also ideal for flights. It’s becoming fairly common knowledge that the tray table is the dirtiest part of an airplane. Go ahead and take your travel packet of Clorox wipes on the plane–they make me feel better too–but ultimately, I still don’t trust those pesky little tray tables. Once it’s Cloroxed and dried, a disposable placemat terms this germ mecca into a safe and clean play space. 

    Jack on a plane with his covered tray table
  6. Breast milk bags, even for storing dairy milk. I learned this one the hard way. I went through security many times with frozen breastmilk, and it was a breeze. Even taking liquid milk through was no problem. But I didn’t realize what made it so easy. Until our most recent trip, when I showed up in a security line with–gasp!–a cooler full of milk “juice boxes.” You see, I thought I was making TSA’s life easier. Pre-sealed by Horizon Organic, of course, these little guys would be an easy pass-through in my cooler for the baby. But nope! Apparently, they have to run all liquid milk through a screening machine, and what allows it to work is clear bags or bottles. So by taking the boxes, even if sealed by the manufacturer, I was subjecting myself to an individual residue swipe of every. single. box. AND a personal patdown. Protocol, apparently.

    Kiinde Twist Milk Bags

  7. Share a hairbrush. Hair brushes are, for most of us, essential. But traveling with a toddler requires taking SO. MANY. THINGS. that you absolutely wouldn’t have packed before. Traveling lightly feels like a thing of the past. So we look to save space where we can…like maybe investing in a travel-sized hairbrush. But here’s the thing. You probably already own one; it’s on your kid’s bathroom counter. Save yourself the few bucks and the luggage space of your big brush and just take theirs. 

Have other suggested toddler travel hacks that have made traveling easier and lighter for you? Let me know in the comments!