How to Survive Travel with Toddlers & What I Pack in Our Kids’ Carry On

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We are prepping for a few weekend trips and our annual family vacation to Minnesota. That’s right, we live in New Hampshire and vacation in Minnesota. You’d be surprised to find out we honeymooned in San Juan and not Siberia.

Now, Minnesota isn’t a hot travel destination, but we love it. It’s laid back, relaxing, and has the most gorgeous sunsets. We go every year to Brett’s family’s lake house along with some extended family. We swim, we boat, we go fishing, we shop at the local boutiques and play board games into the wee hours of the night. It’s a summer dream!

This trip is the first we’ve gone on in a while. I’m writing this as a refresher for myself as much as to help you prep for hassle-free traveling with kids! Here are my best tips & tricks that will come in handy for road trips, long flights, and overnight trips with kids!

Prep them ahead of time. Kids need to know in advance what’s going to happen and what you expect from them. This is especially true if you want them to pull some weight, like waking up early or keeping track of their own carry-on. I give my girls a heads up of our travel plans, remind them that the airport will be busy (so stay close!) and that when they get on the plane they should sit in their seats and then we will get out snacks and toys.

Utilize curbside baggage pick up. Lots of airlines have a curbside baggage check kiosk where you can drop your baggage before heading inside. If you’ve pre-printed your tickets, you can head right to security. This saves you a lot of time and hassle, especially if you’re herding kids.

Pack a busy bag. I love to stock mine with mess-free coloring supplies or a doodle board, small toys, and headphones. I only pack one iPad, so we use a headphone jack splitter so that both girls can watch a show or play a game together. And speaking of iPads…

Unlimited screen time on the flight. I think of this as a courtesy to everyone else aboard the plane. We’re pretty strict on screentime at home, so this feels like a real treat for them. We download shows or movies using the Netflix app. We also love apps that don’t require Wi-Fi like Endless ABC and Endless Numbers, Tozzle, and the Daniel Tiger app.

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Snacks! I give each of my girls a pre-packed pouch filled with snacks. We like apple sauce pouches, crackers, veggie sticks, and a few special treats. I keep the last-resort treat (a lollipop or baggie of fruit snacks for each) in my bag if we are stuck on the tarmac or traffic leaving the airport when we’ve exhausted all other options.

Backpacks for anyone with their own seat. Claire is still a lap infant, but Eva is in her own seat on this flight. And with that, we get another free carry-on! Eva, like most toddlers, likes to do things herself, and in this scenario it actually comes in handy. We tuck the busy bags and snacks in her bag and she feels like she’s a real helper, because she is.

Bring a bag full of essentials for you. Tissues, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, bandaids, hair ties, hair brush, tylenol (and baby tylenol), chapstick – for all of the little emergencies that inevitably arise while you’re waiting at your gate. I wipe down my kids seats & tray tables as soon as we get on the plane to prevent travel illness, too.


Pack their blanket & lovey. Each of our girls has a super plush blanket they love and a stuffed animal they sleep with every night (we love our Jellycat Bunny and Bear!), that travel with us everywhere. It helps them get some much needed rest on the plane and at our destination.

Keep sleep as normal as possible. Once we’re settled in our new digs, we set up the girls beds – complete with their blankets and loveys. We keep the room dark at night and use a white noise app on our phone if it’s too noisy. We also love our Zarbees melatonin gummies for kids. They really help to regulate sleep and they are delicious. We don’t depend on them at home, but if we are jet lagged or over-stimulated, these are a lifesaver.

Just roll with it. Set realistic expectations and be flexible – vacations go by quickly and you can get back to your normal parenting and routine once you’re back home. Enjoy your vacation!

Safe summer travels, friends!

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