Real Talk, Plus Tips: Traveling With Little Ones is Tough

Posing in Rome for a family photo

Summer is upon us, finally! And if you’re like the majority of American families, you will likely be traveling somewhere soon. I say, “traveling” and not, “vacationing” because I don’t know that I can consider traveling with small children a vacation. I don’t want to be a “negative Nancy,” or scare any moms who have yet to travel– I just want to be real with you. Traveling with babies and toddlers can be TOUGH. There’s little to no relaxation and the kids are usually more trying. You uproot them from their environment and you disrupt their routine, so you can’t really blame them for their outlandish behavior. Sleep is usually disrupted, too, and that’s never fun. In my humble opinion, traveling with babies and toddlers is simply not a vacation. It’s a trip.

Posing in Rome for a family photo

I speak from experience, and I feel I have even earned some sort of motherhood badge for traveling with littles. I went to Italy last fall with a 9-month-old and 2-year-old, and let me tell you, those travel days to and from Europe were torturous. Worse than childbirth (well, maybe not quite, but they were really bad). If you have traveled with kids before (especially abroad), you get me. But, take heart, moms. There are ways you can prepare to make your trip more enjoyable!

First, take my advice. It’s all about perspective. Go into it with an open mindset and be willing to go with the flow. I don’t want to say, “set your expectations low,” but it is certainly nice to be pleasantly surprised when they do take a nice long nap in the hotel room with hubby while you bask in the sun by the pool, rather than being completely disappointed and even resentful when you can’t seem to do anything you planned because the kids are acting like wild banshees because they are so darn tired, yet they won’t go to sleep! Be grateful for the good when it comes, and when the not-so-good moments happen, try your best to readjust and move on.

Another great tip we have learned from experience is to stay in an Airbnb rather than a hotel when possible. Staying in a hotel room with a baby or toddler makes sleep for all parties pretty challenging. If you have more than one kiddo, well, sleep in a hotel room can be nearly impossible. When you rent a multiple-room house, condo, or apartment, you have space to spread out and the ability to allow each kid to have his or her own room. This makes a huge difference.

And finally, there’s a few items I believe make traveling with little ones easier. The first must-have item is a good, lightweight stroller. I recommend the Maclaren Techno XT. I chose this stroller before our trip to Italy for several reasons. It is lightweight, folds up compactly, reclines so baby can sleep on-the-go, and has shocks so it doesn’t rattle the dickens out of little guy on bumpy streets! It also has a basket underneath for storage and machine-washable padding. It is an all-around all-star stroller and I seriously love it. They’re a bit pricey, but you can purchase it used like I did (holla, Facebook Marketplace)!

My youngest taking a nap in Italy in the Maclaren

The second travel must-have is a noise machine. I always bring our every-day, plug-in noise machines with us when we travel. They’re great for maintaining a similar type of sleeping environment if your kids normally sleep with one. And they drown out any weird or disruptive noises that may be present where you’re staying. A friend of mine who travels frequently recently posted about her love for a portable noise machine. She straps it right onto her baby carrier while she wears her little boy in the airport and he zonks out. While the plug-in machines have worked great once we are at our destination, I really could have used a portable noise machine so many times in the airport or on the plane. A portable noise machine will be my next purchase for traveling.

And finally, I recommend stocking up on snacks. You never know how travel plans can go askew. You may end up stuck in traffic for hours, in an airport for an entire day, or on a runway much longer than planned. Fill up your diaper bag with various munchies, such as protein bars (I like these for my boys Happy Tot Organic Fiber & Protein Bars), some sugary treats (for curbing possible tantrums or melt-downs), and if you have a baby who isn’t doing solids yet, pack puffs or yogurt melts and lots of fruit and veggie pouches. I even like to pack boxes of snacks with me in my suitcase. Yes, you can buy them when you get there, but I like to know that if my kid is hungry on the way to the store, I have something to give him. Hungry kids are not happy kids.

Bring your little one’s favorite sippy cup too! Having a drink helps when their ears “pop” on flights.

While traveling with little ones has its challenges, there are ways to prepare and a certain mindset to be had to make your trip feel more like a vacation. Soak in the good moments and know that one day, you’ll laugh at the tough ones. Enjoy it all, mamas, and I wish you safe and happy summer travels!

Our family’s most recent trip to Florida, filled with lots a great times, and some “funny” ones too.