Travel with toddlers- planning tips!

5 tips to help save your sanity BEFORE you go on a trip with young kids

We got back from the beach a few weeks ago, and lemme tell ya, this mama needs a vacation after travel with toddlers!

Any mamas feel me? All of you? Yep, that’s what I thought, haha!

Travel with toddlers is hard, y’all! You think about the trip for a year, pack for weeks, and then before you know it you’re already back home and disappointed that it didn’t go as planned.

traveling with two toddlers

But, y’all! This time I did something different! I came back relatively satisfied with how the trip went, and I think it’s because I did these things! Try them out before your next trip and let me know how it goes!

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traveling with toddlers

1. Choose your toddler-friendly destination wisely

So much of the work of making travel with toddlers better happens beforehand!

Ask yourself a lot of questions:

  • Can we realistically afford this trip? Will we have to scrape by when we get back? Should we have a yard sale or pick up some more hours to help ease that burden? or even postpone/cancel our trip?
  • Is it wise to spend our money in this way in this stage of our lives? Are there other goals we are trying to reach? Paying off a car, house, student loans, etc…
  • Is the trouble of this trip worth the memories we will make? It is too hard to take the kids to Disney this year?; would it be easier/better to take them next year?
  • Is this a trip the kids would enjoy, or would this be better suited as a trip just for mom and dad?
  • Would a shorter/closer trip be better?

Think through the things that could go wrong in your travel with toddlers, and evaluate.

Be honest with yourself– you know the temperaments of your family members (and yourself), do not do something just because others are, or you feel like you should.

Make the best decision for your family. Disney/the beach/ NYC/ wherever will always be there.

how to take toddlers on a trip

2. Re-frame your mind around your trip with kids: This is not a “vacation”

WORDS matter and EXPECTATIONS are everything here, ladies! Do not call this a “vacation”. Instead, we are going to use the phrase “family trip“.

When we hear “vacation” we automatically dream of margaritas, lounge chairs, reading for fun, and sunbathing. Therefore, we have no option but to be disappointed when we have to deal with all the mom things that travel with toddlers entails (i.e. poop on the beach, countless pleading for snacks, whining to leave the beach for the pool, etc..).

So, let’s re-frame our minds and adjust our expectations. This is a “family trip”. This brings us back to reality and reminds us that normal family-life things are going to happen, just somewhere else.

taking a toddler on a trip

3. Prepare all kids, including toddlers, for the trip

Talk to your kids about the trip before you go: where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what the days will look like.

Are there places you will go or things you will do that your kids have never done before? Think through and anticipate what will be new or different about this trip. The older your kids are the further out you can begin this preparation.

Ways to prepare your toddlers/kids for the trip:

Children (and adults) do much better when they know what to expect. They feel more safe, prepared, and excited to experience new things!

things to think about before traveling with toddlers

Bonus tip: Have a family meeting before the trip

If your vacation is more low key and less planned-out, ask your kids for ideas of what they would like to do during the trip. What will make them feel like the trip was a success? Does your son want to play Putt-Putt? Does your husband want to golf one morning? Would you love to have a few hours free to read a book alone on the beach?

Ask each family member to share their hopes for the trip and PLAN FOR THESE. You could even have a few ideas for them to choose from and let each kid pick one thing they want to do.

If your kids are younger, talk through these these things with your spouse. My husband and I just had this conversation in the car on the way to the beach, and it made all the difference in our trip. I knew he wanted to go on the beach one evening (instead of in the morning), and he knew I wanted some time to read. We both made it a priority to meet the other’s need and that helped us feel “seen” and loved.

toddler trip planning
With Covid, we couldn’t stop and eat lunch inside a restaurant, so we looked for shade for a picnic instead!

4. Plan well, but hold your plans loosely when traveling with little kids!

Make packing lists (and check them at least twice!), meal plan if you’re cooking your own food, talk about expectations and prepare your family!

Do all of those things, but hold those plans loosely!

Planning and preparation are great, but with kids (and just life!), you never know what’s going to happen!

Kids can get sick or not sleep well, weather can be bad, and as of late, everything can be closed because of Covid19; we can’t possibly anticipate everything that could go wrong when we travel with toddlers!

If we hold onto out plans too tightly, they will do the opposite of what they are meant to do- ADD, rather than LESSEN our anxiety and stress.

tips for planning a trip with toddlers

5. RELAX- no, not literally… haha… YOU HAVE TODDLERS!

Take deep breaths, mama! You did everything you could to anticipate the craziness of a “family trip”. You thought through the destination, re-framed your mind, planned well, and prepped your family! You’ve done the hardest part of the trip. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy what you’ve planned hard for. You can do this!

Final thoughts on planning a trip with toddlers

If your travel plans include the beach, check out my “4 Tips for Beach Trips with Babies”.

Comment what other things you’ve done that really made a big difference in vacationing with kids, or let me know if you’ve used these tips and how they worked. I would love to hear from you!

Lots of love,

anna barret signature

Related articles on “vacationing with toddlers”

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Tips for planning a trip with toddlers

Hey, it's Anna! I'm a teacher-turned-SAHM of two young kids. I love to research all things parenting and kid-related and share them on here.


  1. Jeremy
    July 27, 2020

    Fantastic Wife and Mom, can I add blogger too???!!!!
    Great Tips

  2. Amanda H
    July 27, 2020

    Such great advice!! The tip about calling it a family trip is so true; it really does help to just shift your expectations. Iā€™m definitely going to chat with my husband about our hopes for the beach this year. Sometimes you assume what they want to do and it could be way off haha.

    1. Anna Barrett
      July 28, 2020

      Oh I love the phrase “shift your expectations”! So glad you liked the tips! Be sure to let me know if chatting with your husband affects your “family trip”. hehe! And YES to assuming. That’s so, so true!

  3. Sarah
    September 2, 2020

    I love “trip” vs “vacation” because let’s be real šŸ˜‰ Grocery delivery to the house/condo has been a blessing, especially with trips during COVID. Not the most budget friendly, but it has helped with packing too!

    1. Anna Barrett
      September 2, 2020

      Yesssss! Sometimes paying for convenience is TOTALLY WORTH IT!!! lol! thanks for reading!

  4. Lacie Norman
    September 2, 2020

    Love you my friend!!!!! I will be using these when we go out of town in November. Love you ans yoru heart!ā¤

    1. Anna Barrett
      September 4, 2020

      Girllll… I meant to text after we saw each other at the stop light the other day! Thanks so much! Miss and love you!!!

  5. Pamela
    September 15, 2020

    Ohhh I love this! Definitely will use these tips!

    1. Anna Barrett
      September 15, 2020

      So glad you like them! Hope they help! Thanks for your time!


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