This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
I love sharing stories and tips for traveling with a baby and toddler. It does no good for your family to have earned tons of miles and points only to not use them due to fear of the challenges of traveling with little ones. Or perhaps worse, to use your hard earned miles and points, only to have the trip quickly head south due to some avoidable pitfalls of traveling with little ones. I have some of my own tips and stories that I have shared, and will continue to share, but I wanted to bring some of Little C’s friends in as well so that their mamas can share some different experiences than we have had.
The first post in this series comes from C’s four-year-old friend, Addison. Isn’t she an adorable (and sassy!) little munchkin?!!
I sought out Addi’s mom in response to the reader question from Bluto regarding traveling with a three-year-old. I answered the first part of his question in this post, but I am going to answer the second part related to three-year-old travel here, with the help of Addi’s mom………
In case you missed the first part of the response to Bluto’s question, here is the question again:
I got addicted to the miles/points game a year and half ago, and am enthusiastic about finding interesting deals and trips. However, my wife has not caught the bug and moreover, she is not really excited about traveling, which is somewhat understandable because we have a 3-year old who is an expert at doubling the degree of difficulty when vacationing. Do you have any tips/tricks to make traveling easier and more appealing for mommies with 3-year olds? How do I pass along the miles addiction and traveling bug to my wife?
Addi has been lucky enough to go on several adventures with her family. Here is a quick rundown of her travels:
3 weeks – 3 hour road trip
9 months – 3 hour flight (each way)
11 months – 3.5 hour flight (each way)
22 months – 4 hour flight (each way)
25 months – long, long, long road trip
32 months – 2.5 hour flight (each way)
36 months – 1 hour flight (each way)
40 months – 1 hour flight (each way)
How has traveling with Addi changed over the last few years?
As she has gotten older we have not had to pack as much stuff and our carry-on has decreased as well. We have not needed near as many gadgets and specialized things for her.
For the most part, travel has gotten easier as she has gotten older. I think the only thing that has gotten harder as she has gotten older is her deciding that she needs to go potty as soon as we get in line to board the plane. No matter how many times you ask her if she needs to go, or you try to make her go before doing something, her bladder insists on going against the schedule.
Can you give some specifics about what “gear” you brought with you on some of the different trips?
When she was 9 months old we flew to Vegas and we had to pack a full-sized stroller, car seat, “pack and play” for her to sleep in, lots of bottles, sheets for the “pack and play”, formula, water, baby snacks, teething rings, diaper bag with an extra supply of all of these things in it, diapers, wipes, bibs, burp cloths, blankets, at least 2 outfits for each day that we were going to be there, pajamas (to keep her in her bedtime routine), toys, books, baby wash, baby lotion, our best friend Mylicon, and I am sure I am forgetting something. (Whew, I am a little tired just reading that list!) Luckily my dad flew with us so he was the muscle to carry all of her stuff. My extended family was on that trip, so they then proceeded to want to keep her up all night and destroy any semblance of a schedule that she had!
When she was 11 months we flew to New York City and I learned from some of my mistakes with the Vegas trip. Mainly, we did not use a full size stroller this time. We went with a smaller “umbrella” stroller that was much easier to deal with during our travels and also getting through public transportation in NYC. Since she still was young and had sensitive skin, we still had to travel with all of our own bedding, towels, etc… for her. Here is Addi and her mom around the time of their NYC trip!
At 22 months we took her to LA and this was the first trip that we were really able to lighten the load on how much “gear” we brought with us. We left the stroller and pack-and-play at home. We did borrow a friend’s “carseat on wheels”. It was awesome! She was able to sit in the carseat on the plane and was able to ride in it in the airport when she got tired of walking. It was a tad bit bulky, but it did the trick! Traveling at this age was also awesome because at this point she could pretty much eat anything. I didn’t have to pack any bottles, formula, or specialized snacks. I did bring some of her favorites just in case we had a melt down or I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for something at the airport during a layover. We still had a diaper bag even though she was potty training at this age. I was not brave enough to chance having an accident while flying, so we went with pullups and put panties on as soon as we made it to our destination. In our travel bag, we had pullups, a change of clothes, a sippy cup, some wipes, and a snack or two.
The road trip at 25 months was horrible, terrible, and I just want to erase it from memory! I don’t even recall exactly how long it was, and honestly, however long it was, it was TOO long. We were in a minivan and she refused to stay in her carseat. She wanted to be in my lap or in her dad’s lap or playing with her grandpa. Whenever she did sleep she was very restless. I was just ready for that trip to be over as soon as possible. I would never do that length of road trip with a young toddler again. Ever!
At 32 months (almost three years if you have lost count) we went skiing in Colorado and it was fantastic. We planned this trip with another couple and their child that is the same age as Addison. She had a companion – that really helped everyone! The kids entertained each other as we waited in the airport. They played together on the flight. There was no standing up on the seat or banging on the seat in front of us. No diapers, no pullups, no special cups. I of course had a change of clothes in my purse if we had an accident, but no need. Having a companion about the same age really made all the difference. I’m not sure it would have helped much on those younger trips, but as she got closer to three, having a friend nearby was great. Whenever possible, we plan to travel like that on vacations in the future! Here she is enjoying the heck out of the Colorado snow!
Now that she is an “older toddler”, do you prefer non-stop flights or flights with connections?
At first I thought I wanted non-stop flights, but after being on a plane for 2 hours with a sometimes unhappy toddler (or baby for that matter) that won’t sleep and whose ears hurt, I learned that maybe that hour long layover isn’t quite so bad. She can explore and wander around the airport before the next potentially torturous leg of the flight. It also gives you time to “regroup and repower” Super Mario Brothers style!
Do you have certain times of the day that you like to try to fly with her now?
The best times to travel for my 3-4 year old are still during naptime even though she is trying harder and harder to no longer take naps. She will usually try to fight it because of the excitement of the trip, but then ends up crashing half way through the flight. Then it works out perfectly because she wakes up just in time to get off the plane and is excited again about where we are! She has also then slept off some of her toddler crankiness!
What type of sleeping arrangements do you usually have for her now when you travel?
Sleep arrangements have changed from her being in a pack-and-play when she was younger to now getting a hotel room that has an extra bed for her to sleep in. Sometimes we just all pile into a king bed, but that doesn’t always work out very well because then none of us sleep very well! Getting them their own bed is my recommendation for older toddlers.
Any final tips to make travel with kiddos in the 3 – 4 year old range easier?
As I mentioned, traveling with a family who has kids in the same age range made a world of difference. Still, plan activities for the flight as you would for a younger baby (movies, books, colors, toys, etc…) and make sure you have some snacks and drinks. Make sure they are sucking/drinking as you take-off and land so that their ears will pop. If possible, get them their own place to sleep at the hotel. Many hotels and resorts have activities for children starting at age 3, so that can be a perfect way for them to have some fun and you to have some non-kid time as well! She went to ski school with her friend at almost age 3 and that was a perfect arrangement for everyone on that trip!
It also helps to go to destinations where you know there are going to be fun things for your 3-4 year old to do. They still aren’t interested in historical monuments or things like that, but they are VERY interested in water activities, skiing, Disney characters, etc… Finally, you do still need to schedule your days to include naps. While Addi would probably be happy to go all day playing without a nap, it will quickly backfire and your 3-4 year old will suddenly resemble a two-year-old throwing a tantrum more than anything else. Just plan your day accordingly! Overall, I have found this a very fun age to travel with Addi. It is much, much easier now than it was when we took our first few trips.
Thank you so much to Addi and her mom for this great information and for sharing some super cute photos! Bluto, I hope that some of these insights into the world of traveling with an older toddler/pre-school aged kiddo gave you some useful ideas to make your own family’s travel smoother. I know they helped me mentally prepare some for future trips – especially the idea about traveling with a family who also has a kiddo of similar age. Great tip, thanks again!