Family vacations make wonderful memories. While it can be challenging, traveling with infants, toddlers, and small children can be a smooth and enjoyable experience for the entire family! Learn how with these pro tips from an expert travel advisor and mom!
However, can be challenging and requires some planning. Today we’re joined by an expert travel advisor mom who will share pro tips for making travel go smoothly for the entire family.
Traveling with Toddlers and Small Children
- Trip Preparation (planning/packing/talking about trip)
- Tips while on the trip
- Post-trip tips? (getting back in the flow)
- What NOT to do?
- A final “Pro Parent” tip
Related Episodes and Links
More with Julie:
- Episode 115: All-Inclusive Vacation Tips Roundtable.
- Episode 117: Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun Review.
More about traveling with kids:
- Check out Julie’s blog post How to Tour Walt Disney World with Toddlers!
- Check out episode 37: 37 Expert Tips for Traveling with Kids.
- Check out episode 87: The Teen Perspective on Travel.
Question: What is your best tip for traveling with toddlers and small children?
Please let us know in the All Things Travel Podcast Facebook group!
Start Making Your Magical Memories!
Ryan and Shayne are both Travel Advisers with Creating Magic Vacations, an authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Feel free to reach out to us for a free quote and to start making magical memories.
Where in the World is All Things Travel?
- Salem, OR
Check out the complete list of where in the world you’re located.
Enjoy these profound travel quotes to spark your sense of wonder.
Never Miss a Thing!
Subscribe to All Things Travel Show on your favorite app so you never miss anything:
Please share it with some friends while you’re here.
Check out the complete list of episodes.
Episode 124 Transcripts
Episodes are transcribed with artificial intelligence, so there are likely some highly amusing translations!
Shayne: Hello and welcome to All Things Travel vacations are definitely a family affair. However, traveling with infants, toddlers, and small children can present some challenges and require some planning. Today we are joined by an expert travel advisor, mom who will share pro tips for making travel go smoothly for the entire. You’re listening to all things. Travel episode 124 original air date, August 31st, 2022.
Ryan: So Shayne, I think I’ve shared this story on the podcast before. One of my first trips was with small kids, and we were going to Pittsburgh. And remember me talking about the minivan was full and I had to take everything upstairs
and Lu it on the carts. And when I finally got to the room, there was a set of stairs right in front of the room.
And I just felt defeated,
Shayne: the stairs almost won.
Shayne: If only
we had known Julie,
Ryan: that, the kids didn’t. My son would stay up all night.
I never wanted to take a trip like that again. Now with teenagers. It’s awesome. But there’s a lot going on with small kids traveling, isn’t there?
Julie: There is
Ryan: So Julie’s here.
We hear Julie,
Julie, why don’t you introduce?
Julie: So, my name is Julie Shafer. I am a mom to two little kids. They’re three and one right now. I stay home with them, so I’m with them all the time.
Ryan: She says that is that like a cry for help? Or is that a statement of fact?
Shayne: and She’s holding up a little sign, little help me
Ryan: I’m finally gonna hang out with adults. And then she realizes she’s talking with us for a
Shayne: what a let down. And Julie’s been on the show before,
back on episodes, one 15, and one 17 that we recorded live from Cancun. So I’ll put links to those so you can enjoy more of her fine work.
Ryan: I am excited to hear all about it, cuz I know truly you, you said expert in the intro. Shayne. she is I know whether it’s Disney or beach trips. I know she’s got it down or at least offers lots of ideas for how to make it, uh, make it work with small kids and, uh, babies. But first I’m really excited about this, where in the world, Shayne, where in the world is all things travel.
Shayne: Salem, Oregon.
Ryan: Oh, very nice.
Shayne: And I found this place there that I never knew about called
the enchanted forest theme park.
Ryan: that sounds like your kind of place.
Shayne: It’s a storybook based theme park, smaller, not anything on the scale of Disney, but it looks like it would be a lot of fun, little. Storybook scenes all through the park where, someone like us could see how they were a little creepy maybe, but it looked like a lot of fun.
And I would hope that my friend, Jennifer, from nearby state in Oregon, would come hang out with us also.
Ryan: cool. I’m excited. Salem, Oregon. Thank you so much for listening to all things travel. Do me a favor, reach out to Shayne or I, you can do that, uh, on email or you can do it on the Facebook group, cuz I have a little, uh, thank you gift for being featured on the show today.
Shayne: and to make sure that you hear where in the world as all things travel next week, be sure to subscribe the show or follow the show so that you never miss any of our travel tips, travel ideas, or travel stories.
Ryan: we talk a lot about travel, obviously, and we talk a lot about travel with families. Why do we travel with kids? Why is it important for small kids to start traveling
Julie: you can create memories with them. I think that’s the biggest thing. But also it’s just good for them to have experiences and experience things outside of their hometown and meet new people and, just expose them to all sorts of different foods and activities and things like that.
Ryan: I, I totally agree, Julie and on the flip side, it not only memories for them, but memories for the parents,
when I work with folks and. About vacations and, I’ll use Disney as an example cuz you know, we, we talk a lot about Disney and they say I only want, I want to go when they’ll remember it.
And I say that’s fine, but you also have to remember, you’re gonna remember the trip.
You’re gonna remember when
your kid did this or this picture, things like
Julie: Yeah, I have the best memories from taking my kids when they were babies. And there was one year we went in December of 2020, so it was not crowded. And I just have the best videos of my daughter running around. She was not yet two just running around in front of the castle and there’s no one there and she just thought it was the best.
Ryan: It was her castle.
Julie: Yeah. She loved it. And you can see the joy on their faces. They’re really excited, even though they’re not gonna remember it.
They love looking back at the pictures and they can say, oh look, I met Mickey when I was a baby. And they think that’s really cool.
Ryan: And I can tell you the coolest thing too, is having two teenagers. They still like looking back at the pictures
and talking about those memories and
seeing that stuff.
Julie: It’s really a cool thing to give them. It’s really a cool thing to give them.
Ryan: But with small kids and travel, there are some challenges. There are some considerations, right?
Julie: A lot of people say that traveling with kids is not a vacation. It’s just parenting in a different place.
Ryan: I may have said that
Shayne, I may have said that from time to time.
Shayne: I think she’s not crediting you with that quote.
Julie: It’s. It’s very true. It’s
Ryan: So let’s talk about this,
Whether it’s babies or small children, toddlers. When we’re talking about the trip preparation. So this could be planning, packing, talking about the trip as a family.
What advice or suggestions do you have? Julie?
Julie: it may depend on where you’re going with my kids. A lot of our trips have been to Disney world, which has been on the plane, but we also drive locally to the beach. We have a beach house about three hours away. And a lot of times we drive up to, the Hershey park resort area. So that’s about two hours for us.
So we’ve done both the driving and the flying. So it, it requires different planning when we fly. Because we don’t wanna pack as much. We do a lot of delivery services where we will. I like use Amazon
Ryan: that’s been a game changer,
Julie: Yeah, exactly. I know people couldn’t use that, 10 years ago or five years ago, but now I recommend it to every client I have because I do it myself.
And the biggest thing I’ll send our diapers and wipes. And then snacks that I know my kids like, so that they’re there in the room. They’re, they’re waiting for us when we. Easy thing to do.
If we’re driving, we can bring it, but
Shayne: what is the longest road trip you’ve taken with them so far?
Julie: only three
My kids never have done well in the car. I’ll say it was only scheduled to be three hours. We’ve been, sometimes it’s four and a half there’s traffic. I think we were supposed to go to the outer banks a couple times, which would be six and a half hours for us.
But the trip just never happened, but I would do it. I’d be willing to do it. It would just take a little bit more preparation. So if we’re driving like that, we like to bring, we talk to them about the trip. So the beach is something they’re really familiar with Hershey park. The first time we went there, I did different things to prepare.
I showed them pictures of where we’re saying, I showed them pictures of what’s at Hershey park. I talked to them about how we’re gonna be in the car and let them pick out things to bring in the car. And then they’ll be excited about the books that they pick out or whatever toys that they pick out to bring.
I’ll do that for our Disney trips as well for, what do they wanna bring on the plane or pick out a book for the plane, something like that. So I think it’s really important to talk to them. A lot of people will just up and go and don’t realize, kids like to know what’s going on.
They wanna help you. You can even have them. My daughter, that’s three. I’ll have her. Oh, can you go pick out your pajamas that you wanna bring or something like that. However, help me pack, even though it’s not actually helpful. It does help them get in the mindset like, oh, we’re going somewhere.
And then they tend to respond a little better.
Shayne: That sounds like the love and logic methodology of giving the kids a lot of choices.
So they feel like they have some control and some say in the situation.
Julie: We are all about that. I think I have that book.
Ryan: a must pack. What’s something that people may not think of that you have found invaluable to pack on trips.
Julie: So if you have infants, the number one thing that I recommend to everyone is something called a snooze shade, and I get it off of Amazon. And it is perfect for if you’re sharing a room with your baby and you don’t normally share a room with them at home. Because, you really want them to sleep well while you’re on vacation, but they’re not used to being in your room or hearing you, and you’re not used to hearing them.
And the snooze shade basically just covers the pack and play. It’s completely safe. It’s a mesh material and it just blocks out the pack and play for them, but it’s still breathable, completely safe. But using that, my kids, I can put them to sleep and be in the same room and have lights on and the TV on.
And they’re fine.
man. I could have used that for that trip. I brought up at the beginning.
Julie: Yeah. so things like that to help recreate the sleep environment they have at home. So the snooze shade, their sound machine, whatever their sleep comforts are, stuffed animals, blankets. Those are like must have, and I know even my kids are not that attached to specific stuffed animals, but if your kid is people will bring three of them in case something gets lost, but things like that comfort them.
I think those really help.
Ryan: With special friends like that, make sure you want you, you wash all of them. So for instance, my daughter had an elephant and we just kept one in the closet in case she ever needed an extra one. And when I gave it to her, she didn’t like it because it felt different
because it hadn’t been regularly
Julie: yeah, that’s a good
Shayne: Felt too new.
Julie: Yeah. The other thing I like to do is I like to pack in packing cubes. All my kids, things are in one color. Mine is in another, and then I can easily just say, this goes into your room. This goes in my room and keeps everyone together.
Ryan: That’s awesome.
Shayne: Those are great tips. Julie, do you have any tips that you recommend while on the trip?
Julie: Of course. So the biggest thing for me, while kids are on the trip, and I know you guys have heard me say this, I talked about this on the Mexico show is trying to stick to your kids’ routines, whether it’s mealtime nap, time bedtime, it’s really hard to do that on vacation. You get carried away.
But you have to remember your kids are gonna get over stimulated and they still need their time out. They still need. They’re meals at the same time. If they’re used to a 10:00 AM snack, just cuz you’re on vacation, they’re not gonna not be hungry at 10:00
AM. My biggest tip is to try to think ahead and make sure you’ve thought about how are they gonna nap?
If they’re an infant, bring their carrier so that, so you can wear them. That might be the best way to do it. Or make sure you’ve got time to go back to wherever you’re staying, which might not be ideal for you as a parent. Ideal for the kids and you wanna keep them happy.
Ryan: A little bit of compromise and flexibility. And my wife will be shocked that I’m saying this a little bit of compromise and flexibility goes a long way. Doesn’t.
Julie: It really does. If you take two hours out of your day for them to go back to the place and nap and have a good snack, they can go so much longer in the afternoon and you won’t have those meltdowns at dinner and all that kind of stuff. Another big thing while you’re on your trip is if you’re going somewhere, you’re gonna be walking a lot.
Take your stroller. If you’re flying somewhere, take your stroller, cuz you’re gonna wanna contain them in the airport. It’s just easier. A lot of people don’t wanna take the strollers. They don’t wanna have to check them. It’s the easiest thing in the world. You just go to the gate and say, can I just gate check my stroller?
And they put it on there. If you’re worried about it, getting damaged, just buy a cheap one off of Facebook marketplace or something like that. That’s what we did. So we have a travel stroller and it’s a way to.
Ryan: And the good thing is cuz you gay check it. It’s right there, outside the plain door, rather than having to walk all the way down to baggage
Julie: Yeah. After being on a plane with, a one year old or a two year old on your lap, you’re really gonna wanna put them in the stroller. When you get off the plane, you’re not gonna wanna be carrying them.
Shayne: we took the opposite approach where we purchased a stroller that we knew was extra durable and would last through. Flying and, walking all over cities and parks,
Julie: yeah. If you’re planning on doing it a lot. Definitely. Yeah. I like that idea too. So and the only other thing that I am a stickler on when we’re on the trip is making sure. This goes along with preparing too, making sure you’ve got things that are gonna keep them comfortable.
If you’re gonna be outside, it’s gonna be hot. Make sure you bring your stroller fan. Like kids are gonna get really hot in that stroller. If it’s during the summer and you’re walking around Disney or the beach or whatever, if it’s gonna be cold, bring them, bring layers for them. Don’t forget that they, they need to be comfortable with all that stuff too.
Shayne: That’s funny that a lot of the things Ryan and I say we do for ourselves, you’re making sure that
You do for children. Yeah. Yeah.
Ryan: I, and that’s why we enjoyed traveling with Julie so much in Cancun in June because she took care of us
sometimes. Well, you know, being at all inclusive, we didn’t need snacks, but if we weren’t there, I’m sure. I’m sure Shayne, we would’ve had a Ziploc or a baggy of pretzels or goldfish at some point.
Julie: It’s always the gold push
Ryan: Julie, what about coming back from the trip
And wrapping that up and getting back home.
Are there, things to think of there?
Julie: Yeah. So one of the first things I try to think of. Before I go to get ready for coming back is what time are we landing? Or what time do we plan to come home? And what am I gonna be doing for dinner that night? Cuz the worst thing is getting home at six o’clock. Your kids are hungry, they’re tired.
You don’t know what you’re gonna eat. So sometimes I’ll even prep something put it in the freezer or make sure I have something just like a frozen pizza. Ready to go.
Shayne: that’s a great idea.
Julie: for them to, for us to know what we’re doing when we come home, if you can’t tell I’m really type a, so I really plan a lot. But it’s, you have to with kids, um, my
Ryan: And I would say too, doing that when you’re going someplace, figure out when you’re gonna land.
spending an extra 20 minutes in the airport before, after you get your
bags to grab people food, before you get on the bus
will save a melt down there too.
Julie: Everyone will be happier.
Julie: Everyone will be happier. My kids they’re not in school yet. They’re only three and one, so we don’t have to worry about, what day we come home. And if they’re going back to school the next day, but I definitely give them some grace, the rest of the next couple of days, the next week, their naps might be longer or might be off, or they might be eating a little bit different.
I remember there was one trip. We came home from Disney and, um, we, I. They, we were having pasta and broccoli for dinner that night. And, they only ate broccoli and I was like, wow, you can tell they had no vegetables on.
Shayne: wow. They were
Ryan: They were
Julie: Yeah, it just shocked me. I was like, you guys don’t want any pasta, no broccoli. Just be flexible with them.
They might be eating a little different or playing a little different, cuz they’re gonna be tired. I mentioned this when I was talking about packing, but I also had them help me unpack, and that might look like them throwing things out of a suitcase, but it also, gets them in the mindset like we’re done with our vacation.
This is what we have to do now. They. Toss it in the laundry, they think that’s fun sometimes.
Shayne: A nice transition back.
Julie: Yeah. If your kids are in school, you might wanna think about the dates you’re going. So if you’re gonna go and you’re gonna come home on a Sunday, they’re gonna have a rough time going to school on Monday.
So maybe don’t.
I can tell you having that coming back on a Saturday and having that Sunday is awesome.
Julie: It’s really important. Even if that means one less day on vacation.
Ryan: And even on the other end, leaving on Sunday rather than Saturday.
Is really nice. Have it having a buffer day
for spring break, getting leaving a day after everybody or getting home a day before everybody else is really nice.
Julie: So not only is like your kids feeling better, but there might be less crowds and things like that. When you’re traveling.
Shayne: Speaking of their ages. You reminded me of a previous episode, and I’d like to know what your thoughts are gonna be when your kids do become school age, what are gonna be your thoughts on taking them out of school for travel?
Julie: I’ll take them out. I will definitely take them out. We always go the first week in December. Now, maybe I would adjust that I would plan my trips a little bit more around. Weekends or slide it back to Thanksgiving week or something like that, but I would still take them out because I just think the experience is worth it.
I think there’s ways that you can make that trip educational.
Shayne: I think Julie agreeing with that is pretty much all the proof I need that it’s okay to take your kids out of
Ryan: The stamp of approval. You did say
she’s an expert travel agent, mom in the intro. And I agree with.
Julie: And I I think you need to be cognizant of their teachers and let them know well in advance. I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell them, the week before, there’s also a difference of if they’re in kindergarten versus if they’re in 10th grade. And they have important tests. So maybe just be aware of that.
And when you
make your travel advance,
Ryan: Absolutely. Especially with my daughter, who’s now a junior in high school. We’re getting
to the point where there are definitely, sometimes we cannot be outta school, but like my son, when we were in Italy this summer, he actually was sending pictures to his history teacher
because she was excited to know that he was gonna go to Italy this summer and wanted to hear about it.
Julie: I think that’s so cool.
Ryan: so Julie. What’s something not to.
Julie: These go a lot with the tips I gave earlier, but I have three big things. Don’t skip nap time. Don’t expect your kids to go all day. If they don’t do that at home. So my kids right now, they still nap every day. I would never take them on a vacation and expect them to skip a nap. Every. And my last one is don’t keep them up late every night.
So I understand when you go to, you know, Disney and there’s fireworks and you wanna go see them, but maybe do the fireworks one night and then have a slow morning the next day. Just make sure you’re adjusting your schedule for them. I know.
Ryan: I I feel like those three, not that’s what I do now. Anyway, I try not to miss my naps. I don’t, I. Don’t go. And if I have a late night, I may still have an early morning, but I’m definitely not gonna have a late night the
Shayne: what does it say that all of Julie’s tips for children
apply to Ryan and me
Ryan: traveling with small children
Julie: and Ryan
Shayne: or all things travel.
Julie: And a lot of it is just trying to, keep him happy, just trying to keep them.
Ryan: it makes total sense.
When we first took my son, To Disney. He was four, I think he was four.
And we thought he was gonna be done with naps and he wasn’t.
Julie: And that
Ryan: so we had to really figure that out.
Julie: I have a lot and I have a lot of clients who, you know their kids are 4, 5, 6, and they’re on that verge they don’t nap or they don’t use a stroller at home and I’m like, but at Disney world, they’re gonna be walking 10 to 15 miles depending where you’re going and what you’re doing.
Their little legs, they’re gonna wanna shoulder and I’m, they’re gonna fall asleep around 4:00 PM. I’m telling you. Just I, all my clients, when I help them with their itineraries for Disney, I always try to say, if you’re not taking a resort day, make sure you’ve got, I, for example, a lot of times I’ll use their animal kingdom day as try to get back at from the park at four and just have a resort night, just try to have sometimes where you’re not expecting them to go. And maybe when you go to Epcot, maybe you don’t rope drop Epcot, like you’re rope dropping magic kingdom thing. I’ll try to talk to them about if you’re not gonna take a whole day off, you gotta take some time off in there.
You can’t expect them to keep up with you.
Shayne: Yeah, cuz a lot of travelers certainly have that mindset of just getting in as much as possible and filling up
Julie: you have to understand a vacation with kids is not just a vacation is not just like a vacation before kids with an added human it’s, you gotta cater to all their needs.
Ryan: Yeah. I like that. No that, that’s a really important point.
Julie: cause a lot of times they’ll just say, oh, I’ll just bring ’em and you can just bring ’em but you do need to adjust your schedule a lot.
Shayne: Great tips. Do you have one final pro parent?
Julie: Um, my, my final one and that I mentioned earlier is just to give them grace how you wanna give everyone in your travel party. Some grace, when you’re traveling, it can be stressful. It can be overstimulating. It’s a new environment, you’ve maybe you’ve been there before, but your kid hasn’t and they’re used to seeing your house during the day, your.
That kind of they’re bedrooms and everything is brand new to them. So it’s easy for them to get over stimulated. Um, so if they are having a tough time or a tantrum, just remember what works for them. Remember, maybe they need a snack or a nap or just some quiet time or
just, cut ’em some slack.
Shayne: Cause even if all the experiences are good,
that stimulation is still
Julie: It’s a lot.
Shayne: energy and still tiring.
Julie: And that’s not even just Disney that’s, anywhere we went to the beach a couple weeks ago and my kids, this was my son. He’s 16 months or 17 months, something like that. And so this is the first year he’s really walking on the beach and he was go. He was so much to the point that he would come up to me and ask for a nap, basical.
Um, but we got to the point where it was like, okay, we can only do two beach days in a row because he needs a break. And I know that he’s having fun and he’s having a great time, but he’s gonna lose it if we don’t take a day off.
Shayne: well, Julie. Thank you for coming on and giving this awesome advice.
Julie: Thanks for.
Ryan: Absolutely. And so we wanna share some of Julie’s advice that she talked about today, and even some that she didn’t, she has a recent blog post about, uh, how to tour Walt Disney world with toddlers. And we’re gonna put a link to that in the show notes, go check that out because not only does it. Apply to Disney, obviously, but it really does apply to all sorts of travel.
And it was a great read for me to get in the mindset for today’s conversation.
Shayne: And while you’re there, be sure and sign up and get her guide to using genie and genie plus, because it is an amazing guide. Okay.
Ryan: you know that all three of us are travel advisors with Creating Magic Vacations, and we would love to help you plan your next vacation. With or without toddlers or small children. And if you want some extra pampering, when it comes to taking your kids on vacation, we want you to reach out to Julie. So Julie, what’s your contact information?
Julie: My email is gonna be Julie creating magic vacations.com.
Ryan: Most families are confused and overwhelmed on planning a vacation. We work with you to plan a trip perfect for your interests, saving you time, money, and stress.