The Adventure Starts Here: Traveling with a 3 Year Old | Ten on Tuesday

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Traveling with a 3 Year Old | Ten on Tuesday

So you are planning to take a trip with your child(ren)?  There's a lot to think of and plan for, huh?  Recently, we flew to Turks & Caicos with our 3 year old, so I feel I have a few words of wisdom to impart.   I am really not an expert, but based on my travel successes (and failures), I've come up with 10 tips that will (hopefully) greatly improve your future family vacations! 

1 - Pack your children's clothes in plastic bags.  
I find the gallon size work best.  I know some people swear by packing an outfit a day in each bag, and while that would work well if we were going somewhere where we'd be wearing one outfit a day, it wasn't going to work for our beach vacation.  Instead, I layed out all of Noah's clothes for the trip - swim suits & rash guards, dressier outfits for dinners, lots of casual shorts and t-shirts, and pajamas.  Once I knew that I had enough outfits for each day and occasion, I then rolled each outfit up and stuck them in a ziplock bag.  I grouped like outfits together (swim suits, dinner, and casual).  That way, I could take out the appropriate bag each day and let Noah choose which one he wanted to wear (he's actually pretty picky).  The best part is that at the end of the trip, I could put the dirty clothes (and wet bathing suits) back in the ziplock bags and keep the clean clothes that he didn't end up wearing in a separate bag.  It made doing laundry when we got back home so much easier.  Another perk to storing them in plastic bags, is that it ensured they stayed clean from the beach toys and swim float I had to pack :)

2 - Bring snacks!
Flights can be at odd times when it comes to meals.  Not all flights even offer actual meals for purchase and even when they do, it doesn't mean your kid will like the options.  While we were able to purchase breakfast on the flight down, they only offered snacks on our flight back.  Not only did we pack lots of snacks (pretzels, popcorn, goldfish, animal crackers, and fruit snacks), I also made some of our favorite apple zucchini muffins that could act as a mini meal for Noah if necessary.  I would also suggest bringing an empty travel cup to fill with water once through security.  If traveling by car, go ahead and bring a cooler with lots of drinks and snacks!  You never want to travel with a hangry child!

3 - Plan to entertain them while traveling
Whether you are traveling by plane or car, you want to bring some things with you to keep your kids entertained.  For the flight, we let Noah choose 3 small toys to pack in his own backpack.  This trip, he chose to bring 3 of his transformers (one of which was Bumblebee).  I then packed his iPad and headphones, a few coloring books and crayons, and some sticker books.  The iPad kept Noah the most entertained with apps and his favorite shows.  While Noah loves watching YouTube at home, we had to plan for the lack of wifi while away.  We have a few shows loaded to his iPad, but I wish we had loaded some of his new favorite episodes before leaving.  

4 - Plan to entertain them once you've arrived
Not only do I pack entertainment for travel days, but I bring a few extra items to entertain Noah once we are there.  I know there will be lots of downtime in restaurants and back at the hotel.  The iPad and Transformers were still well loved, but I also packed a few "new items" that he didn't get to see on the plane.  For the hotel, I brought this mini box of puzzles to keep him entertained while Chris and I got ready.  I also brought a few extra sticker books (animals, dinosaurs, space, diggers)  for him to do during dinners out.  Noah is obsessed with these and they are real life savers at restaurants now!  

5 - Pack tissues and medicine... even if you aren't sick when you leave!
I don't know about you, but we are notorious for catching a cold when on vacation.  Not sure if it's from the stale airplane air, the hotel, or just being exhausted after a fun vacation, but one of us usually has a runny nose by the end of the trip.  So do yourself a favor and come prepared.  I had some travel tissues for Noah, but I definitely could have used more.  And I was happy to have adult Tylenol (for the sun headache I got one morning), Children's Motrin (for when Noah ran a slight fever on the way home), and cough drops (for Chris' sore throat and cough on the way home).  

6 - Be prepared with all options for your newly potty trained child
If your child is newly potty trained (and even if they are a pro at home), I would suggest bringing every option under the sun in terms of diapers and underwear.  Noah had been successfully using the potty for about 3 weeks when we left on vacation.  He proved to be good at letting me know when he needed to go when out, but the idea of traveling made me nervous.  Even if he told me he needed to go, there was no guarantee I could find a toilet in time.  So on the days that we flew, I put him in a pull up.  I still encouraged him to stay dry and use the toilet, but I knew we were safe just in case.  When at the resort, I put him in a swim diaper because once again, if he told me at the beach that he needed to go, there was no guarantee I could get him to the bathroom in time.  I also felt it was better to be safe than sorry with Noah in the pool.  I did not want to be that parent who's kid pooped in the pool causing it to close for hours.  Otherwise, we tried to keep it as normal as possible... he wore underwear when we went out to dinner and a diaper at bed time. We even brought a travel toilet with us, but never had to use it because Noah was a toilet using pro!  My philosophy with potty training (when traveling or at home) is that it's better to be over prepared :)

7 - Be prepared that your child might need extra rest
While Noah doesn't nap at home, he did need to have an afternoon nap each day we were on vacation.  I think being out in the sun and the excitement of being away made for a very tired boy.  Since we were on the type of vacation where we just took it easy and had no real plans anyway, accommodating for afternoon naps was pretty easy.  But if you are on a vacation where you are constantly on the go, it would be a good idea to keep your afternoons more relaxed so that you can easily fit a nap in if necessary.  

8 - Pack some beach toys
Obviously this tip only applies if you are going on a beach vacation.  Noah loves playing in the sand, and since we didn't want to pay an arm and a leg on a bucket and pail from the resort, we decided to bring our own.  I found this great (and compact) set that has a bucket, a watering can, a few shovels, and a bunch of cute molds.  This was the MVP of the trip... it was super easy to pack, and not only did Noah love playing with it, but other kids kept looking over with envy at the set up we had in the sand ;)  

9 - Bring multiples
I made sure to bring lots of sunscreen, hats, and bathing suits for Noah.  I wanted to make sure we never ran out of sunscreen because that stuff is not cheap at a resort!  And as for hats and swimsuits, I always wanted to have a dry one ready.  It takes longer for things to dry in the humidity and putting on a wet swim suit is no fun (for you or your child).  

10 - Pack a few things for yourself
When traveling with a child (especially a 3 year old), I find that I'm happy if they are happy.  Kids can get super used to their routines and specific items.  So I find that if you come prepared, you can usually have a good trip.  But there are a few things I think you should pack for yourself to ensure things run smoothly.  

The first thing is a change of clothes on travel days.  This is one I learned based on experience when Noah peed on me in the airport waiting to fly home.  While I had multiple outfit changes for him, I personally was empty handed.  Thankfully we were still in the airport and I could buy a pair of (overpriced) sweatpants at the gift shop.  From now on I'll be packing a change of clothes for myself in addition to Noah.  

And while you should never assume that you'll get some adult time on a plane, bring some sort of entertainment just in case you are so lucky.  On the flight home, Noah slept the entire time.  I was relieved to have a book downloaded onto my phone to entertain me as Noah slept on my lap :)

So there you have it, a few tips to make traveling with a 3 year old a little easier.  I'd love for you to share any additional words of wisdom in the comments!

And in case you want to read all about our Turks and Caicos vacation, here are a few posts :)

I'm linking up with Karli for 10 on Tuesday!

*affiliate links used


  1. Great list!! I like the idea of clothes in the ziplock bags!! Genius!!!

  2. Great tips! I've done clothes in ziploc bags before and it has worked really well. Even if we are going to the grandparents houses I still take his favorite toys becasue otherwise he'll miss them. When we travel we usually drive, so I always have snacks in snack size ziplocs, the ipad, our portable dvd player (which only comes out on long drives) and a small new toy to entertain.

  3. What awesome tips! Husby and I were just having the discussion last night about flying with our newly potty trained little guy. Thanks for sharing :)

  4. love this list. you should pin it so more people can get their eyes on it!

  5. These are great tips!! We pack with ziplock bags too and it makes it so much easier!!

  6. Great post, Meghan!! :) I love these ideas especially the ziplock bags, that's brilliant!! I'm going to pin this for my next trip ;) XO

  7. Great advice! My 5 year old was bored on the plane coming home from our last trip, which was pretty annoying for me! I have learned the hard way to bring along medicine on trips. The good thing is when you are traveling where you can go to a pharmacy, but for me, I was stuck on a cruise and didn't want to pay their prices to get some relief for a cold! As for the beach toys advice, we didn't bring anything on our trip and we ended up just taking plastic cups and spoons from the hotel restaurant and using those!

  8. Such great tips. Being prepared is always key and I always take plenty of medicine with us. I love the beach toy tip too. I never would have thought of that one!

  9. Fabulous tips!!! So jealous of your vacation. ;)

  10. I'm pinning this for future reference, I've never flown on a plane with the girls and feel like its getting to be that time... :)

  11. These are such awesome tips! I love the clothes in the zip lock bags. I had never thought of that, and would be great especially for extra dirty clothes(a given with little boys) and wet bathing suits. We've actually not yet flown with Ben and that is my worst fear right now...him in confined public spaces, haha!

  12. You hit the nail on the head with these tips!! Such a perfect list. We traveled a ton with Connor when we were in TX and I learned quickly that entertainment was of the highest importance.

  13. GREAT tips!!! We've done a couple different car road trips with Mason and I always pack WAY too much, because I can. But next year we're going on a cruise, leaving from Florida and I know I am going to need to refer to these tips!


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