Traveling with Toddlers: 6 Tips for a Stress-Free Family Vacation

Traveling can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Once you add children to the mix, it brings a whole new layer of complexity. What will they eat? How will they react to a plane ride? What will I do to entertain them? Will they sleep?

These are just a few of the questions that filled my brain the minute we booked our all-inclusive trip to Mexico this past spring. Prior to this trip, we hadn’t gone on a family vacation (outside of local road trips) in more than two years. We traveled to New York in 2019 when Zak was 11-months-old and it was quite the adventure!

Here are six things that we did to make traveling to Mexico with a toddler enjoyable for all of us.

1. Decide on the type of travel you want to do

Before picking a destination, it’s important to think about the kind of trip you want to have.

  • Are you looking for adventure?
  • Do you want to explore a city?
  • Are you hoping to relax on this trip?
  • Will there be any work involved?
  • Do you want to catch up and hang out with family or friends?
  • Do you have a budget in mind for flights, accommodation, food, and activities?

We have a huge list of places we want to travel to, either as a couple or a family. However, after being stuck at home for 2+ years due to a pandemic, James and I wanted to escape somewhere warm, do as little as possible, make memories as a family of 3, and relax by a pool or beach.

That is how we decided on an all-inclusive vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico.

2. Do your travel research

Now that you know the type of trip you want to have with your kids, you should research and plan where you’ll stay, what you’ll eat, and how you all plan to enjoy the destination.

We used websites like TripAdvisor to read reviews of family-friendly all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and narrowed it down to five options before deciding on Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort & Spa. The most important thing we looked for were:

  1. Many options for dining (our toddler is an extremely picky eater)
  2. Entertainment for kids (kids club, parks, kiddie pools with water slides, activities, babysitting services)
  3. A good reputation of the resort overall

I’m happy to report that all the research we did truly helped us relax and enjoy our 5-day vacation with a toddler.

3. Talk about your upcoming trip with your children

As soon as we booked our travel package, we started talking about it with Zak to get him excited. We showed him photos and videos of the resort, took him along on shopping trips to buy clothes and necessities, and walked him through what our daily routine would be when we’re on vacation.

By openly discussing our travel plans as we made them, it helped alleviate anxiety and got our toddler stoked about the trip and how much fun we were about to have as a family!

4. Bring snacks for the airport, flight, and overall trip

Do you have a picky eater like me? If so, then you can understand the struggle and stress that comes with trying to get them to sit down and eat whatever is in front of them.

On top of bringing snacks for the airport and flight (no one wants to deal with a hangry toddler), we decided to check a bag full of food that we were allowed to bring with us to Mexico (mostly dried goods like nuts, crackers, peanut butter, chips, granola bars). I highly recommend doing this if you can!

Make sure to check with your airline and destination on the type of food or snacks they will allow you to bring. We were advised not to bring fresh fruit, meat, dairy, or vegetables.

5. Get your toddler to help with packing

Now that we’ve done a few road trips, Zak loves to choose what toys, books, and activities he’d like to bring with him. We allowed him do the same while packing for Mexico. We also took him to the mall to pick out a couple of new toys for the plane ride, beach and hotel room, and this worked incredibly well! It made my job a lot easier as I only had to focus on clothes, snacks, toiletries, and necessities.

6. Be as flexible as you can

As much as you prepare in advance, things can happen that are beyond your control. The best piece of advice I can give is to be flexible and go with the flow. If things aren’t going as planned, naps are unsuccessful, or they are being fussy about food, be ready to adapt and pivot as needed. Remember that when you’re stressed, your children can feel it too.

Hope you find these tips helpful for the next time you are traveling with toddlers. Coming up next: my full review of the resort we stayed at in Mexico.