What age is best for travel with babies and toddlers?

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Although every child will be different, in my experience there are typically some ages that are just easier for travel than others. And when you hit a new age range it changes the whole travel dynamic.

Just when I felt like I was getting things figured out, my son would hit a new stage of development and the next trip would be a totally new experience with new challenges. The nice thing is that now that we’re traveling with our second son we have a better sense of what to expect. Hopefully, this guide will be helpful for you as you are planning when to travel and what kind of trip to take.

Infant to six months– relatively easy

  • This is the age to go to all of those museums and historical sites that you’ve been dying to see.  Pop baby in a carrier and go see the sights.  Babies at this age do great with movement, so let your exploring lull your little one to sleep. 
  • Flights usually aren’t too bad as long as your baby isn’t affected by the change in pressure. If you have that problem, try nursing or offering a bottle or pacifier during take off and landing. Young babies will probably sleep for a lot of the flight. Bring a teether or small toy for them to hold and chew on while they are awake.
  • Bring a great carrier and/or a stroller with a car seat attachment. If you’re breastfeeding, check out my tips for nursing on the go.
A couple with a baby in sleeping in a carrier with the New York skyline behind them.
Visiting New York City when our son was 3 months old. We toured all over the city and he napped in his carrier for most of the trip.

Six months to one year- somewhat trickier, but generally manageable 

  • At this age they are getting a little more wiggly. However, because they aren’t super mobile yet, in my experience they tend to handle being cooped up on the plane better and are easier to cart around during your trip. 
  • Plan on bringing some good snacks (see this post for ideas) and a few toys for them to hold and chew on.
  • If possible, flex your nap schedule so that you can maximize sleep time on the plane.
  • Really I should put “six months to walking” because the real challenge comes when they get that mobility and want their freedom. Once they’re walking, flying can get a bit more challenging for a while…
A baby sitting in the shade on the beach next to a giant Jenga set.
Enjoying the shade in the Bahamas at 10 months

One to two years old- hello grey hairs

  • I’m not going to lie, this stage can be a little rough.  That being said, the month my firstborn turned one we took back to back trips to Italy and Southeast Asia (literally back to back- we had two days in between the two trips), so it can totally be done.  Just prep yourself mentally so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The challenge with this age is that they are mobile but still difficult to reason with.  They don’t understand why they shouldn’t go running up and down the aisle during take-off or repeatedly kick the seat in front of them.  That combined with jet lag and lack of structure can lead to a lot of melt-downs. 
  • We found that trips focused more on beach/swimming activities were easier than those with a lot of “seeing the sites” or visiting museums. The former tend to be more laid back, have more downtime, and have an easier environment for naps.
  • If you’re traveling at this age, bring good snacks and activities, try to make sure your child is getting decent naps, and have realistic expectations of what you will be able to accomplish.
A baby in a church crouched on steps looking at something on the ground.
Exploring a church in Italy just before he turned one

Two to three years old- now we’re getting to the good stuff

  • At this age travel starts to get a little more fun.  Not that it isn’t without it’s challenges, but you’re getting to the age where your kiddo understands more what is going on and is excited about what you’re doing.  I find that that makes if feel more enjoyable and worth if for everyone.  You will have to cater your trip more towards your toddler than you did when they were really little (a trip with lots of long museum days might not be the best, unless there are a lot of more hands-on or kid friendly museums), but it is so fun seeing them really having fun with the things that you are experiencing. 
  • Beach/swimming activities are still great for this age, but we also found that we could start including more of the “sights” without it being so stressful.
  • Try to bring along some engaging activities that can hold their attention for longer stretches. When our son was 2.5 we went to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza while we were in Dallas. We strapped our son into his stroller and gave him his wipe clean book and were able to stroll around and enjoy the museum while he was occupied. We couldn’t take as long as we maybe would have done without kids along, but it was easier than it would have been a year before. Check here for more activity ideas to keep your toddler busy.
A man and a toddler looking at a topographic map at a museum.
Enjoying the exhibits at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas at 2.5 years old

Well there you have it, a rough overview of traveling through the baby and toddler years. I’d love to hear your experiences traveling with young kids. What ages did you find easiest and which ones tested your patience?

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