Tips for Thanksgiving Travel With a Toddler

toddler  boy sitting in the car seatWhile New York is where I live, work, and am happily raising a family, I’m originally from outside of Boston and love having the chance to go “home” for Thanksgiving, where my parents (and my husband’s parents) still reside. If your family lives out of town like mine, you can probably relate to the excitement of traveling to see family and having more than just a short weekend to spend together. But of course with traveling comes a whole host of stressful things to deal with—making sure to pack everything you need (but not too much), timing your trip just right, and making it to your Thanksgiving destination with a happy child in tow. After many successful trips and (many more that I would rather forget), I’m happy to share a few things I’ve learned to make travel with a toddler just a little bit easier.

Get the necessities now. When traveling with my now 22-month-old son for an extended period of time, ordering the necessities he needs and shipping them to my destination ahead of time has become an absolute must. Of course I could buy everything when we get there, or guestimate how many diapers to pack or if the bath soap we have will take us through the week—but why chance it? With the ease of sites like and Amazon, you can buy what you need, ship it a few days ahead of time, and have one less thing to think about. Plus, you’ll have extra room in your suitcase for the things you really need.

Time things just right. I’ve traveled a fair amount with my son and the one thing I’ve learned is that timing is everything. If your child is just a few months old and has an erratic schedule, timing might not matter, but if your little one has a very predictable routine (like mine), my advice is to keep to it. If you’re driving to your Thanksgiving destination, leave at bedtime when traffic should be a bit lighter and your child can sleep his/her way through the ride. This will make for a less stressful drive for everyone involved. Naptime is the next best option, as you’ll get at least an hour or two of peace and quiet. If you’re flying, leaving in the morning is key. After a full night’s sleep your little one is bound to be less cranky and more willing to cooperate during the long process of flying. My family once flew back from a vacation at the exact time my son should have been napping. He threw an enormous tantrum as we were preparing to take off—disrupting everyone to the point that the stewardess handed out free headphones (that you usually pay for) to everyone on the plane to block out the noise. Once we were at cruising altitude he proceeded to throw himself on the (absolutely disgusting) plane floor and nap for two and a half hours. I was totally that mom with the uncontrollable child, and wouldn’t wish a trip like that on my worst enemy.

Do whatever it takes to get there. Traveling is stressful enough when you’re by yourself, so adding a toddler to the mix can turn an exciting vacation into an anxiety-inducing chore. So whether it’s extra snacks, toddler tunes on the radio, or a movie on the iPad, do yourself a favor and do whatever it takes to keep your sanity in tact. In my case, living in city means my family doesn’t drive as much as suburban families, so my son is more irritable than the average child when he’s strapped in a car seat for hours. While he doesn’t watch a lot of TV when we’re at home, if Elmo the Musical on the iPad will keep my city kid happy for a long stretch, Elmo the Musical is what he’ll get. I use a special holder that sits on the back of the headrest so he can’t fumble around with the iPad, so all my husband and I have to deal with is Elmo’s high-pitched, cheery voice for three and a half hours. But believe me, during our long drive to Boston next week that furry, red monster will be the Thanksgiving gift that keeps on giving.

Author: Lauren Rubino

Lauren Rubino is the director of marketing and strategy at Kidz Central Station. She is also a mom to a very active toddler boy, so she’s no stranger to kids’ classes and activities! Have a question? Need help finding a class for your little one? Email her at