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12 Genius Travel Hacks for Toddlers
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Eep, you’re boarding a plane, train or automobile with a toddler and your anxiety level is at a ten. How will you entertain her? What if there’s a delay? How do you even get a car seat onto an airplane? That’s why we rounded up the best and most genius travel hacks from real moms who have made the trek and lived to tell the tale.

Bring a Box (or Handful) of Ziploc Bags

“We used them for everything from wet bathing suits to impromptu snack bags. I was so glad I tucked a handful in my carry-on at the last minute.” — Alyssa, California

Separate Essentials into Pouches

“For example, I had a pouch for easy plane activities (I included the iPad, a couple of favorite books and reusable stickers in here), a pouch for medical needs (things like Band-Aids and Tylenol and hand-sanitizing wipes) and a pouch for quickie diaper changes in the airplane bathroom (this had A&D ointment, a single diaper, a changing pad and wipes—so much easier than carrying in the whole diaper bag).” — Sarah, Massachusetts

If You’re in a Different Time Zone, Split the Difference

“Instead of stressing about bedtimes and nap schedules when you’ve got, say, a six-hour time change, divide it in half. This means your toddler’s bedtime will be three hours later (or earlier) versus six, making it easier to adjust and easier to come home.”— Katherine, New York

Never Hit the Road Without Distraction Snacks

“For a plane flight—or road trip, for that matter—all bets are off, meaning as a parent, it’s OK to relax the rules a bit. I arm myself with all their favorite foods for the drive. This might mean that they skip real meals because they’re stuffing themselves full of Goldfish, but if it distracts from a meltdown, I’m all in. We’ll recalibrate tomorrow.” — Stephanie, New York

Invest in a Plane-Friendly Car Seat

“Past two, your toddler requires their own seat on a flight—but they’re still so wiggly and little. To save our arm strength, we swear by the Cosco car seat. It’s inexpensive, but more importantly a fraction of the weight of a typical booster seat. We strap it to the seat as though we’re in a car and it gives our arms a break while feeling comfortable that they’re safe and secure. Better yet, you can use it in the taxi or rental car when you deboard.” — Ana, Connecticut

And a Portable Noise Machine

“On longer travel days when I need my son to nap, I just tuck it behind the car seat. The goal is finding one you can either charge—like this one from LectroFan—or one you can queue up on your phone (any white noise app will do) so that you can create a bit of sleep-friendly ambiance, even if your toddler is in an over-stimulating space.” — Lucy, Florida

Don’t Leave Home Without an iPad Holder

“We love our iPad—cued up with Sesame Street—for lengthy flights, car trips and more. But it becomes a job propping it up. That’s why we bought a holder for our iPad that hooks onto the back of the headrest on the seat. It changed our lives.” — Katie, Massachusetts

Pack a Change of Clothes Not Just for Your Kids, but for You, Too

“Poopslosions happen. And while you’re usually prepared with an extra outfit (or two) for your child, it’s never a bad idea to stash one for you or your spouse, too. My daughter got motion sick and puked all over me on takeoff, but I didn’t have a change of clothes and had to borrow my husband’s pullover for the duration of the flight. Next time, I’ll be more prepared.” — Dani, Illinois

A New Toy Is a Great Tantrum-Diffuser

“It doesn’t have to be expensive—just something that is new to them, like a sticker pack or a stacking set. It helps give a bit of novelty to a car trip or flight.” — Sarah, New Jersey

Or You Could Just Bring Painter’s Tape

“The tape can stick anywhere and they love to stick it down, then remove it, stick it down, then remove it.” — Dabee, New York

For Plane Flights, Be Strategic About Boarding

“We’ve done it where my husband boards first with the early boarding and installs the car seat, then I board later with our daughter so that she’s not captive on the plane forever. It’s a sanity-saver.” — Rachel, New York

Put Them in Their Jammies for Night Drives

“After years of planning our drives so we’d arrive before bedtime, we learned an amazing secret: If we feed our kids dinner, put them in their pajamas and take off after the sun goes down, they’ll fall right to sleep by eight or nine. And then it’s podcast listening time for mom and dad!  — Jillian, New York

RELATED: How to Go on Vacation with Your Kids (and Not Feel Like You Need a Vacation When You Get Back)

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