As we get closer to the holidays, many families start making travel plans. Whether it’s visiting Grandma and Grandpa in a neighboring state or heading to snow fun in the mountains, families of multi-age children are going to have a unique set of preparations to make to ensure that the car, bus, train or plane ride is fun and stress-free.

In this post, we offer tips for wintertime travel to help you avoid any bumps in the road.

Seat safety

Before everyone buckles up, make sure that your children are fitted into their car seat appropriately. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds us that the safest place for all children younger than 13 years of age is to ride in the back seat regardless of weight and height. In addition, they suggest:

  • All infants and toddlers ride in their car seat rear-facing until they are 2-years old or they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.
  • Toddlers over 2-years old should ride in a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness.
  • Once a child is 4-feet 9-inches in height AND are 8 through 12 years of age, they can ride in a booster seat.

Many experts advise that winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness because it can leave the straps too loose to effectively protect your child in a car crash. Instead, use blankets for infants, and for older children, put the coat on backward once the child is buckled into their seat.

Things to bring for the car ride:

  • Easy-to-reach diapers, extra baby clothes, and toys for older children. Remember that anything loose will be a projectile in a crash. One way to contain items are pockets that strap onto the back of the seat in front of the child.
  • Paper towels to clean up messes; a ziplock bag for dirty diapers and a trash bag for snack wrappers.
  • Books to read to baby.
  • See through window shades.
  • Blankets, extra food and water, first aid kit, and snow chains (if driving over the mountains).

It’s also advised that you check road conditions on your route before you leave and find some places along the way to pull over for potty breaks, running around, and feedings.

If possible, have a secondary adult (like your spouse or sibling) sit in the backseat with your infant when they need extra calming or entertainment (such as books and baby toys).

In the air

If you plan on flying over the holidays, it’s a great idea to look into your airline’s policies regarding travel with young children. According to the Transportation Security Administration, formula and breast milk for infants or toddlers are permitted in reasonable quantities through the security checkpoint. It’s helpful if you tell the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying formula or breast milk in excess of 3.4 ounces. These liquids are typically screened by X-ray.

Other flying tips include:

  • Umbrella strollers are a good option for getting toddlers through the airport. If you decide to purchase a seat for your infant and keep them in their car seat through the plane ride, there are infant car seat stroller frames that connect to most infant seats, which makes carrying a car seat through the airport much easier. A stroller can be used up until the point of boarding, but cannot come on the plane. However, it will be waiting for you when you land.
  • Use a baby carrier or sling for baby. In most cases, you can keep baby in the carrier even as you go through security.
  • Ear pressure: For takeoff and descent, air pressure can be relieved with nursing or bottle feeding, as well as sipping through a straw or munching on crunchy snacks for older children.
  • While traveling during the winter, plan for delays at the airport. Map out the airport, check to see if they have a child’s play area or private nursing stations, check on their food options and pack extra snacks if necessary.

Things to bring:

  • Slip on shoes for ease through security.
  • Low-sugar snacks.
  • Pull Up diapers for those just potty-trained.
  • An extra set of clothes for infants and toddlers (and an extra shirt for you if possible).
  • Baby and toddler toys.

Avoiding meltdowns

However you travel those long distances, babies and toddlers will become bored when asked to sit still for long periods of time. For preschoolers this can result in misbehavior, which can make the trip painful for both you and your children.

To avoid meltdowns and other misbehaviors, try:

  • Sticking to your child’s routine as much as possible.
  • Plan travel around sleep schedules, so your infant or toddler can sleep for some of the trip.
  • Prepare your preschooler ahead of time by talking about safety while traveling in the car or airplane.
  • Decide on two or three rules your child can follow, such as staying buckled in your seat, using a quiet voice, and keeping your hands to yourself.
  • Bring “wrapped” surprises. Wrap up small gifts for your child to open along the trip. You could use these as rewards for following your travel rules at a set interval of time.
  • Play “I Spy” games with your toddler, such as finding all the red cars.
  • If traveling by car, plan lots of stops so toddlers can get out and play and so you can feed/change baby. Never breastfeed while the car is in motion. Make sure to pull over and stop the car to feed.
  • Praise your child during the trip for following your family’s travel rules.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs?” of traveling with small children: “What if my infant cries the whole flight?” “What if my toddler has an ‘accident’ while we are driving?” The thing is, you never know until you try—and you don’t want to miss out on baby’s first trip to Grandma’s house or your toddler’s first romp through the snow. Those are the memories worth the working for!


This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website ( or contact us at

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