Traveling With Toddlers
Tips for Sanity, Safety and a Sunshiny Adventure
By Kimberly Bonéy
Mastering the art of traveling with a toddler is no easy feat. But it is possible to maximize the fun and minimize the meltdowns with the right preparations. Check out our tips for taveling with little ones and set off on a joyful adventure with your family.
Pack heavy. It would seem that packing light for an adventure would make life easier. But there is something to be said for not having to go on a wild goose chase for the accoutrements you use on a daily basis to keep your kiddos comfortable and happy. Pack additional clothing, diapers, wipes and toys for the trip.
Don’t trust the weather. Just because you are headed to a typically sunny locale doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for rain or cool evenings. There is nothing worse than not having weather-appropriate clothing — or worse — having to purchase sweatshirts for the entire family at the airport gift shop. Even if you had the extra 200 bucks it may cost to outfit the entire family in hoodies and ponchos, is that really something you want to have to do?
Dress in layers while en route. Airplanes are notorious for being extremely hot before take-off and iceboxes during flight. An hour’s drive in a car may be enough to drastically affect temperatures. Dress everyone in layers that can be added or taken away as necessary.
Embrace your inner walking medicine cabinet. Yes. There will be bumps, bruises, upset tummies, motion sickness, headaches and the like, even in the paradise known as Vacation Land. Do not be caught unprepared. Not every place you travel will have the comfort of a 24-hour pharmacy or drug store. Plan for the worst, and hope for the very best.
Old standards never lose their appeal. Be sure to bring along that favorite toy or blanket on your trip. There is comfort for your child in knowing there is something familiar in their midst when everything else around them is brand new.
Whip out a new toy. Or several. Kids tend to get bored easily. Bring along a few new toys to keep them engaged on the trip. Hand-held games, stuffed animals and electronic books are great ideas for keeping them entertained. Bonus: wrap the toys. Yes, there will be shreds of paper and tape in the car, but there is a certain level of joy in opening a wrapped gift, even more so if it’s not your birthday. Imagine the excitement.
Never underestimate the power of a portable DVD player, TABLET, IPod and headphones. Never. They can be virtual miracle workers just before a meltdown ensues. Stash a few family-friendly DVDs and load up on some favorite tunes before your trip and keep everyone at peace with the touch of a button.
Keep the snacks comin’. Ever gotten so hungry or thirsty you find yourself morphing into a full-grown toddler, complete with screaming fits and tears? OK. Maybe not. But you know it’s not a good feeling to have to wait a long period to eat or drink. Ward off the hunger and thirst monsters by packing plenty of snacks and drinks for everyone on board. Fruit, granola, string cheese and bottled water are great options. The kids will be content until you reach the next restaurant, and the parents will have the energy to sustain through even the most awkward traveling experience.
Bring the stroller. Even if your child is fully mobile, your little love bug may not have the endurance to walk after a long day of family fun. Even if it only serves as a catch-all for everyone’s stuff, it’ll be worth letting it make the trip.
Leave the high chair. We get it. You want to be able to keep your kid contained during mealtime. But a stroller can double as a place to feed your toddler and it will mean you don’t have to haul another bulky piece of equipment with you. And it’s on wheels. Winning!
Account for messes. You know those annoying trash bags that seem to be coming out of the woodwork in your kitchen? You’ll thank your lucky stars for them come vacation time. Stash some in your vehicle, in your diaper bag and in your luggage so you can keep the messes contained on your travels. And there will be messes.
Expect delays. Inevitably, there will be some. Your flight will leave an hour or two after originally scheduled for take-off. There will be traffic. There will be additional bathroom, food and clean-up breaks, particularly when traveling with wee ones. You may just need some more shut-eye than you thought. Plan accordingly, and try to adopt a “we’ll get there when we get there” perspective. Cut down on stress by arriving a day before you actually need to be there. That way when the inevitable happens, it won’t compromise your plans.
Not every activity is designed for everyone. Be realistic about the activities you have planned on your vacation. Is your 2-year-old really likely to make it through a three-hour theater performance without a meltdown? Save everyone in your family the hassle of trying to force a square peg into a round hole.