Beach vacation with a toddler? Yeah, right! Most parents gawk at the idea of traveling to the grocery store with their toddler, let alone an extended trip away from the comforts of their own home and bed.
To travel whether, by plane or car, it’s challenging because kids have to be confined for long periods of time Children are busy and very active by nature, so expecting them to sit still can lead to dysregulation and that is no fun sir! Not to mention, your child may resist napping on the go, and a tired and cranky toddler on the verge of a meltdown doesn’t bode well for anyone. Insert Pre Teen and Teenager here as well. On top of that, you’ll have to lug enough gear with you to fill a carload, including a portable high chair and crib, stroller, and car seat. But don’t let these roadblocks get in the way of spending quality family time away. Family getaways are important for bonding and making memories that will last a lifetime — and they don’t have to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Tips for happy travels with your toddler or child at any age. Rest assured, it will be worth the effort:
1. Plan ahead.
First and foremost, prep your little one. Flip through photos of the hotel online, as well as family pictures if you’re traveling with relatives. Show or tell her where she’s going to sleep, who she’ll meet, and what you’re going to do to eliminate any surprises.
It’s important to get yourself mentally prepared, as well. You’re gonna have to make adjustments based on what your child’s needs are If you’re driving, for instance, set it in your mind that you’re going to have to make frequent stops to use the potty or change diapers and to let your toddler burn off some energy. When packing, put essentials in your carry-on bag or make them easily accessible in the car, like diapers, wipes, snacks, and a change of clothes. Be sure to bring her comfort items, such as
a blanket or stuffed animal, and toys or books to entertain her. Many toddlers aren’t 3 meals-a-day kids, instead, they’re snackers and grazers, So, be sure to bring healthy snacks and drinks that aren’t choking hazards to keep them occupied If you’re flying, make sure you have a snack and drink, and a pacifier if she still uses one, for
takeoff and landing to help prevent pressure in her ears.
2. Time it well.
Try to plan your travel days around your child’s sleep schedule. If you’re driving, you could take off at her bedtime so she sleeps through the first several hours of the trip. If you’re traveling by plane, schedule it during her normal nap schedule. Toddlers are a product of their routine, If you mess it up, they can get out of control sometimes. Try to maintain their normal schedule as much as possible.” Make sure your toddler is on her schedule the last few days before your departure so she’s well-rested. In between flights or at rest stops, let your toddler run wild to burn off some energy and tire herself out.
3. Recreate the comforts of home.
Whether you’re at a friend’s house or a hotel, create a sleep environment that’s as close to home as possible. Pack the blanket she likes, the bedtime books she’s used to, and the white noise that soothes her. Many hotels allow families to rent portable cribs and high chairs to lighten the luggage load. Just be sure to ask in advance if the products meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. Also, bring along antiseptic wipes to ensure they’re clean. To make them more familiar to your child, bring your own mattress cover and sheets, especially if your child has allergies.
However, I do not recommend renting a car seat. You don’t want to get to your destination and realize it’s not what you expected There are so many variables with car seats and you want to make sure it fits your child — and stroller, if you need the travel system — correctly. If you are flying do not check the car seat at check-in - bring it to the gate and gate check it to ensure that it is there when you land and doesn’t get lost. If your child has a seat you can use it on the airplane. These tips count for booster seats as well. You may even want to pack your bike helmet if you think you will be going bike riding! Also - life jackets or other needed floatation devices, goggles, earplugs, etc
4. Be Prepared.
If your child is on any medication make sure you pack them and have enough for your entire journey. Don’t wait until the last minute to get refills Have doctor phone numbers on hand and check out ahead of time where the nearest ER and/ or Urgent care is located where your going as well as the pharmacy so that you don’t have to
figure it out if you need these services - same for grocery stores as well if needed.
Make a little “First Aide Kit” with age-appropriate Tylenol or ibuprofen, OTC hydrocortisone, and antibiotic ointment, and band-aids Don’t forget sunscreen (apply often), hats, sun shirts, bug spray (<10% or no DEET), and hand sanitizer and wipes
If you’re going to a Park have a little backpack for each kid with snacks and drinks at hand just in case you’re in a long line - staying hydrated is so important especially if you are on an active vacation or somewhere warm. Set expectations ahead of time for souvenirs etc
5. Have Fun along the way!
Don’t forget phone and tablet chargers, headphones, or any other electronics - in the car play some fun games to get them to look up and take in the surroundings - in my father's grocery store, count cars or trucks or signs, I spy If your child is old enough look at maps ahead of time and landmarks you can expect along the way and make it a learning experience, talk about history for example. Keep things simple - don’t try to do too much - this will overwhelm and overstimulate your child
Family vacations can be challenging but with these tips and a little preparation you can turn your “Trip” into a “Vacation”