Just the thought of traveling with a toddler is intimidating. Many people even feel that never going on a long trip with your little tyrant is soon enough for them. It is unlikely that you will be able to avoid any kind of a trip until your child is out of their toddler years, however, and as with everything else in parenthood, this too shall pass. It may be hard to believe, but there are some simple tips to follow that will optimize your opportunity to have not only a successful trip, but even a good one.
These are some basic tips for traveling in general, whether you are going to be going by train, plane or automobile. Let’s start out with these basic must-dos.
- Planning is absolutely everything – Spontaneous trips are a thing of the past until your child is older. Planning the trip around their schedule is a must for now. You want to correspond with their daily schedules. Understand exactly when their snack, nap and cranky times are, and make sure to plan to accommodate.
- Pack just the necessities – You will have your hands full. Think about it – going to the grocery store turns you into a small pack mule. Do not take anything excessive that you will have to juggle for no reason.
- Timing, timing, timing – Planning your day around toddler time will save you many headaches. If you make sure to be waiting in the airport during naptime, or the time when they are usually most easygoing, it will be better for you. Do not start out in the car 15 minutes before you know they are going to melt down because they do every day. Just plan according to their schedule and it will be much smoother sailing.
- Electronics are a must – I am a big proponent of turning the electronics off, don’t get me wrong. Traveling time is not the time for this, however. Especially if you do not normally allow your child to watch a tablet during waiting times or in the car, it will help you keep them calm and make them think it is special because it is a rare treat.
- Don’t forget the snacks – Make sure you pack healthy, easy to grab on the go snacks. You can’t guarantee where you will be when, no matter how good your intentions, so pretzels, goldfish, Cheerios, all of that will be a lifesaver if you run into traffic or your flight is delayed. Make sure you have plenty of water as well.
If you are going to fly with your toddler, here are some absolute musts.
- Prepare for security success – Remember that you have to allow extra time for the extra time you have already allotted for security. Do yourself a favor, and check any food or wipes that you will not need for the wait or the plane. Whatever food or wipes you are taking with you, keep in mind that they will need to be swabbed and tested, so pack them in ziplock bags to save yourself some time.
- Check bags, but keep out necessities – Checking bags will make it easier for you to travel. It makes security take less time, and you can pack extra wipes in there that will not need to have EXTRA extra security measures. However, keep out activities, diapers, wipes and snacks that you can put in your carry-on and have easily accessible to entertain your babe.
- Don’t be afraid to gate check – Avail yourself of the gate check. Then you have your stoller in the waiting area with you, and right there with you at the end of your trip. It is completely and totally worth it.
- Their own seat is vital – If you can afford to get even those that qualify as lap children their own seat, do it. It’s easier and more comfortable for everyone involved and you can have more room to make it all work.
- Different activity for every 15 minutes of flight – You will need to plan out how many activities this is, and put them in your necessity carry-on bag. You can discount the 15 minutes of take-off and landing, as you can watch out the window and it can be its own entertainment. However, make sure you have electronics, stickers, crayons and paper, books, link toys, cars and other small things to account for ever other 15 minute section of the flight. It will be a lifesaver.
Road trips can be the most intimidating, as they take stamina even for adults. Here are some tricks that may help.
- Set the car up first – Do not wait until half an hour before your planned departure time. Set up the car as early as you can, and let your child help. Put up whatever device you have to hold a tablet for them, or set up the in car DVD player how you want it. Make sure you have a lap tray, and the car is clean, gassed and ready to go. Make it a game with your kid, so they know you are going to be spending a lot of time in there and that it will be fun from the start.
- Go into it well rested – Get as much rest the night before as possible. Long road trips can test the patience of the most laid back adult, when they are traveling without a toddler. Make sure you are well rested and as relaxed as possible at the outset to allow for a good beginning of the trip.
- Strategic packing placement – Again, pack the car early. Make sure you optimize your space, with things you won’t need until you get to your destination going in first. Anything else should go on top, and bags with activities and snacks have to go in an easily accessible place to you, the passenger and the child.
- Prepare for pit stops – No matter how far you and your partner could drive without stopping before you had a kid, you aren’t going to get half as far. Make sure you are planning pit stops around any bathroom or eating schedule your toddler has. This will include looking ahead of time and mapping out stops according to toddler time from estimated etas from your departure. Do not be stuck to your planned schedule, however – there will be unexpected stops, and it will be okay.
- Car games are gonna happen – I don’t care how much you hate I Spy. It doesn’t matter how much silence you like. Your little one will want to play games, sing, babble and even shriek for no reason the longer the trip goes. It’s okay. Let them have it, and keep them in a good mood. It is better for you all to play along – and you may even have fun if you let yourself go.
If you follow these tips and tricks, you just may be able to pull of traveling with a toddler. Now, every kid and every trip differ greatly, but no matter how docile and well behaved your child, proper preparation is needed to have a successful trip with your kid. It is going to be a big change, especially the first trip you take as a family that includes a toddler. If you prepare for it, you will set yourself up for success, not stress.
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