Flying with an infant soon? Planning a road trip with a toddler? Some find the term “family vacation” to be an oxymoron. Is it really a holiday if you’re still up at the crack of dawn—or coping with a tantrum in the middle of a busy airport? Well, I can’t help much with getting your baby to sleep through the night, but I can suggest five toddler travel tips for a more harmonious holiday—from beginning to middle to end.
Travel Tip #1
As they say, timing is everything, and that applies to every level of your vacation. From your journey there and back to how you plan your days away, good timing can make all the difference. Try to arrange your flights (or drive times) based on two things: when your child is the most cheerful and when he is likely to sleep. Some parents swear by overnight flights, but others say first thing in the morning is the only time to go. You know your child best, so try to make arrangements accordingly.
While at your destination, try not to over-schedule your days. If your child is still napping, don’t look at that as an inconvenience or as being trapped in your room. Why not take the opportunity to rest, too? Hang out with a book on the balcony or actually take a nap yourself. Remember you’re on vacation!
Travel Tip #2
You’re no longer traveling light anyway, so why skimp on the things that keep you clean and comfortable along the way? Wipes, wipes, and more wipes will never go to waste. Great for taking care of sticky faces and fingers, diaper wipes are great to have on hand to clean up spills—on yourself, your clothes, your belongings—and to use as a cloth to clean up public restrooms. (Remember not to flush them.)
Travel-size hand sanitizer, as well as moisturizer, toothpaste, mouthwash, and soap can come in handy. For your toddler, don’t forget to bring Benadryl, acetaminophen, oral re-hydration mix, and antibiotic ointment. Having these items in your carry-on is a must. If your luggage gets lost or your child gets sick in the middle of the night, you won’t have the stress of trying to find a drugstore.
All the liquid items in travel-sizes should fit in a one-liter size Ziplock, which is what airport security will allow through. If you’re driving instead of flying, try to have these items close at hand or at least where you can easily find them.
Travel Tip #3
Regardless of the age of your child, you must stock your bag with enough distractions to keep her busy for the duration of your journey. For babies this could mean little board books or soft toys with attachments. For older kids, this could mean a tablet computer.
New stuff will hold attention for longer but you don’t need to spend a fortune. The dollar store is great for trinket-y toys, and if they’re lost or broken it’s not a big deal. Another trick is to stash away a few favorite toys for a month or so before your trip and re-introduce along the way. Wrapping the toys can mean an extra few minutes of distraction as well.
Travel Tip #4
Foods that your child normally only enjoys at parties or on special occasions can be brought out as needed. After all, what is a vacation if not a special occasion? Can you tell that I’m justifying giving my daughter chips and cookies to keep her quiet on one of our first flights? Well, it worked. If your child is past breastfeeding, bottles, or pacifiers, things like lollipops (sugar-free if you can) are good to keep them sucking during landing.
But a treat doesn’t have to be food. Now can be the time when Junior finally gets to play with your coveted phone or fancy watch. Just make sure you supervise closely, but you’ll probably be picking it up off the floor a million times anyway.
Travel Tip #5
This ‘T’ may be the last on this list of toddler travel tips, but it certainly isn’t least, and it applies to both you and your child. It means you’ll have to schedule and plan according to your child’s temperament, and you’ll also have to keep yours in check.
If your three-year-old is introverted or easily over-stimulated, consider postponing a trip to Disney World until next year. If the guy at the check-in counter gives you a hard time or your flight is delayed, stressing out about it or losing your cool won’t help anyone—least of all your child. Traveling can fray your nerves: people are rude, flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, and drinks get spilled. If you’re organized and mentally prepared to chill out and go with the flow, your children will follow your cues—or at least you’ll be ready to cope when they don’t!
Vacations give your growing family the opportunity to explore new destinations together and reconnect away from the busy-ness of your daily lives. Whether it’s two weeks in a tropical destination or a just an overnight in a country inn, getting away from it all does everybody good! If you adopt the Scouts’ motto of “Be prepared,” you truly will be.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of the popular website, HaveBabyWillTravel.com, and recently launched Have Baby Will Travel Consulting. She is an authorized independent travel consultant and family travel specialist. Corinne and her husband, TV producer Darcy Fedorchuk, are the parents of Megan and Riley. They call Toronto home—when they are not off on their next great adventure. Visit www.HaveBabyWillTravel.com for more information.
Looking for family travel ideas? Find family travel adventures at www.tidewaterfamily.com.