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,” said Dr. Sarah Adams, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Hudson. “Toddlers are busy and very active by nature, so expecting them to sit still can lead to tantrums.”
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.
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.
Dr. Adams offers these 3 tips for happy travels with your toddler. 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,” said Dr. Adams. “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 item, 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,” she said. “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,” said Dr. Adams. “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, Dr. Adams doesn’t recommend renting a car seat.
“You don’t want to get to your destination and realize it’s not what you expected,” she said. “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.”