Going on a vacation with the family should be fun but traveling with toddlers can be a nightmare. It takes strategic planning for many parents, getting everything ready just for a weekend. You always end up taking far more than you need, but there are always those “just in case” thoughts passing through your mind.
Then there are the times that you realize you could have done with something else. There’s always something that gets left behind, or you realize on the trip would have been useful. Most of the time, you end up searching for the items at your destination and end up with a double at home.
And what about when you’re trying to keep the children entertained? Babies and older children tend to be much easier. Toddlers get into everything and are almost impossible to keep entertained for long periods of time. They have the attention span of a goldfish.
It’s time to get travel savvy. Make the most of your vacation with these eight handy tips when traveling with toddlers.
Talk to Airlines About All Your Family Options
If you book with the right airline and get the right seats, you can make your journey much easier and safer. Many companies still offer a sky rocker or sky crib for babies and toddlers. They’re usually suitable for up to two years. After that, toddlers will need a seat of their own.
Call the airlines you’re considering flying with and arrange for the right seats and perks. This is especially handy if you have an overnight flight since you won’t end up with the toddler in your arms throughout the flight when you try to sleep!
You will need to make sure you book in advance, and you may need to pay extra for the luxury. It’s well worth paying for it though and some airlines will waive the costs for families.
If you can’t get the front row for the sky cribs, then you’ll want to consider booking a seat. While you don’t have to, it’s much easier to have a seat for your toddler. They’re wriggly and don’t want to be confined to your lap. Their seat means they have more space to stretch out. This is also actually safer since you can usually take their car seat on the flight with you.
When you and the children get rest, it’s much easier to get through the vacation. It’s easier to get through the difficult first day, going through checking in, finding the baggage, security, etc.
While discussing flights, look out for those that are overnight ones. This will help to encourage your toddler to sleep and stick with their routine. If you are opting for a daytime flight, look at those that take off during the naptime. You can work on keeping your child on a routine to sleep through the flight and help to keep the routine throughout the vacation.
Pack Toys, Snacks and More in Your Carry On
As a parent, you have the luxury of taking on the second carry on for your child. This is their diaper bag, but you can put more than diapers in there. You want to think about items you take with you.
If you’re not flying, you’ll still want to pack the diaper bag strategically. While you want enough diapers and wipes to get you through the journey, you will also need to make sure you have plenty of snacks, toys, books and more. If you’re not flying, also take favorite juices with you. When flying, you’ll need to buy the juices on the other side of security.
Pack the diaper bag in a way that you can remember. You need to know where the snacks are, where the books and toys are, and where all the diapers are. That way, when you’re going into the bag to get items in the dark, you can quickly grab and hand over. This is extremely useful on a plane or train, where the space for searching in bags is limited.
If you do want to stick to just one bag, look out for a laptop bag or a smart diaper bag. You want plenty of components for all your and your toddler’s items.
Plan for Security
If you are flying, you will need to go through security. This means planning to make the trip through as easy as possible. While you know you will need to take your electronic items out, you will also need to take some of your toddler items out.
Security will allow milk and formula for a toddler though, despite it being a liquid. You won’t be able to get water through, but at least you can get the milk through. You can also take snack pouches and larger containers with snacks.
Put it this way; security knows that toddlers don’t understand the expectations of adults and can’t wait for their milk or formula.
But you will need to take out these items for inspection. Make sure your bag is packed in a way that you can easily grab all the items. Put them all in the same set of pouches, so you grab and put in a tray. This will help to minimize the time for you and others, and you avoid missing something which means waiting for a long period during the security check.
Put everything in a single Ziploc bag. You can get your own from home, rather than grabbing them from the security. If it’s clear, the security guys and gals don’t care where you get it from. The food isn’t x-rayed, but hand inspected to check for everything.
Get to Destinations Early
Plan to get anywhere with time to spare. Trains, ferries, and planes won’t wait for you, should you have an explosive diaper! Toddlers are never easy to guess. They will always get up to something. Those who are potty trained will choose this minute to have a relapse into wetting themselves, or they will stop you on the rush through security to need the toilet.
Getting to any destination early will help to keep situations under control. You’ll not feel stressed and rushed to get from one side of the dock to the other. You won’t feel the need to rush through security or get through docking.
If you get to your mode of travel early, you can even get benefits. Most flights will put families onboard first. This gives parents time to settle their children before the rest of the passenger’s board. This helps to keep things less stressful, as your children take their time to get up the aisles and along the long corridors.
The benefit also helps you get the overhead space that you need. It’s much easier to get everyone settled quickly and grabbed the snacks needed for the start of the flight or travel.
When it comes to disembarking, consider waiting for everyone else to get off first. This is especially the case if you took a buggy up to the gate. It will take time for the staff to get the buggy off for you to put your child back in.
Avoid Last Minute Vaccinations
While you want to vaccinate for conditions in other countries (unless for medical or religious reasons), you’ll want to think about the timing. Don’t book the vaccinations a week before your flight. Look for two or more weeks.
All vaccinations have the risk of side effects. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a cranky toddler for a couple of days. But you can also deal with explosive diapers, fevers, inflammation around the vaccination spots, and more.
Talk to your doctor about all the vaccinations needed for your trip right away. The minute you book it, you want to find out if you need anything. Then you can book yourself in before you travel. Avoid the side effects while you’re traveling, whichever mode you’re choosing!
You’ll also want to talk to your doctor about any suspected epidemics in the local area for any non-routine vaccinations they’d recommend at the time. This is also a good time to talk about how to avoid picking up illnesses on your travels, as nobody wants to deal with a snotty nosed toddler on vacation!
Also, don’t forget to discuss options for travel sickness. Your toddler may not get it, but you could. You want to be in full mom mode when traveling with your toddler, so don’t let travel sickness put you off!
Don’t Think About the What Ifs
What if your flight is delayed? What if the sea is rocky? What if you lose your child’s favorite toy? There are so many things that can happen while traveling. The sky could come crashing down, but what can you do about it? One of the worst things you can do is worry about the events that may never happen.
There are some that you can take steps to prevent. For example, you can get ties for your child’s favorite toy, so it doesn’t go missing in the airport. You can use a waterproof sticker for the hand, so if your child gets separated from you, your child has your name and number to locate you again easily.
Then there are the situations that you can prevent from happening, but you can go prepared just in case. Have extra snacks and toys on hand, just in case your flight is delayed. Find some easy games to play from seats if the train journey takes longer than expected. Have something to do with the car should traffic come to a standstill.
You can’t stop the events, but you can make them go as stress-free as possible. When you have the tools available, you won’t stress about the actual events happening as much. You know you’re prepared.
It’s also worth packing an extra couple of diapers in the diaper bag, rather than cabin baggage or bigger bags. You can grab them if the journey takes longer or you’re delayed or lost without baggage for a while.
Stressing about situations that haven’t happened or may never happen is wasted energy. You want to create a calm feeling, so your toddler is calm too.
Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
There will always be someone else judging you. These people are certainly not worth the effort. Most of those complaining about children traveling are the singles who have no idea what it’s like to travel with a child or the parents who believe they’re the perfect parents (and will sadly be mistaken). The only person you should feel sorry for is your partner, as you both tackle traveling with your children.
Whether you’re going by flight, train, ship or bus, don’t feel sorry for anyone else on the journey. They’re not your concern. Your focus needs to be on your children and making it an enjoyable experience. You want them to love flying or sailing, even though they may be understandably terrified.
Make sure you have a few tricks at your disposal to distract. If your child fears flying, talk about interests or read a book. Sometimes they want you to sit and soothe them; knowing you’re protecting them will be enough for them.
Flights can cause the discomfort of eating popping. Have some sucking candies or suckers for your toddler to have through the landing and takeoff. Keeping the jaw moving helps to prevent the buildup of pressure.
You can take your child onto the deck of the ship to see the water around them. On a train, have some games or toys to play with to keep them distracted—or play a game that involves looking out of the window. When it comes to the bus, you can do the same; play the games you would get in the car.
If someone complains about your child travel, ignore them. If you’re looking after your child and stopping them from kicking the seat in front of you, their judgments mean nothing.
Work with Your Traveling Partner
If you’re traveling with someone else, work with them to create an enjoyable journey for all. You can do this for all modes of transport.
In the car, make an agreement that the passenger does the caring, and the driver focuses on the driving. This is a sensible option to help minimize the distractions on the road.
When traveling in other ways, you can take turns to distract and care for the toddler. If you’ve chosen to have the free travel with your toddler, break the flight in half and switch over with your partner, so you both get some toddler-free travel time. If one of you is driving on the other side, opt for that person to get the first toddler shift, so they get the much-needed sleep and rest before the journey.
On a ship, you will have a little more freedom. You can take turns to sit down and play with the toddler, keeping the toddler occupied.
If you have other children, you can split the older children and the toddler up. This will help to deal with easier situations for a bit and then tackle the tearaway. You can also find older children help to keep toddlers under control, especially in confined spaces if you can encourage them to share a game or read stories.
Plan and Make the Journey Peaceful
Traveling with toddlers doesn’t have to be a stressful nightmare. However, you choose to travel, you can get everything in order and make the situation as peaceful as possible. Follow the above eight tips, and you’ll be able to plan. If you’re going by flight, book well in advance and discuss your seating options. Even if it means paying extra, it will be worth it!