This is a guest post by Lillie Marshall, who’s previously written about traveling while pregnant. Lillie is a travel blogger at www.AroundTheWorldL.com and mother to two young children. Find her at @WorldLillie on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and beyond.
Let’s get the obvious parts of toddler travel out of the way so we can move on to more unusual goodies. First, toddlers are insane, hence toddler travel can stink. Second, toddlers are hilarious and cute, so toddler travel can also be the most fun activity ever. Third, when traveling with a toddler, always have snacks, diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and a sippy cup of liquid on hand, plus Elmo on an electronic device for emergencies. Fourth, adjust your travel speed and itinerary to honor naps and bedtimes. Fifth, do what it takes each day to maintain self care and sanity for yourself.
Ok, that’s done. Now for some less obvious tips!
1. On Road Trips, Call Ahead To Activate The Food Situation
Our family just finished our fourth annual 14 hour Boston-to-Cleveland road trip with our toddler, and as each mealtime neared, I’d use Yelp to find a certifiably yummy spot about 20 minutes up the road and call ahead to reserve us a table and high chair. We’d sometimes even use online menus to put in our order so food would be waiting for us, thus minimizing toddler meltdown potential upon arrival. On a related note, we have had particular success with Japanese restaurants, since many we’ve visited have had fish tanks: perfect for mesmerizing our little guy. “LOOK! BLUE FISHY!”
2. Help Can Be Helpful… Or Harder
Whenever possible, I’d recommend getting assistance with your toddler during travel, be it in the form of bringing along grandparents, other relatives, friends for part of the trip, or hiring a vetted babysitter through your hotel one or two nights. Know, however, that having “help” can actually become MORE stressful if it’s not clear who is doing what and when. For example, during a recent extended family vacation, we suddenly had EIGHT adults staring, immobile, as our toddler raced towards a gleaming clump of poison ivy. Our mistake? Not designating who was “On” for childcare during that portion of the day.
3. Consider Mixing Different Travel Types And Permutations
Regarding mixing travel types, we loved touring Quebec, but were exhausted after a few days of keeping up with our little guy. Hence, it was ideal that the second half of our vacation was in tranquil Cleveland with my in-laws, where the only sightseeing we did was staring at a big bowl of food while we caught our breath again. Regarding mixing travel permutations, the classic recommendation is to leave the toddler(s) with trusted adults and have a solo couples vacation, but don’t rule out other combinations. I loved traveling alone to Dubai while my husband stayed home and watched the toddler, and became a much better mother when I returned for having the space away to clear my head.
4. Changes Are Always Afoot, Stay Agile
As of four days ago (during week one of our month-long travels this summer) our toddler can escape from his travel crib?! YEEK! After a full day of online research and asking our networks of other parents for advice, we found our savior: a night-vision baby monitor on sale. The best part? It has two-way listening and speaking capabilities, so when we saw our guy’s little leg emerge at the rim of the crib, we blared, in, “GET BACK IN BED, LOVE!” and Devi, shocked by the voice on high, immediately lay down and fell asleep. This level of the video game of toddler travel has been cleared, but next up is… travel and potty training. Oh my!
5. You Are You, And Your Kid Is Your Kid. Experiment!
As a teacher, I’m clear that what works in my classroom may not work for another teacher, but it’s taken several years to realize that the advice one friend or article is giving me on child-rearing is not necessarily The Word of Truth for All, and it’s ok if I muddle through making my own bag of tricks. During hour four of our recent road trip, I discovered through experimentation that our guy could entertain himself for thirty full minutes by putting a small bag inside a bigger bag, and then on his feet. During hour twelve, I learned out that my lip syncing to Michael Buble made him raptly calm and happy.
What smile-inducing victories will you discover when you allow yourself the freedom to mess up enough to find your own toddler travel style?
Want more detailed ideas? Check out my other articles, How To Travel While Pregnant During Every Trimester, Travel With a Baby, How to Travel With a Toddler, and Travel With a Toddler While Pregnant!
Thank you Lillie (and toddlers!) for sharing your experiences and travel advice with us. If you have any questions for Lillie, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.