As you gear up for a trip with your toddler, we suggest you think of your young traveling companion as someone who’ll add a whole new dimension to your travel experiences. Be sure you dial down your expectations, set realistic goals, and take it nice ‘n’ easy.
Here are some parent-tested suggestions for traveling with a young child:
Traveling with children can be a wonderful experience – if you go with the flow. Your toddler might get bored having to sit still or sightsee for long periods of time instead of being able to run around and explore at her own energetic pace, so keep your itinerary simple. Limit it to one activity a day and you’ll find it much easier to make last-minute adjustments if your child gets tired or just wants to spend time splashing in the hotel’s wading pool.
Pick a family-friendly destination
Choose a relaxing destination that’s used to young visitors, so you don’t have to sweat the details. We recommend a lazy beach retreat, family camp, nature resort, or similar kid-friendly place. Skip the crowded, over-stimulating tourist destinations, places without shade, and other spots that will pose an added challenge when you have a young one in tow.
Look for family-friendly hotels and resorts that let kids stay for free in their parents’ rooms and provide free meals to children or buffet-style breakfasts included in the price of the room.
Bring drinks and snacks
Make sure to tote along plenty to drink and a bag of snacks on any trip. Children can get dehydrated during a flight, and toddlers can’t always wait for food service (or they refuse the airline meal when it arrives). You might be able to pre-order a children’s meal — check with your airlineto find out.
Whether you’re in the air or on the road, best bets for toddlers include easy-to-pack snacks like baggies of whole grain cereal, precut fruits and vegetables, small cartons of fruit juice, animal crackers, and other age-appropriate nibbles.
Dispensing snacks at pre-announced intervals will give your toddler something to look forward to. Consider bringing along moist towelettes for easy cleanup.
Plan frequent rest stops
If you’re driving, break up your trip so your toddler can stretch her limbs and move around to blow off some pent-up energy. Pack a rubber or foam ball for rolling or kicking around and some simple board books for quiet time. Pick out parks and picnic areas on your route by using an online mapping service such as Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, or MapQuest, or city guides like GoCityKids or CitySearch.
End your driving day early so all of you have time to unwind after a long day on the road.
When you pack for your toddler, be sure to include a basic childproofing kit to use at your destination. If you’re taking a road trip, make sure your child’s car seat is properly secured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the SeatCheck campaign, 7 out of 10 of car seats aren’t installed correctly. Use removable window shades to keep the sun off your child.
You may want to dress your toddler in a brightly colored outfit so she’s easy to spot in a crowd. Put a small card with identification information on it in one of her pockets in case you get separated, and snap a picture of her with your cell phone in case you need help finding her.
Pack a goody bag
A good way to keep kids content on a trip is to take along a goody bag filled with more toys and doodads than you think you’ll need. Your toddler might like an array of puzzles, dolls, action figures, puppets, brightly colored paper, nontoxic crayons, books, and favorite toys.
Wrap some of them before you leave and present your child with a surprise every once in a while. Start building your toy cache a few weeks before the trip.
Take practice trips
To get a feel for what works and what doesn’t when you’re on the road and away from home, you might try leading up to a big trip with some short day trips or weekend getaways. The trial runs could provide key insights — about things like what supplies you should pack, how long your child can last in a car seat, and which toys keep your toddler happy (or drive you nuts).
Lovingly first read on Babycenter.