With the warm weather finally here, many families are getting ready to head away on road trips and summer vacations. That said, when you have a toddler, the standard rules of travel can change a little bit. Vacationing with a toddler needs some extra planning and a whole lot of common sense (at a time when you might not be feeling too rational).
To make sure your trip – whether it be a day trip or a road trip halfway across the country – goes well, keep the following lessons in mind. These have been learned by millions of families over the decades. Discover them before having to learn them firsthand, and you’ll be ahead of the game on your trip.
- Simplicity always works best – The fewer the hurdles, steps and complexities, the less chance there is that something will go wrong. While this is true in virtually any situation, it’s especially true when you have a toddler with you. The less you need to stand in lines, wait in lounges, switch flights and wonder where and what you’ll be eating next, the better. There will be a time to head out on last minute, unplanned adventures. The toddler years aren’t necessarily that time. If that means skipping the airport in order to drive there instead, so be it. If that means bringing a massive cooler of sandwiches and snacks instead of finding somewhere to eat along the way, that’s all right, too.
- Unhappiness happens – When you have a toddler, particularly if you have at least two kids, at least one of them will be unhappy at any given point. The toddler, the younger, or the older one will always be uncomfortable, hungry or inexplicably unhappy. This doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It is a fact of traveling with a toddler. The key is to remain flexible. Bend a little to keep stress levels down and fun levels high. Try to think of fun in terms of being happy instead of being over-the-top excited. That way, there is less of a likelihood of disappointment and more chances for genuine contentment and fun.
- Keep things familiar – It’s true that the whole point of a vacation is to get away and to experience something new. However, there are areas when familiarity can bring kids a lot of comfort. Sleeping in a new bed can be far more comfy with a toddler pillow from home. Long rides in cars, on airplanes or on buses feel more secure with a lovey right beside them. Even familiar scents like a soothing linen spray used at home can help to reduce stress levels and ease unhappiness.
- Don’t expect to see everything on your itinerary – You may be able to see a dozen things every day when you’re traveling on your own, but that will be very different with your toddler. Expect to see less than half what you would if you were traveling alone. Instead, focus on seeing things the entire family will enjoy and spending quality time there. Don’t pressure yourselves to get through one thing so you’ll be able to see the next thing. Enjoy that one thing while you’re there. Make a priority list of the things you absolutely must see while you’re visiting and head there first.
- Don’t expect a relaxing getaway – Think of your vacation as an experience and an adventure, not necessarily a time for relaxing and rejuvenating. If you thought you were going to be able to enjoy some reading, to lie on the beach, or to spend hours in the pool on a giant inflatable lounger with a cocktail in your hand, you’re about to be very surprised. You’ll have fun. You’ll see new things. You will look forward to your next trip. However, you will also likely get less sleep than you do at home and will be glad to start returning to your usual bedtime routines once you return to your own beds again! Keep an open mind, don’t set unreasonable expectations, and let yourself enjoy the moments together!