Traveling with your toddler
Age: 1 year 11 months
It's true that some parents hold off on travel until their toddler is a little older, but that doesn't mean you aren't capable of traveling with your baby. It can even be fun! your baby may not have a perfectly clear memory of this trip in 5 or 10 years, but you'll remember it, and you'll feel proud of yourself when it's all said and done. Plus, everything that you learn about traveling together will make the next trip that much easier.
Packing for your baby
There are certain things that you have to bring; clothes, diapers, and necessary medications, for example. Then there are the things that, if you have the room, you might want to consider bringing along to make travel go a little more smoothly. It's almost always better to pack less rather than more when you have the chance, so if these items don't sound like they'll be helpful for you and your baby, don't hesitate to give them a miss. It's up to you to decide if any of the following will make your trip easier.
- Snacks: Some parents pack a small snack kit filled with snacks for their toddler. Many tots are fine waiting for mealtime, but for others, the strangeness of traveling can throw off their routine, and leave them feeling hungry at unexpected times.
- Toys: You will probably want to bring a few toys to keep your baby entertained. Old favorites are great for bringing comforting familiarity to the strangeness of traveling, whether that's a favorite soft, cuddly toy, a favorite book for you to read together, or a favorite game you know can keep her occupied for hours. On the other hand, having a few surprise, new toys can help keep her interested.
- Other: Potential accessories include a sippy cup, plastic bib, pacifier, nursing cover-up, plastic bags for used diapers, a travel changing pad, small towel for clean-ups, a small first-aid kit, and a small identification card for your baby to carry in her shoe or pocket. If packing feels overwhelming, writing out a checklist can be helpful.
Keeping your baby clean
It's impossible to stay germ-free when you're traveling, especially with a toddler in tow. Bringing wipes is a good idea, but so is using this trip as a head start into teaching your baby the important habit of handwashing, if she hasn't started already. Wash your hands together as often as you can, and talk to her about how germs travel, and how hand-washing helps you get rid of them. Also, consider dressing your baby in an outfit that is relatively easy to take on and off for speedy diaper changes.
Quick tips for cars, planes, and hotels
In many ways, how you prepare for a trip definitely varies depending on how you're going to travel, and where you plan on staying.
- Car rides: Make sure any and all car seats are properly installed, and put a flashlight and first aid kit in the car. To save money, pack a cooler with snacks and meals, which can also be helpful if your baby gets hungry when you're far from anywhere to eat. If you aren't the one driving, bring extra books so that you can read to your baby in the car. It might also help to bring music to play in the car, either for your baby to sing along to or fall asleep to.
- Plane rides: Plane rides require a little more preparation. One carry-on should usually be enough space for toddler supplies, and if it's possible skipping the stroller and renting a car seat when you reach your destination can keep you from needing to carry such big, bulky objects around with you. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to prevent your baby experiencing earache during the takeoff and landing. If you can, choose longer layovers as opposed to short ones so you both have time to stretch your legs and change diapers.
- Hotel stays: Make sure you ask for anything you need - a crib or mini-fridge, for example - ahead of time so that it's ready when you arrive. If you have space, it might help to bring some toddler-proofing safety items like outlet covers so that your baby can explore the hotel room on her own terms. Your hotel may offer free items like diapers or bottle warmers, so don't be afraid to ask if those are available. If you're going to be at a hotel your entire trip, consider checking if the hotel has laundry options - this would allow you to pack fewer clothes.
Helping your baby behave
Before the trip, talk with your baby about what is considered appropriate public behavior (i.e., no yelling, ripping papers, throwing objects, etc.). You can't set your sights on absolutely perfect behavior, but your baby is definitely old enough to start learning about what is expected of her in public.
One of the best things about traveling is the chance to explore. Even though your baby is young, she still deserves the opportunity to see some new sights. If you're in the car, point to things in the window and carefully lead her around the rest stop; if you're traveling by plane, walk your baby around the plane, show her the bathroom and let her check out the seat belt and maybe even surrounding seats, as long as it is safe and no one is being bothered. The travel itself is as new and strange to your baby as where you're going, after all.
Keeping a clear head
Of course, when all is said and done, traveling with a toddler is easiest when you feel calm and in control. This might mean planning as far ahead as you can, or it might mean resisting the urge to over-plan, if you feel like that adds to your stress before you even leave the house. Keep in mind that your baby is still learning how to behave, whether she's at home or on a trip. Even if you weren't traveling, you might still be teaching the same lessons and facing similar roadblocks together.
Traveling with a toddler doesn't have the best reputation, but there are a lot of parents who look back on trips at this age with fondness and nostalgia. With some preparation and a good sense of humor, you and your baby will be ready to hit the road.
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