Traveling with kids: Toddler edition
Hands down the most commonly asked question I receive from my readers is advice on how to successfully travel with children. Since It has been awhile since I have discussed the topic I thought I would give a little update on what it is like for us to travel with a busy toddler in toe.
1. "Plan for the worst, hope for the best" First and foremost if our trip does not include getting on plane or train I am infamous for overpacking. On our most recent trip to the beach I must have packed around ten pairs for Jasper (TEN, you read that right) of pants for our three days away. Since we are in the midst of potty training I knew I did not want to spend my time washing and drying pants in our hotel room. Although we did not end up using all those pants I had the peace of mind that only comes from being prepared.
2. Pack a cooler full of healthy food. If your toddler is anything like mine he can easily eat ALL. DAY. LONG. Finding a healthy, inexpensive breakfast while on vacation always feels like such a chore, so this time we were prepared with fresh fruit, granola, milk and yogurt. I will also never forget the evening where he filled himself full of veggies before dinner and then was able to eat almost an entire medium pizza by himself. During our downtime in our room Jasper was able to snack on fresh fruit, veggies and green smoothies which kept his tummy full and his energy levels up. No searching for food at odd hours of the day, no paying for overpriced junk you really do not want your children to eat.
3. Bring elements from home. Jasper has grown very accustomed to traveling, but I still like to bring elements from home to help him feel more comfortable. We always pack a large stack of books to read and we would never dream of going anywhere overnight without his stuffed monkey. I also like to bring other surprise items for him like his ABC flash cards which turn into a floor puzzle or his footballs and a few beach toys for an afternoon at the beach. Sure you can buy things while on vacation, but I have found Jasper is always delighted when we bring along his own stuff for a day of fun.
4. Talk about your trip ahead of time. Before we head out on a vacation we start talking about where we are going to go a few days in advance. Jasper does not have much concept of time, so we try to give him as short of notice as possible while still allowing time for some excitement to build. We often talk about how we are going to get there ie. take a ferry, drive in the car, ride on an airplane etc. and then what we are going to do once we are there. For our trip to the beach we talked about riding bikes, building sandcastles and eating donuts. We also talked about how it might be rainy or windy and that we might need to wear our Muddy Buddy and we will definitely need to wear our boots. As much as Jasper is a go with the flow guy, I like to include him in planning our time so he understands how he is an important and contributing member of our family.
5. Everyone deserves a little downtime. Remember after all you are ALL on vacation. When we go places we allow Jasper to have more treats than usual and even a little screen time every now and then. For instance our hotel had a little dish of hard candy at the reception desk so whenever we walked in he would sweetly request three pieces of candy because he was three. Or when we are out for a long, leisurely dinner if Jasper starts getting antsy before we are ready to go we don't hesitate about letting him watch a couple episodes of Peppa Pig on our phone or letting him pull all the stickers out of his sticker book. By agreeing to give him these small allowances rather than fighting him I want him to feel like going places is fun and special.
Let's be honest, traveling with children is an exhausting, exhilarating combination of highs and lows. In the moment, when I see pure joy spread across his face I am reminded it is all worth it even if sometimes we have to eat our meal fast, go to bed before we want to or sit in a dark room quietly talking until he falls asleep. I am grateful for this time in our lives where we are healthy, united in our quest for fun and love spending time together as a family.