Traveling with children under three is a challenge. Here are some thoughts to help your entire family have a good time with as little stress as possible.
1. Start Small. Start with a visit to a homey destination only a few hours away from home. Traveling to Grandma’s works fine but you can also choose a hotel with a kitchenette. Bring along that movie you’ve been wanting to watch and lovely snacks for you and your partner, since you might not get out on your own after baby goes down for the night.
2. Choose Electricity. A trip out with baby might work best with all the comforts and resources you’re used to. While some hardy parents take their babies camping, you might find this works better when the kids are a bit older, more able to say when they’re too cold, and less likely to eat sticks and rocks.
3. Consider Trains. If you don’t want to drive, see if Amtrak can get you to a good get-away. Some advantages over car travel are that both parents are available to help with the child and there’s more room to move around – especially lovely at the squirmy toddler stage.
4. Take Only What You’ll Need. Every town has a place to buy diapers, formula, juice boxes and snacks. While you’ll want to have a day’s supply of everything, you probably don’t need to take a week’s supply even for a week-long adventure.
5. Take Only What You Can Lose. Of course you’ll need to take your child’s security object but try not to take anything else that can’t be replaced or is easily broken. Be sure to take an extra hat, pair of shoes, and spare jacket for your child, since these are the things that tend to fall out of a stroller without making a sound.
6. Don’t Worry Too Much About Crying. If you’re traveling by air, there’s not much you can do if your baby starts crying at takeoff and keeps it up long into the flight. Apologize to your seatmates but let their snide comments roll off you. Ditto for crying in the hotel room.
7. Keep Your Toddlers Under Control. While babies can cry on an airplane, toddlers cannot wander the aisles, kick the seat in front of them, or generally carry on. Bring along whatever sure-fire toys, DVDs and snacks will keep your little person happy. Make keeping her happy your mission on the flight – you didn’t bring along anything you wanted to do, did you?
8. Remember Naps. Plan your sightseeing and visiting around a reasonable nap schedule. But your child may find napping difficult when you’re away from home, so a stroller or child carrier and a long walk through the countryside might need to become a daily pleasure.
9. Choose Destinations Wisely. There is plenty of time to take your child to your personal-favorite theme park or that big city restaurant you’ve heard so much about. If your child is too young to have a good time there, then you won’t have much fun either. Better to wait.
10. Be Determined To Have Fun. Your mother said it best: you have to make your own happiness. A good attitude will ensure you have a good time. But make certain before you go that you’re on the same page with your child’s other parent, especially about who gets to wrangle the kids.
Babies are wonderfully portable and toddlers nearly so. There’s no need to wait until your children can run away from you to take them on vacation. Just think ahead a little bit and the whole family will have a lovely time!
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. Read more in Parenting: A Field Guide and in Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, both available now from your favorite book seller.