As Mother 6 and Grandma 6 (and forever on a tight budget), I spent my share of traveling with my bottom in the front window and my face in the backseat, so I know the strange frustration of traveling with a child. Here are some tips on how to travel with a toddler.
- Pack as many mix-and-match kits as you will away, X2 days (each t-shirt goes with every pants, and a second accident change per day) plus two good outfits. Pack 1 pair of shoes that go with everything.
- Keep your diapers until you reach your destination, and then do not buy the package. Either use them when you are there, or bring home less and pack them less. The same applies to everything similar (cloths, etc.). Just pack what you need on the way, not occupy and pack up earlier.
- Pack an extra diaper bag with toys, snacks, wet detergent and dry towel (believe you will be happy that you did it!).
- Wrap the toy in light or darkness. So much fun in the car at night! No lamps … he couldn't blind his father in the rearview mirror!
- Hotels usually have portable cots … call and arrange. This will save you a sleepless night with a toddler lying horizontally between you and will also sleep better.
- Try Priceline / Expedia / etc for the hotel. In downtown Atlanta we got 4 stars for $ 65 per night. Be willing to settle anywhere in one general area and name your price and usually get a lot.
- Try to arrange a playpen at the destination. I am sure that whoever you visit knows someone who has it. Your toddler may not like being in it for a long time, but will give you much needed rest between carrying it around or if your hands must be free for a few minutes.
On a trip:
- Try to keep your baby's eating and sleeping program as much as possible at home.
- Travel at night … children usually sleep and you don't have to have much fun. Little baby Tylenol about an hour before you leave to relax and warm a bottle as soon as it helps in the car. Useful is fine music on the radio or just quiet silence (whether working at home).
- Try this – hold your toddler until she sees at home, and instead of putting them in bed, put them in the folding car seat and you can go. If you're lucky, you can tie it up and get on the road for a few hours before they know it.
- If you cannot travel at night, can you travel half way, stop and then travel again? Did you have family or friends along the way? Is there somewhere you wanted to see along the way? Splitting a path sometimes helps … sometimes more than a toddler.
- Take the toys a little at a time. We bought some new toys in dollar stores that the kids had never seen before giving them one new one an hour. You may have to do this for a toddler, because they usually come together more easily, but you get an idea. Once bored with a toy, they make things unhappy, so never give them everything at once!
- Try more unusual things to entertain your toddler … let him tear paper, throw paper balls, bang on something, or pack measuring cups and cups. Anything that doesn't usually start doing will fascinate him. My youngest son liked wax paper balls of all things.
- Let him color (yes, even at that age … if you're in the back seat with him, he won't eat crayons). My grandson was about that age when we taught him to "draw". He looked amazed at the colors. Today he has 7 and draws comics for himself!
PS. Take the heart that most mothers feel frustrated about traveling with toddlers and most toddlers hate their car seats. You both can do it. You are here to help your toddler figure out how to adapt to your family, not the other way around. Your ears may ring, but you are preparing it for many wonderful trips when they come when they learn!