I am by no means a travel expert or a parenting expert, or really an expert at anything besides saying “why not? Let’s go for it” when an idea strikes. Travel shouldn’t stop when you have kids, but it certainly changes. Here are some tips that I have learned from traveling with my toddler to 9 countries. Hopefully you are inspired to travel with your toddler or learn something new to help make your next trip with your toddler a success.
- Don’t forget your ABC’s – ALWAYS Bring Cookies! If your toddler is anything like mine you could leave a trail of cookie crumbs on the floor and they would follow it right into a trap. I always bring cookies (and other healthier snack) in my backpack for the plane trip and I restock every morning as we leave the house while traveling. My go to cookies are small and simple, like biscoff or fig newtons, which work well for both snacks and bribery. You never want to get caught with a hangry toddler, and cookies work so well for the quick bride for good behavior. My toddlers HATES putting on sunscreen, but the offer of a single fig newton will have him sit still to get lathered up, even if he is grimacing the entire time. Remember, it is hard (possible, but harder) for a toddler to whine with a mouthful of cookies.
- Netflix & Parenting – Netflix allows you to download episodes to your phone or tablet to play off-line. This is especially great when traveling if you can’t use WiFi outside your hotel. Different countries have different licensing agreements with Netflix so certain programs might not be available when you connect to WiFi. If you download your toddler’s favorite programs before leaving home, they will be available on airplane mode regardless of what programs are available online. I don’t want to travel to another country just to park my toddler in front of cartoons all day, but Netflix comes in handy in those emergency missed-nap, let’s get through the end of this museum, I need to eat the last quarter of my meal situations.
- Have a Playground Plan – Part of my trip planning includes researching playground near our accommodations or major attractions we plan to visit. You can pin playground locations in Google Maps that will show up even on airplane mode and you won’t have to scramble to try and find a playground to burn off that toddler mania in a pinch. Try to build in playground time after big non-toddler attractions, like museums, or end the day with a playground visit. I tires them out and let’s them go to sleep dreaming that tomorrow will be all playgrounds, even if it is really more museums.
- Be Prepared But Flexible – Traveling with a toddler requires a little bit more research in advance, particularly if you try to stick with their regular eat/nap/sleep schedule. Have a rough estimate of where you want to visit, how long it takes to get from place to place, what time restaurants or museums open, if places are closed on Mondays. It can be hard enough to get a toddler ready, out the door and amped about an activity that it feels like a crushing blow when that kid’s museum doesn’t open for another hour. When you are flexible, you can spend an extra 15 minutes watching a garbage truck roll down the street with out resulting in a power struggle to move onto the next thing.
- Are you ready for my most important tip on traveling with a toddler? . . . . . . . LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. It sounds crazy and too simple but hear me out. Your toddler is going to toddler whether you are at home, at the grocery store, on an airplane, at a museum, on vacation, or at a very inappropriate time and place. If you expect that toddler behavior won’t happen while traveling, you are setting yourself up for terrible trip. If you think your trip to Paris with your toddler will be the same as a trip to Paris with just your spouse, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You will never be able move as quickly, see as many sites, eat at the fanciest restaurants, or maybe even finish your sentences when traveling with a toddler. Things that can go wrong, quite likely will go wrong. HOWEVER you will get to experience that new place twice, once through your eyes and once through the eyes of your toddler, in a way that will be beyond what you imagined. Give yourself the freedom to take it slow and see the world around you. Chase pigeons, looks at the trees in a park, throw rocks in puddles, watch people go about their daily lives. Treat every little thing like the adventure that it is and you will have a fabulous trip no matter what else happens.
Your toddler really wants to spend time with you no matter where you are. Embrace travel as a way to spend time with your toddler and experience the world through their eyes, instead of a list to tick off and you will have an amazing time!!