Five Tips for Vacationing with a Toddler
We’re back from vacation, and while our eldest remains with her grandparents for another week, the two younger ones are home with us. MrH and I spent most of the past week in the White Mountains with our toddler, while the two big ones stayed with their grandparents in their RV. The weekend was spent at the campsite for a family reunion. It was a lot of fun, though I’m glad to be home. Sometimes people look at me like I’m nuts to even consider travel with a toddler. “That doesn’t sound like much of a vacation to me!” I’m told on numerous occasions. The fact is, that with a little foresight and planning, toddlers can make for very fun travel companions. The disclaimer, of course, is that we have a fairly easy-going kid (even as her fourth molar made its appearance this morning!), and I always think parents know their own kids best. So read through these ideas and see how they’d work for your child. Happy travels!
- Stay Closer to Home. The 2.5 hour ride up to the White Mountains turned into almost four hours by the time we’d given the Little One enough breaks from her car seat. It was a pleasant trip though, and worked out because we had plenty of time. We’d hoped to travel during her naptime but that didn’t pan out. While she slept part of the way, she did get restless a few times so we interspersed our trip with small errands (such as picking up our CSA share on the way, getting gas, and picking up a few last-minute groceries).
- A Place for Everything. With so much newness around them, provide your toddler with some continuity. Upon arrival, create specific spots for the many small tasks that make up the daily rhythm: diaper changes, nursing, eating, shoes on/off, napping/sleeping. If you have numerous different accommodations, either make some of your spots in the car, or have a physical object that reminds the child of the task: changing pad, a nursing blankie, placemat or special plate, doormat, or sleeping blankie. Extra points if those are the exact same as you use at home!
- Nurse and Snuggle More! Our Little One nurses far more frequently when in unfamiliar surroundings. Sometimes I feel frustrated because it “holds me back” from enjoying myself. I try to remind myself that these times together are vital to her sense of security and ultimately her enjoyment of our trip. Knowing that she’s with mommy and that mommy still has time for her whenever she needs it, helps her to then go off and explore with renewed enthusiasm. On this trip, our little one burst out with language – learning signs and adding vocalizations to many of her existing signs. She pointed out birds and dogs like it was her job, learned about bears, fearlessly swam in the pool, explored a waterfall, and comfortably interacted with 10 other people. All of this was interspersed with frequent but brief nursings: critical moments of reconnection, comfort, and peace.
- Do What it Takes to Get Your Toddler to Sleep. Don’t sweat the “bad habits.” Nurse her down to sleep. Nurse her twenty times during the night if that’s what it takes to help her get a good night’s sleep. Take her for drives to get that nap in. Get her up when she wakes up and just get a little more sleep for a nap later on. It’ll be much easier (for most kids) to reset the body clock when you get home and get back into your regular routine and expectations if your child has slept enough during vacation. Even if that sleep happened at the “wrong” times, what matters is that it happens. Overtired children are no fun for anyone. Come to that, neither are parents. Get your own rest, too!
- Have Fun. I’ve heard other mothers talk about their toddlers making developmental leaps during travel and have observed the same with our Little One. It has been delightful to share some of our passions with her and to see her truly respond. At the same time, I’d never have spent an hour at the side of the road watching beautiful horses being readied for a ride. I could have viewed it as boring, but through my toddler’s eyes, this was a fascinating and yet deeply calming moment in our vacation.
I’m so thankful that our family was able to take a week off to reconnect with nature and family. And with the lessons we’ve learned about travel this summer, I look forward to many more trips during the upcoming year!