Anyone who has ever undertaken a long road trip with one or more toddlers in tow can understand why most parents dread the prospect. Sure, they’re cute and loveable, but children are also easily bored and prone to sudden bouts of unpredictability. Don’t blame the kids! With preparation and patience, traveling with toddlers needn’t be a completely unpleasant experience.
Rather than trying to make your child conform to the “rules of travel”, make your travel conform to the “rules of your child” by taking his changeling nature into account. Take note of when he becomes cranky, hungry, sleepy and playful, and pay special attention to what can trigger specific behaviors. When you understand what catapults him into gleeful bursts of unbridled energy, you have a better chance of circumventing unpleasant incidents. On the flip side, try to figure out the best methods of easing him into a more calm state of mind.
Armed with fresh knowledge about the whims of your child, you’re ready for the preparation and packing stages of traveling with toddlers. Talk with your child about your upcoming trip often and include her in your preparations by allowing her to pack a few favorite items on her own. She will most likely choose toys so be prepared to add your own choices to her travel bag. To help prepare your family for anything and everything, use the following sections as packing and planning guidelines.
Don’t Skimp on Sustenance
Toddlers have tiny tummies and feel hungry more often than adults do. Plan frequent restaurant stops, which will also provide potty breaks for toilet-trained toddlers and give everyone a chance to stretch their legs. Pack a good selection of healthy snacks with low sugar content, but don’t forget to include a few favorite foods for use in an emergency. In hot weather, be sure to keep perishables packed in an ice-filled cooler.
- Favorite fruits
- Cheese sticks or string cheese
- Whole grain crackers
- Dry cereal
- Juice boxes
- Small cartons of milk
- Gummy Fruit snacks
An Eye on Entertainment
One of the most challenging aspects of traveling with toddlers is keeping them amused. If you have a portable DVD player, your child may be entertained for hours by movies or cartoons, but more energetic children often respond best to hands on activities. Parcel out some of the toys you pack over the duration of the trip to keep your toddler interested. In addition to games and toys, remember that all children love attention from a parent or beloved sibling. Make up interactive games to play with your child if he becomes bored with traditional activities.
- Favorite DVDs
- Creative toys like an Etch-a-Sketch or Fisher Price Magna Doodle
- Vtech or Leap Frog toddler laptops
- Crayons and coloring books
- Age-appropriate puzzles
- Toddler music players
- Picture books
- Avoid items with many small parts if possible
Cultivate a Little Comfort
When children become stressed or anxious, they crave comfort. Since you all have limited mobility due to seat restraints, you can’t always pick her up for cuddling. Offer some loving words and stroke her hair or legs to calm her before an all-out meltdown ensues. Another option is providing your child with some of the comforts she enjoys at home. The sight, smell and feel of home can help your toddler self-soothe and may even have the power to lull her to sleep.
- Favorite blanket
- Comfortable pajamas
- Pillows from home
- Stuffed animals
Always remember that toddlers aren’t accustomed to being stuck in the car for many hours and may act out in protest. A healthy dose of patience can help you deal with potential problems as they arise while also helping your child feel secure. Other ways to avoid unpleasantness when traveling with toddlers include driving at night when your child normally sleeps, having someone share the backseat with him and planning at least one picnic or outdoor excursion for a quick shot of energy-burning exercise.
This article was written by Olivia Nicholas. Olivia is a writer and mommy to twin boys. She is always happy to share her passion for life and experiences through her work, and in her spare time works as a freelance writer for Storkie.
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