The idea of traveling with toddlers is enough to fill some parents with dread and keep the suitcases locked away in the attic. It’s a wonderful thing, though. Traveling allows children to develop a far greater understanding of the world around them. It helps them to be more flexible and adaptable, and encourages their curiosity. They will learn about responsibility and develop social skills. Alongside the basic concept of seeing the world, traveling has a significant positive impact on their development.
Traveling with young children doesn’t need to be something to be scared of, especially if you take certain steps to make the whole experience a lot easier for you and your toddler. With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to open your mind to the possibility of traveling with your toddler.
Finding the Right Destination
If you’ve come here hoping for a sure-fire recommendation of the best place to take your toddler, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Family travel really comes down to your preferences and what you want to get out of your travels. Do you want to explore different cultures or see stunning landscapes? Do you want to experience a particular type of activity?
My advice is to decide what sort of adventure you want (if you haven’t already) and do plenty of research to find the right place or places. The reality is that if you want to go somewhere where everything is geared towards making your child’s time simple and fun, go to Disneyland. Almost every destination around the world has its pros and cons when it comes to traveling with toddlers.
The more important thing to remember is that it’s what you do with your child that will determine the success of the trip, not what there is to do for the child.
Once you’ve settled on a destination (or destinations), you need to think about vaccinations. If you’re traveling to a country or continent that requires you and your toddler to receive a vaccination, try to have them as early as possible. Fevers, rashes and loose bowel movements are all relatively common side effects of vaccinations in the days following. They aren’t going to make for an enjoyable start to your adventure. And no one wants to deal with a toddler’s bad belly during a flight!
Booking the vaccinations a week before you depart, at the latest, will ensure any side effects have passed through their (and your) system before you leave.
Packing for a toddler is a very difficult task, especially if you’re traveling for anything longer than what is considered a holiday. You want to travel as light as possible, while ensuring you have everything you’re going to need. Here’s a list of things you must have with you:
Wipes – Toddlers touch EVERYTHING. The best way to keep your child free of germs is to keep their hands clean.
Lollipop – Sucking on a sweet will help to stop the change in atmospheric pressure hurting their ears during take-off and landing.
Weather protection – For obvious reasons, sun scream, sunglasses and hats are must haves. But don’t forget a raincoat, even if you’re going to warm, sunny climates. Naturally, warm coats, scarves, gloves and hats are a must for colder climates.
First aid – Take travel-sized pain relief and plasters on the journey, while packing full-sized versions in your luggage.
Spare clothes – One way or another, toddlers find a way to get dirty. You don’t want your child to spend the rest of the day wet and uncomfortable after spilling a drink. They’re also particularly useful in case for potty trainers in case of accidents.
Healthy snacks – It’s easy to go for a sweet treat. And while you don’t want them to get hungry, the last thing you want on a flight is a toddler on a sugar-rush!
Activities – Whether it’s the journey to the airport, or the flight itself, the journey can be very dull for a young mind. Coloring, stickers, books, puzzles, games are all great way of keeping them occupied and having fun. Dinosaurs are always a sure fire winner, so here’s a selection of great dinosaur toys broken down into age categories.
Plan Each Day
It’s best to have at least one main thing planned for each day. Waking up without at least a rough plan for the day can easily result in precious lost time. Having a plan provides you with a little more urgency and motivation to get up, get ready and get out.
I’m not saying you need every minute of the day accounted for with a detailed itinerary. In fact, a big part of the joy of traveling is the unexpected and unplanned, and planning one main thing gives enough flexibility for that. But any parent will know how quickly an early morning start can turn into mid-afternoon without a plan.
Engage and Encourage
Every step of your journey is its own big adventure to a toddler and should be treated as such. Ultimately, you can plan everything perfectly but if you don’t engage with your child every step of the way, they’re going to be far less invested in the experience. From the moment you set off, talk to them about what you’re doing and what’s coming next. Get them excited to arrive at the airport, to see planes taking off, for boarding, for take off, for landing and stepping off in a new country. When you arrive, point out everything – the animals, the landscape, sculptures, street art. Encourage them to talk to locals (with your supervision, of course) and tell them about the local culture. Be prepared to spend longer than you expected at nearly every step and take the time to look at your surroundings and play around with them.
Will it be tiring to keep it up all day? Absolutely. It’s like a regular day of parenting x100. But making sure your toddler is happy and excited will enhance your own experience.
Traveling with Toddlers: The Rewards are Immense
Traveling with a toddler is a thankless task. But traveling with toddlers is also one of the most rewarding and unforgettable things you will ever do, allowing you and your child to not only see the world but helping them to develop in ways they never would be able to at home.
It’s far from easy, but this guide will help you along the way to making it the best time of your life.
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