Tips for Traveling With Toddlers
Whether you are driving over the mountains and through the woods to Grandma’s, or leaving on a jet plane to relax in a tropical paradise, when you have young ones tagging along, your “vacation” may not seem like a vacation at all. Whether it’s a crowded airport, a noisy car, Friday night traffic or inclement weather, there are many creative ways you can interact with your kids to keep them occupied, and to help your vacation actually feel like one. Here are some tips for traveling with toddlers:
- Sing-a-longs. Nothing passes the time traveling with toddlers like music and song. Get some familiar music ready that you and your kids can sing along together to. Teach your kids some hand motions and clapping to make it more fun. If your kids are bored with the same old music you always listen to, buy some new ones especially for the trip.
- Musical toys. These will help keep your young ones content during the drive. One parent can even sit in back with baby and interact with the musical toy together.
- Put your kids in the driver’s seat. Well, not literally. Set up a creative driving toy on your child’s lap. Show her how it’s just like the real car’s controls. Tell your child to turn when you turn and push buttons when you do. This is also a great way to teach about left and right while traveling with toddlers.
- Search the scenery. Play “find-it” games when traveling with toddlers, such as the letters of the alphabet in order on road signs, or “I spy” color games. Use this opportunity to teach your young ones about things they’ve never seen, such as mountains, forests, snow and desert.
- Rest stops. Plan extra time so you can make rest stops. Your kids will need a potty break, and this breaks up the monotony of a long car ride.
- Map reading. Draw a kid-friendly map of your trip before you go, with major landmarks along the way. Have your kids draw their own maps too. Point out the interesting parts of your trip and have the kids circle them on their map so they can get a sense of how far you’ve traveled, and how much farther you have to go.
- Drawing pads. Buy paper pads, or use a lap desk, so your kids can pass the time with art. This will give you some nice quiet time too.
- Never take your infant out of the car seat. It is just not worth the risk. If your baby is fussy in a car seat, allow extra time for your trip so you can periodically pull over and attend to baby. Mom can sit in the back seat with baby and even lean over to feed baby during the drive.
- If your kids really don’t do well on long car trips, time your trip for the late evening. Allow your kids to sleep through most of the trip. Do this only if you feel awake and alert for a long nighttime drive.
- Water bottles. Keep your kids well hydrated during car trips through hot summer places. Thirsty kids are cranky kids.
Nothing is more exciting for a child than a trip on a plane. But it seems younger infants don’t share this joy. When traveling with toddlers, here are some ways you can make it more fun for the older tots, and more comfortable for younger babies:
- Feed babies during the plane’s ascent and descent. Save the feeding for when the plane lifts off the ground. This way your baby will be sucking and swallowing during the entire ascent of the airplane, and baby’s ears will stay more comfortable. The descent typically causes more ear discomfort, so be sure to start feeding baby when you feel the descent begin. A pacifier isn’t enough; baby needs to be sucking and swallowing.
- Need to pass some time while waiting to board the plane? Bring your child’s favorite balls or other rolling toys, sit on the floor and roll them back and forth when traveling with toddlers.
- Bring along some toy airplanes or other vehicles. Create your own “airport” together on the floor while you wait.
- Bring a few of baby’s interactive books. This will help pass the time while you wait and while you fly. An airplane book is sure to be a big hit when traveling with toddlers.
- Let your kids bring their own “luggage.” A backpack filled with toys, water bottles and snacks will help your child feel more grownup and better behaved in the hectic airport.
- Cards. Nothing passes the time like a fun family game of cards. Be sure to bring an extra pack for your youngest to play with. Flash cards are also a great way to combine fun with a bit of learning, no matter what age your kids are.
- Be sure your kids don’t miss the view out the window. Point out the clouds, ocean, mountains and other scenery they don’t typically get to see.
- Bring along a few snuggly toys. Baby’s favorite talking plush toy is a very welcome companion when traveling with toddlers. A bit of familiarity will help your child feel more at home away from home.
- Bring along some favorite healthy snacks. Food on an airplane can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to be traveling with toddlers who are hungry on a long flight.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.