Travel Tips for Toddlers
Last year I would have told you I am no expert on traveling with little ones. I would still say that I am not an expert, but being a missionary on deputation has afforded me lots of practice! We are gone every weekend and many weeks in between. Next year we will be gone for several months at a time.
When we began this journey I asked several missionary friends for suggestions. Many of their tips have been lifesavers as we travel the country with four little people. Some areas are still being tweaked to find out what works best. These are a few of my tips for traveling with toddlers…
1. Keep Your Routine – even when away from home. I know that it is not always possible, but stick to what is “normal” as much as possible. Observe the same nap times. Eat the same foods. Keep the same bedtime routine.
2. Bring Favorite Items. There are enough “strange” things on any trip – a different bed, a new house or hotel room, and possibly a different climate. Try to keep some things the same. Liberty is attached to her blanket. We bring it on every trip. Elaine and Nolan are older and have lots of favorite “friends”, so they have to select one friend to bring in the car. We also bring a couple of family favorites for bedtime stories. This gives the kids something familiar in an unfamiliar environment.
3. Switch Things Up. We have several different entertainment items to keep the kids happy in the car. But we try to keep them varied so that the kids don’t get bored of any one thing. We use a DVD player, books on CD, reading chapter books aloud (I love my Kindle because it takes up so little space), independent playtime (with items from their backpack), family games such as “I Spy”, Bible stories from Daddy, singing, and nap time. We do one thing for a little while, and then move on to another. During nap time they can't hold any toys and they have to close their eyes and stop speaking. They almost always fall asleep.
My bigger kids are allowed to pack their own little backpacks, but I limit the number of toys. I usually let them have “five small toys”. They usually pick things like zoo animals, Little People, etc. and play make believe in their car seats. I have found that crayons/markers/stickers are not good in the car for little people. I spend most of my trip retrieving them from the floor. For drawing, Magna Doodles work great!
4. Travel at Night. It may be helpful to travel at night when your little people will naturally sleep. You don't have to plan as many stops, so the traveling goes faster. We have done it several times for very long trips. It is hard on Mom & Dad the next day, though!
5. Stop frequently. We stop about every three hours, and usually for an hour. By the time we change diapers, take a potty break, eat lunch, and let the kids run off the wiggles, it is usually an hour. But then the kids are much more content to get back into the car. We have found it very helpful to pack a lunch and stop at a park, playground, or rest stop to eat. This gives us fresh air and more room for the kids to run around, and it’s much easier on our wallet!
1. Pack Light. Almost everywhere we go there is a washing machine. I usually pack three days of clothes, and then wash. This means less stuff to load and unload into the car, and it is also less items to keep track of at the home/hotel where we are staying. For a family of six we can travel with only two suitcases, a bag of shoes, and a family toiletry bag. It means less to get ready, too. I can have us all packed in about two hours or less!
2. Prepare for Accidents. We have two kiddos in diapers, and one potty training. I keep an extra outfit and socks in the diaper bag for these kids. That way if there is an accident on the road, we don’t have to unload the whole suitcase.
3. Stay Organized. I bring along a laundry bag to set up in our destination home. This keeps the suitcase organized. I pack the “little” stuff for each person in a Ziploc bag with their name on it. All undies, socks, ties, belts, hair bows, etc. go into that person's bag to stay organized. I bring a mesh laundry bag to put dirty socks into, so that they are not lost in the dirty laundry. When you’re only packing for three days, it’s hard to lose a pair of socks!
4. Pack a Community Bag. Since there are six in our family, we have found a “community bag” to be helpful. All of our shoes go into one bag. This keeps dirt out of the suitcases and makes it easy to keep track of everyone’s shoes. We also have a family toiletry bag. All toiletry items for the whole family go into one bag, and then there is only one bag in the destination bathroom, instead of six individual bags. This makes it easier to be sure we have everything packed, too. I can easily glance through the toiletry bag to know we have all the necessary items, and my husband knows he only has to worry about loading one bag into the van.
Do you travel often? What do you do to make it fun instead of stressful?