When I was growing up, we traveled from Pittsburgh to Connecticut in the back of a station wagon, lying on our bellies with no seatbelts, coloring pictures! We played the “license plate game” trying to find one from every state. We listened to the FM radio that our parents chose, or that we could get a signal for. Wow! It sounds like light years ago!!
Today’s cars are equipped with satellite radio, DVD players, USB ports and …seatbelts! Does that make traveling with your toddler any easier? Not necessarily. Even though the times have changed, infants and toddlers remain the same…tiny human beings!
So, without further ado, here are a few suggestions for traveling this summer with your infant or toddler. I’m focusing on car travel, as many of our Pittsburgh families drive to the east coast beaches or the great lakes!
- Pack snacks – snacks can tide a tiny person over a little longer when they are getting restless.
- Prepare bottles or travel cups ahead of time – this will save you multiple stops along the way.
- Don’t be afraid to sit in the back – if you have more than one capable adult for driving; take a turn sitting next to your little one. Your presence, voice, physical touch and smiling face will work wonders.
- Leave at a time when you expect them to sleep – sleep can take up a large chunk of the trip if timed correctly, reducing the amount of fussing you may experience.
- Bring a window shade or blanket – often times, depending on the position of the sun and the direction you are traveling, the sun is brightly shining down on your baby or toddler. Nobody likes that! I got very good at securing a receiving blanket in a closed window to provide shade.
- Don’t be afraid to use electronics – I’m not always a fan of screen time, but in this circumstance, a little screen time can feel like a life saver!
- Pack a “fun bin” – use a bin or shoe box to pack some novel items that your toddler can engage with. Some ideas: mini-magnadoodles, a few favorite trains or cars, small favorite figures, and BOOKS!
- Get comfy! – dress your child in comfortable clothes, even jammies are fine! And don’t be afraid to take their shoes off. This is a long ride, might as well be comfy.
- Put on a diaper one size larger than normal – this way, you can hopefully avoid leaks until you get to the next rest stop.
- Anticipate 10 extra minutes at rest stops – choose a rest stop with a lawn so that they can run for a few minutes. Some rest stops even have playgrounds. We all know you want to get to your destination, but some time to MOVE for your toddler will make your ride much more pleasant.
What other ideas have you tried to make your travel easier? I promise, taking a road trip CAN be done with young children. All you need is patience, creativity, and a great sense of humor!