Planning a summer trip with your baby or toddler?
Picture yourself swaying under the stars as your baby swings on your hip. Relax and enjoy the sounds of your child's laughter mingling with the rhythm of the ocean waves. Your planning and creativity has paid off in a family dream vacation.
Some families seem overwhelmed by the idea of traveling with an infant or a toddler, but we've always been of the philosophy to just grab the kids and go. We've flown to Lisbon, Portugal, sailed on a Disney Bahamas cruise, made the pilgrimage to Walt Disney World itself, taken the ferry to Connecticut dozens of times, and took a road trip all the way from New York to Savannah with our children.
One of the best-kept secrets of parenthood is that younger babies are really portable. Toddlers are a bit more of a challenge with their tendency to contradict everything, but even they will be distracted by the excitement of a trip, at least most of the time.
Travel is a great way to step out of your usual routine and grow as a person, but remember there are days that parenting a baby can be challenging even in a familiar setting. With a bit of preparation, though, you have the fun family time you desire. Here are a few things to consider:
- Your Destination: I know parents, like Candice Broom of Mom Most Traveled, who have taken young children to developing countries and created amazing memories for their families. While it is heartening to know it can be done successfully, if you are a traveling newbie, maybe start out simpler with a destination in the United States or Canada. You will be more confident knowing you speak the language, will be able to find your child's food, and can expect a certain level of health facilities in case of emergency.
- Your Transportation - via Air: Airplane travel with young toddlers keeps me awake in the days before our trips. Although we've never had a total meltdown en route, it is always a possibility. And threats to stop, turn around, and go home lose their effectiveness at 30,000 feet. When the baby is a nursling, we have an easy relaxation technique. After weaning, though, we've found that lollipops and distraction are our best bets. Even then, we try to keep the flight time down. Australia will have to wait.
- Your Transportation - via Car: Sixteen hours over three days in a car with two kids who are too hyped up to nap or even sleep after dinner sounds like everyone's idea of a party, right? Believe it or not, we actually survived this challenge and had a great time. The key is planning frequent stops when the kids are at their most energetic and trying to travel when they are most relaxed. And if you are like me and limit electronic toys, now might be the time to relax those rules. (Check out my Road Trip Tips, including educational opportunities for bigger kids.)
- Or Take a Train or Cruise: By far my favorite way to travel with young children is by train or cruise ship. Kids can stretch their legs, face their parents, get their favorite snacks and meals, and, on a cruise, even get some fresh air.
- Stay Safe: One thing we never compromise on is safety. We make sure that we will have an appropriate car seat with us or that one can be rented at our destination. And when traveling during the summer do not forget to stay sun-safe: bring protective clothing, pack plenty of sunscreen, and stay hydrated!
- Pack Light: Every family has a few essentials they cannot live without. After over-packing for our first few trips and dragging around all that excess, we learned to pack light. Even on road trips, we try to pre-pack our overnight bags and leave the rest in the car. Our rule is that, when in doubt, we leave it behind. We call ahead to find out about the availability of a play yard. We ditch the strollers in favor of age-appropriate baby carriers and have never regretted it. The kids can pack their own small packs with a favorite "friend," book, and some crayons and drawing paper. (Check out my list of Essential Products for Traveling with Babies and Toddlers.)
- Snacks Fix Everything: There are few toddler problems that cannot be fixed by a well-timed snack. Stock up and you will be able to cure almost every travel woe--except car sickness.
- Play Games: Take time now to write up a list of age-appropriate games to pass the time when you are stuck in lines or in transit.
With some planning, a good sense of adventure, and lots of flexibility, you can have a great time traveling with your baby.