Traveling can be an enjoyable time to find new experiences and locales — but add a toddler or two and vacation might seem like more work than pleasure. With the right planning, you can actually count on smooth sailing and relaxation on your next holiday with the kids.
Long trips can seem like a logistical nightmare when you’re traveling with young kids. From diapers to delays, there’s no shortage of potential headache-producing problems — so we put together 11 tips to make toddler travel a cinch. Take a look to take a break.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
Traveling with children will inevitably take more planning than doing it alone, so the more you have mapped out, the smoother things will go. If possible, plan flights and other travel time around nap schedules. Having all your reservations booked ahead of time will give you a comforting sense of security, even if it’s only for the first few steps of your journey, according to Rough Guides.
Knowing there is a dependable endpoint after a long day on the road (or in the air) can make a world of difference when you’re dealing with the unpredictability that comes with little kids.
2. Take Your Time
Whether it’s getting to the airport, sightseeing, or taking a taxi, give yourself extra time for all aspects of the trip. Little ones love roaming and exploring, with or without a time-sensitive itinerary to meet. By having an hour or two padding on either end of an excursion, you ease the time restraints and take the pressure off, and everyone will feel more relaxed.
3. Do Your Research
No matter the occasion, be aware of where you’re going, the weather forecast, even how kid-friendly your airports will be. If you’re going overseas, visit your doctor to be sure your entire family is up to date on important vaccinations — particularly if you’re going to a country with different public health conditions than where you call home.
4. Utilize Available Services
Make the most of services available to you to make your trip easier, whether it’s online check-in, curbside assistance, frequent-flyer lounges, etc. These can help you save time, free your hands, and provide novel experiences for the kids. With the extra time you planned for, explore the airports, take the tram, and get out some energy before the flight or drive.
At Affinia our family-freindly hotels in nyc, we offer Affinia Junior to make yours and your kids’ stay that much more enjoyable. With activities like coloring and board games, there’s plenty for young children to do so you might even be able to get a little downtime.
Make sure to bring antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. Busy public spaces, like restaurants, airports, or tourist attractions, are a veritable petri dish for germs. Keep antiseptics on hand to help prevent everyone in the family from getting sick, and be sure to wash toys regularly.
6. Pack Smart
Keep all of your kid-specific essentials in your carry-on, including medications, an extra change of clothes, toys, snacks, etc. Kids have a knack for getting sick at the most inconvenient times, so be sure to include common medications that you might need (this can vary quite a bit depending on your destination). Letting your child pack her own backpack can help make it fun for her — but be sure to use your discretion in what should or shouldn’t be included.
We all need a little help now and then to get ourselves out the door, on the plane, and to our destination. Check out some of these great lists to help you plan what you need. For the more tech savvy, there are a number of great packing apps to make packing that much easier, such as recommended by the New York Times.
7. Have a Child Locator
Investing in a remote child locator can put your mind at ease while avoiding the public spectacle that comes with keeping your child on a literal leash. If he wanders beyond your set distance, or the tracking bracelet is removed, an alarm will sound. You can also set off a beeper to help find him once he’s wandered off.
8. Work Together
If you’re traveling with another adult, take turns supervising to give each other quick breaks. Even a 15 minute reprieve can feel like heaven in the midst of traveling — so help each other out and stay positive.
9. Keep the Kids Engaged
Whether you're flying or taking a road trip, bring activities and toys to keep the little ones engaged. From books to miniature art projects, almost anything can cut through the travel doldrums — even made up games like “I Spy” help. Make regular pit stops to break the tedium if you’re driving — don’t wait until your child is squirming or fussing. There are, of course, countless apps available for mobile devices as well, but be sure to set limits on screen time.
10. Bring Surprises
If you have room, pack surprise bags that feature new toys or snacks. Handing them out every hour or so keeps the kids happy and entertained, especially if they are on the verge of a breakdown. Simple gifts from the dollar store are great, or find local toys on your trip to surprise them. Go the extra step and wrap the toys - adding another element of anticipation and surprise!
11. Don’t Forget Your Patience and Sense of Humor
Strong nerves and a willingness to find humor in little travel calamities are quite possibly the most important things you can carry with you. Delays and surprises are a reality of travel, so being able to laugh at the craziness of it all will help keep spirits high. No matter what, you are having an experience together — and kids grow up sooner than you expect, so enjoy the time you have with them now.