First, let me define the last word in the title. A toddy is what Husband and I call Vincent and other kids his age-he’s not quite a full fledged toddler, but he’s also definitely not 100% a baby anymore either, but he has qualities of both toddlers and babies still. So ‘toddy’ won out over ‘boddler.’
When I first was formulating thoughts about what to put in this post, it was a particularly difficult day of vacation, and my initial thought was to write ‘Stay home and wait until he’s 4,’ but if you’re anything like me, you love traveling and hope to instill a love of it in your kids as well. Here’s my list of 10 tips for traveling with toddies:
1. Choose a child friendly destination
Sure, this may seem fairly obvious, but don’t underestimate its importance. From the restaurants you eat at to the activities you plan during the day EVERYTHING must be child centered and child friendly. You can’t just think about yourselves either. You know and love you kids no matter how much of a tantrum they may be throwing, but other people don’t. Be considerate and pick a place where there will be lots of families with similar aged kids. Then you can give other moms the look of ‘I got your back, and I am not judging your parenting or your kids behavior because in about 10 minutes, mine will be doing the same thing.’
2. Schedule downtime
Most toddies are still taking substantial naps during the day, and while many can sleep in strollers or baby carriers (I envy you parents because my child fights sleep anywhere besides his crib) they don’t get the best sleep unless they’re in a crib or pack and play. Plus, vacations are new places with lots of stimulation. It’s important for your kids to have some relaxing/’normal’ play time to recharge their batteries. And trust me parents, you will need this downtime probably more than your kids do!
3. Bring a blanket/stuffed animal/lovey to remind them of home
This might be controversial because we’ve all heard the stories of when loveys get lost, but I think it’s important. It smells like home, there’s a connection to safety and security when with the object, and many times there’s an association with sleeping and that object. I think it’s worth taking with you but make that object the most important thing you pack!
4. Accept that schedules will not be followed
This is a hard one for me to follow. Vincent has a nap time (or rather nap window) and a bedtime every day. We try not to deviate too much from those routines because he needs his sleep and he’s not typically one to sleep in if he’s put to bed later or if he doesn’t nap. He’s just extra crabby and sleeps less. But on vacations it’s hard to stick to your schedule – normal life doesn’t revolved around nap time. So you need to accept that things will be different and it might be harder (this is why you schedule downtime!) but it’ll be worth it because your toddy should get a lot of joy out of your trip.
5. You will get less sleep
Vacations are for relaxing, right? Wrong! Not with toddies. Vacations are for schedule changes, messing up routines, new places, and unfamiliar territory. I can only speak for my own toddy, but it takes him a good 3-4 days to adjust to sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Now, normally if he wakes up at night at home, we let him self soothe and he goes back to bed. It’s much harder to do that when you’re all living in the same hotel room. Expect to be woken up multiple times a night, and I’d suggest going to bed earlier than normal because your toddy will be up for the day at 6:30 (or earlier) and this is even after waking up 5 other times during the night.
6. Get a corner or end of the hall hotel room
Since we know from the previous post that your toddy is going to be awake multiple times a night if you can, request a room in the corner of the hotel or at the end of the hallway. This way, there’s only one room next to you and only one group of people you may potentially be bothering with all of the crying and screaming coming from your room. I know it’s not always possible, but it alleviates some potential headaches if you’re around fewer people. Also, going back to numbers 4&5, since there are lots of other people to think about in hotels, the routine of self soothing doesn’t work so well when you don’t want other people to be bothered.
7. There is no good way to actually travel with a toddy
By this I mean any mode of transportation is going to be hard. I’ve been told that being in cars rocks babies and toddlers to sleep. Perhaps my child is the only exception to this rule, but he essentially refuses to sleep while in the car. And he hates his car seat. He even complains when taking less than 15 minute drives. Airplanes (which happened once in an unfortunate circumstance where we had to leave vacation early) are even worse. At least in his car seat he’s in control of his arm/leg movements. When he’s sitting on a lap in an airplane and you have to stop him from trying to run up and down the aisles…forget it! These probably aren’t the greatest solutions, but we have constant snacks/water/milk, toys, and we’ve even tried a portable DVD player so he can have something to watch (rear facing must be awful, but it’s safe.) Even then, these methods don’t always work, and sometimes you resort to listening to crying…and screaming…and more crying…and lots of toys making lots of different sounds…and more screaming. Learn to tune it out. If your toddy isn’t hungry, wet, or in pain, they are just mad and will (eventually) get over it.
8. Eat at least one meal a day in your hotel room
Not only does this stop you from dealing with food throwing/screaming tantrums in restaurants, but it also can save you some money. Pack a cooler. Even pb&j is good when you know it’s not going to be thrown on the floor in a fit of toddy anger.
9. Have a plan B. And C. And D. And so on…
Things don’t always go to plan when it comes to kids, so be flexible. Know that you might not do everything you wanted to, and that’s ok. You’re on vacation. Have a few ‘must dos’ and play everything else by ear.
10. Your vacation is no longer yours
Once you have kids your life is no longer yours, but it’s for the best reason possible. Vacations are the same way. You won’t be able to have the type of vacations you had in the past when it was just you and your friends or you and your spouse. But that’s ok. It’s worth it taking kids on vacation, even as young as toddies. Sure, they might not remember the trip, but you will. You’ll remember the smiles and laughter and probably the screaming and tears, but it’s all part of the experience. Teach them young to appreciate home as well as to appreciate how to explore. Trust me, I’m an adult who had this kind of childhood, and I know from first hand experience, it’s so worth it.