If you ever had the opportunity to take an infant on a plane or road trip, you probably were beside yourself with fear beforehand. You packed their entire wardrobe, stuck diapers in every possible nook and cranny of your suitcases and diaper bag, made enough milk or formula to last a two-day layover, and bought an extra tote full of toys. Then, whoa! Next thing you knew, baby was sleeping oh-so-comfortably on your lap as you tried to figure out a way to reach for your soda to take a sip.
Now your sleepy baby is a very wide-awake and very inquisitive and active toddler. There’s no denying it…toddlers are NOT infants and will NOT sleep hours at a time on the plane or in the car. They are heavier, are more in touch with what they want–and don’t want–and want to see, touch and “say hi” to everyone, even those behind that curtain the flight attendant keeps on hiding behind.
That’s not to say it’s all a challenge. There’s nothing more rewarding than watching your child interact with others on the plane, to be curious for the first time and to want to know how things work. And although there are some grumps on planes who don’t hold back on their displeasure of sitting close to a toddler, for the most part people are kind, understanding and more patient than not.
As for the destination itself, consider furnished apartments if planning to be in one town for more than a few days. Hotels were great when baby couldn’t run around, jump or explore cabinets, cords and corners. But once a toddler can walk and run a bit, a hotel room can seem a heck of a lot smaller than it used to be, and children can bore quite quickly when there’s only about 5 feet of running space. A furnished apartment not only provides more space, it also provides all the comforts of home you’ve grown accustomed to while raising baby. With more room and space, baby can enjoy more physical exercise, find little “hiding” places to play peek-a-boo, and mom and dad can each find a spot for some down-time alone.
Here are some wonderful tips from been-there/done-that moms that no parent should go without when planning a family vacation. By setting boundaries and rules for toddlers early on, it can be much easier to expect good behavior the next time a holiday comes along.
1. Is your toddler still day napping? Plan ahead to start the normal routine as soon as you return home, since it’s entirely unpredictable on the road.
2. Plan tours and sightseeing around these naps. You may want to choose quieter places to visit around those times if the child doesn’t appear to want to sleep.
3. Think about safety in your accommodations, whether it’s furnished apartments or a hotel. You may have to move furniture or even tape padding on corners of drawers.
4. Don’t ignore your child(ren) when talking to other adults about the trip, i.e., where you’re going, the itinerary, restaurants, interesting sights…involve them entirely in the planning and execution. They will be more inclined to behave positively if they have some feeling of control or inclusion.
5. Put away the stroller! Or at least only take the umbrella stroller and fold it up and carry it. Let your child walk ahead of you (stay at a reasonable distance, naturally!) so he or she can independently explore all the new sights and sounds. This helps in future independent behaviors.
6. Thought you packed enough diapers, wipies, snacks, socks, toys, medicine, books and clothes for your toddler? Pack twice as much. And pray it’s enough.