Traveling with Sleepy Toddlers

There are some things in life that you just don’t do. Like running with scissors, set fireworks off in your garage, or swimming in shark infested waters at dusk. Or ever for that matter. If you have a strong willed child or two (or four) you may think “traveling with toddlers” should be on that list as well.


I’m here to tell you its not and actually its not as bad as you might think. If you’re well prepared and have the right mindset (Note: this is more important than packing enough clean underwear) it can be…wait for it…fun!

Some of these tips may seem like no-brainers, but when you’re traveling with trantrum-prone toddlers it helps to have as many tools in your traveling toolkit as possible. These are all lessons we’ve learned along the way – some of them several times over – with regard to traveling with sleepy toddlers in particular.

1. YOU’RE AWESOME! Yes, I’m talking to you. Congratulations for getting out and seeing the world – or at least a new city – with you’re little one in tow! You’ve got this and you’re going to make this look so easy that you’ll convince yourself to do it again. And again.

2. RESPECT NAP TIME! Yes, I am yelling at you with bold capital letters, but only because I really want you to hear this. Sleep deprivation can make or break your trip. People with far more credentials behind their name than mine have studied the basic needs of human beings and sleep is one of them. (Google Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs if you don’t believe me. Actually, you’re a busy person so I’ll do it for you; just click here.) A cranky toddler can break even the strongest person and sour the most exciting travel itinerary. But fear not my friend, here are some tips to work around this:

  • Plan drive** times during nap time; this gives you a break from the broken “How much longer?” record and lets your your tot really enjoy your planned activities during their awake hours. But for goodness sake please make sure you have a full tank of gas and an empty bladder BEFORE you hit the road because frequent stops will backfire on your best laid plans.
    • **If you’re flying the opposite is true; AVOID traveling during nap times because you are rarely in control of your schedule and I can guarantee you that even if your flight is on time and you do get your child to sleep in those cramped quarters, it is inevitable that the Captain will choose the precise moment that you sit back and start breathing again to make a loud announcement about reaching peak altitude. (Does anyone really care??)
  • If driving isn’t an option a stroller is the next best thing. Walk around the block a few times before you arrive at your destination to make sure they are sound asleep. This is good for adult museums and other somewhat quiet places. Disclaimer: this will only work if your child is accustomed to sleeping in their stroller so do some test runs close to home to work out any kinks.
  • Continuous stream white noise apps on your phone help temper the noise levels around you and keep a sleeping child asleep.

3. RESPECT BED TIME! Here we just because friends and I’m already yelling at you a second time. My apologies. Let me give you a little lesson in science: Your child’s brain is still developing. When they are tired or frightened or overwhelmed they operate in their brain stem – this is the fight or flight area of the brain. (And boy can they fight.) They need to know they are safe and all is well to come out of the brain stem and into the middle brain where they can emotionally connect with others, or better yet, the neocortex where they can think for themselves. Traveling is stressful enough as it is so set them up for success instead of failure by making sure they enter each day well rested.

4. HOTELS. (I’m not actually yelling at you this time – now I’m just trying to be consistent ) There ain’t no party like a hotel party cause a hotel party don’t stop…There is no clearer invitation to start jumping like wild monkeys than a plush voluptuous hotel bed, at least that is what my kids think. It’s hard to get them even thinking about sleeping when there is SO much fun to be had. So what do we do? We join them in the fun by moving the party to the pool. Swimming uses practically every muscle in their bodies and wears them out. Then, when we get back to the hotel room we put them straight into the bathtub and BOOM we’re back on track with our typical bedtime routine, but this time with worn out kids! Note: You don’t have to do this every night but I do recommend it for the first night when everything is so new.

While your kids are asleep or otherwise preoccupied use that time wisely by spending a few minutes to discreetly unplug all the phones in the hotel room; you don’t need them and it takes all the fun out of hitting buttons when there isn’t a live person answering on the other end. Plus it saves you from middle of the night phone pranks. Which are SOOO not funny BTW. We’ve also found it helpful to use a sound machine or a white noise app on one of our cell phone because when you are in a hotel with hundreds of other people, there is a very good chance some of those people are traveling for weddings. We’ve learned the hard way too many times that an open bar for them = open eyelids for us come 2:00 AM.

Now that you have a few tricks up your sleeve to handle traveling with sleepy toddlers you are absolutely going to rock this! I wish you the best of luck and I’ll be back soon with tips on Traveling with Hungry Toddlers as well as Tantrums & Traveling.


Louisville, KY: Mega Cavern Mega Quest Adventure

The first time we went to the Louisville Mega Cavern the waiting area for the tram tours was in a rinkydink little gift shop similar to what you would find in a small museum. To say that it has grown in the past three years is an understatement. This, my fellow adventure seekers, is what the waiting area looks like now. Behold the Mega Quest.


When I first saw this my inner child was like “YESSS!”. My actual child was like “Whatever.” He must be spoiled. To be fair, he was too excited about the worms in the tram tour to pay much attention to this wonderland, but all it took was a little begging and pleading (that was me doing the begging and pleading – weird role reversal) and we were all hooked up. They had rental lockers for our blankets and other things which was really awesome because we had packed a lot of warm clothes for the tram tour.


Having just turned five years old my son was definitely the youngest on the course, but the instructors were very patient and taught him how to use the equipment since you have to be hooked up to the ropes at all times. Once he had the hang of it and we got out on the course he had the time of his life!


There were other people on the course with us, but since there were so many pathways to and from things we were never rushed or crowded. There were staff members walking around on the ground to help us troubleshoot for when we found ourselves in a pickle so it wasn’t scary or overwhelming.

It was two stories high but we didn’t climb to the top level only because I was silly and wore a sundress. (Don’t wear a sundress to a cavern…For a multitude of reasons. One of which being that there is no sun…And it is a constant 58 degrees inside. Another being you never know when you may feel the sudden urge to climb a two-story rope ladder.) That said, we still had plenty to do on the first level, including a small zip line.


There is no time limit, you can go around as many times as you like but at the end is a big zip line that goes from one end of the course to the other. That is just one of many zip lines in the cavern; there is also the Mega Zips which is 2 1/2 hours of underground zip line, but you have to be at least seven (7) years old to participate in that tour. Boo!

We easily spent a couple of hours on this super fun obstacle course and next time we will make sure we have more time to explore because there certainly isn’t a shortage of things to do here! Added bonus: Kids sleep really well after spending a couple of hours on an obstacle course. :)

Louisville, KY: Mega Caverns Tram Tour

Adventures are bold. Adventures are memorable. Adventures are exciting. Adventure is exactly what our five-year old son and I were looking for on our Mommy-Son date on a recent trip to Louisville, KY. He is really into worms (we’ve probably read Diary of a Worm a million times) so when he heard that you could take a jeep ride to a worm farm in a cave [cavern] his mind was blown. It just had to be our next adventure.

The Mega Cavern is located in an old limestone mine and spans 100 acres under Louisville. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, it is just buried in an industrial park, but let me tell you, the Mega Caverns are aptly named – it is freaking HUGE. You enter through industrial doors past a picnic area and for the majority of the walk it kinda feels like you’re in the wrong place, like you’re trespassing, but there are painted footprints on the floor to guide you all the way back…and it goes WAAAYY back!

Tram passengers are seated on an open wagon pulled by a Jeep through the cavern. It gets a bit brisk underground – 58 degrees to be exact – so if you go, make sure you bring a blanket or dress in layers.


All bundled up and full of the sillies

The cavern has served many different functions over the years from limestone mine, to fallout shelter, to the hidden gem it is today with dirt bike trails, underground zip lines, ropes challenge course, and of course worms.

Now I’m not a dirt bike kinda girl but I will say that the trails looked really well done and were rated by level of difficulty similar to ski slopes. With the temperature a constant 58 degrees I can see how it would be well suited for a long bike ride and we saw lots of families with kids riding the trails.


Bike course signs

The tram tour, which we did, gives you an overview of the cavern structure itself, gives you a taste of what life would have been like if the cavern actually served as a fall out shelter had there been a nuclear attack (I’m warning you, this is creepy), and a worm tasting room. Yes, I said tasting room.

They don’t offer the worms to the public to eat anymore….but the tour guide gets a taste! I cannot tell you how relieved I was with this change in policy; I promised my son we could eat baby worms (hey, when you’re on a date you gotta bring your A-game…or at least your Pepto Bismol). My son was really bummed that we couldn’t partake in the worm tasting, but he still loved watching the tour guide eat a big fat one. It must be a boy thing.


Creepy, creepy, creepy, creepy, CREEPY


Bon Appetit

Worm tasting, or not tasting, aside it was still a memorable experience and a fun adventure.


You thought I was joking, didn’t you? I don’t joke. Not about worms.

They also have a Christmas light display during the winter so I know we will be back again in the winter…and probably when our son is old enough to zip line, because who wouldn’t want to hurl their body through the air at high speeds underground??


Christmas display