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.