For the purposes of this blog, I am going to consider myself an expert at travelling with a toddler. I am, at least, an expert at the pain and suffering associated with travelling with my Toddler. In an effort to
warn inform other parents, I have compiled a list of ways to possibly delay the hell small children impose on travel enjoy your trip with your little one!
1) Don’t go. Seriously. We just attempted lunch out with Toddler only to be vividly reminded as to why they invented take-out. Just borrow some nice travel DVD’s from the library. Easier on everyone. Check out my 10 Steps to a Fun Family Outing to see why…
2) Okay, fine. If you’ve made it past #1, you are actually planning on going, blatantly ignoring my sage advice. Fine.
2) (for reals) Scale down your expectations. Your toddler is probably going to be more interested in the bugs at Disney World then the fact that you have paid a zillion dollars and stood in line for 2 hours (in the hot sun) to meet/see/ride something amazing. If you just allow them the joys they will find along the way, you will be much happier. And you will sound less like those shrieky-freaky parents you feel so sorry for.
3) Swap off on toddler duty. Make a reasonable plan so that you both get a fair break. Or you will want to kill your spouse and put your child up for sale on craigslist. That never goes over well…just sayin’. Enlist the aid of your other children. A 5 year-old can sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as well as you can. You are all a family. Everyone helps. Don’t be a martyr–it isn’t pretty, and likely, everyone else will be too busy having fun to notice.
4) Snacks, snacks, snacks! Pack a lot. I seriously don’t think you can have too much (the nice man who packs the minivan for me might disagree). Bring some known favorites and try some new ones. Anything that takes a long time to eat gets extra points. Get one of those Snack Trap thingies and get the little cord that straps it to the carseat (ditto for their sippy cup), so they can’t pitch it overboard. Make sure you have stuff that can work as a meal so you aren’t trying to make a meal out of Cheerios when plans go awry (crackers and cheese, lunchable-type things). Also, make sure you have individual toddler juice (already watered down), extra milk and water. (If you are flying, just grab stuff after the security gate at one of the ridiculously overpriced food marts. You will be grateful for that $5 bottle of milk, trust me.)
5) I can’t overstate the value of treats. They can buy you a ton of time and pleasant behavior when used carefully. Some of our favs are m&m’s (doled out carefully), small suckers (yes, this is a choking hazard–be smart about it), mini-bags of cookies (the shiny packaging will buy you almost as much time as the cookies), and fruit snacks (who are they kidding–there is no fruit in that snack).
6) Books that DO something. Depending on the disposition of your child, lift-a-flap-type books are wonderful. We have lost a few flaps due to tearing, but honestly, as long as it is your book and it buys you some time, do what works. You can reinforce good book behavior when you are not stuck in an airport/on a freeway/in an infernally long line.
7) Bubbles. Get a little bottle of the spill proof kind and pack them with you. Great for lines, long stretches in the car, or for a little running around time at rest areas. A great thing for older sibs to help with when “Itsy Bitsy” wears on your nerves. It also makes you *very* popular with the other parents of toddlers in the line.
(Note: I have an email into TSA to ask about blowing bubbles in airports and on planes. You can bring bubbles of 3oz onboard, just don’t know about actually using them. I have probably just commited myself to a lifetime of “extra special” screenings for you guys…go me!)
8) DVD player. I was surprised to learn that watching a mind-numbing DVD actually captured our toddler’s attention when she was about 15 months old and we got stuck in a snow storm, turning a normal 1.5 hour drive into 5 hours. Baby Einstein ad nauseum, but it kept her content the whole trip. I have sooooo gotten past my guilt that I am turning my children’s brains mushy. I promise to stimulate their little minds at our destination. Now, hand over the DVD case and back off….
9) Color wonder markers and paper. Even if all the do is suck on the marker, it is non-toxic and when the marker is in their mouth, they aren’t screeching to be “ALL DONE!” riding in their car seats. (Tip–only give them one marker at a time. In fact, if you can help it, you might just pretend no other markers exist for as long as you can, or they will just point imperiously at the next marker, discarding the cap and then the marker over to the side of their carseat you can’t reach. This results in your entire supply of markers drying up in the first 20 minutes of your trip.) The Aquadoodle products are good, too.
10) Playing through the pics on your digital camera can buy you some time. Toddler looked at them for quite a while as she narrated all the things she saw. Yeah, and don’t actually hand the camera to the toddler, “k?
(Bonus) Anything an older sibling has. Just buy an extra of whatever the older child sitting next to the toddler will by playing with the majority of the trip. Trust me on this one. Yes, yes, a Nintendo DS may *seem* expensive now, but how much does that peace and quiet cost you at 30,000 feet?