Traveling with a toddler (8 months - 5 years) can be heavenly…or hell-on-wheels! But, here’s the good news: What you do now (and on the trip) can totally stack the deck in your favor!

Here are 5 ideas to make traveling with your toddler a breeze… from start to finish:

Get Ready Before You Leave

  • Meltdowns are inevitable! So practice some special steps to boost toddler cooperation 1-2 weeks before you go away: Toddler-ese, gossiping and patience stretchingall techniques discussed in the Happiest Toddler
  • Perfect your sleep routine and start using a lovey, massage or reading and our special rumbly, low pitch white noise CD/download (for all naps and nights).
  • Make a little book of the trip (with photos of the plane, hotel, sites, etc.) to read every day BEFORE you leave.
  • Ask your doctor about Benadryl. (It can help on long flights, but ask how to test to make sure it doesn’t make your child hyper!)

Getting There Without Breaking a Sweat

  • Keep them busy! iPads and tablets are a godsend. Make frequent stops, if driving. (Use Benadryl — as described above—if needed.)
  • On jets, walk— a lot!—and bring special treats, and surprises. Hide them in different pockets of your purse, coat, etc. Read your trip book, to keep your child engaged with all the fun things that will soon happen!
  • Use stickers, tokens, checks on hand, treats, etc., to reward your tot for being cooperative/quiet (every 30-60 minutes).
  • For meltdowns, first use your best Toddler-ese and Fast Food Rule to acknowledge your tot’s feelings. THEN try distraction, explanation…or bribery. (In the middle of a flight it’s OK to use cookies to get through the rough spot… unless your child tends to get more wild with sugar!)

Helping Sleep: Even With Time Zones Changes

  • Lots of morning sun the first 1-2 days helps to overcome jet lag.
  • Limit naps to 90-120 minutes. (Too much daytime sleep can hurt nighttime sleep.)
  • An hour before bedtime, dim lights and turn on white noise in the background.
  • Keep your sleep routine. Predictability helps tots relax. Use white noise for all naps and nights (it’s a “teddy bear of sound” and it covers outside disturbing lights, sounds and smells in a hotel room). Don’t forget your tot’s lovey.

Avoid Traumas (Big and Little)

  • Bring first aid/illness medicine including any special your tot needs.
  • Indoor safety: Childproof the room (duct tape, electric plugs, etc.). And, scout around for dangers: cords that can be pulled down, scalding hot water, bedbugs, etc.
Outdoor safety: Avoid sunburns. Keep bugs away with natural repellents or even DEET (only put this on clothing, not on skin).

Keep It Simple When Traveling with a Toddler

  • Before you go, find the kid spots: parks, museums, etc. Plan lots of stops, always carry food and water.
  • Use a carrier for little kids and consider a harness/leash for bigger kids.
  • Keep activities short. Limit yourself to one hour in a museum then 30 minutes playing chase in the garden.
  • Avoid candy and treats. Wild sugar swings can trigger outbursts.
  • Ask your tot’s opinion many times a day to boost his sense of being respected. And, be ready to do Toddler-ese when the inevitable upsets arise.

Traveling with a toddler is not for the faint of heart, but armed with these tips, you’ll make the journey easier for everyone involved. By preparing beforehand, stocking up on stickers and snacks, and prioritizing sleep, you can set yourself up for a calmer, more enjoyable trip.

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