Can family vacation with toddlers and babies actually be fun?
Yes! (I promise.)
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Today we’re going to look at some tools you can use to make traveling with the little folks slightly less exhausting. These include both ideas and tricks AND some products we’ve found helpful in our family.
Some of the ideas below are only applicable to road trips, because we have yet to fly anywhere with our kids. But several of of these are useful no matter HOW you travel!
For the Drive
Snacks, snacks, snacks….does this one really even need to be listed? If you’ve been around children (or, especially, MY children) for any length of time, you know they are always either eating or trying to eat.
I realize there may be some differences of opinion here. At home, we have some very strict screen time policies. We’ve noticed drastic differences in our children’s attitudes with direct correlation to their intake of TV. (I plan to write about that in its own post!) However, in unusual circumstances–sickness, travel, sometimes just an extremely difficult day–those rules go out the window.
Magna-Doodles (we’ve used some similar to this) –
They get the fun of coloring, but without the mess of crayons all over the floor (or unauthorized coloring, if your kid is feeling feisty).
For the little bitties –
Headrest mirror, baby toys attached to car seat with plastic rings, and light layers (eliminates the need for a blanket–even with AC on–and thus, constant safety monitoring).
Travel potty seat (and a plastic bag to stow it in) –
If, like me, you have a toddler who is certain he will fall into a full-sized toilet (thanks, Flushed Away), these are super helpful. Really, they’re good for anywhere outside the house, assuming you have a big diaper bag!
Cleaning Supplies (sounds silly, but hear me out
Bag of plastic grocery sacks, hand-sanitizing wipes, and paper towels…
Skipping this virtually guarantees an incident involving bodily fluids.
A diaper bag –
All of the essentials (including a change of kids’ clothes) within arm’s reach–rather than under suitcases in the back!
Car games –
Even those including adult participation – can be fun too! Some kids in this age range are ready for I Spy, but even younger toddlers can appreciate “who can find a bird outside first?”.
Extra time –
If you have the freedom, try to allow yourselves some cushion in your travel time. This is helpful for…
At Your Destination:
A good stroller –
The definition of this will vary quite a bit, but make sure you have something that fits YOUR family’s needs. This may be a tiny umbrella stroller or a massive Jeep two-seater. We used this Chicco Cortina stroller (affiliate link below) for years and loved it (this worked for us because, usually, we didn’t have two kids who wanted to ride at once).
Real life confession: We’ve been known to use the stroller to haul ONLY diaper bags, shopping bags, etc for the whole family too, when baby refused to ride. Which brings me to my next item…
Your choice of baby-wearing gear –
In some vacation scenarios, this can be a LIFE SAVER. We’ve used the Moby wrap (only complaint is dealing with the massive amounts of fabric – if I had it to do over again, I’d have used a simple sling for my young babies) and we LOVED the Mei Tai carrier (affiliate link below – on sale on Amazon right now!)
Harness Buddy –
This may be slightly controversial. I never used one of these with my oldest. But my youngest is fearless and FAST and 2.5 years old. He hates the stroller, and wants to walk like the big kids. So this cute dinosaur (also pictured above, in action) is our compromise.
I may get strange looks (though I haven’t noticed any yet), but he’s happy because he has some freedom, and I’m happy because he’s not in the gorilla enclosure.
White noise machines –
Our kids each use one of these at home too, and they’re really helpful when staying at a hotel or someone’s home. In our experience, one of the biggest deterrents to a FUN family vacation is when no one gets any sleep.
Along these lines, we always bring each kid’s own pillow and favorite stuffed animal–this can also be helpful for car naps! (We travel super light, ha!)
Finally, prepare to be flexible.
We’ve experienced two different scenarios on vacation with toddlers and babies:
1. Traveling with extended family, all of whom have older children –
2. Traveling with just my husband and kids –
This list is by no means exhaustive, but many of these ideas have been so helpful in our family vacations!
These years filled with babies and toddlers go by so quickly. However, easing some of the difficulties can help us not wish them away, but rather savor the memories made!
Here’s to shooting for vacations we don’t fee like we need to recover from!
Your turn! What tips would you add to this list?