Surviving Vacation With Babies and Toddlers – Favorite Tips and Products

 Surviving Vacation with Babies and Toddlers

 

Can family vacation with toddlers and babies actually be fun?

Yes! (I promise.)

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You may have heard it said, that you know you’re a mom when family vacation is a TRIP, but the grocery store alone is a VACATION. Soooo true. So true.

 

But does it have to be that way? Are these “special” family events just something to be endured until the kids are older? While there are absolutely going to be moments of frustration while traveling with babies and toddlers, I think the overall experience CAN be fun. Even for Mom.

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!

 
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I only link to products I personally use and like! You can read my full Disclosure Statement here.

For the Drive

Some of these ideas are only applicable to infants or only to forward facing kiddos – use your judgment, pick and choose your favorites! :
  • Snacks –

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.

  • Movies –

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.

 For the forward-facing kiddos, the car DVD player is our first line of defense against road trip craziness. I know friends who also use tablets with movies or games for kids who handle those well–great option there, too!

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).

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!

This makes the restaurant/gas station/rest stop bathroom experience less traumatic/disgusting
for everyone. I’ve also seen this kind, which we’ve never tried, but I might need to check out!
  •  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.

The end.

  • 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…

         –  Nursing moms/babies (particularly those who feel the need to eat every couple hours)
          – Squirrelly toddlers who need a chance to burn off some energy
          – The sanity of everyone in the vehicle
Surviving Vacation with Babies and Toddlers

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!)

*** I HAVE to insert my little PSA here: I highly recommend you do your research before buying. Some carriers are made in such a way that the baby is basically dangling, and their hips are not properly supported. Not good.
Look instead for one that creates a “seat”–this is if they’re upright. There are plenty of great carriers/wraps/slings for younger infants that hold them in a horizontal position (also useful for on-the-go nursing!). If you want more information on this, here is a good resource (includes a graphic demonstrating the positioning). Ok. I’m done.***

Surviving Vacation with Babies and Toddlers

  • 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!)

Surviving Vacation with Babies and Toddlers

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 –

 This can be challenging if you feel like you need to keep up with everyone all the time. Been there. The beautiful truth is that your family probably doesn’t expect your infant or young toddler to participate in every single activity that much older children might enjoy.

 

A lot of pressure (and exhaustion) can be relieved by taking breaks or nap times when needed. If this can be accomplished on-the-go, great. If not, it’s totally ok to retreat to your  hotel room to let the littles (and you!) recharge.

2.    Traveling with just my husband and kids –

 Set your own agenda! We tend to schedule just a couple “events” for a trip, and then keep the rest of the time open for whatever we feel like doing. Sometimes that’s discovering a new attraction to visit, but sometime it’s just swimming at the hotel or DOING NOTHING. And that’s fine.

 

Simply because an attraction or event is AVAILABLE doesn’t mean we HAVE to see it. At least, we don’t have to see ALL of them.

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?

 

 

 

Recommended Reading:

5 Tips to Have a Successful Garage Sale

How I Learned My True Identity

Body After Babies

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