Tips for Traveling With Your Toddlerby Dianna Graveman | July 23, 2012 9:48 AM
Family vacation time is in full swing, and in spite of the poor economy and high gas prices, some busy parents are braving the heat and hitting the highways or airways to spend quality time away from work with their little ones. If you plan to travel this summer, you've probably given some thought to how you will entertain your toddler while en route, or even during downtimes at your favorite vacation spot. Below are some trip tips for travel by land and by air.
Before You Fly
Practice. Pack some toys in a bag, pretend to go through security, stand in pretend lines, board a pretend plane ( the couch), and then count down before the pretend takeoff. Shake your body in your seat and lean back while your plane begins its ascent. Turn the practice into a fun game to make the actual plane trip a lot less scary.
If you can afford to, buy your child a seat on the plane, even if he is under age two. This is especially helpful if your child is big for his age or is a very active child. He won't be able to kick and squirm out of his seat and cause unwelcome attention from other passengers or the flight attendant. He will also be more comfortable and probably fall asleep on a long flight. If he does need to squirm, he can kick his legs without bothering anyone. He will also have room to hold toys and books or pull down the tray to color or do other activities.
Depending on your child's age and size, bring a safety seat that is FAA-certified for air travel.
Give your child something to chew or drink while your plane is taking off and landing to help keep her ears from feeling clogged or painful. Infant Tylenol about a half hour before takeoff will help, too. Some parents like to dose their child with Benadryl to calm them down before a flight, but be aware that the medicine does have the opposite affect on some children. It is best to check with your pediatrician before giving your child any kind of medicine.
Whether you are in a plane or in a car, you'll want to have a lot of activities available to keep your tot busy. Some of the following activities are more practical for a car ride, but some will work on a plane, too.
- Bring along a cloth bag of inexpensive new toys and books, and allow your child to choose one every hour or two. (Alternately, you might consider storing away old books or toys your child no longer plays with and hasn't seen in some time. Pulling out some good ol' favorites every hour or two will bring back fond memories for your child and may allow for more--or at least as much--enjoyment as brand new purchases.) Some parents suggest you dole out the new items periodically without letting your child see the bag, or he may begin begging to have all the contents at once.
- If you're taking a car trip, plan to stop every hour or two -- even if nobody has to use the bathroom. Find a safe rest stop where your child can run and burn off some energy.
- Have a sing-along with your child's favorite recordings.
- Consider traveling at night when your child will sleep most soundly. Play an audio book for a bedtime story. Don't forget the favorite blanket and stuffed animal.
- Try videos, audio books, games, and music on iTouch, using the cigarette adapter to keep it charged.
- Use your iPhone or iPad: You can download a lot of free apps for your iPhone, including "Peekaboo Barn," which teaches your toddler the names and sounds of animals. Many games are also available for iPad through iTunes and are very inexpensive.
- Pack a bag with drinks and snacks like Goldfish crackers and raisins.
- Make or buy an "I-Spy bag," or bring along a picture album with plenty of photos from your child's early years. Kids love to look at pictures of themselves and re-hear the story of their birth.
- Make a sticker box: choose a plastic box with a lid and compartments. Inside, place coloring books, stickers, and crayons. Keep the box for your trip, only--no peeking before the trip begins!
If possible, reserve a room that is a little larger than what you need--something with room for you and your toddler to move around in comfortably.
Ask for a room as far away from other reserved rooms as possible--not only to allow for more quiet for your family, but to keep from disturbing other patrons if your child becomes fussy.
Consider eating in the hotel restaurant at "off times" to give yourself a little breathing room and lessen the stress on you if your toddler becomes fussy. Less people means less chance of overstimulation for your child, too.
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