You’ve seen the television commercials where small children sit quietly in the backseat watching a movie while the parents sit in blissful silence. Unfortunately, this isn’t a reality when your family hops in the car for a vacation or road trip – cue meltdowns, tears, and cookie bribes. Any sort of travel with children will have some hiccups, but these tips will keep them to a minimum no matter your child’s age.
Load Up on Gear
Babies may be small, but as a parent, you know that their travel bag will contain way more stuff than yours. However, you’ll need to load up on travel gear as well. A portable changing pad is a must for those unexpected diaper messes, and a few trash bags will come in handy for odor-free storage until you can properly dispose of them. Naps on the road will be a blessing until it’s time to stop, so bring along your own portable crib to increase your ability to travel with ease. Not only are they easy to use and transport, but a portable crib will come in hand when space is scarce and you need a hands-free way for your baby to nap.
Pack the Ultimate Diaper Bag
If you’re just running to the store or out to eat, it’s okay if your diaper bag game isn’t at its best, but when you’re traveling for an extended period of time, you need to get that bag in order. Rather than pack up everything, use this checklist to bring along only the essentials, as well as some items you might overlook such as reusable placemats for food stops.
Stick to One Color
Toddlers attract messes like flies, and before you know it, you’ve gone through three outfits in a matter of a few hours. Rather than pack individual outfits, choose a color palette and stick with it. If your toddler drips chocolate ice cream all down the front of his shirt, you can simply change the shirt rather than the entire outfit. Items that mix and match will become your new best friend.
Be an Entertainer
Your toddler likes to be on the move, so when he is confined to a car seat for hours at a time, things might get a little hairy. For this reason, you need to pack plenty of entertainment, including toys and books, but food counts as entertainment too. Fruit, veggies, pouches, and veggies chips are a healthy way to keep your child entertained and maybe even lead to a nap. Speaking of naps, try to travel at night if possible so your little one sleeps as much as possible and you can log more miles without the constant stopping.
Get Them Involved
Once your child is school-age, he is old enough to have some sense of what is going on around him. Children are curious, so get them involved in the travel plans. Go old-school and print out a paper map. Highlight the route and help them track the progress and stops. Be sure to point out interesting sites as you drive, and stop along the way to explore and grab a family photo. Your child might also enjoy a printable version of the license plate game for a hands-on time passer.
Don’t Let Car Sickness Stop You
Many children have issues with getting car sick, but this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a family trip. In addition to doctor-approved medication, there are several ways to prevent that woozy feeling. Offer snacks with ginger or peppermint to prevent nausea. Books, movies, and coloring books should be avoided. The eyes are focused a few feet ahead, which signals to the brain that your child is still, but their inner ear picks up on the movement, resulting in that nauseous feeling. Opt for entertainment such as music or a read-aloud book that can be enjoyed with eyes closed and the window open.
Family travel is a great way to get in some quality bonding time. Rather than dread your upcoming travel plans, use these tips to reduce the stress and increase the fun. You might experience a hiccup or two, but the smiles are worth it.
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Travel with Children: The Essential Guide for Travelling Families (Lonely Planet)
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