Traveling across the country with my one year old taught me something about my organizational skills– that I didn't have any! It was Thanksgiving, and we were headed to visit family, about 6 hours away. The last time we took on such a daunting challenge was when my son was 3 months. Those were the good old days when all he did was sleep and poop. At one year old, however, he demanded a constant flow of stimulation, and the demands didn't stop there.
Quiet the kids with an in-car movie. Photo by Flickr's are you my rik?
After we got to the hotel, which was surprisingly non-baby proofed, I was unable relax. My son was into everything, and I had none of the comforts of home (like a playpen) to put him in. And after a back-breaking walk through the malls on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I can personally endorse strollers as the most helpful invention ever. So, learn from my lack of preparation, and see what I will never leave the house without again:
1. A collection of brand new toys. It doesn't have to be new, but it should be new to your little ones. I'm an advocate of using eBay or Craigslist to shop for great, inexpensive toys. I also recommend doling out the toys one by one, and not all at once, so that once your child inevitably gets bored with one toy, you'll have something else to excite.
2. Portable DVD Player. If your children are anything like mine, you know they love moving pictures. There's no better way to keep them entertained than a few toddler-appropriate DVDs. If funds are low, you can always check movies out from the library. This is a sure-fire way to keep your little ones entertained, for little money.
3. Snack Food. It's crucial to have lots of food and juice on hand in the car or plane. Try to keep it as healthy as possible by planning ahead. Make some sandwiches from home, and include fresh (but packable) fruit like grapes, apples, and oranges. In the case of traveling by air, you will have difficulty getting a large jug of juice past security, so you may have to compromise on that one and buy juice through the airport shops.
4. Pack your stroller! As aforementioned, a stroller is so important if you're planning on doing any walking whatsoever. Even if your little one can walk, they won't want to walk long distances, and this is where strollers are a big help. Strollers also help with lugging all the other bags you may take with you, like the diaper bag.
5. Playpen. I love my son's playpen. I think it's very important to carry one if you're planning on staying overnight at any destination. I don't necessarily trust hotel cribs. Your child's playpen is an instant place to sleep, and just hang out in an unsafe environment, like a hotel room or even Grandma's house. And a neat tip that I recently learned is that you can take the playpen to the beach, for a safe, sand-free spot for the little one. In addition to those items, here are some other tips you should consider when traveling with little ones:
Plan travel time around naptime, if at all possible, and keep to your child's routine after you arrive. Arrange for a babysitter with the hotel if you are planning on a late night out. Most hotels can make arrangements with licensed and certified babysitters on your behalf.
Visit your pediatrician before leaving if you're planning on staying away longer than a week. It's good to make sure your little ones are healthy before taking them into a new environment, especially if they're under 2 years old. Make sure to pack any medication.
If flying, take a non-stop flight. This minimizes the restlessness, and the hectic transport from one terminal to the next. Also, give babies a bottle during take off and landing, to avoid the ear pop syndrome. Pack your sterilizer because people are nasty! And the last thing you want is sick kiddos during your holiday. A hand-sanitizer costs .50 and is well-worth it.