A family vacation with young children in tow can end one of two ways:
- Everyone is content and fulfilled after enjoying a fun and relaxing trip, or
- Everyone is irate and stressed after enduring hunger, boredom, and sleep deprivation for three or more days.
Toddlers make traveling incredibly difficult; even the most prepared and balanced families can crack under the pressure that little ones exert during trips away from the comforts of routine. To avoid experiencing the latter scenario, you should devote days of planning before your vacation to keeping your tot sated and satisfied while you are away from home. With toys, treats, and other tricks, you should be able to check out of the hotel feeling happy from a fantastic experience — not happy that the torment is finally over.
Sitting still and quietly for hours on end is not in any tot’s range of tricks, but family vacations require kids to be stationary and silent during periods of transit, in cars, planes, and trains. Fortunately, keeping your kid calm and content while confined to one position isn’t a wholly impossible task. The key is to find a handful of activities that keep your tot’s brain and hands occupied. You can experiment with the following tried-and-true methods:
- Story books. You can bring all sorts of stories to distract your child, from old favorites to new adventures. If your kid is already practicing the alphabet, you can let him or her hold onto the tome and identify letters, but you should be wary of motion sickness in untested little ones.
- Magnet boards. Loose paper pieces like puzzles and dolls will only get lost, but you can keep everything together by using magnetic strips and a magnetic tray, like a cookie sheet.
- Coloring and activity books. With a package of colored pencils and their favorite characters, most toddlers will be satisfied for a long while.
- Secret toys. You can pack a bag of inexpensive, unique toys that your child has never seen before. If worse comes to worst, you can surprise your tot with a new thingamajig, which will keep them entertained for at least a half-hour.
Most parents grapple with getting their toddler to sleep at home, so forcing a kid drift off while in a new and unfamiliar location sounds like a waking nightmare. The fact is that bedtime will likely look quite different from what you’re used to, but you should try to maintain similar routines to prevent fatigue-related frenzies during the day.
First, you should stick to your regular pre-bed routine. For example, if your kid always has a bath, brushes his or her teeth, sings a song, and listens to a story before drifting off, you should perform each of these activities in order in your hotel room. Just as your body needs triggers to realize that sleep is soon, your child requires a familiar procedure for sound sleep.
You may need to opt for more expensive lodgings that allow your family members to lie down in different beds or rooms. Usually, the fewer people who are in the bed, the less noise and movement there is to disturb young, irritable sleepers. If you can’t afford a hotel suite, you should absolutely bring along a crib or ask for a trundle to separate your dozing toddler.
Even when they are full and well-rested, toddlers can easily grow board and get crazy when they are forced to endure less-than-stimulating activities, like museum tours and art walks. Ideally, you would vacation somewhere both kids and adults can enjoy, but either way, in your daily schedule, you should plan at least one toddler-specific attraction every few hours. Of course, there are plenty of destinations that allow you to compromise with activities designed to appeal to grown-ups and kids alike; for example, Niagara Falls offers an indoor waterpark perfect for child and adult entertainment.
It is important to remember that you foresee every tantrum, and despite your best laid plans, your toddler will more likely than not throw a fit at least once during your time away from home. Instead of abandoning your hopes for a fantastic family vacation then and there, try to mitigate your toddler’s tears and regain your footing as fast as possible. A terrific trip with a toddler is an attainable goal as long as you keep your head, heart, and secret bag of toys within arm’s reach.