With the holiday season right around the corner, I have already started planning and preparing for travel with my toddler. If you're like me, you're up late into the night making lists in your head too. What should I pack? When is the best time to leave? Can I really get all of this done and have a smooth trip with little ones in tow? When we start talking about our semi-annual road trips, my mind starts running weeks before we leave. I start to prepare our luggage, our itinerary, and my nerves. Truthfully, travel used to make me completely crazy with stress, so I started working hard to come up with ways to make it easier on me and in turn on my family. Now, with a few tricks and tips, it has become easy to pack up and enjoy a road trip to visit with loved ones.
First and foremost, it is important to have an itinerary. Gone are the days of throwing a clean pair of underwear and a toothbrush in a bag and taking off for a weekend trip on a whim. Your days of spontaneity are pretty much over. You don't have to account for every hour of your vacation, but knowing if you'll be hiking one day or going out to a fancy restaurant will certainly help you decide what to pack for you and your little ones.
Once that itinerary is set, let the packing begin. This is my favorite part- not really, but it is a lot more enjoyable than unpacking and laundry. I have found that the easiest way to pack all of those little clothes is to plan whole outfits, right down to the tiny socks, and pack them in gallon-sized, seal-able freezer bags. This works for many reasons. You can squeeze the air out of the bags so that the clothes take up less space. You won't have to dig through your entire suitcase to search for a baby sized sock, ever again. Most importantly, it takes the guesswork out of your vacation. If you've packed based on your itinerary, you know exactly which seal-able bag to grab for which day. It's always a good idea to pack an extra outfit or two in case of messes. The plastic bags also work great for packing liquids. Pack a bag of medicine or first aid supplies, bathroom supplies (soap, toothpaste, etc.), or diaper supplies and you're set! The last thing to consider while you are packing is what items you'll need to have access to during your travel. Toys, snacks, and even a change of clothes are good to have on hand while you're en route to your destination.
You've got a plan, you're packed and now it's time to go. The part that always worried me was timing our family trip so that my little one was most pleasant as we traveled. When it comes to driving, I have found that the best time to travel is during sleep. Often, my husband and I will take turns getting our naps in during the day, usually when our little guy is napping, and then we leave at bedtime. This works for us, because our little guy sleeps great in the car. If you do leave during the day, remember that you're going to have to make a few stops- to eat, potty and simply for a change of pace. Make it a fun and memorable experience by finding a few interesting places to stop along the way like a picnic in a park or a walk around a visitor's center.
Once you arrive at your destination (congratulations on making it this far), be prepared for your little one to need some time to adjust. Make sure to pack some familiar bedtime items to make your toddler feel more at home. Try and stick to your routines as much as possible, so that your toddler doesn't feel completely out of his element. Help him learn to enjoy new adventures with you by expecting a little apprehension and helping him ease into this new experience with you. Most importantly, enjoy every moment; you've done the work ahead of time by planning, packing and transitioning to a new place- now your time should be about having fun and making memories as a family.
Read about new blog posts from Natalie, Ideologist of parents role in education.Follow @NKidmm