Keeping in mind a few key tips when booking a family vacation with a toddler in tow can make the trip a lot more enjoyable for mommy, daddy, Johnny/Sally and the other travelers and service people you will encounter.
If you are planning to take a trip with your favorite little toddling companion, you are probably feeling pressure to step up to your organizational “A” game. A trip to the grocery store with Johnny or Sally alone requires planning around meals, nap times and not to mention ensuring the requisite contents of the diaper bag are present and accounted for, so a trip out of town might be downright anxiety-inducing. These tips can help make your vacation with a toddler go much smoother.
1. Book flight times that minimize sleep disruption
The flights for our first international trip with our one-year-old started at 6 am which required us to wake up somewhere around 3:50 am. We waited until the last possible moment to wake up our daughter but it still meant waking her up at 4:30 am, a full two and a half hours earlier than she normally wakes up. This may have been fine except the disruption in her schedule did not allow her to take a nap either so by 1pm, we had a wild beast on our hands.
In retrospect, we would have taken the later flight to San Francisco and found a later flight out of the country, respecting her sleep schedule as much as possible.
2. Call ahead for a room not next to a noisy elevator or stairwell
Hotel rooms are hard enough for your young companion to sleep in. The crib/bed is different, the sheets don’t smell the same and it is enough of a disruption to their normal that the last thing you want is to have a drunk bachelor party thundering up the stairs next to your room hooting and hollering and waking your babe. Take the extra step to ensure your hotel room is located in a quiet part of the hotel.
3. Demand a room with a view
Remember how you used to say, “It doesn’t matter what hotel room we stay in because we won’t be spending time there anyway!” Well, things have changed…
Our toddler goes to bed at 7:30pm. We can push it a bit, but at a certain point, it gets ugly fast. What this means when traveling is the entire family is relegated to the hotel room at 7:30pm.
When mommy and daddy prefer to stay up talking or reading on the balcony, suddenly that parking lot view is less than ideal and you will be wishing you had paid the money for a room with something more scenic to enjoy.
4. Itinerary needs to consider nap time
You’ve booked your flights around nap time as much as possible, but the other thing to consider is scheduling excursions around the sacred time as well. To be honest, this can be hard to do because many excursions last all day long. Look for half day, child-friendly excursions or trips where your child can nap some place, like on a bus, for example.
If you become really desperate, choose a trip where you believe your child’s overtired screaming will not be a disruption to others. It wasn’t exactly our intention but our traveling with your toddler turned out to be more of a booze cruise. Just as we were feeling horrible about bringing our one-year-old on her first booze cruise, we realized the loud music and happy fellow travelers created a perfect place for an overtired toddler meltdown. As we were getting off the boat, we had young couples coming up to us saying how cool it was that we were able to travel with our toddler and that they hoped they would be able to do they same when they had kids. They hadn’t even realized that an hour earlier she was pitching a full on stiff-backed fit.
By using these tips and honoring your child’s sleep schedule as much as possible, traveling with your toddler will be the perfect family vacation you have envisioned.