Holiday travel season is upon us here in the U.S.! And, if you’re like most, you probably have holiday travel plans of your own that involve driving or flying to see family and friends. But while you are no doubt able to acclimate to long drives or long flights, your baby or toddler may be far less accommodating!
So how are you supposed to travel with your baby or toddler and retain your sanity? Keep reading for our top tips!
Traveling With Your Baby or Toddler: 10 Tips from The Baby Sleep Site®
- Depending on age, prepare a “fun” pack for the car or plane trip. Have snacks (special occasion snacks like fruit snacks became a hit when my son got older), books, new toys, crayons, My First Markers, some sort of travel drawing toy like the H2o Travel Water Doodle Mat, and a book of photos to remind your child of home. If you are not opposed to your child watching TV during traveling, a few movies downloaded onto an iPad or a Kindle can be a lifesaver!
- Of all the things in your “fun pack”, take one thing out at a time and drag it out as long as possible. This will ensure that you don’t “burn through” all your fun activities before you’ve arrived at your destination.
- If you are flying, try to plan your snacks around take-off and landing, if possible. At least offer milk or water to help with the ears popping. For older children (pre-K and older), a small piece of gum can be a fun treat AND an ear-popping preventative. Just be sure you supervise your gum-chewer closely.
- If possible, plan your travel time accordingly with nap or bedtime. If your baby / toddler sleeps fine during traveling, plan to be on the plane or in the car during nap time. But, if your child is like many and won’t sleep in the car or plane, prepare to leave right after his first nap of the day. That first nap is usually the most restorative and the most needed in terms of preventing overtiredness for the rest of the day, so ensuring this nap happens will ward off the worst of any overtiredness.
- Unless you are co-sleeping, you can bring a Graco Pack ‘n Play or travel crib. Even if you have somewhere for baby to sleep at your destination, bring along any sheets, familiar stuffed animals, or loveys to make a “foreign” place as much like home as possible, for sleeping.
- Check ahead to make sure your flight is on-time, if you are flying. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve heard about families arriving at the airport “on time”, only to find out that they are way too early!
- Decide whether to bring your car seat. If you are leaving the country, you might check to make sure the car seat will even work. Nicole remembers running into a tricky situation when traveling overseas with her family:
“When my oldest son was 9 months-old, we went to Mexico, and wouldn’t you know the back seatbelts didn’t “lock” like they do here in the U.S. I later found out you are supposed to bring something to “lock” the seatbelt with the carseat, but since I hadn’t planned ahead, I didn’t have that apparatus. So plan ahead for an international carseat situation, unlike me!”
- Should you board early, if you are flying? Most airlines allow parents with young children to board in the first boarding group; this will ensure you can get settled easily. If you have a carseat, you probably want to board early to get it installed. But, at the same time, early boarding means you need to entertain your baby on board while everyone else gets seated and the plane takes off. Keep this in mind, depending on the age of your baby / toddler and your child’s (and your own) energy level. Boarding early with young babies is usually a great idea, whereas boarding later with older toddlers/young elementary school children can allow plenty of time for your kids to get all their wiggles out.
- Should you sleep train or not during vacation? It depends on where you are going and for how long. If you are going to grandma’s for a month, it is unlikely you want to undo all your hard work and risk overtiredness for a whole month. If you are going camping in the woods for 4 days, you will probably do anything you have to in order to make sure your baby does not wake the neighboring campers. Overall, I’d say you try to stick to routine as much as possible during your travels, but also have fun!! The good news is a previously sleep trained baby will bounce back after a vacation fairly quickly.
- Pack carefully! Don’t forget to bring some familiar “sleepy” objects that your child loves, like a favorite crib sheet, the lovey(s), favorite PJs, a sound machine, bedtime books, etc.
Of course, our #1 tip is to relax and have fun! No matter where you go and no matter how you vacation, remember that the purpose of any trip is to enjoy time with your loved ones.