Traveling With A Toddler: Pro Tips And Avoidable Fails

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Florida alone with my 3-year-old to see the grandparents and I’ve checked off everything I need to make our trip enjoyable, I think. Scribble tablet for flight and children’s Tylenol: check, check. Extra clothing, sticker books and fruit bars from Trader Joe’s: triple check!

Actually, I’m sure everything I need is not on this list, like patience if my child has a tantrum while buckled into an airplane seat next to a crabby adult. Or the Xanax I will need when my sweet 92-year-old dad, who probably shouldn’t be driving, picks us up in the middle of the night. Or the dirty martini that will be ready for me on the deck when my son hopefully falls asleep on my parents’ thin and stiff pull-out mattress.

Unfortunately, my husband can’t come with us on this trip because his band has a mini-tour planned in California. So we are on our own, and I just hope I can pull this off. Especially the part when I have to help my boy swim in the pool for hours. That’s usually my husband’s fun responsibility, while I chill out on a lounge chair. So no, there might not be much relaxing happening on this vacation.

Actually, one of my main concerns is whether my parents will be able to tolerate the “threenager.” Last year when they saw him at almost 2 years old, he was so different. For one, he listened to other human beings! These days, I’m lucky if I can get him out of the house with pants on. Apparently, pants are a major fashion faux pas to toddlers.

My parents, who are more old-school, will probably blame me for his defiance.”In my day, we never got toys!” they’ll say, or, “When you were his age, you sat quietly without a word.”

In any case, I’m going to make the best out of this trip and here are the tips I will follow, and some fails to learn from, too:


Download it

I recently decided to leave my heavy laptop at home (which had my kid’s movies downloaded) and relied on my phone’s WiFi throughout the flight. What exactly was I thinking? The WiFi was spotty the whole plane ride and my kid was not happy at least once every 45 minutes — our seat mates weren’t either.

Make sure you have all your favorite shows locked and loaded into your device if you want an easier flight with your toddler.


Break Bad Habits

My son is used to watching TV every time he comes home, a habit we would love to break. On this trip, our routines have a clean slate and we can come up with a new plan. When my son asked to watch TV during the day, I was stronger and explained that in Florida the television doesn’t work during the day, and he put up less of a fight. I also hid the cookies I brought from Trader Joe’s and instead put cut out apples and grapes out for a snack.


Mail Your Luggage

My husband came up with the genius idea to mail over a box of clothing to our destination versus checking a suitcase and dealing with the extra weight and shlep. Of course, you risk the chance that your box will get lost in the mail, but there’s probably more risk of your luggage getting lost in air travel. We plan to leave some summer items in Florida to lighten our load, and mail a box back home with other items we accumulate on this trip thanks to the grandparents.


Hit Up The Libraries

We all need great books for our kids, especially at nighttime so we can send them off to bed with a good story. But who has room for them? Instead, check out your destination’s local library and take out all the books needed for your trip. Libraries are also a great way to spend your time with your family. While you are there, pick up local family magazines to find out what other destinations or events in the area might be fun.


Nature it Up

A friend just returned from a vacation to SeaWorld with her family and admitted that theme parks are filled with too much noise stimulation, claiming nature is the antidote. She took her daughter to an art market and the beach in between days at SeaWorld, which she said was perfect. After their relaxing nature days, where they could also process all they have seen, they were ready to go back for more excitement.


Don’t stress

Vacations are unpredictable and your children might have little interest in your plans for them. Instead, your kid might just want to throw rocks into the pond outside where you are staying and run up and down a hill bare feet for two hours. The point is, whatever happens, try not to hold on to all your expectations and stress about how the day unfolds. You’re on a holiday, and your only priority is to let go and enjoy whatever happens.


Update: There’s nothing better than a getaway with your family, especially when the sun and beach are involved. Now that I’m at the tail end of my trip, I’ll admit that all my fears just remained fears. Our vacation went pretty smoothly without any crazy tantrums or drama, and we actually had a fun and meaningful time.

Oh, except for the fact that my son absolutely refused to bathe or shower for the whole week. I totally could have let this stress me out, but instead, I took deep breathes, wiped him down and let it all go — just like those rocks in the pond. Happy travels, everyone!

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