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Traveling Tots: How to Prepare Your Child (and Yourself) For a Road Trip

Ah, vacation time! You’re ready to relax, de-stress, and see the sights. Hmm. Wait, you’re traveling with a toddler. And that means those used-to-be relaxing spur of the moment road trips now require plenty of preparation and planning.

Now what? It’s time to get packing. Well, maybe that’s not all. Before hitting the road, check out these tips for traveling with tots.

Clothes Call

Just throw some clothes into a bag and you’re done, right? Wrong. Your messy tot finds a way to get spaghetti sauce, jelly, and ice cream on absolutely everything. As you plan for packing, make sure to choose enough outfits for mid-day changes. Pack at least two full sets of clothes for each day you’ll be away. Don’t skimp on the pj’s either. Take along twice as many pairs of pajamas – just in case. Even though the weather is warm, bring a jacket, a sweatshirt and a few pairs of pants/leggings. If you’re planning on swimming, you’ll need a few swimsuits (your tot probably won’t want to put on a wet suit) and soft towels. Don’t trust that a hotel will have towels that meet your kiddo’s sensitive skin needs.

Pack a Carry-On

You’ve just spent hours agonizing over which clothes to pack, and finally, you have picked the ‘just right’ outfits for your tot. You have five swimsuits, 12 pairs of shorts, 15 t-shirts and so much more. You pop the bags into the trunk, carefully stacking them like a game of Tetris. Half an hour into the car trip your toddler spills a sippy cup. That’s another 45 minutes to unpack the trunk and find your kiddo’s clothes. Or, you could pack a carry-on (rather, carry-in) with the essentials. Pack a tote with a change of clothes, snacks, and other items that your kiddo might need while en route.

Travel Toys

Sure, your tablet might keep your tot occupied throughout the whole trip – or they may get bored with it. Keep your child busy with an array of options that are easy to access. Attach a clear shoe caddy (the kind that hangs down off of your closet door) to the back of the passenger-side seat. Fill it with their picture cards, mini cars, trains, dolls, crayons, or anything else your child enjoys. When your little one gets bored, they can take a new toy out of the caddy.

Hotel Stay

When you finally arrive at your destination, your tot may need some time to adjust to the new surroundings. Bring along a blanket or pillow from home to make it easier. Even though you may be going out for dinner every night and staying up late, try to keep your child’s bedtime routine as normal as possible. If the normal schedule is bath time, a story, and a song, repeat that in the hotel. Remember, consistency is key when making your hotel stay go smoothly.

The Home Run

Your vacation was an astonishing success, and now it’s time to head home. Everyone is exhausted and no one wants to leave the sand and sea for work and school. So, why not make the trip home just as special as the rest of the vacation? Plan a surprise activity such as a rest stop picnic (with everyone’s favorite foods) or visit an unexpected on-the-road attraction (the world’s largest ball of twine, anyone?).

Book It

Obviously you’re taking pictures all throughout your trip and you’re planning on posting them to Instagram and Facebook when you get home (avoid positing them while you’re away – that’s broadcasting that your house is empty and unguarded). But, what about a concrete way to save those memories? Create a picture book for your vacation. Pick a theme such as “Beach Days” or go with something chronological. Page through the book to smile at those magical memories or have your child tell you tales that they remember from the vacation.