Kids And Toddlers:
Tips To Keep You Sane
Traveling is exciting, but planning and preparing for it can be a huge headache -- and even more stressful if you're planning a family trip with children ages 1-3.
That said, traveling together as a family can be a lifelong treasure full of unprecedented experiences and valuable shared memories. Therefore, people are still excited about planning family trips. In order to make the trip without any regrets or mistakes, most people will want to do everything they can to ensure a perfect trip. The suitcase gets bigger, the itinerary gets fuller, and the rules for the kids get more and more complicated - which in turn makes the kids feel anxious and loses the original joy of the trip, and can leave you in a muddle.
Travel is for everyone's pleasure, so that children can feel at ease as they explore new things in this huge world. Why not take a look at the following tips and advice we have prepared for you, which can make your trip easier and more enjoyable.
1. Things to pack
To be honest, the list can be infinitely long when traveling with little ones -- and I would love to transform a hotel room or B&B cabin with my baby-proofing gear so the kids can play in peace. But let's remember that traveling is not moving, and overpacking can be a burden. So I would remind myself to bring only what is necessary:
- Underwear & Socks
- Sun hat
- Swimming gear (If needed)
- Body wash & Shampoo
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Favorite blankie
- Small toys
- Drawing pad/coloring book
- Tablets with plenty of kid movies
D. Food and drink
- Water bottle
- Milk supplies
- Feeding equipment
E. First-aid kit
- Iodine cotton swabs
- Children’s BENADRYL
- Fever & Pain Reliever
F. Other accessories
- Baby carrier
- Toddler car seat
- Collapsible stroller
- Non-Wi-Fi baby monitor
G. And the most important one, the diaper bag.
- Diaper changing pad
- Diaper cream
- An extra set of outfits
- Plastic bags
- Hand sanitizer
2. Safety comes first
Regardless of the length of the trip, as long as you take your child out, safety is always the top priority. 1-3 year olds generally do not have much awareness of prevention, so parents should strengthen the guidance, as it is best to take some proactive measures. Here I'll list some of my own common methods.
A. Make a wristband
Before each departure, I would check with my children: "Do you know where you are going now?" "What's your name?" "What is Mom's name?" "What is Mom's phone number?" Older children may be able to answer easily, but for a child of one or two years old, it is still a struggle. Not to mention the fact that when they get separated, they are in a state of extreme panic and the chances of being able to recall this information are even lower.
I usually make my little one a small handwritten tag with my phone number and hotel address on it. Though I hope this will never come in handy, I do know how curious children are about the world and how their desire to explore everything around them cannot be stopped by simply saying "don't do that". So it's better to be safe than sorry.
B. Tell your children not to act alone
It's totally understandable when parents just won't stop nagging at their little ones: You must stay close to mommy and don't go to those places where you cannot see mommy and so on and so forth.
I believe that the more I nag, the less my children hear – and I’m talking about my young escape artist here. Even if they do listen, when they find something new and interesting that they can't wait to see, do you think they will remember their promise?
As much as I would like to tell my kids directly that mommy can't hold you and watch you all the time, so it's your responsibility to stay close to mommy -- I would say it differently so that they can try to take that responsibility for themselves. I will say something like: "Mommy is tired and needs to be taken care of, so it would be great if you could keep an eye on mommy and protect me too." By saying this he understands that he needs to take some responsibility for the trip -- he will hold my hand and take me with him when he wants to go somewhere.
"Hey mister, where are you heading to?"
C. Update your First-Aid Kit
Children may encounter a variety of 'emergencies', including falls, allergies, or fevers, throughout the trip. And believe me, you do not want to be without your child's medicine when your kid is running a fever in the dead of night. So be sure to prepare a first aid kit, as it may play a big role in critical moments. A child's first aid kit can include the following:
- Medications or vitamins that need to be taken regularly
- Painkillers or fever reducers for children
- Cough or cold medicine for children
- Antihistamine for allergies
- Wound-care supplies such as iodine swabs and band-aids.
If your child needs medical equipment such as a nebulizer, make sure you have an extra one in hand. If they also need specific medical supplies (such as syringes), you may want to find out if they can pass through the security check first.
3. Comforts over savings
Don't sacrifice big comforts for small savings.
- Me, lesson learned
Cheap flights usually check in at odd times: some very early, others very late, and that's usually the time when your kids are most likely to get upset. Imagine taking a 6 a.m. flight with a small child who needs a nap, needs to be fed on time, and will inexplicably throw a tantrum if not taken care of properly -- would you be willing to take on that challenge to save a few dozen dollars? For a little more money, you'll be able to find a flight with a more reasonable schedule, and it will be much easier for both you and the kids.
Also, don't try to take on the challenge of flights that require several connections. If you do have to make a connection, consider taking a night off at a layover. Choosing your seat in advance is also necessary. Although it costs a few extra dollars, it's better than getting on the plane only to find out that everyone's seats are separated, and you have to negotiate with strangers to change seats while calming the kids.
If you can find a small two-story B&B with a courtyard in the countryside, doesn't it sound particularly appealing? The family can relax and barbecue in the courtyard, the kids have plenty of room to run and jump around, and the price is definitely cheaper than finding a hotel or apartment in the city center.
If you have no intention of sightseeing in town, then this may indeed be a good choice. Even if you're going to be in town, you might be thinking, "Well, we'll just commute like the locals do." Little do you know that you'll actually be spending a lot of time and energy rushing the kids out the door and calming them down with such desperation on the commute -- and by the time you get to the sightseeing spot, you'll probably be worn out already.
My experience has taught me that it's best to stay within a fifteen-minute drive of the spot, the closer the better. The less time you spend complaining on the road, the more quality time you can spend at the sights, and the higher the probability of making valuable memories. It is also very convenient if an unexpected situation comes up and you need to go back immediately.
In short, don't sacrifice big comforts for small savings.
4. Know and respect your child
A. Go easy on the schedule
It's understandable to fill your itinerary with crazy agendas when you're out on a rare vacation. You may be able to get up early and get yourself ready in less than 10 minutes, but it can be unnerving for the little ones.
Children are not yet able to handle changes in their surroundings well, and their perception of things is not sound. This lack of internal order can make them feel insecure when faced with changes in their environment - like a new pet you brought home, it takes time to adjust, not to mention the possibility of several environmental changes in one day.
Therefore, when I schedule a trip I only plan to visit 1-2 places each day. I will also set aside a few breaks in between, so the kid can take a nap, or enjoy a nice lunch/dinner with us. Stopping for a good cup of coffee is also a wise choice. In this way, both adults and children will feel more relaxed and comfortable.
B. Show respect to your child
I don't need to repeat the fact that children see the world so differently from adults, do I? Often, this is the main reason why children have tantrums on the trip: they have their own rhythm, and all we can do is try to understand and respect them. After all, they are also important members of the journey.
Children know so little about the world - so we must understand that they need time to digest what's around them, and allow plenty of time for them to explore on their own. For the simplest example, you have some idea of what to expect on a trip: you've traveled as a child, you've probably seen other parents take their children on trips, and most importantly, you've been out exploring this huge world as a child, even if you don't remember the exact memories, but you know the feelings and experiences are there.
On the contrary, your child doesn't know what it's like to be out on an adventure because he's also a first-time kid, and anything a kid experiences is a first, so he/she can't imagine what everything is like.
If you can be a little more patient and put yourself in their shoes, you can understand how fragile and sensitive children are and how they need guidance - and their tantrums will be understandable. If you find that he/she is on the verge of an emotional breakdown, you can do the following:
- Take a deep breath, remain calm, and avoid public criticism.
- Crouch down or sit cross-legged with your child at eye level.
- Acknowledge your child's feelings by letting him know he will receive your attention and comfort.
- Respect your child's feelings and choices.
I remember one time we were planning to check in at a super popular restaurant and there was a rather comically dressed man at the door handing out flyers. My kid wouldn't take another step forward the moment he saw him.
To be honest, the first idea that came to mind was to drag him in and hope that he'd forget about it. But I thought about it for a while and asked him: "Do you think that man is a little different from the people you usually meet on the road, and you're a bit scared?" He nodded his head. I then realized that he did not know that it was just a costume. So I assured him that before we went in, I would go over and say hello to the guy to make sure he wouldn't bother him. I also explained to him that the guy was dressed in a special way, but was in fact no different from us. He thought about it for a while and agreed to go in.
Afterwards I couldn't help but think how scared he would have been and how much he would have hated me if I had dragged him in without thinking about it. Maybe he would have even hated going out to eat because of it. 😂