Over the holidays we did a fair amount of traveling – more than usual. Which was easy to do since our “usual” is actually never. We never travel with our toddler, or at least not within the last year or so.
Why, you ask?
Because he sucks at traveling, like literally he is awful at it.
So, needless to say, I was more than anxious as we headed into these trips. The last time we attempted he cried the entire time in the car, he hated the pack n’ play and being in unfamiliar surroundings so sleep was scarce – which made for a cranky kid during the day. Basically fast forward to us coming home early and vowing not to travel again for a while!
Which we didn’t until recently, and while he was significantly better (dare I even say good?) I have learned a lot from traveling with a toddler…
1. No matter what toys you bring they will be the wrong ones
My diaper bag is straight outta the movie Marry Poppins – you know the scene where she literally pulls a coat hook, a mirror, a potted plant, even a floor lamp out of her bag!? Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink is in there… that’s my bag, I am completely prepared with pretty much anything you could imagine.
On road trips even more so – I have color crayons and coloring books, those Water Wow books (if you haven’t heard of them they are pretty great – check them out), every single car, truck, bus, or moving vehicle you can think of, music, games. I have it all.
But you know what I’ve learned? No matter what I bring, my son will inevitably want the one thing I decided not to pack!! Without fail.
My solution is easy – ALWAYS buy new toys for a trip!! Always, always!!
I’m also going to advise against bringing the favorite toy. While you may think it’s the safe bet – your kid loves it and it always entertains him. The risk of accidentally leaving it at the hotel is too great. Trust me!! I speak from experience and am now waiting for Amazon Prime to deliver our beloved train back to us!!
Just throwing it out there. If you do decide to bring that coveted item proceed with caution!!
2. Your kid will live off of garbage on travel days
This is pretty much fact. You are going to pump him so full of snacks to keep him happy during the car ride that he wont be hungry for any real food. It will get to the point where you will wonder if a diet of goldfish crackers, fruit snacks and pretzels qualifies you for mother of the year.
Until you think of the alternative and realize this is clearly a situation where you pick your battles. Remember that its not an every day occurrence and it prevents having a screaming toddler through the entire trip. Its survival mode and a mama’s got to keep her sanity so cut yourself some slack.
3. Expect the first night to be terrible
Just assume that you are getting absolutely no sleep whatsoever. Embrace the fact you will be miserable and exhausted that first night while “everyone” adjusts. If you go into it with such incredibly low expectations then anything other than that will be a major win.
You know the saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst and expect nothing.” I’m pretty sure they were talking to parents there!!
4. You will be quarantined in the bathroom
Just be prepared to spend a few hours on the floor of the bathroom once the kid(s) go to sleep.
After you finally get them down, you and your hubby (or significant other) will quickly realize there is no other place for you to go but the loo – unless you want a 7pm bedtime too!
We only made that rooky mistake once. Now we come prepared for our bathroom picnic date.
Make sure to download a movie to your iPad or computer, bring a bottle of wine and some snacks, grab the extra blanket and pillows from the hotel closet beforehand and settle in. Whatever you have to do in order to make the best of the fact that you are spending an evening locked up in between a toilet and a bathtub on a cold, tiled floor.
5. You will need sooooo much stuff
Have I mentioned the fact that you will need so much stuff, like an unbelievable amount? You literally have to pack ALL THE THINGS!! This actually should probably be number one, but somehow even though your car was packed to the brim with stuff it doesn’t seem like sooooo much until you get it all into a tiny hotel room!!
Make sure you have the pack n’ play and the mattress and sheets to go with it, bath toys, regular toys, pacifiers, sipy cups… lots of extra sippy cups, snacks, medicine (just in case a cold hits and you need that Tylenol – why risk making that first night any worse than its already gonna be!!), comfort object(s) like blankies and teddy’s, diapers and wipes and clothes and I could seriously go on.
And that’s just for the 35 lbs. tiny human – that’s not even including stuff for the adults!! Oh and did I mention we are only going to be gone for 3 days!!!!! It’s so insane that its comical.
6. The potential for an argument with your spouse it high – borderline likely
Just prepare for it to happen. Everyone is out of his or her element and off usual routines and anxieties are high so its only natural to assume that one of you will pop their top at some point.
For us this usually occurs during, but is not limited to, the packing stage – because I pack for my son, and myself, which requires two things: my husband to supervise our tiny human so that I can lay everything out in order to make sure I don’t forget one of the million things our child will need in the next 72 hours.
This results in absolute chaos since the toddler I am packing for is constantly “helping” me by unpacking absolutely everything. I get frustrated, hubby gets defensive and fight #1 happens before we even leave the house.
7. You may wish you never came (in the moment) but it will be worth it in the end
There is always that one point in the trip where I say, “we just should have just stayed home!” The reason behind the statement is always different but without fail it always gets said – its kinda customary at this point and I’m pretty certain it just comes with the territory of having a toddler who is less than delightful traveler.
The thing is that by the end of the trip I always feel differently. By the time we are heading home – I am able to reflect on the fact that we made it through… together!! Were there some challenges? Sure. But we didn’t kill each other, everyone still has all their limbs and we made some pretty awesome family memories in the process – even hauled up on a hotel bathroom floor!!
As difficult as traveling with a toddler may be, I feel blessed that we are able to do it – many people aren’t.
And it’s in those moments – when I’m in full blown anxiety mode because my child is loosing his ever loving mind since he hates sleeping in the pack n’ play and its our only option and I’m paranoid that the people in the next room are judging my parenting as a result and that any minute the front desk will be calling to complain about the banshee wailing in our room, all the while I am praying hard to God for him to give me strength and patience and to calm this child down so he can go to sleep… because I’ll do ANYTHING to make him sleep – when my hubby comes in all calm and cool and collected and says, “I got this” and works his daddy magic and gets the baby to sleep with ease and makes me fall head over heels in love with him all over again.
At the end of the day it’s always worth it – even if it’s hard, even if it’s messy, even if it turns out nothing like you had planned, its still worth it because you’re together.