For many parents, staying at home with a toddler is challenge enough; venturing out with one – whether on a day trip or a two-week holiday – is a prospect that can fill even the most adventurous soul with trepidation.
Wherever You Go
Although it may seem inherently unfair that one very small person should determine the course of an entire family’s holiday, tailoring your tips to the likes, dislikes and tolerance of your tiny tourist really is the wisest way to go. After all, if your toddler isn’t having a good time, no one’s going to have a good time. In the interest of all:
- Check with the doctor. If you are planning a major trip abroad, try to schedule a doctor’s appointment two months before your departure date. If your toddler has a chronic health problem, such as asthma or diabetes, ask what special precautions you need to take while travelling and for the name of a local doctor at your destination, on whom you can call should an emergency arise. If your child regularly takes medication, ask for an extra prescription, in case the medication is lost en route. If you are planning to fly with a toddler who has frequent colds or a respiratory allergy, inquire about taking along an antihistamine and/or decongestant spray. If you’re going abroad, request a recommendation for treating traveler’s tummy; it’s a good idea to take along some packets of ORT solution, which you can reconstitute with bottled water should your toddler come down with diarrhoea. Some foreign destinations require special immunizations or other health precautions. Health information on travel with children is available from your child’s doctor or reputable private travel clinics.
- Make sleeping arrangements. Most hotels, motels, and resorts can supply a cot for young toddler. If your toddler sleeps in a bed, check ahead to be sure that side rails are available, or that the bed supplied for your toddler can be placed between a wall and your own bed. If you’re visiting family, see about renting or borrowing a cot or side rails. In a pinch, a children’s sleeping bag on the floor will also work for an older toddler (be sure that the room is childproof).
- Limit your itinerary. One-destination holidays – visiting relatives or sojourns at a family-oriented resort, at a beach house, or in a single city – are usually the most successful with toddlers. Most cruise and ocean voyages are not recommended for toddlers, both because young children require constant supervision on board and because they could be injured or frightened when the ship begins rolling (but there are some open seas option open to families with toddlers). If you’re planning a touring holiday, limit the stops so that you’re not constantly on the go; in other words, don’t try to do seven cities in as many days. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an a typically adaptable and agreeable toddler, you’d be asking for trouble.
- Limit your expectations. The trick to a relatively restful holiday with toddler in tow is to keep expectations low and patience high. True, your toddler may surprise everyone by being agreeable and adaptable, by cheerfully accompanying you on shopping sprees and culture binges, by behaving impeccably on aeroplanes and in five-star restaurants. But your toddler, may more predictably, act like a toddler. Most toddlers will be bored to tears (literally) by long, overscheduled days in museums, boutiques, and on tour buses. So plan accordingly.
- Limit the sightseeing. If sightseeing is on your agenda, keep in that you won’t be able to follow the typical tourist routine. You may want to see everything in the guide-book, but chances are your toddler won’t. So unless you’re lucky enough to be able to bring along a nanny or a family members who will be willing to baby-sit while you tour, you’ll have to alternate adult-interest sightseeing with toddler-interest activities (zoos, children’s museums, beaches, parks, amusement parks.) And don’t try to crowd too much into any one day. In most cases, one destination in the morning and one in the afternoon will be all your toddler can tolerate.Try to schedule visits to adult-interest museums, churches, historic monuments, and the like when your toddler will (you hope) be napping in the buggy or, at least, less likely to be cranky. If there are two or more adults in your party, consider taking turns touring and baby-sitting. If you’re solo, consider hiring an occasional baby-sitter so that you can do a little adult stuff.Young toddlers may be fascinated enough by the forms, colours and shapes at a museum or gallery to allow you to tour for an hour or so, especially if they are comfortably ensconced in a buggy. Older children may be cooperative if you build a game into the visit.
- Limit the chaos. On days with the busy schedules of visiting or sightseeing, try having breakfast in the room before heading out and/or dinner in the room on your return. This is not only reduces the number of times you have to traipse from place to place but also makes the hotel room feel a bit more like home, and fitting in baths and bedtime rituals easier. If you have a room with a refrigerator or a kitchenette, so much the better. You can stock up on familiar foods and beverages and reduce the stress (and expense) of constantly eating out.
- And don’t forget to pack your sense of humor. It’s essential to survival when travelling with children. If you’re able to laugh when things go wrong – and they will – they won’t seem half so bad.