Traveling with toddlers (8 months – 5 years) can be heavenly…or hell-on-wheels! But, here’s the good news: What you do now (and on the trip) can totally stack the deck in your favor!

Here are 5 ideas to help you have the time of your life…from start to finish:

  • Get Ready Before You Leave
    • Meltdowns are inevitable! So practice some special steps to boost toddler cooperation 1-2 weeks before you go away: Toddler-ese, gossiping and patience stretching (Happiest Toddler DVD).
    • Perfect your sleep routine and start using a lovey, massage or reading and our special rumbly, low pitch white noise CD/download (for all naps and nights).
    • Make a little book of the trip (with photos of the plane, hotel, sites, etc) to read every day BEFORE you leave.
    • Ask your doctor about Benadryl. (It can help on long flights, but ask how to test to make sure it doesn’t make your child hyper!)
  • Getting There Without Breaking a Sweat
    • Keep them busy! DVD’s are a godsend. Make frequent stops, if driving. (Use Benadryl – as described above – if needed.)
    • On jets, walk – a lot- and bring special treats, and surprises. Hide them in different pockets of your purse, coat, etc. Read your trip book, to keep your child engaged with all the fun things that will soon happen!
    • Use stickers, tokens, checks on hand, treats, etc to reward your tot for being cooperative/quiet (every 30-60 minutes).
    • For meltdowns, first use your best Toddler-ese and Fast Food Rule to acknowledge your tot’s feelings. THEN try distraction, explanation…or bribery. (In the middle of a flight it’s OK to use cookies to get through the rough spot…unless your child tends to get more wild with sugar!)
  • Helping Sleep: Even With Time Zones Changes
    • Lots of morning sun the first 1-2 days helps to overcome jet lag.
    • Limit naps to 90-120 minutes. (Too much daytime sleep can hurt nighttime sleep.)
    • An hour before bedtime, dim lights and turn on white noise in the background).
    • Keep your sleep routine. Predictability helps tots relax. Use white noise for all naps and nights (it’s a “teddy bear of sound” and it covers outside disturbing lights, sounds and smells in a hotel room). Don’t forget your tot’s lovey.
  • Avoid Traumas (Big and Little)
    • Bring first aid/illness medicine including any special your tot needs (breathing medicine, 2 Epi-pens, etc).
    • Indoor safety – Childproof the room (duct tape, electric plugs, etc.) And, scout around for dangers: cords that can be pulled down, scalding hot water, bedbugs, etc.
    • Outdoor safety – Avoid sunburns. Keep bugs away with natural repellants or even DEET (only put this on clothing, not on skin).
  • Keep It Simple
    • Before you go, find the kid spots: parks, museums, etc. Plan lots of stops, always carry food and water.
    • Use a carrier for little kids and for bigger kids consider a harness/leash.
    • Keep activities short. One hour in a museum then 30 minutes playing chase in the garden.
    • Avoid candy and treats. Wild sugar swings can trigger outbursts.
    • Ask your tot’s opinion many times a day, to boost his sense of being respected.  And, be ready to do Toddler-ese when the inevitable upsets arise.

For more tips about kids, travel and sleep thumb through my new book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep (Birth to Five).