Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Babies
1. Routine. When booking your vacation keep your toddlers schedule in mind. It doesn't have to be rigid but if your little usually takes an afternoon nap try to give them that opportunity. Our oldest child doesn't usually nap anymore, but when in Nicaragua (very hot!) he needed naps to make it through the day. My husband or I would lay in bed with him until he drifted off to sleep. Our youngest still takes 2 naps a day. Her morning nap would be on-the-go while the afternoon nap would usually be back at the house.
2. Snacks. Food is the best way to turn your child's frown upside down. We don't bring a ton of snacks with us but we do stop at a store to stock up upon arrival. Every country has small children and snack foods. Try some local favorites and then look for your child's favorite to bring a piece a home. We always go for Honey Nut Cheerios as the stand-by from home, you can find those things anywhere. In Nicaragua, our oldest child ended up loving their version of potato chips with ketchup! The bag of chips had a ketchup packet in it, all for less $.25.
3. Bathroom breaks. Think ahead on this one. Same goes for diaper changes. Big planes have bigger bathrooms, but small planes are tough. Change the diaper before boarding and have the toddler use the potty before boarding. On road trips, bring a travel potty. We love this one by Cool Gear! The best part is you can use any 1 gallon size ziplock bag. We travel with cloth diapers now (separate post coming on that.) Before leaving your hotel/rental house have the toddler try to go potty... every time! Bring hand sanitizer and potty seat covers if you are traveling to a developing country.
4. Luggage. If you have a toddler, I would say age 3+ they are 100% capable of rolling a small suitcase. My mother-in-law bought G a Cars suitcase for Christmas. He is responsible for that suitcase, he rolls it through the airport and he rolls it into the hotel room. The ONLY exception to this is if he is really tired from said travel. Otherwise, it makes him more excited about traveling to have a "job to do." We prefer not to check luggage so everyone has a carry-on sized roller bag. This keeps everyone limited to an acceptable amount of clothing and it makes you much less likely to have luggage issues... like my friend who recently went to DC and their carrier decided to leave their luggage out in a downpour so everything was wet. We roll MissI's little suitcase, which is Frozen, for her for now but she is already starting to try and move it herself.
5. Hotel choice. Laundry first! Kids are messy. When you are choosing a place to bed for the night I always find that laundry should be an important consideration. For longer stays, we typically use Home Away to rent a house with laundry but if your location isn't great for that then look for a hotel that offers laundry services and/or has a laundry near by. ASK PRICES! Sometimes a hotel's laundry service is more expensive than just buying new clothing. Your hotel/rental should obviously be centrally located to make getting out and back for the day easier. We also bring our own detergent in a gallon zip-lock. Powder so we avoid TSA requirements.
6. Bug sprays and sunscreen. The need for this can vary wildly based on your location. Simply put these are our recommended brands from EXTENSIVE USE in Florida and Nicaragua (where natural won't cut it alone.)
Bug Spray: Sawyer with Picaridin Here is a fact sheet: Picaridin. Basically its better than DEET, especially on small children. We found a travel size Sawyer on REI.com and then we also bought the lotion version from Bass Pro Shops. The lotion was really nice, and didn't smell. It was over the TSA liquid allowance so we transferred it to these GoToobs. They are kind of pricey but they work really well and are easy to clean so that you can change their use as necessary.
Babyganics, Natural Insect Repellent. This feels like an oil when you put it on. It is easy to apply, doesn't have a bad smell and soaks into your skin. It seemed to go a good job with the mosquitos but you do have to apply frequently.
Bug Bands, We had a different brand than the link (bought at Bass Pro Shops.) Bands are AWESOME for kids because they are so easy to put on. Kids wiggle and this is a one and done thing. My advice... put it on their ankle.
Lavender Oil (add to your favorite location or coconut oil.) I use Young Living but any good brand will do. This works with a non-aggressive mosquito population IMO. Once the bugs really came out this didn't work very well but it was my method of course during the night time, when we didn't have bug nets and didn't want to sleep in chemical lotion.
Sunscreen: I only have 2 I regularly use. I am sure others are good but I like simple ingredients. California Baby and Bare Republic (which I honestly can't remember where I bought.) Both are great but the Bare Republic is a little easier to rub into my skin.
7. Toys. Leave most of them at home. We have 1 small backpack per child with toys. (Right now mainly Graham's toys.) He barely touches them anymore and prefers to find toys in nature/new things in every location. For example, his toy of choice in Granada, Nicaragua was a clay bird flute. Grandpa bought him one and he was a happy camper. Kids do not need nearly as much as we think they do. So my advice, keep it simple! Only bring a few very important toys and books.
8. Souvenirs. For us this category varies by location but in general the kids each get a very small souvenir. As a family, mostly the adults, we pick out a piece of local art. From Washington D.C. the kids took home Panda Bears, the Park Hyatt actually gave them to them with the room so we were off the hook. Nicaragua they came back with a few small things; bird flute, maraca, dolls to benefit stopping the sex trade of minors and a dress for MissI/baseball shirt for G-man. My point here is really to look for something local, don't buy typical items you can buy anywhere and again travel light. You don't need EVERYTHING, you really just need your memories (and photos... lots of photos!)
9. Flexible. The easiest way to ruin a vacation is to be so rigid in your plan that you miss the spontaneity of the location. It is usually a good idea to have a few things planned but let the rest fall into place. Go by how the family is feeling as a whole and don't push. Kids are great travelers, unless pushed, then they fight back.
10. Patience. Lots of patience. This and flexibility go together like peanut butter and jelly. Things will never go exactly as planned so have patience, stay calm and always be willing to switch up the plan. Planes get delayed, traffic happens... the jet-ski guy decides not to show up to work (its happened). Just go with plan B, C or D and make the most of what your given.
Have any advice? Let me know in the comments, subscribe to the blog and follow up on social media!