There’s no way around it. Traveling with toddlers is more challenging than traveling with infants and certainly than traveling with older children. These bundles of energy are not as easy as infants to pick up and carry along and jet lag is more of an issue. Even with these added challenges, it’s magical to travel with children at this age, and they bring out the best in people around them.
If your toddler has been recently potty-trained, expect more accidents than usual when you’re traveling. I found a towel-sized mattress protector which I could easily pack into my luggage very helpful at this age.
If your toddler normally naps during the day, set your expectations that napping will take place wherever and whenever during your trip, and that you’ll need to plan ahead to re-institute the normal regime when you return home.
Write down the time and duration of naps your child takes as well as any nighttime wakefulness. You will then have a record of cumulative sleep and can be more confi dent that your child is adjusting to the new time zone.
The type and duration of your trip will strongly influence whether you bring equipment from home, rent from your accommodation, or do without. Strollers, car seats, and backpacks all become valid spots for daytime naps.
Plan your sightseeing with naptimes in mind, and choose quieter sights for those times when you expect your child to be sleeping. Above all, be ready to adjust your itinerary on the fly. If an on-the-go nap is just not working, you may have to return to your hotel, condo, or guesthouse.
Regardless of the type of accommodation and sleeping arrangements, you will need to think ahead about safety concerns in an unfamiliar room. Plan to move furniture, tie up dangling cords and pack a small roll of duct tape for all those unknown issues with sharp edges, drawers, doors and such.
When my boys were toddlers, they were either racing around at top speed or fast asleep. Toddlers are remarkable to travel with because everything is interesting. But mood swings and temper tantrums are a hallmark of this phase too. Frustration, insecurity, and thwarted independence cause most of these terrible two behaviors. The key is to manage these behaviors actively while traveling. Talk to your child about your trip before you go, when you are in transit, and when you get there. The more he knows, the more likely he is to be excited about the adventure, rather than scared of leaving the familiarity of home. Be prepared to walk a safe distance behind a kid who wants to explore. This is healthy independence and is so much easier than battling with your child to get him to sit still in a stroller.
When you travel with a toddler, the world really does open its door to you. Your little guy will be puttering along a street, stopping every two to five minutes to investigate something. Meanwhile, the people around will pause, smile, and be friendly to you both. It’s the most amazing thing. Be careful about strangers touching your baby’s mouth, hands, or face especially in developing countries. Your child will likely put his fingers in his mouth often. Avoid these germs by washing frequently and using a hand sanitizer.
Be vigilant when traveling with small children. We all relax on vacation. Just because people are kind and welcoming to you and your child does not mean you should be any less careful about safety than you would be at home.
Jet lag is difficult on toddlers. They’re too young to under-stand the effects of crossing time zones and not old enough to amuse themselves if they have trouble sleeping. The only thing to do is reset their body clocks as quickly as possible even if that means skipping naps during the first day or two. I’ve found that fresh air and exercise are the best way to get my kids adjusted quickly.