My original concept for this post was to share my very best tips for vacationing with toddlers. After all, I’ve got toddlers… and I’ve travelled with them…. so that makes me qualified to dole out advice, right? Right?
The thing is, I may as well be giving tips for scaling Atlantic salmon or refinishing a picnic table, because truthfully, I’m no expert. I actually avoided family travel for years, rationalizing that any vacation where you bring your kids along is NOT A VACATION at all. And in my suitcase headed down south, the last thing I wanted to pack beside my swimsuit was swim diapers.
That was before last year. As you may recall, I vacationed with my family for the first time aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas with my fellow #FisherPriceMoms. And if you remember this post, you’ll also recall that I was FREAKING. OUT.
How will they behave? Will it be difficult being away from home? What should I pack? How can I keep them entertained on the plane? OMG!
Turns out, with a little deep breathing and a lot of preparation, the trip was a success! In fact, we enjoyed family travel so much that we did it all over again the following month at Walt Disney World in Florida. And after our second experience, I started to get really comfortable with it. Maybe not quite “expert” status, but certainly confident enough to share my favourite tips for vacationing with toddlers. It’s just what worked for us – and for those families embarking on their first trip together, I’m hoping my suggestions will work for you too.
(And here’s an official #SQUEE! moment – my family will be returning to Orlando next week as part of a family travel program with Visit Orlando! We’ll be experiencing some of the world-class attractions the city has to offer… Sunshine State, here we come! Stay tuned for about our fabulous trip.)
1. Be Prepared. Like a Boss.
You’ve probably heard this one before, but being prepared is simply the best way to have a successful family vacation. In fact, your only mandate is to anticipate every meltdown, every moment of boredom, every minor accident, and certainly every fight between siblings. If you can do that, everything else is easy-peasy! Sounds overwhelming? It’s not. Just prepare yourself by making a list – directly matching up scenarios and solutions. For example:
Hunger – Goldfish Crackers
Boredom – Dollar Store Books
Rewards for Siblings Not Killing Each Other – Lollipops
Funny Tummy – Probiotics
Boredom – Dollar Store Puzzles
Homesick – Blankie and Favourite Toy
Grumpy – Printed Itinerary with Pictures*
Boredom – More Dollar Store Disposables…
* This is actually my favourite distraction technique. Showing the boys pictures of the places we’ll be going, what we’ll be doing, etc went a long way to get them excited about the trip and keep tantrums at bay. Whenever one or the other was nearing his breaking point, I simply pulled out my colourful brochures and asked him to point at what he was most excited for, and why. Crisis averted!
2. Consider Flying at an Inconvenient Time.
Okay, so nobody wants to fly early in the morning or late at night. With travel time, airport check-in and customs/ security lines, your wake-up call could conceivably be at 4:30am. But do you know what toddlers do when you have them up bright and early in the wee hours of morning? They sleep on the plane. Preferably, for most of the flight. This allows you to bypass at least 23 distraction techniques altogether! Now I know this goes against conventional wisdom to keep sleep patterns the same, but let me tell you – with my boys snoozing away on both departing and return flights, I wasn’t too worried about their sleep patterns. In fact, I finally got some “me time” while watching the in-flight movie (I passed on Magic Mike – too embarrassed at what the people behind me would think – but The Descendants was a very good second choice). Of course, if your child is the type to be wide awake after he/she rises in the morning, this technique won’t work for you. Sorry :(
3. Book a Well-Toddler Checkup.
The thing about toddlers is that they don’t always tell you when they’re not feeling well. Especially in cold/flu season, consider having them checked by your family doctor a day or two before you depart, especially if they’ve recently been ill or are currently under the weather. From previous experience, Reid had a cough and cold before our Royal Caribbean cruise. I took him to the doctor for his cough – only to find out he had a raging ear infection in both ears. Had we flown with his ears in such bad shape, we would have risked severe damage to his ear drums. The following month, just before we left for Disney World, he again had a runny nose and fever. I took him in to err on the side of caution – wham-o! Another double ear infection – bad enough to require another round of the pink stuff. (I asked Reid umpteen times if his ears hurt, and he said no! Never trust a two-year-old.) Starting the antibiotics even a day before you leave is enough to take the edge off the infection and allow for safe air travel. So if your toddlers are ill, don’t play doctor – take them to one.
(Of course, if your doctor looks like George Clooney, you may want to book a physical for yourself too. You know, strictly as a precaution.)
4. It’s Not About What They’ll Remember.
Here’s an excerpt from my post “The Most Magical Place on Earth…”
“Before leaving for Disney World, I often questioned if the boys were too young to fully appreciate the experience. “Reid’s too young to remember any of it”, I complained. However, once we arrived at Magic Kingdom, I realized that all of my pre-conceived notions were dead wrong. Because it’s not about what they’ll remember; it’s about what they are experiencing in the moment. Seeing the joy on Reid’s face as he travelled along The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh made my eyes glisten with happiness. Hearing Ryder scream “I want to do that again!” after racing through the Tomorrowland Speedway confirmed that Disney World is for all ages, from 2 to 102.”
No matter how old your children are – or how old you are – it’s always the perfect time for a family vacation. If you’re looking at your toddlers thinking, “I’ll wait until they get older so they can remember the trip”, here’s some sage advice: sometimes, tomorrow never comes. Live in the moment; love each minute you have with your children. If you’ve been wanting to get away, do it today. Maybe the kids won’t remember it – but hey, I don’t remember much about a trip I took to Cancun when I was 24. I’m pretty sure I still had an awesome time.
5. The Resources Are Out There. Use Them.
Want to take some of the guesswork out of planning a family vacation? Check out the Thomas Cook Kids First program. Kids First is unique Kid Reviewed, Parent Approved program that offers video reviews of top destinations from a kid’s perspective, expert advice from knowledgeable Kids First travel specialists and exclusive partner offers.
So if you’re wondering if a resort is truly “Child Friendly”, well, who better to hear it from than a child! Browse through videos, reviews and perks that will allow you to book your family getaway with confidence. As an added incentive, when you book your vacation with Thomas Cook Kids First, you’ll receive up to $500 in BONUS value -
• $50 Prepaid VISA Gift Card
• $25 Indigo Gift Card
• $25 Shoppers Drug Mart Gift Card
• FREE Seat Selection
• FREE Airport Lounge Pass
• FREE Kids First Activity Book
• 1-year Subscription to Today’s Parent Magazine
• Park ‘n Fly Savings
Okay, not sure about you, but I could certainly use those extras! Prepaid Visa for boredom cures, books and magazines from Indigo, maybe some travel essentials like sunscreen and travel-sized beauty products from Shoppers. So well thought-out!
Hope these tips are helpful! Now tell me… if you could vacation anywhere right now, where would it be?