My little girl Eve is going to be 4 this spring. It's hard to believe that not long ago we were traveling with a toddler, trying to figure out how the smallest member of our tribe had the biggest carry on! So before toddlerhood becomes just a distant memory, I want to share tips I've learned after traveling with my kids in their two's and three's. I've left the obvious out (like don't forget diapers!).
Pre-plan winter vacation footwear in the summer months
This applies to everyone in the family, but especially to those who have an ever changing foot size. Last winter when we visited the D.R. I realized we didn't have any sandals that fit Eve! She had totally grown out of her summer ones by the time February rolled in. I don't know about where you live, but finding toddler sized sandals in the midst of a Canadian winter is almost impossible! Don't count on buying when you arrive at your destination. It's stressful to have a MUST shop list the second you land and you're likely to end up paying a high price for a dollar store quality sandal in desperation. Not a good feeling. Come prepared with comfy, well fitting, quality footwear for your little one.
Carry lots of water and healthy snacks
Make that endless supplies of snacks. When your flight extends over many hours you had better come well stocked with distracting snacks. Try to pack a somewhat healthy variety to avoid digestive problems while on your trip. In the past few years airlines have become so strict with liquid restrictions that they won't even allow a bottle of water for your child, so don't hesitate to ask aboard for small cups of water to keep your kiddo from getting thirsty. We like to pack bagged portions of dried fruits, cheerios, cheese strings, popcorn, veggie straws and oatmeal bars.
Stow baby wipes in all bags
You know how useful baby wipes are at home? Well they are even more valuable when traveling abroad. Being able to clean your toddler up quickly with a fresh, sterile cloth that can be quickly disposed of will put your mind at ease. This is especially helpful when visiting beaches, where sand can get everywhere. A small shaker of baby powder is great too. It helps prevent chafing and rashes that can occur due to the salt from ocean water remaining on baby skin ( even after drying off) which attracts moisture from the humid air. Ouch! No one can blame a 2 year old for being cranky about that!
Sunscreen is in high demand and therefore highly priced at beach destinations. Bring a selection of high SPF lotion for everyone, along with sun hats and light cotton coverups. We love the half sleeve swim shirts too!
My in-laws picked up an inflatable life jacket one year for us and it's been fantastic for both camping and traveling. It packs flat and fits in your beach bag easily. Knowing your little one is buoyant will make vacation a bit more relaxing.
Pack re-useable food bags or containers.
All inclusive resorts are excellent for travelers with kids. There is food available almost all times of the day. Note that I said "almost". I guarantee your child will become ravishingly hungry during the 30 minute down time the buffet needs to switch from one mealtime to another. Mine sure do. The buffets are all you can eat, but often they have a policy against food being taken out of the restaurant. I'm not sure exactly what reason there is for this, but I assume pest control and sanitary reasons are a concern in these open air, warm locations. Luckily, when we were in Mexico in 2012 I had a couple containers to fill up with dry cereal from the morning buffet, and a backpack to stow away banannas and oranges. If you plan on taking tours it might be a good idea to bring a little insulated lunch bag with containers to bring a snack with you. Most resorts have fridges in the room, so milk and snacks can be saved for late at night when only the bar is open.
Bring more than one drinking cup with attached spout covers.
We used the ThinkBaby No-Spill Straw Bottle one trip and really liked it. Unfortunately, half way through our week the interior straw, which comes out for cleaning, was left behind somewhere. Since we only brought one cup, we ended up dealing with a leaky sippy for the rest of the trip. Ugh. Next time, we'll bring two tested travel cups, preferably without straws!
Bring familiar nap time helpers
Most hotels and resorts offer complimentary cribs. We discovered when unpacking that we had forgotten Eve's soft blanket at the front door, back home. Although she's a good sleeper, it was still a little hard for her to get used to a new bed. Luckily she still had her favorite stuffie, but it would have been even better with a familiar blanket. If you usually play music for your child to calm for nap, bring it on your phone or iPod and lull them asleep with sounds from home. A well rested toddler is a happy vacationer!
Buy a small, inexpensive umbrella stroller
Facts are, two and three year olds get tired easily in the hot sun. They can't walk along with you all day long, and will need a stroller of some kind. I suggest not bringing a child carrier backpack. In my experience they are too hot and cumbersome for very warm places. On our first winter vacation with Luke we brought his Quinny Zapp which was destroyed in baggage and came home half the stroller it used to be. So, we've found after trying a big stroller, a carrier and a cheap umbrella stroller that the latter is definitely the best option.
There are many situations were you will be required to take a ride in cabs, vans, buses, trams, trolleys and carts while touring with your little human. Trying to hop on a trolley quickly is going to be a lot more stressful with your big fancy stroller. Umbrella strollers are quick to fold and take up minimal space, saving you from the glares you'll get from the people who couldn't get on because your folded stroller takes up 3 spaces.
Crowds are inevitable, especially in tourist areas like ruins and zoos. Pathways are small, and everyone wants to get close to the action. Your big stroller might be able to do 360s (like my fancy old Quinny) but that'll do you no good when there's people on either side of you. A compact stroller won't hold you back from getting where you want to go.
Traveling is hard on strollers, and there's a good chance they'll get damaged, lost or even stolen. Bring an inexpensive alternative with you and don't stress out if it doesn't make it home in ideal condition. Trust me. This is definitely the only way to go!
Don't wait until your kids are older to bring them on a winter vacation. Traveling with a toddler is challenging but super rewarding! Take lots of pictures and help your little one remember these adventures as they grow older. You'd be surprised what sticks with them!