The holidays are one of the most popular times of the year for families to travel. This year, thousands of parents and little ones will take journeys to visit friends or celebrate the season. If you plan on roaming the country or traveling abroad, a vacation with a baby or toddler requires a little preparation.
Thankfully, there are plenty of baby supplies, parenting tools and helpful strategies that parents can use during their holiday trip. The following tips were specially created for parents with small children. With a little shopping, organizing and planning, you will make the travel experience easier and more joyful for everyone in the family.
1) Pack Smart
Before you pack clothing, make a travel list for each member of the family. Under each person’s name, itemize the essentials that they must have in their duffel bag, carry-on bag or suitcase. Common must-haves for babies include diapering supplies, feeding supplies and extra bedding. In addition to diapering or potty training needs, toddlers will require plenty of snacks and entertainment. You will also need several outfits for your little one. The best way to pack baby and toddler clothes for travel is to think in layers.
Begin with a few long sleeve bodysuits to keep your baby’s torso warm and make diaper changes faster and easier. Add some cozy printed tops and blank bottoms to complete their everyday outfit sets. Include outer layers like sweaters, coats or jackets. Do not forget accessories like warm socks, baby shoes and caps. Mittens, footed sleepwear and long sleeve pajamas can also help to keep your child comfortable no matter where you are headed.
Holiday-themed baby girl clothes such as festive dresses or skirts will make for fun parties and unforgettable photos. Seasonal baby boy clothes like formal slacks with a button-up shirt and suspenders are sure to be the hit of every celebration. Fold blankets and large coats to make more room in each suitcase. Next, separate clothing ahead of time by garment style. Keep bodysuits, tops and bottoms in separate zipped bags. Place special garments in another bag so you can quickly change your baby when it is time to party.
While the storage will protect garments from spills and makes it simpler to find clothing, it will also be easier to create cute outfits. Stash a trash bag or a small laundry bag in each suitcase to house dirty laundry on the way home. If you plan on visiting a grocery store or drug store, pick up travel-sized toiletries to use on your trip. While you will have less to pack, you will also save room in each duffel.
2) Plan Ahead
If you are traveling by train, cruise ship or airplane, check your travel provider’s website ahead of time. They will have their latest policies on masks, vaccinations and other pandemic-related practices. Take notes on what supplies you will need for your baby or toddler. It may also be a good idea to talk to small children if they will need to wear masks while they travel.
Many airlines allow parents to check strollers and car seats. Some cruise lines and vacation rentals offer rented strollers or free cribs so you do not have to worry about bringing them. Contact your airline, cruise line or host about their specific offerings. If you are traveling by road, you must keep in mind the safety precautions about cars and kids. A car seat or a high-back booster seat for slightly older children is a must-have item on your list.
To help you finish your packing list, the TSA website provides information on what you can and cannot bring on an airplane. Whether you have questions about feeding supplies, toddler snacks or prescriptions, the official TSA guide will help you to continue to pack smart while saving time at the airport.
3) Bring Entertainment
Children need to stay busy and comfortable while they travel. Packing a variety of entertainment-related items in a backpack or carry-on will help to keep the day fresh and avoid extra fussiness. Babies will be delighted by stuffed animals and squeak toys that attach to their car seats. Infant travel mirrors, rattles and teethers can also help to keep your little one happy. When your baby needs some rest, use a portable white noise machine. While you will avoid packing bulky devices and speakers, a convenient and secure clip attachment helps you to calm the baby anywhere you go.
Active and energetic toddlers may require a little more creativity. Busy boards, sensory toys and flashcards are compact enough to play within the car or in an airplane cabin. Other popular choices for small children include reusable stickers, mess-free paint pads and soft cloth books. While a toddler’s daily screen time should be limited, a child-friendly tablet can help facilitate educational games and digital art sessions. If you need to keep things quiet, there are comfortable, lightweight headphones with volume control that are made especially for children.
Figurines, coloring books and sketch pads are perfect for vacation rentals and hotels. You can even purchase a toy steering wheel or a set of toy keys to help your child celebrate the trip. Holiday-themed items are also an excellent idea this time of year, as they will provide a new and interesting object for your toddler to enjoy. As long as you pack different hands-on toys, educational sets and digital tools, you can occupy kids of all ages and help them to learn something new.
4) Have a Backup Plan
When traveling with kids, it is always important to have a backup travel plan. This is especially true when COVID-19 can affect your family trip. Look for hotels or rentals that you can use along the way if your original plans fall through. It is also helpful to research extra places along your route.
Smartphone apps are available to help you find arrangements in your destination. There are even tools that will allow you to find hotels on short notice. If you are visiting family, ask if they can be your backup plan before you arrive for your vacation. This will help you to stress less if your itinerary changes.
Consider what you will do if a flight gets canceled, a family member gets symptoms of an illness or you must change where you are headed. While you may not have to alter your plans, imagining different scenarios can make it easier to make future decisions. It will also help you to stay calm, keep your kids safe and enjoy your vacation.
5) Check the Weather
The weather can change quickly during winter. Always check the short-term and long-term forecast before you head out for your trip. Travel providers will have up-to-date information about airline cancellations and train delays on their website. Knowing the temperature and chance for inclement weather can also help you know what to pack.
If you are taking a family road trip, prepare your car ahead of time. Check your oil, brakes and tires. Fill up with plenty of gas before you travel long distances. When snow is in the forecast, be sure to have an ice scraper, snow brush and shovel. Gloves, blankets and extra winter clothing can also help to protect everyone in the car.
If the weather may change during the day, take extra layers of baby clothes or toddler clothing. Whether you need to add or remove garments, your child is sure to stay comfortable all day long. Place unused clothing back into your travel bag to wear another day. You can also keep them in your diaper bag in case of a blowout or food spill.
Enjoying Holiday Travel as a Family
When you spend time together as a family, it is easy to enjoy the holidays. A little planning and preparation make the season even more enjoyable. The time that you take to make lists, shop for important baby items and create backup plans will help to keep everyone safe and healthy. You are also sure to learn new skills and tricks for future vacations. When you look back on your time together, you will be glad that you strategized and organized for a memorable holiday trip. Take some photos to commemorate the occasion!