10 minute read
Last summer, we went on our first big trip with our 2-year-old. She is strong-willed, independent, and only wants to do things because she wants to, not because someone asked her. She makes her own rules in life; it’s a trait I support and admire about her. All these qualities can be great when used for good. They can also be quite frustrating when your toddler is using all their powers to work against everything you need to happen at that moment.
Before we went, it seemed daunting to travel with a toddler. I was nervous we’d be that family; the one preventing everyone else from having a relaxing plane ride, the one making all the commotion in lines, the one who spends hours in the car losing our minds with a screaming kid. Well, all those things did happen at certain points, and guess what? Most people around us didn’t even care or we were met with empathy. Everyone survived. We made beautiful family memories and I’d do it all over again.
In preparation, I did a lot of research for tips from seasoned parent travelers, and I collected all the advice I could get. Some parts of the trip were pure chaos and it was worth it to see my daughter bask in new experiences. When I think back on the trip, I chuckle about the things I needlessly over-prepared for and I give myself compassion over the things that were complete oversights (hey, hindsight is 20/20 and we always learn something new for next time!).
So, I’m sharing a handful of my main takeaways that may help you too as you’re preparing for travel. Just remember, no tips are ever one-size-fits-all. Take what you need and tailor it to fit your kids. After all, you know them best!
- You’ll need more outfit changes than you think. For you, for the kids, for anyone in your proximity. Just kidding on the last one but do have a couple of easily accessible outfit changes within reach.
- Bring just a couple of favorite comfort items from home like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. The more you bring, the easier things become to lose. If kids are old enough, invite them to pick who they want to join them on the trip! Being an integral part of the packing process can really help kids feel included, independent, and effective.
- Favorite, non-perishable snacks and just a few light, easy-for-travel activities like mess-free ink/coloring pads and stickers. Pro tip: puffy stickers are the easiest to remove from anything later. Aim for activities that don’t have too many pieces.
- Screens. Listen, there are just times in life when a screen is the most effective activity for whatever reason that may be. I’ve been there, I’m not judging, and I don’t care if anyone else is.
- Last, and perhaps most importantly: manage expectations and adjust schedules as needed. Variables like hunger, jet lag, and adjustment to new environments affect us all. Kids may express it differently, like being clingier, but you can absolutely relate to how they feel (especially when everyone’s feeling crankier). Remember that they’re little and they’re just letting you know they have an unmet need. Try to teach them a signal when they need you like squeezing your hand. This can be a great reminder to parents that their little ones need you. They’re not trying to make your life more difficult; they just haven’t been here all that long and they need your help sorting it out.
Overall, don’t worry about other people so much, and do what’s right for you and your family. If others have kids, they’ll get it. They’ve been there too. If they don’t or they forgot what it was like when theirs were little – oh well. You’re not responsible for everyone else anyway.
So, let go of some of those hang-ups and expectations – especially if you keep in mind that parents’ energy always rubs off on kids and they will absorb your same stress. Above all, don’t forget to enjoy and make memories! The positive moments while traveling with your toddler will outweigh the hard moments and (after a little recovery time) you just may want to do it all over again soon.
Dr. Ellen Kolomeyer is a clinical psychologist based in Plantation, FL, and provides traditional one-on-one therapy, personalized programs, and strategy sessions, aligned with enhancing child-to-parent relationships and child behavior support.
Call 305.619.3264 or message Unpolished Parenthood today.