The Holidays are here! Is it bad that I started watching Christmas movies today? Two. Yes, two. Every year I count down to the “25 days of Christmas”. I have a thing for made-for-TV movies and the Christmas ones are the GREATEST. The worse the acting and plot line, the more I love it. Holiday travel is impending. So let’s dedicate this long-winded but ultra-informative post to getting you and your baby from point A to point B (and C, D, E, all that apply) safely, happily, and with minimal stress.
By the time Isabella was four months old, we had traveled through 12 different states. By car and by plane. It was WILD but we did it. If there’s one thing I learned it was that the Boy Scout motto “be prepared” is inspired. So first things, first. Be prepared. If you’re traveling with a little-little, being prepared just means plenty of diapers, breast milk/formula, blanket, change of outfit (or two) and some things that light up/make noise/can be chewed (don’t feel the need to overdo it). For example, a maraca, Sophie giraffe, towel you can wet with cold water and let them chew, blinking lights, a flashlight, the list goes on but keep it simple. You don’t want to overstimulate them).
Just a sidenote on “what to wear”. PJs, sweatpants, loose clothing with layers. Sometimes the sun will beat down hard during the day and you wont want your little to overheat and sometimes it’ll be abnormally chilly in your car and you’ll want a little sweater close by.
Don’t make the mistake of passing just anything to your baby thinking it will entertain. Driving somewhere in the middle of upstate New York, Isabella decided that she hated everything around her. Everything. So I passed her a roll of Rolos thinking the gold wrapper would entertain her. It was sealed, right? She was immediately silent and happy. Too silent. Too happy. I pulled the Rolos out of her mouth to find a fountain of caramel connecting her to the Rolos. Yeah, don’t pass just anything to your little.
If you’re on a time crunch or in a spot where it might be unsafe to pull over (there are plenty, avoid stopping in dark areas or on the side of the highway unless absolutely necessary) and you breastfeed exclusively, it might be wise to bring a breast pump and mini cooler to store your milk. You could “pump and pass”. Pump into a bottle (fixes your problem and your baby’s) and pass it to your little. Filling the cooler with new ice as necessary at any gas station you fill up at.
So what do you bring for your overactive toddler? Here are some of my favorites things…
There’s also the Star Kids Snack and Travel Play Tray (Click Here!) It folds easily and tucks neatly between the car seat and the door (if you tuck it under the lip of the seat, it’ll stay put even when you open the door). It’s great for playtime and meal time.
Bringing a bean pillow to tuck under your little’s head is also a good idea if you’re going long distances (be sure to monitor your toddler to make sure it doesn’t become a hazard). This pillow tucked underneath the side of the car seat when it wasn’t being used. It’s important that your little’s head isn’t constantly leaning forward as it could interfere with their breathing. (P.S. Isabella found a way to adjust the clips of her car seat. These should be an inch higher for proper buckling. We battled with her the whole way.)
Then there are snacks. These are just a FEW of what we usually bring. Make sure you have a variety of clean snacks. Keep them as crumb free and sugar free as possible (you don’t want a mess or a sugar rush). We used these yogurt raisins as “candy” to bribe her. Yes, when you are driving 45 hours across the country, you’re not beyond bribing. Some other ideas are clementines, goldfish (original and pretzel), yogurt melts, graham crackers, clementines, veggie straws, insert your little’s favorite here. I also like to bring a few folded plastic bags for trash and sandwich bags for her leftovers. It’s wise to bring a sippy cup and bottle. We also love to bring our Contigo mommy and me water bottles and we fill them with ice and water at EVERY stop we make. Check out our review here.
Where to store things? The doors are your friends. tuck the diaper clutch in your door, a sweater or blanket between the seat and the car seat. ALWAYS tuck shoes underneath the car seat so that you wont lose them. For a parent, shoes are somehow the FIRST things that go missing on a road trip. I didn’t lose them once. Cooler and snacks should go on the floor in front of your car seat and the backpack of toys should fit next to it or even underneath the chair in front of it.
Be thoughtful when you pack toys. Pack things that make your little think and things that don’t make noises that will drive you crazy (we once drove across country with a sporadic chirping noise and we couldn’t find the source until we arrived at our final destination).We also packed the My First Touch Lites Crayola Pad, stickers, some favorite books with lots of flaps and sensory activities, a couple small stuffed animals, a small ball, some Little People toys, and (because our daughter and dog eat crayons) we brought Crayola Color Wonder books and markers (they don’t color on ANYTHING but the paper-it’s magical). Make sure all of your toys fit in a child’s backpack or seat organizer (Skiphop’s are the greatest check them out). If they don’t, you’ve packed too much.
PS. This gem of an organizer is the Diono Travel Pal. We love it more than the backseat organizer we tried because it tucks under the lip of the car seat, it doesn’t slide, and it doesn’t conflict with whoever is sitting in the front seat.
This cup game is simple, quiet, and exercises your little’s fine motor skills. You just need a container with a hole and little puff balls. They’ll be entertained relocating the balls to and from the container. Plus, they’ll be quiet while doing it.
As a bonus…traveling with pups? I always have a door in the car dedicated to the dog. All we bring is a blanket for him to snuggle, one toy that has the scent of home so he isn’t too thrown off, a leash, a collapsible travel bowl, some treats, and a ziplock bag of his food. (If you bring a tube of Kong Filling you can just squeeze it out and let them lick it instead of having to access treats, it’s a brilliant flight-traveling companion). I also bring a mini water bottle along so we never confuse the dog’s water for ours. Keep in mind that the bowls clip onto your travel bags for flights. PS. There are several Marriott pet-friendly hotels, make sure to look into them (“pet-friendly” would be listed under amenities). Although we’ve had to sneak our dogs into hotels many, many times, it’s way better when they’re allowed.
If you’re flying instead of driving, I recommend a backpack with some snacks, a sippy cup/bottle (or both), a thin blanket, a change of clothes, wiki sticks, play dough, a book or two, stickers, and the Color Wonder book, with a couple of small toys. That’s all. Don’t overdo it. You’ll also want to ask about pre-boarding (not all airlines/airports pre-board people traveling with small children). I also strongly suggest a stroller bag if your’e going to valet your stroller. It keeps it clean and minimizes dings (they really throw it around). Also, most airlines have at least 2% milk cartons. Ask a stewardess early on and she should hook you up with some in the event that you couldn’t purchase one on your layover. Fun tip: sitting in the aisle is my personal preference because I was able to let my “on-lap infant” stretch her legs periodically in the aisle.
Second thing, last. Don’t stress. If you’re getting stir crazy, stop at a park or a fast food playground and run around with your little. (But if it’s a quick stop, it’s usually best to keep them in the car and keep moving). We’ve done multiple 45 hour trips cross country, several long flights, and we’ve survived. If we can, you DEFINITELY can. Feel free to post any questions you have. We’d love to give you any extra tips and tricks we’ve learned (but I cut back because this is already super long). Happiest of holidays. We’re wishing you safe and stress-free travels!