Traveling with little ones can be a challenge, to say the very least, and it isn't always what can be considered "relaxing", especially if there are also lots of busy holiday activities included. These tips can help to make getting there and enjoying your time just a little bit easier for everyone.
1. Get your little one used to a new time zone in advance. Try moving your child’s bedtime by 15-20 minutes toward the vacation time zone in the few days before your trip. Children’s circadian rhythms usually catch up with them naturally after 4 days or so. When making travel arrangements, keep your toddler's sleep schedule in mind. If possible, select a flight that arrives in the late afternoon or early evening and then have your toddler go to bed at his usual (adjusted) bedtime.
2. Consider adding an extra "buffer" day or two, one at the beginning of the trip and one when you get back. The traveling can take its toll on your child and having a down day to adjust before getting into the swing of things can make a big difference. And the same is true for when you get back, instead of rushing back into the daycare/preschool/school routine consider having another down day at home to readjust.
3. If you're driving take plenty of stops that can involve some running around time outside to burn off energy, and use their nap schedules (if they still nap) to your advantage for when to travel. Even little bursts of activity can make a difference during long trips.
4. Try to keep as many rituals as possible while on the road. Pack that blankie, the stuffed animal, even the pillow and the nightlight. Making the routine and rituals of your little one's day as familiar as possible will make it easier for them to make the transition, be it to a different time zone or a different bed.
5. If you're flying doing some extra planning ahead with the layout will work wonders. I use Seat Guru to check the layout of my flight and try to pick the best seats. You can try to pick the aisle (or avoid it) or try to get seats closer to the bathrooms, whatever works for you. I try to get an aisle seat closer to the bathroom after a NY to LA flight alone with both kids where Finn walked behind me all the way back up the aisle after a bathroom trip without me realizing his pants were around his ankles. It provided some comic relief for the rest of the passengers but I was a little embarrassed...
6. When planning toys and activities to bring for the travel time, in addition to the familiar old standbys, pack a few new surprises as well to pull out at crucial moments. The novelty of the new items and the dramatic build up of unveiling them will provide at least some extra moments of peace. I have special games and toys that the kids only get to play with when we have a long travel day, so rather than dread a long trip they actually get to look forward to playing with the special travel bag stuff.
7. In addition to the wipes (which we all know are necessary) don't forget to bring emergency medicine like Tylenol and Benadryl in case you have a little one getting up sick in the middle of the night and you're not familiar with where the 24 hour drugstore is, or if you're in the car and a little fever starts you're prepared without having to pull off and derail your trip at all.
8. If you've got one (or more) in diapers or eating baby food, it might be a good idea to have those supplies sent out ahead of time! Go to Diapers.com, figure out what you need for the amount of time you'll be there, and it can be there waiting for you rather than have to make time to go grocery shopping. This is also a bonus if you have a picky eater or specific brands you always use that might not be readily available at your travel destination. I've done this countless times, even having little potties sent out ahead (who wants to lug a potty ANYWHERE?!) and it saves quality vacation time.
9. Another option to consider is renting some of the baby gear you might need rather than bring it. Sites like Travel Babees offer a wide variety of popular name brand items, specializing in renting baby cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, toys and much more. This is also great if you get to where you're going and realize you forgot something necessary but don't want to buy a duplicate item.
10. Finally, don't forget to pace yourselves and work in extra nap or down time every day. All the excitement of holidays and visiting relatives and friends can wear little ones out and they might need a little more quiet time during busy vacation days than they do at home on regular days. Try to get it all in but don't forget that a little extra down time goes a long way.