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Traveling with a Toddler: What I Wish I'd Known

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I just got home from a 10-day cross-country family vacation—the first since my two-year-old daughter has required her own seat on an airplane. This trip required a whole new slew of considerations that I hadn’t faced when traveling with her as a baby. And you know what? I’m really darn proud of how it all turned out. Here are all the things I did that helped make the trip go incredibly smooth—and the one thing I forgot:

1) Mentally rehearsed every step of our departure. Since we had an 8am flight and needed to be at the gate early to request new seat assignments together, we decided that a taxi would be the easiest mode of transportation to the airport and cut out the extra time needed to park and shuttle to the airport with all of our baggage. Great call: Nothing like having someone waiting for you to get you out of the house on time. I asked the taxi driver to arrive a few minutes earlier than I would have pre-baby to get the car seat installed. Round-trip cost of taxi with tip was comparable to that of off-site parking for 10 days and our airport departure went so smooth.

Plus: 8 Tips for Great Travel Deals

2) It’s all about the potty. At home, our daughter wears panties by day and a pull-up at night, so would we go with panties or pull-ups for traveling? Pull-ups for sure, plus she ended up wearing them most of the trip. I was thrilled though that she still asked to go to the bathroom on the airplane and in the airports, even if we’d already missed the opportunity to keep her dry.

We also traveled with her My Carry Potty, a device that’s proven a great tool in the potty training arsenal. We knew we’d be doing an 8-hour car ride during our vacation and it was great to have this on hand. We also packed her Baby Bjorn toilet trainer seat—not for traveling but for use while visiting family. We were happy we packed these tools to keep her potty training going, even though vacation was a bit of a set back.

Plus: Tried-and-True Potty Training Strategies

3) Used wrapped “presents” as bribes. Ours is a kid who would ask for every book in the house to be read in one sitting. It’s up to us to say “no more books.” Knowing that we’d need new distractions, plus they needed to be lightweight, I decided to buy about 10 new paperback books plus a few small activity books (invisible markers rock on an airplane!). We wrapped each item to make it seem more special and used them as rewards for following directions like wearing her seatbelt on takeoff, etc. As it turned out, there were so many distractions that we never even worked through the whole pile.

4) Strollers and Backpacks. Decided to only bring our lightweight umbrella stroller and it turned out we hardly even needed that. But the coolest thing was that we tried out – and loved – the becoGemini baby carrier. It was comfy for all three of us to use and was perfect for day hikes in the mountains.

Plus: Awesome Single, Double & Travel Strollers

So what’s the big thing I overlooked? Her sleeping arrangements. She’s still in a crib but way too big for a play yard or portable crib as is supplied in hotels. I figured she’d sleep with us but forgot that that rarely works out for all of us. We ended up making pallets on the floor for her, but Dad still ended up sleeping down there with her. Even during the hotel part of our trip where we had a king-size bed and thought we’d sleep together, she ended up falling off the bed and due to the blackout curtains we couldn’t find her, though she was screaming and it was 3am. Sigh. So back to the floor she and Dad moved. Instead, we wish we’d packed an inflatable bed with bumpers.

What lessons have you learned from traveling with kids?

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