By: Karen Sullen
No doubt about it. Kids are on the go! Shuffling them from daycare to the doctor and from parties to the park, many parents find themselves zigzagging their way across town in a frantic effort to keep up with their errands and their child's play dates. What parents couldn't use a little help keeping their children entertained while in the backseat? And when it's time for the family vacation, they may need a little more. Six hours in a car with a fussy child and a road-weary parent is not a good mix. To make sure things go smoothly for everyone involved, here are five tips to help you get on down the road.
Get a late start
Most adults like to leave first thing in the morning, so they can drive while fresh and alert. However, this is the worst time to leave for toddlers because they are alert, too, and ready to play. Locking them into a car seat when they are ready to take on the day is just asking for trouble. Instead, leave after lunch, just before it's time for an afternoon nap. You can also try leaving late at night and driving while the child is asleep (but only if you're able to stay awake!)
Plan your route
Drive in short intervals. After about three hours, you and your child will probably be ready to stretch your legs. Plan to stop at a park along the way so the child can run and play. You may even want to prepare a meal to have there before getting back on the road. There are plenty of trip-planning websites that are geared towards kids to help identify local attractions, kid-friendly restaurants and parks along the way.
Stick to your routine
As much as possible, try to keep the same sleeping and eating patterns your child has at home. It will keep the fussiness at bay and provide you with a certain amount of predictability to help you plan activities. Not to imply that the toddler rules, but using their routine schedule is a helpful tool for organizing your trip.
Distraction is your friend
For long trips, the key is distraction, distraction, distraction! Bring along plenty of toys and plan on giving your toddler one each time the previous one gets boring. If possible, purchase new toys just for the trip. You'll get more mileage from the excitement of something new. They don't have to be expensive, just different from the regular set of toys. Choose toys that travel well and keep them entertained either in the car or at the destination, like the fill-and-spill birdhouse, books, audio tapes, DVDs and CDs. But don't tune out when they plug in. Sing along, talk and stay involved with your child. Of course, taking along some favorite snacks is a must.
Pack your patience
Travelling with toddlers takes a lot of planning-and even more patience! The excitement of new surroundings and activities can over stimulate your child. To help restore balance, avoid sugary snacks and missing regular mealtimes. Scheduling some down time, for both you and your child, during the day is also a great help. Be sure to have your toddler's favorite blanket, toy and sippy cup on hand.
Whether traveling around the corner or on a family vacation, these tips are designed to help you go the distance. You'll soon discover that with the proper planning and attitude, traveling with toddlers is a great way to create memories to last a lifetime.