Traveling with a toddler can be a very exhaustive experience, but add an anxious toddler to the mix and you may swear off traveling completely! Although nothing will make your trip completely stress-free, these 5 tips can make traveling with a toddler a little easier.
1. Prepare your toddler.
If you have an anxious toddler, you probably already do this in your daily life, but let this just be an extra reminder. Tell your child what will be happening on the trip. Keep it simple and brief. Often in the hustle and bustle of our travels, we forget to keep our little ones abreast of what is going on. Give your child a broad overview and then give them a snapshot of what is happening every few hours.
2. Make the car or airplane ride…survivable!
Whoever said It is not the destination, but the journey….has never traveled with an anxious toddler! How many of us arrive at the hotel and feel like we are already done! If you sprint during the first few hours of the trip – you won’t be able to run the rest of the marathon! That car or plane ride can make or break you. Anxious kids don’t travel well. They are nervous, impatient and worried about what is happening. They need distraction and entertainment – non-stop!
Go to the dollar store and buy lots of small toys and activities. Sticker books are always an easy and time consuming activity. Window cling gels are wonderful for car and plane windows. You can also cut a small piece of contact paper (sticky, clear shelf lining) and tape it to the window. Bring a bag full of items they can stick onto the contact paper to make a collage. Add some excitement to the trip and buy a handful of dollar store toys and wrap them up as individual presents. Stagger out your gift giving to make them last until you get to your destination. Save the same amount of presents for the trip back.
3. To poop or not to poop – that is the question!
Anxious children (and adults – you know who you are!) have a hard time pooping when they are traveling. For anxious toddlers this can be further complicated if they already have toileting issues! Fear of new toilets, self-flushing toilets and dirty toilets can all cause your little one to go into a tail spin (no pun intended). One way to keep your toddler regular while traveling is to be proactive and give them fiber gummy vitamins each day. This can help encourage regularity without using something stronger that might work too well! Another tip is to buy a portable toilet seat cover. If you do buy one of those portable seats, I would recommend using it at home a few weeks before your trip so your little one can acclimate to the change. Now, what to do about those scary automatic flushers? Bring post-it notes and use them to cover up the little sensor to prevent the toilet from automatically flushing – perfect!
4. Keep as much as you can the same.
This is not the time to bring a bunch of new clothes that have never been tried and tested by your picky toddler. If the tags are still on them - leave them at home! Bring their most comfortable clothes and shoes. Bring double the clothes because you never know what might not feel right that day or what catastrophe might happen!
Similar to clothes, food can be quite an issue. Anxious toddlers are often picky eaters. Food can be unpredictable when you are traveling and having some favorite snacks with you can be a life savor. Depending on your child’s level of anxiety, you might even consider bringing their water bottle, sippy cup and even their plates to help keep things familiar. For seriously picky eaters, you might want to bring some Pediasure or other high protein toddler shake as meal replacements if they refuse to eat.
Once you feel you have almost gotten to the finish line – you face your biggest challenge yet...
5. The dreaded bedtime!
Bed time can be a challenge for anxious children even at home - add a strange room and an exhausting day and you are facing an uphill challenge. The most effective way to make bed time – less painful – because it will probably be painful on some level – is to try and make the room as similar as your child’s bedroom at home. At the very least, you want to bring their blanket and pillow from home. I would recommend packing their nightlight. If they fall asleep to music, bring that too. In the dark, You want the room to look similar to their room at home. This will help calm your child if they wake up in the middle of the night. So place those nightlights in similar spots they would be in at home.
Traveling with an anxious child can be exhausting! If you prepare well and take a slower pace – you can eliminate many bumps along the way.