Planning a Toddler Friendly Vacation
1. Don’t skip the naps, take advantage of them!
For 2 of the 3 full days we had in D.C. we went back to the hotel for Stink’s naps. They were long naps and I’m sure she needed them but it was vacation time that went to waste sitting in a dark hotel room. The one day we stayed at the National Mall during Stink’s nap she did equally well and we took that as an opportunity to explore the Smithsonian Natural History Museum at our leisure.
With Europe we plan to do the same thing, especially in Paris. The Orsay Museum isn’t exactly toddler friendly but who’s to say we can’t enjoy impressionist artwork while Stink is sleeping? With only 3 nights in the city we will probably be spending a lot more time in playgrounds than we want but during naptime we should be able to do things we enjoy that Stink wouldn’t be interested in.
2. Get your child used to stroller naps
As I pointed out in Tip #1 we spent most of our afternoons in a dark hotel while Stink napped. While it was beneficial to her we really should have practiced getting her used to stroller naps before our vacation. Spending a whole day shopping or walking outside during her naptime would have made the transition easier for her and us. Stroller naps are especially important if your hotel is far away from the places you are visiting that day. Be prepared to let your little one watch a few Kids Toys on your phone when they get restless too!
3. Group activities by location to prevent wasting time (and energy) getting to each place
One thing I didn’t plan well for our D.C. was all the walking that was involved. Being on a budget I didn’t plan to use public transportation that much. Furthermore, many of the places on our itinerary were in opposite directions. Once we calculated how long the walking would be from location to location we realized that we couldn’t do everything for that day and we were left having to pick and choose. Lesson learned!
For Paris I’ve decided to group our activities around certain areas of central Paris. One day will be spent hanging around the Eiffel Tower, the next day will be spent in the Ile de la Cite. Because our B&B is not close by we will take public transportation to get there quickly and then spend our energy walking around that small area, instead of tiring ourselves out by walking to and from each destination.
4. Have a back-up plan…and then a back-up plan for the back-up plan
Nothing sucks more than to pay admission to an attraction only to discover that your child isn’t interested in anything there or that it’s way too crowded for your little munchkin. I’ve also made the mistake of getting my heart set on an outdoor activity only to have it rain during the few days that we were in the area. With family-friendly vacations it is extremely important to have back-up plans and rainy day activities. Not every day is going to be sunny and not every museum is going to capture your child’s attention. Know where local playgrounds are located so your kids can burn off some energy before visiting indoor attractions and have 2-3 options available in case your family has to switch plans at the last minute.
5. Pack appropriate distraction toys
Our diaper bag is nothing more than a gray backpack which makes it much easier for traveling. Still, our D.C. vacation taught us that we haven’t exactly updated Stink’s stash of restaurant toys in a while. What 2 year old would be interested in a few baby rattles and a board book? So we went online and purchased a few age-appropriate toddler toys for our upcoming trip as well as some new apps for our iPad. The novelty of the toys itself would be enough to keep her distracted but the fact that they are more interactive than her old toys is extremely beneficial as well.
These are tips that can be applied for either domestic or international travel but I will probably end up writing a second post after our European vacation that focuses on international vacationing with toddlers. I think by then I will have lots of wisdom to share but hopefully all the lessons won’t be learned the hard way!