You read the title and laughed, right?
Tidy travel with a toddler sound ridiculous, I agree. Toddlers are little tornadoes that destroy everything in their pathway. So I'm not here to tell you how to neatly travel with a toddler, or baby, or preschooler, or big kid. I want to share what I've learned about traveling with our daughter in keeping a tidy mindset. With that mindset we anticipate problems ahead of time and prepare for them, big and small.
Last week, my little family just took a very short vacation to Nashville with some close friends. We left Wednesday morning and came back Friday night. Nashville is just an hour away from us, so it was also a pretty easy drive, minus the awful traffic on the way home. We haven't traveled further than 4 hours or over 4 days yet, but everytime we take Addy on a trip, I realize something else we can do to make life easier.
There are plenty of resources out there about traveling for a month with your carry on. I fear those people. I am not one of those people. Especially with a one year old. If you're driving, it's much easier to pack more than you'll probably need, and avoid trips to the store or borrowing from someone else on the trip. We ended up borrowing a silicone bib from our friends we traveled with since they brought 2 and we brought 0. It definitely came in handy when we were out to eat and couldn't strip Addy to feed her! Next time I'll remember to pack one, but this trip I was trying to avoid overpacking. Never. Again.
I am also team overpack your clothes. Pack for all sorts of weather and any chance of rain. The day we went to the zoo, the weather swung from chilly and overcast to warm and sunny. We could at least wrap Addy up in the stroller but I froze in my shorts. Unfortunately, Addy also had a blowout which she was kind enough to share with me. Of course I had extra clothes in the diaper bag for her, but none for me. At least now I understand why people wear zoo shirts at the zoo. Thank you, gift shop, for coming to the rescue! Of course you pack extra clothes for your kiddo(s), but don't forget to pack extra clothes for yourself and keep them accessible wherever you go! If not in the diaper bag, then at least in the car.
It's annoying, and it's time consuming, but remember to pack any necessary medicine. Toddlers aren't the best at waiting for a pharmacy run or working through any sort of pain. You can even keep a small bag of often used medications in the diaper bag for both short and long trips.
While you're in the overpacking mode, overpack your car and leave it overpacked. Leave extra diaper items in there (diapers, wipes, and changing pads). Keep an extra set of clothes for everyone. Pack snacks, toys, and a blanket. Follow the boy scout motto!
2. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are the bomb.com. I have a set for Addy and a set for myself. None for Austen, since his packing style is to throw whatever he can find into his bag 10 minutes before we leave (help!!). Packing cubes do tend to take up more space. However, they make it MUCH easier to keep your bag organized during the entire trip. Far too often I'll sort my clothes out when I pack, then by day 2 they're a jumbled mess because I have to look through my bag to find certain things. Packing cubes help keep items separated so you're not searching through your entire bag to find a pair of socks. Plus they come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns!
3. Underplan Activities, Plan Downtime
We had a whole shared note going about all the possible things to do in Nashville. Cool restaurants and shops and bakeries. Places to take your kids. Fun outings we wanted to do. We barely touched that sucker. Don't get me wrong. It's important to have an idea of what you want to do while you're traveling. But always anticipate a lot of time getting started in the morning and wrapped up at dinner and bedtime. Just like at home, everything takes so much longer with a little one in tow. We didn't eat at a single restaurant on our trip. We ate lunch at the day's attraction and then picked up dinner to eat at our hotel each night.
Toddlers need time in a familiar environment. While the hotel isn't home, it's a place your kid can dump out toys, walk around barefoot, and avoid constant mental stimulation. That gives you some downtime to rest as well.
General Toddler Travel Tips
-Pack puppy training pads for diaper changes in public spaces. I also keep a roll of dog poo bags to store dirty clothes and diapers if we're without a place to throw them away.
-Keep a change of clothes for everyone in the car (at all times!)
-Pack a basket of toys to enjoy at the hotel/condo/house
-Bring a big cooler for the car and small travel cooler for daily outings
-Plan drives around naps. We usually try to leave right before naps. This gives us time in the morning to get packed up and helps the drive go by faster for Addy. I don't recommend driving through the night. It's statistically unsafe to do so, unless you're used to being awake all night. Plus, everyone needs to get out of the car and stretch every few hours, especially your toddlers strapped into those carseats. If it's a long drive, try to budget stopping for the night halfway through. We are already planning halfway stops for our beach trip this fall!
When it comes to toddler travel, anticipate and prepare for the worst, then enjoy the best! What a joy it is to watch our children explore the world around us.