As Eve gets older we are looking forward to traveling around the U.S. and abroad with her more. Besides a couple trips for Sam’s work when she was three and five months old, she hasn’t ventured beyond the Northeast, though within that area we have visited my family many times. However, In a few months we’re going to take her to Austin, Texas, which will be her first flight since she was an infant.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit nervous about flying with her. She was a great traveller as an infant, but traveling with a toddler is so different from traveling with an infant. When Eve took two naps we could time our trips down to New Jersey to visit my family so that most of the time we were in the car she was sleeping. Ever since she switched to one nap it’s been a trickier, and downright challenging at times. She understandably gets annoyed spending so much time in the car and I have faced numerous drives down to New Jersey by myself with her where she spent about 1/4 of the ride crying or yelling.
Yeah, tons of fun, and not at all distracting.
(Said no parent ever.)
For Thanksgiving I decided to try taking the train with Eve down instead of driving. Again, it was the first time she had been on the train since she was an infant. I’ll admit I was nervous knowing that she would likely sleep less than that previous trip (if at all) and was concerned that we would run out of things to do and she would be loud and annoy our fellow passengers. Surprisingly we had an incredible trip! Riding the train was novel and fascinating to her. We looked out the window at the scenery, walked around the train, and ate lunch in the cafe car.
I also had a bunch of new activities packed for her to keep her busy, and if all else failed I was all set to let her watch something on my phone. Amazingly, I didn’t need to use my emergency plan at all, she actually napped for about an hour, and we didn’t even make it through all of the activities I had brought. Seriously, it was one of those rare unicorn trips that has made me cautiously optimistic about future travel with her.
As people start to prepare for the holidays and travel, I wanted to share some tips that have helped me to survive traveling with a toddler and some simple activities you easily can put together to entertain them.
1. Try to move around around.
If you are in the car, plan an extended stop where they can move and run around. I usually stop at a mall that is the halfway point between our home and my parents’. We stop for about 1-1/2 hours so we we can change Eve’s diaper, eat lunch, and she can run around for a bit. On the train, I found she really enjoyed walking through the cars, and passing through the vestibules was especially entertaining. On the plane….well, we’ll have to hope she can walk up and down the aisle!
2. Bring ample snacks
I’m a huge fan of HappyTot food pouches, or as Eve calls them, smoothies. When I’m driving I can easily hand them to her and know that she isn’t going to choke on anything. I’ll even snack on some of them myself! On the train I also brought our lunch and other toddler-friendly snacks such as yogurt and disposable spoons, clementines, and hardboiled eggs. Just don’t forget to bring extra napkins!
3. Pack an activity bag
Fill a big with some of your child’s favorite books and activities, her lovey or a favorite toy, and some new activities that are sure to pique her interest.
On the car I like to make sure the bag is accessible so that she can reach in and grab what she wants.
For the train ride I included the following:
- A small container of homemade playdough
- A baggie of crayons
- A clipboard with construction paper and a piece felt for a busy bag activities
- Her new baby doll that she had just received as a birthday gift (and by far her new favorite toy)
- Three busy bags I made
The busy bags were super easy to make and can be used again and again. For the first one I just filled a small VELCRO® Brand PRESS-LOK® bag with random objects: pom poms, popsicle sticks, and colorful straws. I found at home that Eve finds them fascinating and figured they were good for open-ended play.
In the second bag I filled another VELCRO® Brand PRESS-LOK® bag with pipe cleaners and wooden beads with large holes. I wouldn’t recommend your toddler play with these in the car without supervision since they can be a choking hazard, but I would feel comfortable allowing Eve to play with them on the train where I can watch her. This activity is great for fine-motor control as little fingers work on stringing the beads on the pipe cleaners.
For the final activity I used a medium VELCRO® Brand PRESS-LOK® bag to hold felt cutouts to use with my homemade felt board. For the board I simply used a clipboard and a binder clip to hold down the other side of the felt. I made a few different themed felt cutouts — shapes, an outdoor scene, and a butterfly — but Eve had a blast putting them all on the board. This was the only busy bag activity she ended up playing, but it kept her busy for a good 20 minutes.
What tips and tricks do you have for traveling with a small child?
Disclosure: my friend gave me a variety pack of VELCRO® Brand PRESS-LOK® bags to try out.
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