Tips to Help You Stay Sane on a Vacation With Your Toddler

Mother and toddler playing with sand on a beach

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Are you planning a vacation with your family? If you are a parent of a toddler, stop planning right now! The first tip to stay sane is to never label it a vacation. Once your child is no longer a baby, remove all expectations of your child napping in the stroller or laying on your chest all day. You are going on a trip with your toddler. but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable. Here are some tips for a fun family trip with a toddler.

Choose Your Vacation Destination Wisely When Taking a Toddler

Trips with toddlers are different than trips with babies. Pre-toddler, you may have been able to walk around a museum, go for a hike with your baby in a carrier, or sit at a restaurant while the baby sleeps. With a toddler, your activities need to be scheduled between nap time and mealtimes and you shouldn't sway too much from the regular bedtime routine.

Beach vacations are better suited for toddlers than sightseeing vacations. Most toddlers love to play in the sand and splash in the water. Plus, beach days tire everyone out so the whole family can get a good night's sleep.

Think About Sleep Arrangements Before You Book

When you have a toddler, you should forget stylish boutique hotels or cozy B&Bs. Your priority is sleeping arrangements. If your toddler normally sleeps alone, putting him in your room might confuse him or keep him wanting to play all night. Also, putting your toddler in your room means lights out at their bedtime, and then you and your partner are left sitting in the dark.

So, what are your options? You could rent a home with multiple rooms or get a hotel room that has a one-bedroom suite so your toddler can sleep in a pack-n-play in the living room. If you can't find that, a hotel room with a large closet with vents on the door may be sufficient. The few hours at night without your toddler will keep you sane, and make your trip so much more enjoyable.

Get a Balcony

You will be spending a lot more time in your room with a toddler than you would otherwise since there are nap time and an early bedtime. Toddlers may also need time to unwind. Get a room with a balcony to help avoid going sit-crazy and actually enjoy your time.

Don't Torture Yourself in Restaurants Every Night

Toddlers and good restaurants aren't the best combinations, but you all still need to eat. Some nights you can plan to go to family-friendly restaurants, where your kid will be entertained with crayons and filled with food from the kid's menu. Other nights, you can plan to do take-out from nicer restaurants so you can try some good food. You can bring the food to a park for a picnic or find a grassy area in your resort. Some hotels have BBQs where you can grill your own food. This casual dining is fun for the whole family.

Vacation Clothes and Toddlers Don't Mix

When we were younger, part of vacation excitement was buying new clothes. With a toddler, most of your clothes will be untouched, and the clothes that you do wear will most likely get stained. As for your toddler, choose comfort. She can wear the same few outfits over and over again. Her clothes will have things like watermelon juice and grass stains all over it.

Consider Babysitter Options

Many people bring babysitters or relatives on their vacations so they can spend time with their kids, but also have some adult time to relax and go out for nice dinners. Bringing a sitter from home can be costly since you are paying for their vacation, and bringing relatives might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Many resorts offer babysitting services, or you can find local sitters. You can ask the concierge about the childcare options

Some resorts offer childcare during the day where kids do group activities with "camp counselors."

On our first family trip as a family of four, my toddler refused to go to the resort's day camp, and all four of us slept in one room. It wasn't a relaxing week at all, but watching him splash in the water and gleefully run around in the grass made it worth it. We created wonderful memories and were better prepared for the next trip.

By Jill Ceder, LMSW, JD
Jill Ceder, LMSW, JD is a psychotherapist working with women, children, adolescents, couples and families.