1. You're gearing up for a 10-hour drive to visit the in-laws. What time will you leave?
a) Right after our child's afternoon nap.
b) We'll leave in the evening -- probably around 8 p.m.
c) First thing in the morning, when we're all fresh and ready to go.
If you leave at night, you're less likely to be stuck in traffic, and your child will probably sleep through most of the trip. The downside to this departure time is that you may not get quite enough sleep time yourself, which can make it all the more difficult for you to care for your child in an unfamiliar environment. If that's a concern, try to divide your travel time into five-hour chunks, leaving before the afternoon nap, so your child will have minimal awake time in the car. Then, you can stop for dinner and overnight it in a hotel before finishing your trip. You'll have to do what's best for your family's situation, but the departure time for a long car trip is a very important decision.
2. You're traveling to Florida by plane and fear that your child will have a tantrum that will anger your fellow passengers. What's the best way to avoid this dreaded situation?
a) Buy a portable DVD player for the trip and bring plenty of Elmo DVDs.
b) Pack favorite books, toys, and other familiar items that will remind him of home -- with a few new toys thrown in as pleasant surprises.
c) Give him a little cold medicine before take-off.
Many parents joke about medicating their toddler for trips, but this isn't a healthy choice for parents to make unless your child is actually under the weather (in which case, it might be best to postpone your trip). And while a portable DVD player is a nice thing to have, and will probably come in very useful, it's not a practical or affordable purchase for every parent. The best way to travel on a plane with a toddler is to bring lots of familiar objects for your child to play with. Being on a plane itself will be viewed as an exciting adventure by your little one, and that alone may be enough to keep him entertained for the duration of the flight. However, flying can be a scary experience for anyone -- especially a toddler, who may not understand what is happening. Familiar toys and books from home will help your child feel safe while keeping him anchored to the things he knows.
3. Your daughter has been handling a long car ride well, but you're stuck in traffic and she's having a meltdown. What do you do?
a) Offer food, drink, and toys until something calms her down.
b) Console her until we can pull over and then let her walk around a bit to get some fresh air.
c) Let her cry it out -- she has to learn that sometimes she's just going to have to learn to go with the flow. We'll get off the road when it's time for our next meal.
Let's face it -- who doesn't get itchy legs during a car ride? Toddlers get weary of being trapped in that car seat, and when they've had enough, they're ready to announce it -- loudly and passionately. If you're stuck in traffic when the meltdown begins (it will inevitably happen at the worst possible time) you'll need to pull out a bag of tricks. Keep a goody bag with little surprises handy on car trips, and you'll find it to be money well spent. Then, for the sake of all involved, pull over at the nearest rest stop and let her stretch those adorable toddler legs for a good 20 minutes or so.
4. You're away on vacation when your child comes down with a fever of 101 degrees. What do you do?
a) Freak out! I'd call his doctor and maybe take him to the nearest emergency room if the fever continued.
b) I'd wait out the illness and treat him as I would on any other sick day -- make sure he gets lots of bed rest, fluids, appropriate medication, and extra doses of TLC.
c) I'd cancel the rest of the trip and try to get him home as soon as possible.
Sure, you may want to call your doctor to get some advice -- and that's probably a good idea. In fact, most pediatricians recommend that you do call the office if your child has a temperature reading of 101. But don't panic. Kids get germs, even while they're on vacation. And while illness may put a damper on your activities, don't schedule an early flight home just yet. Traveling is taxing to the system and it is likely to make an illness worse. If you're more than four hours away, stay put and care for your baby as you would any other time he got sick (provided he's just got a cold or a run-of-the-mill virus -- again, ask your doctor what's best). Then, when he recovers a bit, you can decide if it's best to stay or go.
5. You're at your destination, ready to sight-see, shop, and have some fun. How do you plan your day?
a) We'll sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, then hit all of the places on our itinerary.
b) We'll get an early start, try not to overdo it, and respect naptime, too.
c)We'll do the majority of our sightseeing after the baby's nap and stay out into the evening, hoping the little one will fall asleep in his stroller from exhaustion.
Don't waste valuable time during your vacation by sleeping in and having a late breakfast. Anyway, toddlers don't let their parents sleep in -- usually. If your toddler is sleeping late due to a screwy sleep schedule (that can happen during trips), set your alarm and wake up at a relatively early hour. Your toddler will be much more amenable to traveling around, seeing sights, and maybe even shopping a bit during the morning hours. You can go ahead and make post-nap plans for the late afternoon, but keep in mind that your toddler may sleep a long time or be crankier in the late afternoon than she would be in the morning. Whatever you do, just try to remember that it's best to plan your day with the word "early" in mind: get out early, and end the day relatively early. That's the safest way to avoid meltdowns by a toddler or exhaustion by tired parents. Again, though, be flexible -- your own situation may be different, and you have to do what will work best for your family.