Melissa Arca: Toddlers add challenge to traveling

12/20/2012 12:00 AM

12/19/2012 12:51 PM

Christmas is just a few short days away and many of us are getting ready to travel. And while preparing the whole family for travel is work enough, add a toddler or two and that changes the entire travel game.

Toddlers add a unique layer to holiday travel. They are curious, active, impulsive and incredibly fast. Take them out of their familiar environment (home), and to no one's surprise, they are the same rambunctious and adorable selves. The problem is, their new environment isn't always as prepared for them. This can lead to unintended injuries and accidents.

So, before you hit the road or take off in the sky, keep these travel tips in mind when you have a toddler in tow.

By car

Keep your little one in a rear-facing car seat until at least 2 years old.

If renting a car, either bring along your own seat or call ahead and make sure the rental company has the seat you need to keep your little one safe.

If your child is prone to carsickness, prepare to make frequent stops and keep fresh air circulating. Pack some small snacks and water to have at the ready.

When our kids were infants and toddlers, we found the best time to travel by car was during naptime or bedtime.

By plane

If you're flying with a toddler, my good thoughts and well wishes are definitely with you. I remember one particular flight with a certain 13-month-old. All I recall from that flight was taking turns with my husband standing at the back of the plane with our toddler in our arms. He did take a 40-minute nap, which was heavenly but way too short.

Aside from the obvious, have some entertainment on hand like small toys, books, and DVDs; be sure your little one is in a five-point harness, rear-facing if she is less than 2 years old. For children 20-40 pounds, a Child Aviation Restraint System harness device removes the hassle of having to lug a huge car seat on board.

Toddlers may have some ear discomfort during landing and take-off. If your child is breast-feeding, do this during those times to help ease the pain. Otherwise, you can offer a sippy cup or pacifier to suck on in order to relieve the pressure.

Just say "no" to pre-medicating with Benadryl. You never know how your child will react and it may just make him more active or irritable.

In a hotel or other home

While your home may be toddler-proof and all medications kept up and away, this is not always the case when visiting friends or relatives.

Gently remind grandparents and relatives to store medications and cleaning supplies up high so curious little hands can't reach them.

Carry along some plastic outlet covers to allow your little one some freedom without having to worry so much.

Keep an eye on your own luggage too. A toddler is quick, and while you're unpacking, she could quickly get her hands on your vitamins, medicines or other non-edible products. Remain vigilant and have the Poison Control number (1-800-222-1222) handy; don't hesitate to call. They have a wealth of information and know exactly what to do if your little one ingests something (anything) potentially dangerous.

Parties

Toddlers no doubt love parties. They also love inspecting everything there.

Remember that holiday plants such as mistletoe can be poisonous if accidentally ingested.

Keep alcoholic and hot beverages well out of reach. I cannot tell you how many scald injuries we see this time of year, typically from a child pulling a cup of hot liquid onto himself or herself.

Small toys and foods such as popcorn, hard candies, grapes, and uncut hot dogs can all pose a choking hazard to children younger than 4. Enlist older children to keep small objects like marbles and Legos away and make sure that bowl of peanuts is well out of reach.

Believe me, I remember those days well. Traveling was a load of work; it's very stressful having to be on high alert all the time. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Being with family and traveling for the holidays is all part of the season.

Just take a little time to plan ahead, expect some toddler- induced delays, and enjoy every bit of it as much as you can.

If you're a friend or family member of a parent with a toddler, do what you can to make your home as toddler-safe as possible. As a bonus, offer to watch the little tyke for a few moments so mom and dad can catch a breather and at least sip their dinner wine.

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