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  • Writer's pictureLindsay McCoy

Tips for traveling with a toddler

With some planning and a detailed packing checklist, we made it to our family beach vacation destination with our toddler in tow.

Hitting the road with a little one is an intimidating task.

As parents, we know that our little ones need to have their diapers changed, plenty of entertainment and the right snacks and drinks at the right time.

Once they get past the infant stage, you'll find that their tastes change with the wind, so it's easy to find yourself in a bind searching for that one thing you might have forgotten to pack or have buried in the trunk with your luggage that's so high up you can't see out of your rear view mirror.

Sound familiar?

Throw in a pandemic where you need to be extra cautious and clean, and let's just say you have to be prepared for anything.

Many of the rest stops don't have working vending machines, fast food restaurants are not open for bathroom breaks, just drive-thru only. If you need to make pit stops along the way, be sure to plan ahead. As we drove through West Virginia on our way to South Carolina, portions of the rest stops where they serve coffee and food were closed off to visitors. Yeah no Dunkin or Starbucks. Good thing we brewed a pot before we left home.

The only services they can provide are bathroom breaks and a quick snack or cold drink. But you have to plan on going to those rest areas to find a bathroom. Many fast food restaurants are not opening dine in areas. Not everyone is wearing as mask in public. If fact, as we traveled south, it seems like fewer and fewer people are using face coverings.

If you're planning to get away with your immediate family this summer, don't worry, it can be done.

Here are my tips for travel! This is a quick checklist for taking your toddler, infant or little ones with you!

1. COVID-19 safety kit. Bring hand sanitizer and hand wipes. I suggest making a rest stop "go bag" for the car with your masks, hand sanitizer and baby wipes. This really helps keep the back seat of your car organized.

2. Back seat baby supplies!

- Grab a tote or container and pack five small or medium sized books, crayons and a coloring book, a few dolls or toys, a small blanket and a stuff animal. Place those items near your child's car seat.

3. Get a DVD player if you have access to one, some DVDs or download a few movies onto a portable device like an iPad or tablet. I know some are against videos in the car, but when you hit traffic jams, you'll be thanking your lucky stars you brought one.

4. A plastic bag with three bottles or cups, two tiny bowls and a snack holder with goldfish or puffs. We needed more than one container to hold her milk and juice. Cleaning them out at rest stops is up to you. To avoid germs I just brought an extra one. You can always pack some fruit cups and pour them into the mini bowls. Kids need the fiber so they don't get backed up. And it's an easy item to pack. I also recommend these fruit bars with Sesame Street characters on the box. I find them at Target, Walmart or the grocery store.

5. Baby Motrin or Tylenol. Teething happens and it's hard for them to relax in the car on a long drive for their naps if you don't have chilled tethers in the car or cooler. Be sure to bring this or any other soothing medication you give your child.

6. An extra outfit. We forgot this and I knew I'd forget something. Avoid digging through your packed trunk for a dry outfit ; ) Spilling happens. So do tantrums, but at least you have a game plan.

7. Driving time frame. We left at 2:30 a.m. so that our daughter would sleep on the way down and then nap in the car after lunch. It worked out until we hit traffic just before dinner time. That's why a video and music is a big help. I have no shame singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" as I cruise to my beach destination if that's what keeps her smiling instead of screaming. Don't worry moms and dads, you're still cool if you do. I love being a mom and out of my 20's. I'll never look back!

8. A TripTik from AAA. Go retro during this pandemic to ensure you're not inconvenienced. Remember how I mentioned the rest stop situation is not in full operation mode? Mix that with the fact that cell phone service still does go in and out when you travel and you definitely need a AAA Auto Club TripTik for the drive. It shows you the rest stops and construction zones along the way. Only the ones that AAA prints from its store feature the rest stops, so printing your own online won't help. This came in handy when we needed a bathroom break and knew the usual fast food or gas station stop might not be open right now.

9. The diaper bag. Pack it like you're going out and about for the day. Also bring a pad to lay down at the rest stop or in your car. Put wipes in a bag for wiping down the changing tables.

10. Car lunch and snack cooler. This was a HUGE help! Vending machines are roped off and some eateries at rest areas are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Each state is reopening at its own pace and reopening is up to each individual business. You're not guaranteed to have what you're used to having access to while taking a road trip. Pack up a cooler with water, drinks, juice boxes, snacks and even pack your lunch. It's healthier than fast food anyway, which can have long drive thru lines.

For your child's suitcase, I recommend packing a variety of outfits. Remember they'll probably have nap and bed times indoors with air conditioning. Bring a crib sheet from home, your sound machine and night light. That will make it feel more like home. Do your same routine to ensure they go to bed just like they do at home.

Have a plan to order dinner upon your arrival or enough items with your to prepare a meal. Grocery shopping takes time with social distancing and extra cleaning protocols. Be sure to make a list ahead of time to grab what you need and go on your way.

Get them some beach toys and head to the ocean! It will keep them busy and wear them out quick! It's not hard to spread out and stay 6 feet apart. We all need some fresh air after the spring shutdown months. Enjoy your vacation parents! You deserve it.

Be sure you share any of your suggestions in the comments! #AllinThisTogether ... even at the beach.

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