Car Travel with a 1 YEAR OLD!

Sep 15, 2000

I have recently returned from an awesome vacation! I have a one year old and this was her first trip and everyone had a great time. I was very worried before we left as to how everything would go but it went terrific.

First of all, let me tell you about the trip and then I will give you some tips that helped make everything go smoothly. Well, I live in MD and we started our trip from there, just me, my husband, and my one year old daughter. The car was packed full and we set out!

We drove to Rochester, NY and visited attractions there including the Strong Museum which is an awesome place for kids. Included there is a huge Sesame Street display (which is great for adults too--very nostalgic), a kid sized grocery store, a food pyramid kids can climb, a news station, an airplane to explore, a sandbox area to play in and many art stations. My daughter had a blast!!

On our second day in Rochester, we visited the Eastman House which my daughter slept through (planned this way since I knew there would be little of interest to her), and then we went to the Seneca Park Zoo where we saw elephants, monkeys, reptiles, tigers and much, much more. This was a great place for my daughter!

We then travelled to Niagara Falls and saw the Falls in both NY and in Canada. There is a much better view from the Canada side. While there, we decided to get a bird's eye view of the Falls and travelled up the Skylon tower in an elevator (about 500 feet above the falls) to view. It was really something spectacular to see. My husband claims that he could see the CN tower (about an hour and a half away by car) in Toronto. We purchased a package that allowed us to view a second time in the evening when the Falls were lit up. Really amazing! We also saw an IMAX movie about the Falls (my daughter's first movie--she seemed to enjoy it!) and toured the Daredevil Museum.

After several days, we headed on to Toronto, Canada. There we visited with family. We were able to stay with cousins who have kids, one of whom is just a little older than my daughter. This was great because my daughter loved playing with him!!

I think that there are several reasons that our trip was so successful and I will tell you about them here.

1. Both my husband and I planned this trip very carefully. Before leaving home, we studied maps and tour books and decided on reasonable drives, as well as attractions and hotels. We booked hotels that were child friendly and offered cribs. We confirmed each hotel before leaving. We also made sure each hotel had a pool for relaxing after long drives.

2. We relaxed. I am usually get really tense when we go out to a restaurant with my daughter because she either won't eat or else she makes a lot of noise. Well, in a way it took some work but it paid off. We carried some interesting toys and books with us to entertain in the restaurants while waiting and we tried to order foods that she liked (whether it was a child's meal or something I shared with her) and if she didn't eat, she didn't eat!! Now, I don't do this normally because at home, I like to have her on a schedule but since it was vacation, if she seemed hungry an hour later, I had lots of snacks with us that were healthy for her to have.

3. We planned activities where she would be able to move around and interact with the world. For example, the Children's Museum, the swimming pools, and even visiting with relatives were all activities that she really enjoyed.

4. We were very careful in hotel rooms. We brought a roll of masking tape and we taped all the outlets. We stored things where she could not reach them and things that she could reach were safe (even if it did make a mess when she emptied all of her clothes out of the duffel bag). We stored all medicines/cosmetics, dangerous items in one single bag and kept it in the bathroom and kept the bathroom door shut (she hasn't yet learned how to open doors).

5. We made frequent stops on days where we had to travel in the car a lot. Even if it was only a rest area, many had play areas or at least grassy areas for her to move around. I brought several balls and a bottle of bubbles to play with her on stops. We also tried to plan long drives for times when my daughter would be sleepy so that she would nap.

6. We packed all necessities (and then some stuff that probably wasn't necessary, but useful). We had a lot of stuff that we probably didn't use much but it was nice knowing we had it if we needed it. We had a whole bag full of toys, but it seemed that there was always something else more entertaining wherever we were. We also packed medications that we MIGHT need like Infant Tylenol, etc, JUST IN CASE. Luckily, we never needed to use any. We also packed lots of snacks and even some baby food for her so that I knew she would have something to eat if she wouldn't eat in the restaurants (she actually did amazingly well eating in restaurants)

7. For night times, even though my daughter slept in different cribs, we brought along the stuff she usually has in her crib at home so that she would feed comfortable. For instance, we brought her sheet (many hotels try to put a flat sheet for a larger bed onto a crib mattress and this can be dangerous for a child who pulls it off and can get suffocated in it), her blanket, and her dolly for her to sleep with.

8. We took each day as it came. If it seemed that something wasn't going to work out, we changed our plans. We remained flexible and it worked out very well. Even though we had planned certain things, if we felt that we had overplanned or planned something that we didn't feel like doing, we were able to change our minds.

This was a great trip for my little family. Though I was anxious about it to start, I am glad we made the trip and I know now, that I will be excited next summer when we plan another trip!!

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goldjay is an Advisor on Epinions in Books
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