As a single woman or a young wife, travel excited me. I traveled around the country and outside our borders on different occasions. Travel meant excitement, adventure, and fun. Going on vacations with my husband was a chance to enjoy a road trip, daydream about what we wanted to do, and have a blast together.
Then I had my son.
There are a lot of things I didn’t know about traveling with a newborn or toddler, and now that I do, I’d like to share them with other innocent soon-to-be parents out there who might not know what they’re getting into.
Without further ado, let’s get this party started!
1. Changing tables are not as ubiquitous as they might seem.
As a non-parent, I was used to seeing changing tables in handicapped stalls or along the walls of bathrooms. Unfortunately when traveling with a toddler, I’ve learned they aren’t everywhere and can be downright difficult to find when you’re on the road. Some places you might expect to see them, but won’t find them are: gas stations, some fast food restaurants, and even small tourist stores you might stop at. On our most recent trip to Disney, we stopped at a rather lackluster fast food joint whose delightful little girl mascot might make you expect decent amenities for traveling families. Not so. We finished our meal and wanted to change our son only to find that there were no changing tables in the bathrooms. So a big consideration for long road trips is where you will stop when dealing with diapers.
2. Rest areas can’t be counted on.
One of the biggest problems we had on our way home from Disney was the part of our drive through Georgia. We entered the state and stopped at the Welcome Center there before continuing along our path on I-75. We wanted to make several stops for our son to get out and stretch, and rest areas are generally a good place to do that. Unfortunately for us, every rest area along the rest of I-75 in Georgia was closed. We would count down the miles only to see a sign before the next rest area saying it was closed. Can I just tell you how utterly frustrating it is to have a toddler in need of a rest and diaper change crying in the back seat and see a sign like that?
3. You can’t always change a toddler in the car.
One of the big things I saw as I addressed a recent Facebook post about diaper changing tables was women saying everyone should just change their kids in the car. I’m just going to throw it out there that changing toddlers in the car is like having a marathon wrestling session with a gorilla in a cage fight. My child especially is at the stage where he twists, turns, bucks, and generally fights his way into and out of a diaper. I did have to change him in the car a time or two while we traveled recently, and it was not fun attempting to change him in my front seat as he fought me every step of the way. As an aside, I firmly believe some children react better to changing tables, and my son is one of them. He understands what a changing table is for, generally doesn’t fight nearly as hard, and is more content to let me get him changed in a timely manner.
4. Stroller parking is a thing.
I realize this will sound silly, but one of the things I never paid much attention to is how much stroller parking is a thing at amusement parks. I’ve noticed this at Dollywood and Disney World now. During our Disney World trip, we had to actually plan on finding stroller parking for each of the rides we did. It was kind of eye opening because we weren’t expecting to have to fight for a place for our stroller of all things. So if you do plan to go to an amusement park, remember that finding stroller parking for rides will be part of your day.
5. Packing for a trip just got interesting.
My husband always jokes that I pack way too much, but he had no idea what it would look like when we started packing for road trips with a toddler. By the end of our last trip, I realized I’d packed almost exactly enough clothes for me while my son had six shirts, four pairs of shorts, three handfuls of socks, and a number of other things he never wore. The problem with packing now is that I don’t have to just think about clothes, toiletries, and entertainment items for me. I now have to consider that my son needs enough diapers and wipes for an entire week away. I packed bibs, wet wipes, toys, snacks, juice, sippy cups, and anything else I could think of to make our trip easy.