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Taking the Kids: When they are babies and toddlers

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Forget spontaneous romantic dinners. Ditto for any big adventures. “Definitely there are a lot more logistics with little kids,” said Rachel Mastanduno, a Salt Lake City teacher and mom of a 3-year-old son Max and 5-month-old daughter Frankie.

“Everything was within the limits of what Max could do,” she explained, adding that the baby was happy (or sleeping) being carried by Dad on hikes. And everything took longer.

The Mastandunos just returned from the longest road trip they’ve done since Max was born, she said — to Port Angeles, Washington, and back, which included a marathon 12.5-hour drive getting there. “We did things that pushed Max — like two mile hikes, but not too much and that meant he had a lot of fun and we had a lot of fun,” she said, noting that the mini adventures — skipping rocks, tide pooling while seeing the ocean for the first time, hiking through a rain forest proved tremendous confidence boosters for her little boy.

“If you push the kids too much,” she added, “No one has fun.”

Having realistic expectations is key when traveling with young children, said Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, a pediatrician and spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC. “Let go of expectations of what a family vacation should look like,” she said, building in a lot of extra time for everything.

“Remember children may have difficulties and meltdowns more often in new surroundings or a change in routines,” said Dr. Trachtenberg. That’s especially true if you have a special needs child (as does Dr. Trachtenberg). “Be patient,” she said, and bring comfort objects, as well as any specialty equipment.”


Coloradan Lindsey Scot Ernst says she takes her 3-year-old daughter’s favorite activity-of-the-moment and makes it portable for the road. “Right now she loves cutting shapes, so I bring kid-safe scissors and paper and she goes to town. We have a little vacuum we use to clean up.”

The Mastandunos opted to travel with good friends who have children the same age — the two boys attend day care together and the families often spend weekends together. “We worked as a village,” she said, noting they planned activities around the kids’ nap schedules and spent every other day around their Airbnb, going to a local playground or tide pool. That way, she said, everyone enjoyed their treks to Olympic National Park more.

Not only did that mean the boys could entertain each other, Rachel Mastanduno said, but each set of parents was able to go out worry free to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. The boys, she said, were also delighted to trade toys and books, even entertaining each other when they went to bed as they were sharing a room.

It’s important to make sure you have a similar vacation style to those you are traveling with. No one will be happy if you are staying in a Minnesota cabin and they like five-star hotels (yes, that was my family too.)


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