10 Things to Know about a Day Trip to Washington, DC with a Toddler

I took my little traveling tribe to DC for the day, and I learned so much about a busy city day trip.  Honestly, I got cocky and thought we’d done enough traveling to know what we needed, but I learned a lot about what we’ll need for next time.

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If you are traveling with a group, you may not be able to break away from the pack to enjoy the toddler-friendly side of DC.  If you are, I highly recommend the Building Museum and Wegman’s Wonderplace.  They are both great for the Littles in your life, and they are both indoors.

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Now, back to your DC Day trip.  Here are the top 10 things I learned from our adventure.

  1. Bring your full-sized stroller – for those of you traveling by car, this really won’t be an issue.  Trust me, this is not a trip for the $5 umbrella stroller that’s been sitting in your garage for 6 months.  If you are flying, please save your sanity and lug the big stroller on the plane.  We brought our Zoe Triple Stroller, and it was perfect for the trip.  It has huge canopies to block out the blistering sun.  It fits through standard sized doors, and it is easy to maneuver through crowds.  Basically, I never go anywhere without it.  (I was not paid to say this.  It is simply the best stroller I’ve found!)
  2. Bring back up devices – we try to limit screen time, but heat and hunger-induced meltdowns require a little Paw Patrol in the afternoon.  Well, when all three of my little crew had their sticky hands on our phones, the adults were left without a way to take photos.  (Notice my unusual lack of photos…yep).  So, either bring their tablets loaded with wifi-free viewing options or pack a real camera.
  3. Pack all the snacks – as a mom, I feel like this goes without saying.  You’ll need enough snacks for a mini army.  There are lots of roadside hotdog and ice cream stands, but that is about it.
  4. Drop a diaper “go bag” in your diaper bag – I pack a few diapers, a small Ziploc of wipes, and a small plastic container of butt paste in a gallon-sized Ziploc for all of our trips.  In fact, I create a “go bag” for each kid.  That way, you don’t have to lug the entire diaper bag into a dirty city bathroom for a quick change.  Also, plan to bring a backpack diaper bag.  It is just easier.
  5. Plan for all the meltdowns – I am not a patient mother.  I try so hard to be, but I’m just really bad at it.  I knew, going into this trip, that my kids were going to lose it.  Guess what?  They didn’t disappoint.  So, I brought every meltdown tamer in my arsenal.  I had the toddler carrier for piggyback rides.  I had my phone for screen time.  I had a million snacks.  We stopped for ice cream. I brought their full-sized blankets.  You name it, we had it.  And, it helped us survive the day.
  6. Prep everyone traveling with you – OK, so this sounds weird.  But, most people just don’t get what it is like to travel with a toddler (or 3).  I try to set expectations before we load up the car.  I asked our crew what they’d like to see (top 3).  Then, we went on a mission to see our top 3.  I knew we wouldn’t get to see 10 different monuments or museums.  It just isn’t realistic.  Why make everyone miserable?  Just be realistic.
  7. Bend the rules – Like I said, we try to limit screen time.  We also try to limit sugar and you know, at least 20 other things that I said yes to during this trip.  It is OK.  If saying yes to a third ice cream cone will save everyone from another meltdown, then I’m all for it.
  8. Don’t expect them to care – a big city day trip really isn’t for the Littles, right?  It is for older kids and adults traveling with a toddler.  So, don’t expect them to care about anything you’ve got planned.  They don’t.  You may be surprised at what they are excited about, but don’t feel like you did something wrong if they only care about the ants on the sidewalk and digging in the dirt.
  9. Take the metro – the metro is the easiest form of transportation in DC.  Yes, you can catch an UBER, but it is hard to find one with the car seat.  Besides, the train ride will most likely be the best part of the day for your little one.  *I love Hop On Hop Off buses too, but we didn’t get a chance to ride one this time around.
  10. Slow down and breathe – you aren’t going to get anywhere fast.  That’s just how it goes.  But, I found that everyone enjoyed the day, even more, when we decided to just go at a “Toddler’s Pace”.  We sat on benches and took in the beautiful Spring sights all around us.  We ate a lovely sun-drenched hotdog lunch.  And, we have wonderful family memories we’ll never forget.

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I hope some of these tips help, and that you and yours enjoy DC.   It is a beautiful town full of amazing history!

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2 thoughts on “10 Things to Know about a Day Trip to Washington, DC with a Toddler

  1. This was such a helpful article. I originally was searching for an article telling if strollers were able to be used in DC. Looks like that is a big resounding “yes”. I enjoyed the authenticity of your article. Thanks for sharing!

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