Holiday dining and toddlers: You've been warned

I still remember my first experience at Burgers and Brew. I was new in Midtown, and we were mid-bar hop. So, the experience itself is actually a little fuzzy, but I recall how impressed I was with the restaurant's smoked tofu burger, insane list of craft beers and its overall comfortable vibe.

My last experience there, however, was not so memorable because we never made it inside. It all started out so innocently. My boyfriend suggested we visit the spot again for lunch so we did what any spontaneous young(ish) couple would do: we loaded up the diaper bag.

As we left our neighborhood in Citrus Heights, I laughed that our 18-month-old daughter had fallen asleep. I had no idea how much that would put a damper in our plans. After parking, we tried ever so gently to get her out of the car without waking her, but to no avail. Finally, we decided wake our sleeping baby.

Big mistake.

By the time we approached the restaurant, she was in full-on meltdown mode. Not wanting to impose our own wrongdoing on innocent strangers, we decided to turn around and face reality—toddlers really do change everything, even dinner plans.

If you are a new parent or have not embraced the world of toddler dining, here is a little guide so your experience does not end up with a trip to the drive-thru, like ours did.

Those adventurous enough to brave dining out during the holiday season should try to schedule it on off-days or times where the restaurant might not be so crowded. Call ahead to make sure they don't have many large parties and try not to let the number of children outnumber the number of adults.

Of course, your first order of business is to ensure your child has napped and that you are well-prepared with extra food, milk, diapers, wipes, etc. Pro tip: Don't overload on toys just because you think your kid wants options. Too many toys will just prove overwhelming and he or she will probably start chucking them everywhere. One book and one toy should do the trick.

Next, find a family friendly restaurant. You can easily assess the situation by checking for high-chair availability. And I don't mean that greasy, nasty one that has been stashed in the corner for the last year. If the restaurant welcomes kids, it'll have those crayons you forgot; pizza places such as Original Pete's might even offer up some pizza dough for your kid to play with. Even better, check for outdoor seating—especially patios with heating lamps. This will save you the energy of lugging your screaming child outside should there be a mid-meal tantrum.

Most of all, don’t forget your life before kids—those times when you could go out to eat and the sound of that screaming baby at the next table would send chills up your spine? Remember this as proof why it's important to stick with the guide.

It's not fool-proof, obviously, but it will lessen the chances of a meltdown. Do it for your former self. And for everyone around you.