I remember our first overseas trip, travelling with toddlers, like it was yesterday.
The excitement, the anticipation, coupled with a good dose of fear – I second guessed every move of pre-trip preparation.
We chose The Sheraton Villas in Denerau Fiji as our destination. With two young boys (2 years & 9 months), I had trouble leaving the house to go around the corner without full provisions on board; let alone envisaging how I might keep them entertained on the flight, safe in a different country, and healthy in the face of bugs that surely must lie waiting for my babies.
I am glad to report we survived the holiday, better yet it remains one of our favourite family travel memories. Having spent two years close to home, amid the day to day mire that comes with caring for two babies – the freedom I felt was bliss. Within hours of our arrival we had worked out a little holiday routine that worked well; the boys thrived in the relaxed environment and The Husband and I had time to dine together, swim, read (yes really…a whole book) – we even snuck in a couple of afternoon naps.
I know my feelings of apprehension are shared by lots of Mum’s, so here are tips for travelling with toddlers (that I wish someone had told me…). Joining me are three wonderful and experienced travelling Mama’s generously adding their great suggestions. You’ll find an introduction to each of them at the end of the post, I urge you to click through and visit their fabulous blogs…
Joy Anan from The Mama Minute
Christine Knight from Adventure, Baby!
Amy from The Wandering Mum
TRAVELLING WITH TODDLERS ON A PLANE
You can put the best laid plans in place, yet they might still unravel mid-air. Try and keep calm in the face of it, practice deep breathing (and ask the Flight Attendant for a glass of bubbly…).
Time your flight with care (where possible). I found it easier to take day flights with my toddler when I knew she would be awake. Napping on the flight with a toddler proved impossible, and we found it worked well for us to arrive at our destination in the evening and go straight to bed rather than getting a bit of bad sleep on the flight and dealing with an over tired toddler at our destination – at 6 in the morning…Christine
Arrive early at the gate. When they call for families, take the opportunity to board early and get yourself set up without the pressure of everyone else on the flight wanting to get into their seats and vying for overhead space…Christine
If your child is two or over they will need their own seat. It can still be worth asking for a bulkhead seat, as then you can use that extra floor space for your toddler to sit/stand and play…Christine (note from The Urban Mum, with many Airlines you can now elect to pay an additional fee at time of booking to secure these prime seats).
Young children have trouble equalising their ears so pain might become an issue. Bring your own pain medication on board, remember to stick to the 100ml maximum size allowance. Here useful advice on exemptions for parents travelling with liquids for young children.
If your baby uses a dummy let them use it for take off and landing of the plane, it will help ease the pressure in their ears similar to chewing gum for us adults. For older children these are good times for a snack to help alleviate ear pain…Amy
Before you leave, wet a hanky or face towel with a few drops of eucalyptus oil and keep it in a zip log bag (to help clear nasal passages)…Joy
Sitting for a period of time is hard for most of us, for toddlers it is nearly impossible. Pack little surprise parcels of pencils, stickers and dollar shop finds you can produce (one at a time) when the wriggling starts.
Find handheld toys with moving parts but won’t get lost too easily, or that you won’t mind losing if they go rolling down to the back of the plane! We packed some of Mr 2’s favourite toys, new cars and books with lift-the-flaps and puppets..Joy
You might feel strongly about restricting screen time at home, but on a flight, anything goes to keep sanity. Load up your iPad with videos and apps for your toddler to watch, and pack kid-friendly headphones that limit volume…Christine
Find out if your aircraft has personal TV’s as standard, if not try to book a portable player in advance – or download the entertainment app on your devices).
Pack snacks, snacks and more snacks. Your child may or may not like the food on a flight so its best to be prepared, Little ones will also fill in a lot of time snacking, its amazing how much food they can get through in a flight…Amy
Bring more than what you think you will need, particularly for long haul flights. Pack extras of everything – nappies, wipes, clothes, snacks, toys. Pack an extra outfit for you, too…Christine
WHAT TO PACK FOR TODDLERS
The obvious clothes and hats and weather appropriate clothing (always handy to have a weather proof jacket).
When packing make sure you pack the familiar bed time items, if your child has the same story every night, take it with you, be sure to pack their bear or sleep blankie if they have one. You can even take their cot sheet from home (that they have slept on) so it has that familiar smell and can help make the new environment more acceptable and familiar…Amy
A lunchbox per child. I generally made the boys a sandwich at breakfast, adding a few mini muffins and fruit. Toddler nap times don’t always correspond with restaurant hours – that way you are covered when the call for food begins.
Pack favourite packaged snacks. Most customs will allow you to bring packaged food into the country – just make sure you declare it. Items such as; crackers and vegemite/dried fruit packs/mini rice wheels – are ideal to have on hand.
Bring your pram, you can hire one in most resorts – however having your own is great for manoeuvring around airports; and you know it works for you.
Medication. I still visit our family doctor pre-trip and stock up on anything he feels might be appropriate. Local doctors might not be as accessible as you require.
CHOOSING A HOTEL ROOM WITH A TODDLER
Upon making your reservation be clear about what room type will suit your family best. Ensure you pre-arrange cots or rollaway beds, ask for a high-chair to be placed in your room.
If you are staying in multi-storied accommodation, decide where you would like to request your room is situated (bearing in mind hotels cannot guareentee your room, however generally they bend over backwards to accommodate your preference). I always preferred ground floor (away from pools); our eldest was a climber and balconies posed too much of a threat.
Pre-book Kids Club and babysitters (ask for references of carers if you feel more comfortable). I have spoken about nearly missing out on having help with the kids, for me this an essential part of the holiday. Our boys always loved the novelty of someone new reading them a story, we had superb experiences with lovely, caring women – and we enjoyed downtime as a couple.
When you arrive at your destination do a quick child proof of your hotel room, make sure curtain or blind cords are out of reach, move the kettle to a safe place, ensure balcony doors cannot be opened by little hands…Amy
If you have a child with allergies or strict dietary requirements, you’re better off booking accommodation with a full kitchen so you’re able to cook or prepare meals at home instead of hunting down a restaurant that caters to your needs. We always check Airbnb or TripAdvisor…Joy
HAVE WE LEFT OUT ANY TIPS?
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR SUGGESTIONS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO ADD…
Christine Knight, Adventure, Baby!
Joy Anan, The Mama Minute
Joy is a freelance writer and editor. The Mama Minute is a blog about the fun, weird, emotional and entertaining moments that come with motherhood and marriage – things that make taking care of herself and family that little bit easier.
Amy, The Wandering Mum
Amy is an ex Travel Agent and now creator of The Wandering Mum Family Travel Blog. She travels frequently with her young son and blogs about their adventures