Travelling with a Toddler
It’s coming up to that time of the year again where it is bloody freezing and you can’t wait to get away to somewhere tropical, where there is a beach and more importantly SUN! This time you have a toddler though, so let me tell you, it can go one of two ways; It will either be a nice family getaway or the holiday from hell where you can’t wait to get home in order to get back to reality , which seems like a holiday in comparison. I have put together a few tips so as to avoid the latter option. Trust me I have lived it once, therefore, I am spreading my new-found wisdom, so as to save at least one other family from the hell we went through, travelling with a toddler unprepared.
Tip 1: Research
Do your research. We have this amazing thing called the internet so use it. Find out if where you are going is child friendly, if taxis have baby seats, if the tap water is drinkable, if the beaches are safe to swim in, if the sidewalks are pram friendly. My advice is to question everything you do on a regular day out with your toddler and whether you can do it in the place you are visiting. Don’t book Malia in Crete, and end up with thousands of drunken English and Dutch youths as your neighbours because you didn’t do your research, and you are located in the middle of party central with your toddler being exposed to where babies really come from. Evaluate what is important and try to book somewhere quiet, walking distance to a beach and restaurants and I would suggest a room separate from your child. I say this because last time we got a hotel room for a few nights, with our then 18 month old, we had to have lights out at 7.30pm because that was his bed time. He would sit up in the porta-cot like a meer-cat and want to join us in bed if he even spotted the iPad screen on under the covers.
Tip 2: Stockpile
When travelling without kids my motto was “If I’ve forgotten anything, I have cash, so I can buy it. No biggie.” This is not the case with children. Take enough of everything to get you through at least the first week of your holiday. Take nappies, formula, baby food and everything else you need “just in case”. You can always use the luggage space on the way home for shopping. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find what you need in a hurry because you need it all as soon as you arrive. Also bear in mind that for some freakish reason babies poo 15 times as much on flights as they do on land, so take more nappies than you can imagine needing in that timeframe. It’s not fun. Have a smaller carry on bag that has everything you need for changes (including clothes in the event of a plane poonami) and snacks (your child will feel more comfortable eating snacks they are familiar with, rather than plane snacks), so you can easily access it and take it with you to the toilets. Last thing you want to do is to be opening carry on suitcases every hour to get to your stash. Also consider a sleeping bag if your child still uses one, as planes tend to get quite cold.
Tip 3: Prepare for the flight
Flying with a toddler can be horrendous. The longer the flight, the more hours you will need to entertain them. I’d say plan for the entire time you are in the air, because they may not sleep, in which case you will be regretting not getting that Phenergan. The plan is to save the most exciting thing for last. Build up to it, because if you give them all the good stuff first you are only going downhill from there. Colouring packs, pipe cleaners, plastic cups for stacking, empty bottles, activity packs (I bought a whole heap that don’t require glue from Riot ), iPad apps (I’ll pop a screenshot of all the ones I downloaded for my toddler today in preparation for our next trip to Hawaii in August. Suitable for 18 months to 4yrs old), new little toys that you can wrap up for them to open every hour (I bought Matchbox cars from Target as they were $1 each and a few other knick knacks) and wrapping is the important part as that is most of the fun. Another super cool thing to do is thank you packs. Make a few little packs of ziplock bags with a few lollies, some earplugs from Bunnings and a little note from your little one saying “Hi, My name is ……. and I am 2 years old. I just want to apologise in advance if I sing you the song of my people and you don’t enjoy it. I might get a little scared or my ears might hurt. Here are some ear plugs and some lollies. Have a nice flight.”
Tip 4: Moving around
Depending on where you are going and for how long I would strongly suggest renting a car. This will make your life much easier with all the crap you need to carry. We hired in Greece, because you literally load it all into the car from place to place. The last thing you or your partner want to be doing in sweltering heat is carrying luggage, a car seat, a pram, a porta cot and all the other baby items you need on and off a ferry and loading into taxis/bus’/trains everywhere you go. If you are going to Europe I would buy a car seat upon arrival. In Greece we picked up a car seat from Jumbo Bebe outside of the airport for 49 Euros and it was amazing. Loaded it straight into the car and off we went. Places like Hawaii though, we took a capsule with us and most tours threw it into the storage compartment and made us carry him on our laps, so that was a complete waste of time. With your pram I would recommend either buying a cheapo one you don’t mind trashing or hiring a nice compact one. I recently discover a place called First Class Baby that hires out all the amazing prams that are perfect for travelling, so you don’t need to fork out an additional $800 for a Baby Zen Yoyo.
Tip 5: Airports
Try to check in early, this way you ensure that, if you are nice at the check-in counter and ask them to leave a seat in-between you free, they may just do it. My son was recently gifted a Trunki for his second birthday so I hope that keeps him entertained at the airport, especially if they don’t allow us to take the pram to the boarding gate, which happens often. We have that and the baby carrier for little miss 6mo (always have a backup plan). Most flights also have a “first in best dressed” policy when it comes to the bassinet seats, so if you have your heart set on one and the agent couldn’t secure one for you, best to get there early. There are pros and cons to using these bassinet seats; you have more leg room, don’t need to carry bubs and there is more light from the galley so you don’t need to turn on the bright light every time you want to check on the baby. On the other hand, depending on the flight, you may need to take the baby out of the bassinet whenever the seatbelt sign comes on, if there is turbulence, which I found very annoying because from Melbourne to Dubai my son (4mo at the time) slept the whole way, but I kept having to wake him up and put him into the seatbelt attached to mine, then just resorted to holding him for the rest of the flight. This also puts you next to all the other babies on the flight and that means they set each other off like car alarms. You might have a good sleeper and all the other crying babies nearby set him/her off BUT… because they are other families with babies around, if that crying baby is YOURS, people closest to you are more understanding because they are in a similar situation.
Tip 6: Treat Yo Self
Lastly, but importantly, happy mummy/daddy means happy baby, so don’t forget to treat yourself on the flight/trip too. Take your iPod, loaded with your favourite tunes, some Bose noise cancelling headphones, if you really feel like splurging (or a normal pair will do), load your Kindle with that book you have been meaning to read or the iPad with all the seasons of Sex in the City. I grabbed myself a hydrating travel pack from Botani , which are totally vegan, so I can even use on the babies and they smell devine, and sneak yourself a few snacks/contraband like a 3 pack of Ferrero Rocher or Raffaellos you can smuggle your husband behind the toddlers back, or some fancy crackers if savoury is more your thing. Buy yourself a new fancy shampoo or body wash so you can feel special while you are away or even a new perfume or…… lingerie… for those nights the kiddies are in bed early and you and hubby get to pretend you are on holiday on your own for a change.
Travelling with kids doesn’t need to be scary or difficult. It just means you need to be more prepared. As adults we find flights boring, so try to imagine how that tiny little monster with all that energy feels, cooped up in a confined space for that many hours. Enjoy your time away and focus on making memories. Don’t sweat the small stuff and our rule is “don’t talk to me when I’m frustrated” (which avoided man overboard a few times on our last holiday). Safe travels. Thanks for reading. Love you all. – Zoe xoxo