Travelling With A Toddler: My 7 Tips
I've been asked a few times to share my tips when it comes to travelling with kids. We came back from holidays a few weeks ago so I thought it would be the perfect timing to share now as everything is still ‘fresh’ in my mind…
We've done lots of road trips and long-haul flights with both of our kids and even though I don't consider myself as a pro, I feel like I have a few good tips to share. Hopefully they will be helpful if you are planning a trip soon…
1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
The first thing I would like to mention (and quite obvious but still important) is that travelling with kids is completely different than travelling as a couple. You have to lower your expectations and be ready to adjust... a lot! Be comfortable with the idea that things won't be the same. You might not visit as much, do as much but it's all worth it!
Kids are little creatures of habits (ours anyway) so you don't want to overwhelm them with too many experiences in one day. I can't stress enough how important it is to keep a healthy routine for them, let them nap if they need to and take it easy. I know it's a bit frustrating if you are planning to do a lot of things but tired toddler = cranky toddler. You don't want that trust me! Also, I find that travelling with a baby is much easier than travelling with a toddler. Toddlers are mobile and a lot more opinionated. :-)
Once you've made peace with that idea you can enjoy your holidays. A different kind but fun nonetheless!
2. PLAN AHEAD
Although you don't always need a plan I think it's good to know where you are going with kids. We use TripAdvisor a lot, it's a fantastic source of information if you are looking for tips and reviews (for example: is the site you want to visit accessible with a stroller? Are there any kids activities? Do the restaurants offer a kids menu?). It's very helpful and will prevent you from unpleasant surprises.
3. RECREATE THEIR OWN LITTLE SPACE
I think it's the most important thing you can do once you've arrived at your destination.
I'm not an over packer but I always take their comforters, the pyjamas they slept in the night before (something that smells like 'home'), a couple of books they like to read before bedtime and the musical box they listen to to fall asleep. Those things will make them feel at home and will allow them to adapt more quickly to their new surroundings. Create a corner in your hotel room or the place you are staying at so that they have their little space, especially if they are used to sleep in their own bedroom at home. I also like to create a little changing station. I don't pack the changing mat, it's way too bulky so I just fold a towel on a table (or on the ground) and have a few diapers, wipes and cream ready at all times. It will make your life easy knowing where everything is. Organisation is key, even more so with littles ones!
4. BRING HEALTHY FOOD
Bring snacks moms, lots of snacks!
I'm joking here, but bring healthy finger food. Airports or petrol stations along the highway are not notorious for healthy options when it comes to food. Amélie likes to snack on fruit slices, dates, grapes, cheese cubes and homemade cookies so I always make sure to pack them. You can find two healthy cookie recipes we love here and here. It will keep your little ones busy too!
An insulated food jar is also something I would highly recommend, especially if your baby is starting solids. I used mine a lot and still do. Before leaving you can warm up their lunch/dinner so that you don't have to worry about finding something healthy at the airport or on the road. It will keep their meal nice and warm for at least 2 to 3 hours. It's also great to have during your time abroad as you can warm up something quickly every morning before you are heading out, store it in the lunch box and have something ready if the restaurants don't have a kids menu for example.
Last but not least a soft silicone bib is a must. They can be cleaned with a tissue or a wipe so you don't have to worry about stinky bibs made of fabric during the holidays. They roll easily, have a food catcher pocket and are basically life! :-) That's the only type I use at home too, they are so convenient.
5. IF YOU ARE FLYING
If you are travelling by air I would highly recommend to invest in a foldable stroller, something that can be accepted as cabin luggage. Ours is from Mamas & Papas but the Babyzen Yoyo is great as well. They are very light and compact. You can fold and store them in the overhead lockers in the cabin. It literally saved me when I flew solo with Amélie last year from Dubai to Belgium. Carrying your baby in a busy airport where you have to rush is not really an option!
Always take a spare outfit for them AND for you! It's quite obvious to have spare clothes for your little ones (an accident happens quickly) but it's a good idea to think about you as well. I remember Amélie spilling a lot of milk on me on that same Dubai/Brussels flight... before we even took off. Fun times! :-)
Bring a few new toys/books to distract them. Again, I don't like to overpack but a couple of new small toys will do wonders to keep them excited and busy during the flight.
Ease up on screen time. I'm a bit old-fashioned when it comes to technology with kids. Amélie doesn't watch tv and is not allowed to play with our phones. Benji had an iPad (because they used it at school) and was only allowed to use it for a limited time during weekends and holidays. We are a bit more cool when we travel though. I think it's ok when they are a bit older to let them watch cartoons and play learning games to stay entertained.
Make sure to download a few of their favorite cartoons and games and let them enjoy!
6. IF YOU ARE DRIVING
If you are driving to your destination I would recommend doing the journey during the night. I know it's not easy to drive when you should be sleeping but at least your kids will sleep most of the time and you won't dread the 'are we there yet'? :-)
My husband and I both drive so we swap the steering wheel every 2 hours to allow each other to sleep. Of course be well rested before undertaking any driving, that goes without saying!
7. SWITCH OFF!
Last but not least switch off your phones and be present guys. We are so addicted to social media (me included) that we are glued to our phones all day long without even realising it. These moments are so precious, let's enjoy them. Our kids deserve all our attention! Take lots of pictures, forget Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make beautiful memories. These moments will never come back... and nobody will notice your absence on Instagram anyway! :-)
Please feel free to share your travelling tips, you can never be too prepared!
Safe travels guys :-)