Holiday travel with kids is every parents nightmare. Holiday travel with a toddler might just feel like the worst. Despair not, we have compiled a fantastic guide to help ease the pain.
This is my third guide on travel with kids. After almost two years of solo travel (I travel alone with my son internationally) I am learning every day. I do feel I have a handle on some of the fundamentals though so I hope I can help you enjoy your journey. This year we have traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, the UK, Croatia, Montenegro, Germany and France. If you’re traveling with younger children you might find our “Flying with Babies” section helpful too. Right let’s get to it, travel with toddlers, ok ok I hear the alarm bells already. . For us the toddler period is now, the challenging “naughty two’s” are very much happening, Oscar is 2 years and almost 2 months old. All children are of course very very different so I’m going to give you a brief description of mine and I’m pretty sure a few of his wonderful characteristics will strike a chord.
He has the attention span of a goldfish.
He does not like to be told to sit down.
He isn’t big on being quiet.
He loves to run, and jump and touch EVERYTHING.
Holiday travel with toddlers – The Basics
Sound familiar? I give this advice to every parent who will listen. Travel with kids is 80% mindset and 20% preparation. I think with a toddler this is even more true. Your mood is everything and the rest you can always solve with props. If you are going to have a super fun relaxing and stress free 4 hour road trip to grandmas then so is your kid. Where you lead they will (eventually) follow. If you are a nervous traveler or your unprepared or you don’t really like grandma then guess what, your little mini me will no doubt read that vibe. Stay positive and get prepared. Again not everyone’s kids are the same but you know them best so think ahead and avoid travel nightmares. If your kid is a fussy eater, don’t attempt to change this on a flight to Mexico. If your kid gets bored easily don’t hope for the best during that 4 hour layover in Doha. If your kid likes to run around like a maniac for an hour each day do not assume this will not occur on the 8 hour flight to London. Another big part of preparations is sleep. Dont take on this journey exhausted. Do whatever you can to be as rested as possible. You will need all your energy to fight those toddler fires! In addition to all the above considerations here are some new things we have picked up along the way.
Now that Oscar can talk and understand a bit more of what is going on one essential part of our travel routine (yes we have routine) is talking about it. We talk about where we are going, who we will see and how we will get there. I talk a little about how we have to behave too. If we are on a long haul flight we talk about being quite while other people sleep for example, often one of our current reading books has something in it we can relate to. We start talking about trips only a day in advance, any sooner I have found is both abstract and confusing. Oscar has never suffered from jet lag so I don’t alter sleep patterns anymore but he’s not the greatest at cooperating in the morning so I still use all the tips covered in our “How to nail and early flight with kids” just to keep things running stress free. I still travel with a stroller/pram a Maclaren Quest. It fully reclines and is thus far indestructible. I will however be test driving a very exciting new product on our next trip to Vietnam. Watch this space as they say! Anyway back to the essentials. Yes to stroller, and yes to baby carrier especially for late or early flights. I also still travel with our excellent MarBlu headphones. I mentioned them almost a year ago now in “Our newest travel accessories for 2015” and they are still going strong and very popular with Oscar. He loves listening to the music channels on long haul flights and of course the cartoons when all else fails!
Holiday travel with toddlers – New items
Oscar now has his very own suitcase we had a backpack at first but I found taking it on and off a pain and Oscar kept getting annoyed he couldn’t sit down with it on. Yes I realize its pink but to cut a long story short he fell in love with it and it was a gift and who am I to argue (thank you Zarah!) he loves it. He is obsessed with packing it and he is also very much in charge of it. He particularly enjoys taking it in and out of the security trays and do not under any circumstances try to help him. By letting him pack it the day before he has toys he both recognizes and he has chosen by himself. Some very random things go in sometimes like a yoghurt cup and ping pong ball but in all honesty he has played with these the most. Let go and enjoy the madness!
If they haven’t made it into the case I also add the following.
Books – Oscar loves busy books, he loves finding something new in them every time we look. This is a relief for me because I get so sick of reading the same story over and over again, the pictures I’m sort of OK with. I love the Usborne first thousand word series especially useful for me when visiting a new country too.
Coloring books and crayons – The single biggest hit of our Central American road trip ( I will write about this in full one day!) was a jumbo coloring book. We colored, looked at every single picture and eventually made paper planes, hats and cups out of it. Single best 1$ I have spent in a while.
Paints – If you are heading to the beach with a toddler these are an excellent distraction, they are even good in restaurants. Turns our watercolors and sitting on the floor under the table is brilliant fun and guess what no one else will mind either.
A foldable water bottle – I have gone back to this product 3 times now, here is why. It takes up no room in my bag when its empty. Its cheaper and better for the environment. Provided it is empty they don’t test it at security then just refill at the other side. You can freeze it and have cold water all day. I started with a Vapor when Oscar wasn’t around and now I have an assortment of ridiculous animal printed ones. Mainly because now I can get away with them 🙂
Window stickers – Another road trip warrior. These come in all shapes and sizes, from little tiny jelly spider men like these to full on Christmas collections like our latest purchase. They are cheap, cheerful and best of all harmless to people around you. We use them on buses, planes, trains and cars and they light up the imagination too.
Bubbles – This really depends what your mode of transport is. Cars yes, crowded planes maybe now. choose your audience wisely. We did a lot of boat travel this summer though and these were excellent. Watching them trail behind us was a lot of fun for Oscar.
Magnetic Games – This is a recent discovery. I am obsessed. Oscar is just getting into it. Lets see.
Last but not least my secret weapon! Kinetic sand. Oh my. This is the most exciting things since hmm I don’t know real sand? Anyway got it for Oscars birthday as an experiment and love it and this time he does too. It can get a little messy so it’s definitely still a join activity. We use all manner of shapes to fill up and use as molds. We have made a lot of “cakes”. The colors are even better than real sand! (Tray essential)
Less you think I am some sort of miracle parent who has avoided the use of all technology with my first-born child fear not. I too like you am a mere mortal. Peppa pig, Elmo, Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and Paw Patrol are regular features in my life too I just choose to try really hard to limit screen time and find other fun distractions. So far so good. My iPad babysitter is for emergencies only or when I’m just REALLY over it all!
Holiday travel with toddlers – Our wish list
A packable bucket – I have spent a small fortune on these damn things but the proof is right in front of me. Buckets and spades are essential!
A nanny, just kidding.
Oh I’m so happy I just searched high and low and finally found this brilliant resource from the wonderful www.wyldfamilytravel.com . Airports with kids play areas around the world. Brilliant!
Please please share any travel tips with toddlers you might have. We would love to hear your story’s too. Being a parent traveling with kids is never easy a little support goes a long way. Thanks Anna Su + Oscar Chang
Holiday travel with toddlers long haul and beyond?