Travelling with a Toddler
Just that line can give some of us cold sweats and shivers. You have no idea how it will go, you can plan everything to the finest detail and have a nightmare or you can plan nothing and have the easiest trip you’ve ever had. We’ve all travelled with endless bags of toys and snacks that sometimes don’t even get opened because something entirely random keeps our little angels entertained for hours.
But the saying goes ‘prior preparation prevents poor performance’ (or something similar), so we’re planners – for the just in cases. Here are just a few tips and ideas to try and make things as easy as possible for you – even if you may not need them…
It sounds so obvious, but just snack up. Take plenty. And a variety. Try and keep it healthy (for obvious reasons, but also because a sugar filled traveling Toddler is a thing of nightmares for everyone) and ideally ones that don’t make too much mess. Raisins, bread sticks, crudities (such as cucumber sticks/carrots) fruit crisps, a small pot of dried cereal are all ideal, and don’t forget plenty of different drinks. If they have a choice and they know there is potentially more to come it’s a great way to keep them entertained as well as avoiding any hunger rage.
Make good toy selections (obvs)
A small selection of toddler’s favourite small toys. The toughest part of this is working out what that is, if, like most toddlers they have a tendency to switch favourites without any prior warning. Cards (particularly spotter picture cards – red car, plane, dog etc) books, etcher-sketch are great – basically anything that doesn’t take too long to clear up. Whether your on a plane, train or automobile crawling around on the floor picking up a hundred toys is never fun, and the idea of losing any favourites is terrifying. It is worth investing in a lap activity tray with edges, especially the ones designed for car seats. These are great to allow toddlers / pre-schoolers to busy themselves with puzzles, drawing and games and helps keep everything contained. All singing all dancing lap trays or simply a baking tray, plastic box lid or a high chair tray will do the job!
Them not you (yet!). It’s not always possible, and it can be a challenge to keep them awake for long enough before hand, but if you can try to time long car journeys or flights to coincide with your little one’s normal nap routine, it will make the journey much easier for you and your toddler, and will help ease meltdowns and cranky children when you reach your destination.
To use technology or to not use technology…
Obviously its frowned upon to stick your child in front of a tablet or handheld device to keep them quiet. We’re all guilty of judging parents that did this before we had kids. But as a parent on a packed flight, train or bus, there is nothing worse than a screaming child, especially when you can feel everyone glaring at you to keep control of your little monster. So if Peppa Pig or the Teletubbies is going to keep them quiet and entertained just go with it and don’t torture yourself by resisting. An hour of extra screen time isn’t going to ruin them for life and it may be your lifesaver. And don’t forget to download their favourite programmes before you travel. Audio books and nursery rhyme playlists are also a great way keep little ones entertained on long journeys – you may even get to relax for a while yourself.
Make flying easier
Try to travel light! Easier said than done with a toddler! If you can take one max sized cabin bag with all your essentials it is so much easier than battling with a toddler and armfuls of hand luggage.
Give them their own bag to wheel, carry or pull – they will love copying you pulling your cases along, but be mindful of the point above as you will end up carrying it onto the plane! Trunki and Litelife bags are fantastic and often come with straps so you pull along or keep hold of your toddler – great in a packed airport.
For long haul flights
You can sometimes book a bulk head seat with travel cot or seat. On BA the travel seats are like baby bouncers and it is worthwhile taking a large muslin, small sheet or thin blanket to lay on the seat before placing your infant on it – as they tend to be well used! Also take a light blanket to tuck over the top.
When flying give your child something to suck – bottle, breast or dummy to regulate their ear pressure, especially when starting the descent to land as the pressure change from 8,000ft (normal cabin pressure) to the ground is significant, especially the last 2000ft. Swallowing helps to regulate babies and toddlers ear pressure.
Lastly, breathe, relax and enjoy…
We know how stressful journeys can be with little ones in tow, but at the end of the day, you’re creating memories (good or bad!) and you can only prepare so much when you consider how unpredictable life can be with a toddler. Remember, you are not alone, there are many of us going through the same stresses and strains who will give you that ‘I understand’ look, and when you arrive it will be worth all the effort!