Travel with toddlers can be daunting, but with a bit of planning you can be on your way to some fun and memorable family experiences! Here are 5 things that I’ve learned while travelling with a toddler.
It sounds simple, but always call and speak to your accommodation provider to let them know you have a child coming. I’ve found by doing this, they are fully prepared and so much more helpful. It is one thing to make a note on a booking reservation, but speaking with someone can make things even smoother. Arriving to find your portacot ready and made up in the bedroom and a nappy bin in the bathroom means you can get straight on with your holiday! In our case, nap time usually coincides with check in time, so it’s nice to know that we can get straight into our room and put our little one down for his nap.
Pack snacks, and then pack some more. While you might think you’ll have plenty of access to food and you don’t need to worry about packing too much – this has always backfired on me. This will be the time that my kid only wants to eat his Aldi fruit bars and any other type of cracker or muesli bar just will not do. I’ve also found it useful to have some of the favourites in my handbag for emergencies – when you’re out of your usual surroundings it’s easy for us to forget how unsettling this can be for little minds. Something that is familiar and comforting will go a long way in tiding them over for a bit longer!
We’re not big on food pouches usually, but on a holiday, these are an essential for us! Hotel breakfasts are amazing, and most kids will find things that they love on the menu – but when your child has woken up at 6am and you’ve all got to get ready to go to breakfast, and then wait for it to be cooked if there isn’t a buffet, hangry isn’t going to describe it well enough. I always bring some off-the-shelf baby breakfast pouches and give one of these while we’re still in our room. This puts something in the tummy and means no meltdowns while we wait for breakfast.
Bringing a few games or activities is always necessary and means your child might be happy playing by themselves for a little while and give you a short break. I don’t want to fill my case with toys, so I look for things that can be used in a number of ways, pack light, are mess free and easy to use unsupervised. For a recent plane trip and holiday, I got a great little fishing game from Kmart. It collapsed down and fit into a ziplock sandwich bag, came with 8 under the sea creatures and 2 magnetic fishing rods. It cost $5 and was a great boredom buster. I also love those ‘just add water’ colouring in pages that dry clear and can be reused. Finally, nothing beats a pack of stickers – these can be stuck all over the plane/car/hotel window, on arms and legs, or on paper, usually occupying for a reasonable amount of time (I got 20 minutes out of one sheet of stickers once!).
Be prepared for your routine to change. I don’t know if it was the fresh ocean air, but on our trip to Lord Howe Island, our 18 month old suddenly started wanting to sleep A LOT! Instead of 1 big nap a day, on a couple of days he had 2 short naps as well as his usual big nap. A nap in the car or the pram was all he needed, and was then able to get on with the day. At first I was panicking thinking about dealing with the change to our routine and getting him through the afternoon without his big nap, but I ended up rolling with it and realised he just needed a lot more sleep than usual. A change of scenery and new experiences definitely tires them out!
My travel must haves:
A travel pram that fits in the overhead locker. We use the SilverCross Jet, but there are many on the market. Be aware that while all declare themselves to be plane friendly, many of them actually are bigger than the allowable dimensions and a full flight or a cranky flight attendant could mean your pram gets checked in. We went with the SilverCross Jet as it meets all the weight and dimension requirements and comes with a travel cover.
An iPad with Netflix downloads and child-sized headphones. I may now be able to recite the Wiggles Nursery Rhymes 1 and 2 by heart, but it saved us on our plane flights and kept an 18 month old quiet for 1.5 hours. Amazing.
A white noise machine. We have used a white noise machine since the day my boy was born and it is the best thing ever. Thin hotel walls means you could be dealing with loud voices, music or tvs and banging furniture at inopportune moments. Using a white noise machine while your child sleeps helps take the edge off any sudden or loud noises and may just save you from disrupted naps.
Sard soap. I am not one to do laundry on holidays, but when there are toddlers involved, there are sure to be stained clothes. I always pack a bar of Sard soap which is my miracle cure to any and all stains. A quick rinse and scrub in the bathroom sink and clothes are saved from set in stains, ready for a quick soak and wash once you’re home again.