The very thought of travelling with a toddler can be enough to make some parents twitch with anxiety, but really, travelling with a toddler can be very rewarding and enjoyable.
Due to lower ticket prices now, compared with years ago (thanks to airlines being more competitive than ever before), more toddlers can relax and enjoy national or international holidays with their families. In fact, children now have passports at a much earlier age than in the past.
There's no need to delay your travel plans just because your tot can be unpredictable. After having travelled nationally and internationally with a toddler, on planes, trains and buses I have learned a thing or two about how to make the most of getting out and about with a terrific two year old!
8 Tips For Travelling With A Toddler
Here are 8 tips to help your travel plans flow with more ease than effort:
#1: Be Prepared and Organised
One of the most important things you can do to help keep your stress levels low, and your toddler less agitated, is to be prepared and organised.
Get together as many details as you can: flights, transfers, accommodation, a list of toddler or kid friendly places to eat and play – basically anything you can think of.
A little research into family friendly accommodation, attractions, activities and eateries goes a long way. Print out all the information, booking forms and itineraries, and stick them in a travel folder in order (as per your timeline).
2: Enlist Everyone's Help
Whether it’s just the three of you, or more, let other family members know before you leave that you will need their help.
If your toddler is occupied and engaged with others during travel times, it will help to avoid boredom. When toddlers can interact with both parents and older siblings, it makes travel a little more interesting for them.
Likewise, when you're in the process of transferring or there are moments when your toddler might easily get bored, be sure to take turns at helping with her. Everyone needs a bit of a break.
#3: Think Ahead For The Flight
To have the best chance of staying sane, especially if you’re travelling on a long haul flight, you must be prepared! You can find a list of great suggestions to keep your toddler's boredom at bay here.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport and check in, allowing for any unplanned stops along the way. It’s much better to arrive early with plenty of time up your sleeve, than to be late, and stressed.
Extra time also means your toddler can burn off excess energy after sitting still for a while.
#4: Be Flexible With Your Plans
When you travel, you never know exactly how each day will unfold, so be as flexible as you can when you make plans.
Your toddler will probably have the odd bad day. She might end up cutting molars or struggling with an upset belly (which is quite common when travelling overseas). This means she might not be in the mood for that two hour tour you booked months ago.
By keeping your day plans flexible, and being aware of cancellation policies, it’s less likely that you’ll be disappointed or stressed if things just don’t work out.
Find out which activities you don’t need to plan well ahead for, or those that are flexible with bookings, and opt for them. It won’t be the end of the world if you can’t go.
#5: Be Understanding
Two year olds still have very immature brain development. Their brains will keep developing right up until 18 years of age.
It would be simpler if they could just communicate what they are thinking or feeling – but they can’t.
If your toddler has a headache or growing pains, it isn’t as simple as just telling you and the ordeal is over. Unfortunately, when they are trying in their own way to tell you that something is wrong, toddlers’ behaviour is often misinterpreted as throwing a tantrum or displaying manipulation. It's not.
Toddlers simply want their needs met; just like you do. They'd much rather play, explore and have fun. So when they're upset, something is wrong. If something seems to be bothering them, listen and take action accordingly.
If you can’t work it out, a quiet day in the room with cuddles, comfort and a bit of normality might be just what the doctor, sorry … toddler, ordered.
I love travelling with my toddler. She’s such a joy, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere without her. It’s easy, and straightforward, when you just trust what they need, and don’t see toddlers as being impatient, mini bossy britches who are trying to ruin your plans.
#6: Don't Try To Pack Too Much Into One Day
Toddlers can't handle a busy schedule like we can – it's too overwhelming. They prefer to stop and smell the roses, appreciating one thing at a time. As tempting as it might be to go and see all of those attractions that everyone has been raving about, think of your toddler first if you want to avoid needing a holiday from your holiday.
More than likely, toddlers will not have the same appreciation for an attraction as you will, and they can tire quickly. Aim for one activity per day at most. Any more than that and you might be pushing your toddler’s limits, resulting in total meltdowns that could have been prevented.
Don’t forget, toddlers have only been on the planet for about two years, and they have very little bodies. They grow up too fast as it is!
#7: Be Mindful Of Weather Challenges For Little Bodies
It’s common knowledge that a toddler won't handle heat, humidity or freezing cold like an adult will.
As much as we have tried to lie low on days of hot and humid weather while travelling, we have realised just how much weather really affects the littlest and loveliest people in our family.
One day, we'd been relaxing in air conditioning all morning, and decided to head out for lunch. The sun was beating down and it was really humid. When we arrived at the restaurant, our toddler didn't want to sit down at the table. She was a little restless, which was usual for her in that kind of weather. We let her wander around a little, and planned to leave as soon as we had eaten. But when I scooped her up, she seemed even more bothered and sweaty – and her nose had started bleeding. It was the first time she’d ever had a blood nose; no-one in my family is even prone to them.
It’s normal for toddlers to eat like sparrows, but even more so when it’s hot. Our little one’s appetite usually picked up when we took her food back to our air conditioned room. So if your toddler doesn’t eat, simply ask the restaurant to pack up the food, and take it back to your room. Your toddler is not trying to be wasteful; she might just be feeling the weather.
Be very mindful of toddlers’ little bodies, and make peace with the fact that sometimes you just need to get out of the heat. There's plenty more time to come back and travel again when they are older. Everyone deserves to have fun and comfortable time – your toddler included.
#8: Be Patient and Know That All Toddlers Have Meltdowns
No matter which country you visit, you’ll see toddlers, well – being toddlers. Your parenting is not to blame, and it’s not that you have a ‘monster' child. It’s just a normal and necessary stage that happens to toddlers all around the world!
Don’t get angry or upset at your toddler because of others’ expectations, or because she isn’t capable of doing what you can do.
Sure, it can be embarrassing when a toddler has a meltdown, but don’t let your toddler suffer for someone else’s unrealistic expectations.
Scoop her up and take her somewhere more comfortable. And I can guarantee you'll end up feeling more comfortable and relaxed too.
To read more about my journey travelling around the world with a toddler, a teen and an in-between, during 2015, visit http://aroundtheworldpluskids.com.au.