Are you a seasoned traveller with little ones? Are you dreading that trip because you know how difficult your child or children can be? Or are you just not taking trips because you have small kiddos? Don’t despair, we have lots of must haves and tips and tricks to traveling with babies and toddlers!
If you are a parent of little ones you know what I mean when I say eating out and going to movies are things of the past and are only enjoyed on those odd nights out while you have a sitter. Toddlers especially make going out a chore. If you are like me you feel like a pack horse toting around all the necessities and extras belonging to that little dude or dudette! It takes like an hour longer to get ready and out the door than it used to pre-parenthood. Doesn’t it!? Hey, these are little things and you just roll with it and it’s not a big deal, however going anywhere out of town for any length of stay is a big deal and with a little extra planning and effort you can make your travels manageable with littles!
We start any journey with a sort of plan of attack for how we will keep our little fella occupied and happy. It’s not that hard. You know your child/children. What do they like? What are their favorite toys? Books? Etc. I tend to write things down so I don’t forget. I have too much on most times and I am likely to forget something. We’ve been traveling internationally since our fella was three months old, AND I’m proud to say most all trips have been pretty good! For the most part, you learn as you go and sometimes you see you overdid it or thought of something you wish you had handy. I’ve noticed the key to success was the careful thought and pre-planning.
When we took our first flight, he was still such a small baby. We knew right away, CARRIER! No need to cart a stroller or a carseat this trip as we were going to Los Angeles to my families house and I was lucky enough to have 2 nephews that had enough travel essentials I could borrow. Plus with the carrier, you don’t really need the stroller. Our carrier was easy to use and he loved it. Plus it free’s your hands to carry all those cumbersome bags. So where are you going? Are you going to need that snazzy outdoor jogger like the famed Bob? A lightweight umbrella (Our favourite is the Maclaren MarkII – Only like 7lbs!)? We have had the need to travel with strollers, and we opted to check them at that gate. The airline we flew recommended it as they say it’s less likely to be thrown about as much. I was sneaky and put two strollers in one large travel bag and they came out fine. I definitely recommend the travel bags if you are flying. They really do protect the strollers from getting scratched up and dirty. We now also from time to time use our harness so that he can walk and feel independent, instead of using a stroller.
The next important thing to consider is the climate. Will you need warm clothes or cool clothes? I’ve travelled between such extreme climates from Los Angeles to London where I needed to be prepared for both. When my baby first flew, I knew he would likely sleep a lot during the flight and I wanted him in EASY clothing to change diapers and also something comfy. I opted for ZIPPER footies/baby grows. Those snaps can sometimes be time consuming and a pain if your child doesn’t want to hold still and not throw a fuss like my kid did sometimes. The older he got, the more I wanted to opt for easy pants/trousers and tops with the ability to layer. Especially when you leave wearing a short sleeve shirt and by the time you land you have a long sleeve and a puffy coat on! I always error on the side of too much. However, maybe you want to go shopping at your new location for some special treats! Now that we are in England, we don’t go far without carting around our Hatley rain gear. Those boots have come in handy a time or two when the little one decided to go mud stomping!
Snacks, Snacks, Snacks! I’ve come to almost pack an entire carry-on sized suitcase with snacks for my little. If he’s being fed regularly he’s happy, and that also keeps him occupied for a bit. I love going to the the store and finding healthy snacks to pack. Half the time I know I myself might be dipping into the kid treats! I also make sure my little had plenty of water available and or formula and milk for bottles. I pumped using a manual pump my first two flights with my baby. It was quite convenient to just pump into a bottle and save until needed vs. fighting with the security that I WASN’T going to drink my breast milk to prove it wasn’t something I was going to use maliciously during the flight! If you are breastfeeding, be sure to pack your feeding cover. We like our Udder Cover!
Games, and toys. Oh yes, don’t forget these. Your little one needs them. Trust me! You need them! Yeah, you don’t want to tag along the entire toy box of stuff, but think on what your child likes and is showing a favouritism to. I have taken to having a good set of crayons, and colouring book and stickers as a way to occupy hours of time with my toddler. Maybe not hours straight at a time, but it works. He’s happy, and it’s a great quiet activity that will pass the time. We read books, and yes, my toddler at 1 years old has his own IPad (Well Mommy upgraded hers and he got her hand-me-down). Depending on the duration of the flight or mode of travel, I will buy movies or TV shows off Apple and that way I know he’s got his favorites. I also really like that I have downloaded some apps that have learning lessons on them about letters, numbers, and colours etc that can also help occupy his time. I think of variety when I pack his toys. I found this past Christmas at a great little shop a wonderful placemat that you could write on with dry erase pens, and I loved travelling with that and used it as a place mat on the flight tray for my son. I was so glad to have it as his tray was not very clean, plus he enjoyed drawing all over the animals and letters. WIN WIN in my book, and it folds up neatly into a small diaper bag and it goes with us anytime we go out for a meal.
For flights, I know it’s cheaper to have those under 2’s on your lap, but I highly recommend the sky cot if you can manage it for the babies. It was so convenient, and left us free to rest and enjoy the flight without having to juggle the baby too. As a toddler, if you can’t afford to buy the little one a seat (and these days, it’s highway robbery and who can!?) I hope you are travelling with another adult and you can share the lap time. We flew on Air New Zealand this last time and forked over the huge price on the sky couch. Thank goodness for that. We all couldn’t put ours up and be comfortable, but it did afford us a little extra leg room, and we were able to extend the leg portion of the seat up on my sons’ seat (he gets the seat by default through the sky couch booking) and he was able to lay down between his parents and sleep during the night portion of the flight. It made it so much easier for us to juggle him. It was just a bit of a hit on the wallet. For the car journey’s, we try and segment our trips by 2-3 hour trips and stop and rest, and let those little legs get some exercise. We also revert back to our trusty IPad again and have a mount on the backseat of the car that allows him to watch his favourite movies we’ve downloaded to the IPad.
On those sunny trips, don’t forget to pack your sunblock. We like the Organic Babies sunblock. It’s organic and natural and doesn’t irritate his skin. We always keep a hat in his diaper bag, and funnily enough our kid likes to wear sunglasses so we have them too! He looks so cute in them too. Really popular in California right now is a brand called Babiators! How cute is that?
If you are travelling with a child that has been potty trained. I have yet to get there, but I know from a lot of my Mommy friends that they use their travel potty seat. It folds right up and you can carry it with you and it will help with those public toilet seats. For the needs of our smaller child, we always error on the side of having at least one diaper an hour. We have yet to blow through our entire stock of nappies in a trip. Good news is, you can usually find diapering things at many locations when you travel if you forget something or run out.
Let’s be real here though. You might get a tantrum or two. Even if you have tried to pre-plan, and think of all the possibilities. I mean, travelling can be exhausting and a little stressful, and think of the little ones. They get bored. They get anxious. They feed off the adults and have a way shorter attention span and patience level than adults. We need to remember patience as well as parents (better said than done!!). I try and remember that he deserves to have his voice and let me know he’s not happy just like the rest of us.