My Top Ten Tips for Travelling with Tiring Toddlers
We have a very international family, so we end up travelling quite frequently throughout the year and utilising all means of transport available to us.
So when we had to travel with two busy bees for the first time, when our boys were 6 months old and 21 months old, we experienced a major culture shock, to say the least. We got through it and managed to tell the tale, but I won’t lie to you, flying with two babies can be an absolute nightmare if you haven’t planned the holiday in advance. In fact, one very ‘memorable’ trip from London to North Cyprus was possibly one of the worst five hours of my parenting life (the boys were 13 months old and 28 months old at the time). We experienced so much turbulence in an over-packed plane, which was hot and sticky, and we had forgotten one of the most important unwritten rules when travelling with tiring toddlers – ‘Snacks… and lots of them!’ This, unfortunately, included their bottles and sippy cups, which had somehow disappeared on the long walk from the airport to our seats. So, we had to resort to offering our boys sips of water from our small water bottles, which, due to the turbulence, would spill all over their clothes, sometimes whilst I was trying to breastfeed my little one to sleep – cue the screaming and moaning and lots of angry glares from other passengers. Then we had the arduous task of taking off their thick jumpers and replacing them with more suitable clothing, whilst they were squealing and squirming in their seats.
Honestly, I am sweating right now, just reminiscing of this ‘fun-filled’ flight. But, where I have made my mistakes, make no bones about it, I will not make them again! I vowed from that day on that I will never travel so unprepared again.
So, without further ado, I present to you my top ten tips to ensure a stress-free (or less stressful) journey with toddlers without resorting to drugs or alcohol:
1. Allow for plenty of time, because you’ll still probably end up being late.
I’m not the best keeper of time myself. I dilly-dally about, wondering and pondering over whether I’ve got everything ready for the trip and then I end up being late, even though I started two hours earlier. My husband is very punctual, so when we had to cater for two toddlers on our nightmare holiday trip, my husband suffered frequent panic attacks. Travelling with kids will always take longer than travelling alone because you don’t account for last minute toilet trips, temper tantrums, and hungry tummies. As my boys were so young the very first time we travelled, I also had to make sure I breastfed my youngest for at least an hour before we flew long distance, so that he would sleep for the best part of the journey to the destination. So, we always doubled the amount of time to get ready, i.e. 4 hours before we would have to leave rather than 2 hours. That’s not to say we would still get there on time!
2. Snacks… and lots of them!
I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to bring minimal snacks on the plane with two growing babies, but I certainly paid for it. This is a given – KIDS LOVE SNACKS! Foods which release energy slowly and take a long time to eat are even better. I would steer clear of sweets because once kids have that sugar rush, good luck keeping them in their seats! I always find raisins, wholemeal bread with peanut butter, crisps, and homemade, low sugar banana cake go down a real treat during travel. As soon as they’re bored with whatever they’re doing, I just give them a small slice of something to eat and they’re happy for all of ten minutes. My boys never stop until they are munching on something, so I’ve put that to good use over time.
3. Change of clothes… about three sets… and layer them up!
There’s no point donning your kids in thick winter coats and fashionable woolly jumpers, if you’re then going to have to go through the torturous and stressful process of adding and taking away layers whilst in an uncomfortable position, like a plane seat or a moving vehicle. Remember that you will only have to replace the underlay with something more suitable. Layering up is actually more effective at keeping the cold away, and trust me, a lot easier to manage. Dress them in easy-to-add and take away layers so that the kids stay comfy whatever the weather.
4. Lots of entertainment, including your phone and tablet.
Sometimes I wonder what my parents did when they didn’t have smartphones and tablets readily available to hand to us. But, in times like needing to sit on a plane seat for five hours, or travelling in small vehicles that make the most secure person feel claustrophobic, then smartphones and tablets are your friends. There are a number of kid-friendly apps available for your device (Some mobiles and tablets can be switched to Airplane mode for the flight).
5. Keep bottles and sippy cups for the plane.
I learned this the hard way… How important is it to have bottles and sippy cups to hand at all times? It should be at the TOP OF THE LIST! Apart from the obvious reason of keeping your children hydrated, during long train and/or plane journeys, bottles and sippy cups can also help to equalise pressure in the ears. The sucking and swallowing technique can be used during take-off and landing to prevent any discomfort in the ears. In fact, I would go one step further and advise to revert to a bottle, even if your toddler has upgraded to a sippy cup, because bottles are that much more effective at equalising pressure in the ears than sippy cups.
6. Travel light… but don’t forget your children’s favourite toys and books
…And pack certain items like food into small Tupperware containers. Each boy gets a small rucksack that has their favourite toy, book/colouring book with some crayons, and a nappy. Then we have our changing bag and my laptop, not to mention our three suitcases (one for the boys). Jowsa, a Nappy Genie company, can actually help with reducing the luggage on holiday, by delivering baby essentials directly to your holiday location. That means not needing to pack half of your suitcase with nappies – more of an excuse to shop on holiday? Hmm, I think so!
7. Consider hiring an RV or caravan
Recreational vehicles, or as the North Americans call it, RVs, are motor vehicles or trailers that are equipped with living space and amenities that can be found in a home. RVs and caravans are cheaper and you can pretty much travel wherever you want. You don’t have to worry about accommodation costs because your RV or caravan has you covered. You can control your living costs on holiday and spend more time outside seeing the world. If you buy an RV or caravan, then you have the added benefit of having a home away from home. However, Renting an RV specifically for a holiday is quite cheap and you can find some great deals online. Plus, if your toddlers have a hissy fit, no one will be around to see it.
8. Tire them out as much as possible before the flight.
Use the airport as your playground – if you’ve got two hours to spare then resist putting them to sleep and run them ragged. Find a children’s area and let them use it for two hours, or if the airport doesn’t have one, let them walk everywhere and look at everything. My boys have been too young to use the escalators before, but if you see them now, travelling up and down the escalators is their number one airport activity.
9. Pack a decent medi-kit.
Include antibacterial wipes and hand-sanitizer in your kit too because you will want to try and minimise any chance of your kids getting sick on holiday… imagine the stress of dealing with sick children, it’s just not worth it. In my kit, I also include a travel thermometer to check body temperature for fever, liquid Paracetamol like Calpol (but make sure it’s not over 100ml as that’s the max amount you can take on holiday with you if you’re carrying it in your hand luggage) and some plasters because my boys like to run into things now and again. Antiseptic wipes and sting treatment are important too to dab on broken skin and any bites the kids (and you!) might catch on holiday.
10. Be a team and support each other.
My husband and I always take turns to give each other short breaks, even if it’s just a quick walk around the airport without the kids or sitting in a vacant seat on the train for 15 minutes. You will be surprised at how much a quiet break calms you down enough to face the music again. When it came to nappy changes, we changed both boys at the same time, one after the other, so we were always mucking in together (and, actually, this helped our older one to toilet train too.)
11. Be patient, wear a constant smile, be kind to each other, and expect there to be setbacks without getting stressed.
So much easier said than done, I know… But travelling itself is stressful and there’s no need to add to the already increasing blood pressure. Cut yourself some slack, trips are overwhelming and you’re doing a fab job of being so selfless to make sure the kids are happy and entertained. Don’t worry too much about a broken routine, spillages on clothes or leaked nappies. These things just happen. Just breathe, count to ten, and tackle one problem at a time with a big smile and lots of patience!
“Whoops! Someone has dropped their juice on their top!” *big grin* “Oh well, let’s clear that up and be more careful next time.” *big grin*
“Whoops! There’s poo all down your back.” *big grin* “Let’s get you out of that dirty nappy and find you more comfortable clothing.” *big grin*.
You might sound like a Stepford parent, but you’ll be surprised at how you can make yourself believe that you’re king/queen of the parents when you adopt this relaxed approach.
And, guess what! It will rub off on the kids too. Now, who doesn’t want more relaxed kids on holiday? 🙂