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, (my 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 bottles, which, due to the turbulence, would spill all over their clothes, sometimes while I was breastfeeding 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, while 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 for a holiday again.
So, without further ado, I present to you my ten top tips to ensure a stress-free (or less stressful) journey with toddlers without resorting to drugs or alcohol:
1. Opt for direct flights
North Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey and so getting a flight from London would mean stopping off in Turkey first, changing the aeroplane, waiting for an hour and then finishing the journey to North Cyprus. This is not the best idea when you have overtired kids who feel the need to run around and burn their legs. Find direct flights, so your kids have the option to sleep or burn their energy on the plane, without having to change destination. It was too much aggro for us, so we now fly to South Cyprus and take the cab ride over to North Cyprus when we land. Also, if you don’t have accommodation sorted already, it may be worth looking for holidays that come with flight and hotel together, so you can save money and hassle when you get to your destination.
2. 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 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 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. So, we doubled the amount of time to get ready, i.e. 4 hours before we would have to leave rather than 2 hours. Although, that’s not to say we still got there on time!
3. 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 will cause less hassle and keep the tummy full for longer. I would steer clear of sweets because once kids have that sugar rush, good luck keeping them in their seats! I 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.
4. 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
5. 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 over. 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, smartphones and tablets are your friends. There are a number of kid-friendly and educational apps available for your device (Some mobiles and tablets can be switched to Airplane mode for the flight).
6. 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 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.
7. 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 help with reducing the luggage on holiday, by delivering baby essentials directly to your holiday location. That means not needing to pack half your suitcase with nappies – more of an excuse to shop on holiday? Hmm, I think so!
8. Hire a car to keep you moving on holiday
When you get to your destination, you would want to ensure that you are making the most of your holiday with the kids. Instead of staying put in one place, hire a car before setting off, so that it is ready for you when you land. Then you can set off and enjoy your holiday with the kids from the offset.
9. Or 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. 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.
10. 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 were 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.
Bonus tip! 11. 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. I
Another bonus tip! 12. 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.)
One more bonus tip!
13. 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!
A bit like this…
“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? 🙂