5 tips for travelling overseas with a toddler

Exploring the Alhambra in Spain
Exploring the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

It’s now been a few months since we got back from our overseas jaunt. The dust has settled, we’re back into routine and the temper tantrums; jetlag induced sleepless nights and those awful 24-hour plane trips are just a distant memory.

So if I had my time over again, would I still do it? Absolutely! Sure, it was nothing like travelling pre-kid but our trip was one of the most fun, memorable and exciting holidays of my life. Not only that but our parenting style became much more relaxed and carefree which has benefited our daughter.

However it wasn’t without a few steep learning curves. Here are some of the things we discovered along the way that helped our trip go a lot easier.

Try to give proper naps occasionally

We found this one out the hard way. In the first week, we tried to power through and stay out all day and our daughter had to adjust quickly to pram sleeps. Some days she did ok, however other days she only had short naps or none at all meaning our afternoons and evenings were hell. We found if we managed a decent day sleep every three or four days, she was much more likely to be in a happier mood all round. This worked particularly well in Spain – who doesn’t love an afternoon siesta?

Have a constant supply of snacks

This works in so many situations – when she had to sit still on the plane, when she didn’t want to go into the pram, when she was upset because the restaurant was taking too long with lunch, when we were on a crowded train where she couldn’t move around… Any situation where we couldn’t control the outcome, the snack bag became the best distraction. We bought lots of sultanas, rice or corn based snacks and of course fruit and veggies so at least we knew it was all (sort of) healthy. Churros and croissants also work a treat too…

Enjoying a ciabatta sandwich in Florence
Enjoying a ciabatta sandwich in Florence

Work out a roster for toys and books

You can only take a limited amount of toys and books on a plane, so the best way to keep things interesting is not to give them all at once. Our daughter loved crayons for a few days but lost interest after a while. I packed them up for a week or two then re-introduced them. Voila – a new toy! This works just as well for books, no one wants to read ‘There’s a wocket in my pocket’ every day for five weeks straight…

Be flexible

Before we left, our daughter was in a pretty structured routine with bedtime at 7pm and two-hour naps from midday. I baked healthy snacks, she had never eaten chocolate or chips and rarely watched TV. That all went out the window when we went away. Suddenly The Wiggles became our best friend on flights, she napped wherever she could and bedtime was sometimes as late as 10pm. Being this relaxed meant we enjoyed our trip so much more and made us realise how much more flexible our lives could be at home. We also learned our daughter loves foods like pickled cockles, sardines, pate, gazpacho, octopus and hot chips (although I could have guessed that last one). Now that we’re home, we’re back in routine however we know we can break it every so often if we want to.

Be forgiving

There were definitely more tantrums and meltdowns than at home which was difficult for all. However I had to remember that we did this to her, so we should forgive her confusion and anger. We tried to explain every change that was to come and we spent a lot of time helping her sleep in strange cots and when jetlag had taken hold. There were times when I felt terrible that we taken her to this far away place where kids speak in a weird language and she has to sleep in an uncomfortable travel cot every night. But with time and lots of cuddles, she grew more accepting and seemed to understand how to roll with the punches.

Although she’ll never remember it, our daughter has grown so much in our trip away. Not only that, but we have all learned resilience, flexibility and have some incredible memories we will treasure forever.

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