I love the word oxymoron. It’s one of my favourite words in the English language – but just like my other favourite word ‘monster’ there’s not a lot of use for it in daily conversation.
To be honest I’ve probably only used it once when someone sent me a link to a blog that contained a daily cleaning cheat sheet free printable. Daily cleaning. Ha!
So although it’s probably not strictly correct usage imma throw it out there – travel with toddlers – what an oxymoron. Everyone knows that trying to get anywhere with a pre-threenager takes twice as long, and the length of time increases exponentially to how important it is that you get there.
But here goes anyway – with the help of my mumtourage I’ve come up with a list of the top tips to take on board when trying to travel with toddlers. Onomatopoeia. It’s almost a high brow literary post this one. Who’d have thunk it.
- Snacks. This one was definitely the winner when I asked well travelled families for their best tip. Food and lots of it. Small things that don’t make a mess (probably not the best time to serve up fresh watermelon and yoghurt). Think sultanas (although you’ll be finding them in the car for years to come), arrowroot biscuits, any dried fruit, muesli bars, nutrigrain type cereal, rice crackers, anything that doesn’t need refrigerating and can’t go weird and slimy. Introduce them gradually and don’t get the next snack out until one is finished. Keep an ‘only in case of extreme emergency’ treat handy such as Smarties or mini choc bars – tiny portions of incredible goodness that can be used as bribery, calming, ‘please climb down from the luggage compartment’ moments you are sure to encounter at least once during the trip. Those that had flown a lot mentioned to order your childrens’ meals at least 2 weeks in advance.
- Ownership Get your toddler their own suitcase that way you don’t lose 3 hours of your life and 3 more bottles of wine of your patience while they try and ‘help’ you pack yours. I’ve even seen these amazing ones that can be sat on so you can pull your toddler along if they get tired. Let them put their own little toys in there and some snacks they can be responsible for and they will love the experience. Pulling it around the terminal will mean they are less likely to be grabbing other stuff they aren’t supposed to be grabbing and it will tire them out for the flight itself.
- Entertainment. Unless your toddler will sit and happily watch a movie for 2 hours (ours have the attention span of about 25 seconds) you’ll need to think of stuff to do as you gaze longingly and reminiscently at your fellow passengers enjoying a book, in flight snooze or simply gazing out the window not having to worry about their travel companions opening the cabin doors mid flight. My toddler’s favourite in flight entertainment is to pull the hair of the passenger in the seat in front, kick the chairs as hard as possible, lick the windows and feel the biggest need to move about as soon as the seatbelt sign comes on. Some much more appropriate suggestions that have come my way are stickers (both for paper and those ones you can can reuse – perfect for sticking on the windows), drawing and colouring in (you can get square crayons that won’t roll about), on the same theme – anything that doesn’t roll (I recently got a ball out to play with the kids when we were on a boat. I’m not even sure why I’m trying to give out parenting advice), and my ultimate favourite – take your child’s most loved toy along and threaten to leave it in the airport/on the plane/in the ocean if they don’t behave (OK I’ve maybe stretched the truth a little here but the concept is brilliant!)
- Car trips Plan not to have to drive more than 4 hours a day if possible and stop as much as you need to. If you are lucky enough that your little ones are still napping then time the drives with the naps. Keep everything handy that you might need – wipes, snacks, spare clothes and plastic bags in case of any sickness.
- Baby carriers These can be a lifesaver – you can wear baby while they nap or carry your toddler on your back if you have a long walk, and they are much better for your body than simply hoisting little one onto your hip when they’re tired. Baby carriers also leave both your hands free for the extra 20 bags you’ve had to bring now you travel as a family.
- Zip lock bags These have so many uses when travelling – you can pack your snacks in them to save paying high prices for pre-packaged snack products. Keep nappy change essentials in one for taking to the bathroom so you’re not having to squeeze in with you whole nappy bag. Use one for baby formula measured out to save on washing up. Keep spare clothes in them and use them for dirty ones (they keep any odours in).
- Flying like a pro Consider your flight timing. Is it really worth saving $50 on the fare if it means the flight is early morning/late night when everyone will be overtired and over everything? Just not worth it. Take a dummy/lollipop/sultanas to suck on during take off and landing to keep the ear pressure under control. Also cabin pressure has been known to do strange things to baby bums so pack lots of nappies, wipes and extra clothes. Disposable change mats are also a good idea for all travel occasions as even if there is a change table available it’s not always the cleanest. Take a small fold up stroller for the airport or for naps or for restraining purposes! Antibacterial wipes are also excellent for tray tables and high chairs etc. If travelling with babies take blu tac and a muslin wrap for over the bassinette – the overhead lights are generally right above and really bright.
- Stay at home. I laughed out loud when this got suggested but with more contemplation this isn’t actually such a stupid idea. And it came up more than once. One friend suggested ‘don’t travel between 2 and 3 – toddlers hate change.’ And she is probably right. Have a think – is your trip absolutely necessary? Would you have just as much fun as a family enjoying a ‘staycation’ in your own town or region? If you’re reading this you’ve probably got little ones so would definitely know that they are at their happiest when doing the simplest things – eating, climbing in cardboard boxes, kicking a ball. But the same goes that if you are reading this you’ve probably got the trip booked already and the clock is ticking, so get those zip lock bags packed, those snacks at the ready and that big glass of wine poured for when you arrive!
Good luck and happy travels!
Anything we’ve missed? I’d love to hear more travel tips below.