The nine things you really need to know before travelling with a toddler
The toddler stage. It’s a time of cuteness and cuddles but there's plenty of tantrums and tears too.
Travelling with a toddler can be magical and it makes for great memories. Note, it's also very stressful and you may want to pull your hair out at times.
Whether you are experiencing the terrible twos or are in the grip of a full-on ‘threenager’, here are some tips.
You may be thinking 'well duh', but travelling with a toddler is never an easy pursuit. Everything has to be planned as if the worst-case scenario could happen.
There can never be too many changes of clothes. From spilt drinks to travel sickness to falls, you never know when you're going to need a spare outfit for them. When it comes to toddlers, the world is their accident-prone oyster.
Books, toys and colouring books are also great for distracting little ones on long journeys. It may feel like you've brought everything but the kitchen sink, but trust me the peace of mind is priceless in the long run.
Just don't forget to pack your own clothes like I have in the past.
This is something that all parents should look into because while some airlines allow toddlers to fly free, others start charging from conception.
I had assumed when my son was two he wouldn’t require his own ticket, but boy was I wrong. He did get to have a free check bag and the buggy was free to bring but I was still surprised he needed his own ticket.
If you are booking for yourself and your child it's also a good idea to choose your seats when booking. I've heard no end of horror stories about budget airlines putting small children and parents rows apart when they didn't choose their seats.
It costs a little extra but will save you a lot of grief.
Buggy on board
When we went to Germany we brought the buggy. When we went to Spain we didn’t bring the buggy. The lesson I learned... always bring the buggy.
My son walks a lot but being on holiday is different. There were some days in Madrid when we were out all day and at his age, his little legs weren’t up to it.
By the end of the trip, I had a cranky toddler and a cranky dad, who had to carry him on his shoulders all of the time. If your child is under four, bring the buggy because you’ll need it.
Don’t forget that during a flight your child’s ears are likely to pop. Trust me, there is no explaining that sensation to a two-year-old, they just aren’t having any of it. Lollipops are great for flights, they’re a kid-friendly version of traditional hard candy.
Ginger biscuits or plain crackers are essential if your child is prone to travel sickness.
Bring your own nappies
I learned this the hard way.
Our first trip to Germany, I only brought a half pack of nappies thinking that if I run out, I’ll just buy some because there are supermarkets everywhere.
True, there are lots of shops in Berlin, the thing I didn’t know was that pretty much everything in Berlin closes on Sunday. Of course, that was the day I ran out. Luckily, a friend was travelling down to us from another part of Germany and picked some up at the train station for us.
This could be included in the be prepared section, but it also falls under research. Find out about opening and closing times of stores, or if there will be any national holidays during your trip. This will save you from any mishaps.
Keep your head even when they don’t
Toddlers are infuriating mini versions of ourselves sometimes, and when they lose it, they lose it BIG.
I remember on one trip, my son decided to throw a wobble in Dublin airport just before we boarded a flight. It was very early. He was very tired, I was very tired. Let's just say, it wasn’t a good morning.
The thing to remember is your little one is a toddler but you're not. Unfortunately, we can’t throw a wobble right back at them. We have to try and deal with the situation as calmly as possible, even if that's the last thing we feel like doing.
Family friendly accommodation
Your life and your holiday will be so much easier if you can find family-friendly accommodation.
The rise of Airbnb has helped a lot with this as families aren’t restricted to hotel rooms. You can rent whole apartments and houses, giving the kids more space to play. It also gives you the ability to self-cater, which can really bring the cost of a holiday down.
Campsites in central Europe are also amazing and have lots of facilities. There's also the added bonus of lots of other children and families around to socialise with.
Know your location
Another thing to research is what type of kid-friendly activities are available in the area you’re travelling to.
If you’re going to a major city, there could be big attractions like Legoland or the Harry Potter studios or even a zoo, but most areas will have the basics like a park or play area.
It’s also good to know where the nearest hospital or doctor is, and of course the emergency call number of the area.
If all else fails to appease them, bring another kid into the equation. Kids love kids. Find a park or kids club where you’re staying and get them out playing.
If nothing else this will tire them out and hopefully, they’ll sleep the whole trip home.