There is no doubt – toddlers are the most difficult age to travel with. They are old enough to want to be independent, but not old enough to actually be independent. Unlike infants, they have preferences and opinions that must be taken into account but, unlike older kids, these are not logical and are subject to change at any time! When it comes to holidays with children, travelling with toddlers requires it’s own particular mindset on the part of the parents so that everyone enjoys themselves (and you don’t run yourself ragged). Here are some travel tips for how to survive family holidays with toddlers.
· Be clever when choosing your family holiday destination. That small window when your child is no longer a baby (who can be brought anywhere) but is not quite a big kid either (who can be reasoned with and follow instructions) is not the time to be trying your first multi-day trekking holiday or going on a day-long bus tour. Think about your child’s temperament and what is going to be most likely to suit him or her. Toddlers who like to run free and be very active don’t tend to travel well in crowded cities with lots of traffic. Similarly, toddlers who don’t like to walk much aren’t going to enjoy being dragged around historical ruins in developing countries.
· Don’t be too ambitious. While your toddler may not seem like a baby anymore, jet lag, foreign environments and long days are difficult on pre-schoolers. Plan and prepare as if you are travelling with a baby and factor in naps, regular meals and snacks, changes of clothes, lots of toilet breaks, toys and age-appropriate entertainment. If you don’t expect too much out of your toddler she or he might surprise you, but if you set the bar too high, you are likely to find yourself frustrated.
· Plan your sightseeing in short bursts with lots of stops along the way for food, playtime, toilet pit stops and breaks. It’s ideal to get the adult-friendly activities done in the morning and plan afternoons for beach/park/playtime so the kids have an incentive to behave for the first half of the day.
· Make your accommodation central. Having a hotel you can pop back to easily is a useful way to break up the day and removes the hassle and time wastage of commuting.
· Tell your toddler about the day’s itinerary. If he or she knows what is planned for the day, especially if there are little child-friendly incentives thrown in throughout, then nothing will be surprising or unexpected and he or she is more likely to be willing and compliant. (A sweet treat cleverly timed after a long adult activity, for instance, can be extremely useful in delaying tantrums and complaining.)
· Always bring a stroller. No matter how active your toddler is and even if you no longer use one at home, long days sightseeing can take their toll. Having a stroller means you can keep going with your exploring even when junior has had enough rather than having to return to the hotel before you’re ready.
· Carry emergency nappies. Even if your child is toilet trained, emergency nappies are useful on the plane or when you are on day excursions and there is no toilet nearby.
· Consider investing in a safety harness. This is particularly useful if your child is an early walker and wants to be independent but doesn’t necessarily understand danger. It can be used in crowded situations, on the plane or in any place your tiny tot wants to move but you don’t want to be chasing him or her. [For more travel tips on using safety harnesses, read the interview with a suitcases&strollers mum here.]
· Bring lots of snacks everywhere. Toddlers still need to eat at regular intervals and it doesn’t make sense to always be sitting down in a restaurant or café when he or she gets peckish. Whether you are at an all-inclusive family resort or out for a day excursion somewhere, carrying snacks means the entire family is not held hostage to the little one’s stomach. [For more travel tips on travel-friendly foods, see the suitcases&strollers story here.] http://www.suitcasesandstrollers.com/articles/view/travel-friendly-foods?l=s
· Give your toddler some independence. This will help him or her feel “grown up” too and more involved in the action. For instance, giving your child a small backpack with a few toys they can carry themselves lets them feel they are contributing to the travel process and will mean they have their own entertainment when they get bored. (Plus they will learn that carrying a giant teddy for an entire day may not be such a good idea after all.) Similarly, if you have an infant with you, asking your toddler to watch out for baby gives them a task to focus on.
· Make the adult activities fun for kids. If you are visiting a museum or art gallery, create a Where’s Wally-style activity to keep kids engaged in the artwork. If you are visiting historical attractions, purchasing a book or small toy associated with the area will give the place a kiddy context so it doesn’t seem so boring.
For more travel tips on flying with toddlers, see the suitcases&strollers story here.