Not too long ago I naively used to say (when J was an infant), that travelling with a toddler would be much easier than travelling with an infant – I mean between regular feedings and frequent diaper changes, an infant requires almost nonstop attention. Now, from personal experience, I’ve come to realize that an infant is less likely to actually cause grave disruption on a trip, maybe slight inconvenience, but actual disruption —– now that’s a toddler!! Once your baby is mobile or has established a routine, which is usually around seven months to nine months, travel can become a greater challenge.
Anytime we have an upcoming trip – work, family, or otherwise, I’m filled with an equal amount of excitement and dread (lol – and I mean dread in the most loving way ever). Travelling with a toddler can be a hassle, but fun too! Whether you are travelling by private plane, commercial plane, by road, or any means possible, you should do some preparation beforehand!
I have taken the liberty of putting together a few tips, which I know have made travelling with my toddler just a little bit easier! If you follow my social media handles – instagram and snapchat @oby_o, you know that we recently travelled to Dublin, Ireland where we spent a little over a week with family.
To be honest, our recent trip to Dublin was the easiest trip so far with J. Here are a few tips that helped:
- PREP BEFORE THE TRIP
Now that J is largely fed on solids, I have to prep and carry along some of the food that he is used to. For the trip to Dublin, I prepared J’s feeding chart – then made several Nigerian soups and some of J’s favorite sauces / mixes 2 days ahead of the trip, arranged them into several little freezer containers, labeled and froze them (I’ll do a separate post on the products I used – freezer containers, labeling tags and how I kept them frozen for over 10 hours)
P.S: Please check the border laws / regulations / policies governing the country you are visiting to be sure what kind of food you can and cannot travel with. For instance, when we travelled to Dublin in 2014 we didnt have problems with our dried beef (kilishi suya) but on a subsequent trip to America it was confisticated.
I also took some of his favorite cereals – Gerber, Cerelac, and Custard. If your LO is still on cereal, it may be advisable to bring only as much baby food as you’ll need for the trip. You can always buy more once you reach your destination – if needed. (Exception: If you’re traveling to a place where it might be tough to find what you need – for instance, my village / hometown lol, it may be less of a headache to pack a full supply of food)
Always pack smart – as a new mom it’s easy to over pack (I still do, honestly) but always remember that you can easily buy diapers and formula anywhere (except you’re traveling to a third-world country or my village lol). For the trip to Dublin, as with many other trips, I took a 5 day supply of diapers and wipes and subsequently stocked up on diapers and wipes (on a day out) a few days into the trip.
In packing clothes for J, I always check the weather report for the duration of the period we would be away – you can easily search this on google and obtain weather reports for about 5 days from the date you check.
Also, now that J is a toddler, he is a lot more active and would sometimes require an extra change of clothes during the day – even before a night bath. So keep that in mind in packing clothes per day – especially if you don’t intend on doing laundry while you are away.
Considering that we do a lot of travelling (locally and internationally) I already have a set of all J’s bath, shower and health essentials in a ziplock bag which I just top up on whenever we are about to embark on another trip.
Saves me sooooo much time.
I also have a checklist too – of all his necessities; and I tick them off respectively as they are being packed. Additionally, I also pack days ahead and gradually too, making notes of anything I remember – so I don’t forget anything.
I also have, and always travel with, a bag of necessary medicines and first aid kit. His medicine bag includes just the basics – fever / cold meds, teething meds, cough syrup, and multivitamins. If your child has any allergies, remember to pack whatever meds helps relieve their allergies.
• Schedule / Routine:
Anytime I take off work has to be effectively utilized; especially towards raising J. So even though we are on holiday, I have to ensure that he reads, learns and plays in adequate proportion. Maintaining a (variable) schedule while on holiday is only important for me because of my lifestyle as a working mom. Your preference may be departing from a schedule while on holiday, or not – whatever works for you is what you should do.
• Combat germs:
I always make sure J’s vaccinations are up-to-date. PLEASE ask your LO’s pediatrician about giving baby a flu shot before traveling. No matter how careful you are, shared air really can’t be avoided in a public transportation – e.g: commercial planes, trains / buses.
2. TIPS FOR THE ACTUAL TRIP
• Packing your diaper bag
I usually pack enough diapers for the trip, (for a 6 hour trip ill pack 6 diapers lol). Also disposable bags always come in handy (they’re a simple solution for temporarily storing messy items like dirty diapers, clothes, and bibs), and dont forget to also pack the diaper rash lotion / powder. Whether you’re going by train, plane or car, it may be best to allot one diaper per hour of travel time. Diaper covers also provide added insurance against leaks or messy toddler poops.
I also pack at least one extra change of clothes for myself and J. Store them someplace that’s easily accessible in your diaper bag. You never know when a diaper leak, spit-up, or other mess might render an outfit “unwearable”.
Also, I always carry a solid supply of baby wipes or cleansing cloths for quick head-to-toe clean-ups. Then there’s the vaseline, hand sanitizer, small thermometer, small sippy cup of water, plastic cutlery, bibs, 2 bowls with (measured) cereal and milk in it (ready to mix), snacks, etc. I usually don’t bother carrying a hot water bottle / flask as hot water can be given to you in-flight or at any coffee stand / restaurant at the airport.
P.S: When i’m travelling alone with J i DON’T carry hand luggage, just a diaper bag and sometimes J’s small back-pack.
Also, J’s diaper bag has a travel-friendly changing pad in your diaper bag which can be used in public or airplane bathrooms. Most diaper bags come with these, and if yours doesn’t you should get one – it’s usually foldable and light.
• Dress comfy and keep warm
I always dress J in easy-on, easy-off pajamas for air travel (when it’s a long haul early morning or late night flight) and then add layers for warmth if need be. This just makes it easier for him to feel comfy enough to sleep through the flight, easy to go through airport security and easy to change a diaper. Personally, I don’t want to be taking shoes, socks and jacket on and off. But I usually change him into regular clothes upon arrival at the destination or shortly before arrival.
For myself too, I always travel in comfortable clothes and shoes. My travel outfit now is usually leggings, a tee-shirt or cardigan and a pair of trainers.
• Travel gear
I always travel with a stroller with J, it may seem like a bulky item but it saves me the hassle of carrying J on my person, and the stress of slugging through the airport with an active runner or sleeping toddler. On most long haul International flights, you are allowed to take a buggy (as one of the luggage’s your child is entitled to) all the way to the door of the plane and it would be handed to you upon arrival at the door of the plane. This is especially useful when you have connecting flights, so you have your stroller at the airport when you are waiting to board your next flight.
Reclaiming your stroller at the door of the plane upon arrival may take a few minutes, so prepare to wait a little. Also, this differs with airlines / airports, so always check with the airline before your trip and specify where you want to reclaim your stroller, and make sure it’s adequately tagged at the check-in counter because if it’s wrongly tagged you may get your stroller at baggage reclaim rather than at the door of the plane.
Whether you rent or carry your own, I believe a decent stroller is very helpful. There are so many situations where you need to strap the baby in for a few minutes: e.g.: a restroom, plus it’s super convenient for exploring new places. Also, travel strollers (like the Graco one we use) are super easy to open and close, and less bulky.
In many countries / cities, rental companies will deliver the bulky items (crib, car seat, swing, high chair, etc.) to your destination. It’s alot easier than schlepping baby gear through the airport and adding more stuff to your luggage. Inspect any rented equipments carefully to make sure they are safe, neat and in good condition before using it.
Many airport taxi companies also rent car seats for a small fee or even free, so check with them if you would be using a taxi pick-up upon arrival at your destination.
It is essential that you prepare various forms of entertainment. I have found that an i-pad filled with nursery rhymes or even the in-flight entertainment – helps J through a long flight journey. So before the trip, I would download his favourite rhymes or audio books and check that they are functional. Please check with the in-flight crew if and when you can use your gadgets on airplane mode, biko oh (that’s please in my native dialect lol). Alternatively, you can entertain with babyproof mirrors, rattles, musical toys, soft animals, pop-up toys, plastic keys, or teething rings.
Snacks provide a great source of distraction on a long-haul flight. Personally, I believe healthy snacking is a cheaper and better snacking option, and it’s how I started J off. So our snack box / bag would usually contain – sliced tomatoes, diced cucumber, steamed carrots, a banana, rice cakes, diced watermelon, a smoothie (which is preserved in a freezer cup to stay fresh). It’s advisable to pack fruits / veggies snack in a freezer container to preserve freshness.
• Walk around / stretch:
Walking about on the plane gives J a change of scenery from our seat – as a distraction. I also let him look out of the window when I can. When he’s awake, I would also let him KICK his legs every few hours; this is fun and also good for blood circulation.
• Have enough time:
Take your time and make sure you are not in a rush to catch the plane. Toddlers love to explore!!! Walking / running around helps J burn off excess energy and is a good way to wear him out before the flight.
• Food and drinks:
If you’re traveling by commercial plane, review the policies for bringing liquids on board and hand any baby liquid / formula to security officers when you go through screening; preferably in the clear plastic bag that’s given to you.
The amount of food to pack would largely depend on your flight time, flight duration, your toddler’s appetite and / feeding schedule. So feel free to pack as much or as little as you need.
If you’re not breastfeeding, it’s most convenient to bring ready-to-use formula for your baby. I usually pour 2 or 3 portions of J’s powdered cereal and milk into 3 different bowls; and on the flight I just ask for some warm water and mix. Easy-peasy!!
Never forget the bibs!!! In addition to the cloth bibs, I always carry a bib that’s large enough to cover most of his outfit, has a plastic or waterproof coating (so it can be easily wiped off), and can be folded or rolled for easy packing.
• Stay hydrated:
On a flight it is really important to make sure your little one is fully hydrated; I always make sure J is drinking enough water during the journey – not too much though. To avoid ear pain from cabin pressure, offer a pacifier or bottle during take-off and initial descent. Now that J is older, i offer sips of water or bottle-fed formula to accomplish the same thing.
• Passport and Documents for immigration:
Always check all your travel documents are valid weeks before your trip. During the trip keep your travel documents safe but easily accessible – e.g: in a zipper compartment inside the diaper bag. If you are travelling alone with your Little One check whether (or not) the immigration / customs Laws for your destination country requires a Consent letter / form from the other parent.
I always carry along a copy of J’s birth certificate and a Consent letter from The Hubs if / when I’m travelling alone with J – this is not always necessary but i have heard of moms who have had bad experiences in this respect.
3. TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR LO COMFY AT YOUR DESTINATION
– When we arrive at our destination, I would usually bring out a familiar toy – usually Mr Snuggles, and at night I’ll read a familiar book before bed time – so he’s not feeling too unsettled from his schedule.
– If your child is used to milk / tea before bed time try to stick to this, even when away on a trip. J has warm milo (choco drink) with milk before bed; even when we are away. I throw a few sachets into our luggage if I know I won’t be able to find some at our destination.
– If you’ll be staying in a hotel, request a crib when you make your room reservation or you may be out of luck when you arrive. Inspect it carefully to make sure it’s safe, neat and in good condition before using it.
– If you are staying with family or in a rented apartment or your family vacation pad; rent one or bring along your own “portacrib” or play yard. I usually rent but I diligently sanitize / wipe it clean and still use enough sheets in it.
– A portable play yard makes an instant, child-safe area that you can plunk down in relatives’ homes, hotels, or other places that may not be childproofed.
– You can also order a baby bath tub from the hotel room prior to arrival or if you are staying with family or in a rented apartment or your family vacation pad; you can rent one for the duration of your stay.
I know this posts probably requires more details (e.g.: on travelling with frozen food, preserving / keeping snacks cool and fresh during the trip and travelling with warm meals on flight), and I’ll do follow up posts to address as much as I can.
However, keep in mind that, no matter how much you read up on travelling with your toddler, it’s your personal experience that would be your best teacher for subsequent trips; but hopefully this checklist will serve as a guide!
So what did i miss? What are your own tips and tricks for travelling with your Little One(s)? Please drop a comment(s) on any further questions you may have or share your own tips so others can learn.
Love & Light,