Travelling with a toddler can be hard work, but there are things that can help relieve some of the stress…
Holidays with Dougie are absolutely amazing, but they are definitely not the relaxing trips we used to have! In May, Sam, Dougie and I went to Nîmes in the South of France, which was such a brilliant holiday, but it wasn’t without stress. We’re off to Sicily this weekend, and want to be as prepared as possible, and there is so much to take into consideration, so I’ve put together some tips for travelling with a toddler…
Booking a holiday
Passport: If you’re going abroad, your baby will need their own passport.
Infants under 2: You will need to book them a ticket, but you can choose to sit them on your lap, and you will be provided an infant seat belt. If your child is sat on your lap, they won’t be given a checked baggage allowance. Infants older than 1 can have their own seat, but must be seated in an approved child restraint, or you can use an airline approved car seat.
Timings: Obviously flight times or train times are out of your control, but if there are regular flights/trains to where you are going, it might be worth choosing a time that works for you and your infant. There was only one flight a day from Stansted to Nîmes, so we didn’t have a choice, but luckily they were morning/midday flights. I didn’t particularly relish the thought of a 6am flight that would have involved waking Dougie up at 3am! Our flight to Sicily is at midday which is usually Dougie’s naptime so we’ll see if we can manage a restful flight…!
Accommodation: For us, this is hugely important. Since having Dougie, we’ve stayed in apartments or AirBnBs where possible, and booked places with two rooms. Dougie goes to bed around 7pm each night, and if you only have one room, you’re very limited as to what you can do once they’re in bed! Choosing to have an extra room meant that Sam and I could put Dougie to bed and then relax and enjoy the evenings.
What to take
Planning ahead is key when travelling with a toddler. Find out what is already available where you are going, for example, do they already have a travel cot? If yes, then you don’t need to worry about taking one.
Clothes: We were staying in an apartment that had a washing machine, so we only took the clothes we needed for Dougie. We took two sleep bags with different togs as we didn’t know how hot or cool the apartment would be.
Nappies: We took nappies with us, but there is no point in taking a week’s worth unless you have to – you can buy nappies when you’re away, or even at the airport after security – they take up so much space. We took a few for the flight, plus wipes and nappy sacks.
Milk: This depends on the age of your baby/toddler. If you are flying, and only taking hand luggage, breast milk is allowed in containers up to 2,000ml (but the container will be screened and checked). Formula, sterilised water, cows milk, soya milk, baby food and cooling gel packs can all be taken in hand luggage, but the baby must be present, and again, they’ll be screened and checked. All of these can be carried in hold luggage. Dougie drinks cows milk, so we chose to buy it when we arrived. You can also pre-order milk to a Boots store at the airport and collect it after security, or buy it in the store.
Toys: We took several books, a ball and one of Dougie’s toy trains. Neither of us wanted a bag full of toys (especially as we were only taking hand luggage!), and Dougie is much more likely to sit on my lap reading a book than he is to be engaged in a particular toy. My advice would be take something that you know will hold their interest for more than a couple of minutes – although obviously kids are fickle and something they loved yesterday will be out of favour today! We also downloaded a few episodes of Hey Duggee onto my phone. This is a last resort for us, but I would much rather he have a few minutes of screen time than many minutes of scream time (see what I did there? :D)
Practical items: Chances are you’ll be taking a buggy. As far as I know, every airline will allow you to take two items for your child in addition to your luggage, usually a buggy, and then a car seat/travel cot/booster seat. If you take them to the bag drop desk, they will be tagged, the additional item will be taken to the hold and you will be allowed to take your buggy through the airport, and it will be taken off you as you reach the steps of the aircraft.
Airports are usually very good with families and young babies. Some airports offer a fast-track through security if you have an infant, but don’t bank on this being the case. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for bag-drop/security/emergency nappy changes.
There’s a lot to be said for wearing your infant out before the flight – we let Dougie walk around before the flight, and some airports have play areas for kids.
Check your seats: If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen a few weeks ago that I was really annoyed that Ryanair had sat Dougie and I 10 rows away from Sam – even though he had a whole row to himself! When it came to the flight, his row was filled but the lady next to him took pity on us and swapped seats with me. The lady on the other side of him was not so lovely, and spent pre-take-off moaning to her friends that she was next to a baby, and eventually moved. We were also split up on the way back, but we waited until the end to board and as the flight wasn’t very full, we could see what seats were empty, so we managed to sit together. We’re flying to Sicily with Easyjet, and they state on their website that they always try to sit families together, and when we checked-in online we were sat together.
Boarding: Personally, I’d recommend waiting until the end to board – there is no point having them on the plane for any longer than necessary!
Safety: If your infant is on your lap, you’ll be given an infant seatbelt, which attaches to your own belt. If they have their own seat, they will need to be in an airline approved car seat.
Space limitations: As I mentioned in the ‘what to take’ section, we didn’t bring many toys for Dougie. Even if you do choose to bring a big selection of toys, remember that a plane seat is not a big space – sadly you can’t just set-up the Jumperoo and let them entertain themselves!
Food and drink: Our flight to Nîmes left at 9am, and we’d been up since around 5am. Dougie doesn’t usually nap until lunchtime, so we weren’t holding out hope for a snoozy flight. Food and drink are always great distractions. Dougie had had a small snack in the airport, but we held off on giving him his breakfast until we’d boarded the place. This meant he was happy and entertained for a few minutes. As we took off, we pointed out of the window to show him what was going on, and we also gave him a drink as we went up, so his ears didn’t pop! We also kept a couple of snacks in our bags for emergencies. Just take a lot of snacks. If your baby needs a bottle, every airplane (as far as I’m aware!) will warm the bottles for you if needed.
Games: Peekaboo is always a popular choice, although this doesn’t hold his attention as well as it used to. Dougie loves it when we hide things in our hands, and he has to guess what hand its in.
Singing: Dougie is currently a huge fan of Wind the Bobbin Up, The Wheels on the Bus and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. I’m sure the other passengers loved my off-key renditions, but Dougie was happy to do the actions and shout ‘door’ each time we reached the word in the song. He also loves the Tigger bouncing song, but that involves him bouncing vigorously up and down on my lap, and while usually I don’t mind, it’s not that fun on a cramped plane…
Reading: Bring your child’s favourite books with you – Thomas the Tank Engine, Hey Duggee, Each Peach Pear Plum and Spot the Dog are firm favourites with Dougie, and we spent quite a while reading them with him.
TV Show: Everyone will have their own opinions on TV and screen time for their children, and that is completely fine. We try to keep it as a last resort, but I think when you’re doing something like travelling on a plane, you do what you need to do. Dougie watched a couple of episodes of Hey Duggee towards the end of the flight and it gave Sam and I a few minutes to relax.
Travelling with a toddler or baby can be really stressful, and it’s a huge adjustment from travelling solo, or with friends, but it’s so worth it!
Have you ever travelled anywhere with young children? Do you have any advice to share?