Holidays mean time for the family to relax and share new experiences, right? That is unless you’re travelling with toddlers who, if you aren’t prepared, are likely to make the whole experience more like herding cats.
Travelling with toddlers does come with its challenges but after many, many attempts we’ve finally gotten it down to as fine an art as our recalcitrant tot will allow. While Raffles has always been a superstar traveller, Sugarpuff is a little more… how do I put this delicately? Insane. And not unlike travelling with a rabid octopus on an acid trip. In an utterly adorable way, of course. Anyway, here are my tried and tested tips for taming travelling toddlers, most of which don’t even require swearing!
Where the bloody hell are you?
An exotic third world war zone where coup d’états occur weekly? Sounds exciting, but not this time. The first step in any successful toddler tour of duty is to pick a destination that’s safe, where there’s space to run about and loads of energy depleting activities to keep them busy. Beaches, resorts and holiday parks are awesome, deep Amazonian rain forest and anywhere that involves a Sherpa or uncleared landmine fields… not so much.
While many resorts and hotels have facilities catering for older kids, it can be tricky to find ones that provide for toddlers. It’s worth putting in a little research as more venues are realising that exhausted parents of babies and toddlers could use a break too and are offering services geared towards their needs – from equipment, special meals and babysitting services right through to designated toddler clubs… if that’s your thing.
Toddler on bored
Once you’ve found the right destination you can begin fretting about getting there. This is the trickiest part as even the most well-behaved toddler can struggle to sit still for extended periods. Long haul travel can quickly degenerate into hours of boredom interrupted only by moments of whining and fidgeting. Strapping them to their seat and gagging them with duct tape will likely be frowned upon by the authorities so you’re going to need to arm yourself with other toddler taming tools… or a taser.
The plane truth
Flying? Not wanting to sound all judgmental (which means I’m about to sound all judgmental) but seriously, parents who offer bags of sweets as mid-air bribes to their unruly offspring, are you NUTS? Shoving sugar down your kid’s neck is only going to make the sitting still thing less likely. And after your sugar-hyped spawn spirals out of giddy control it’s inevitable that a mighty crash will follow… followed by a meltdown. Call me crazy but this is something that, as a parent, I prefer to avoid. Especially at 30,000 feet whilst dodging the death stares of my fellow passengers. For your own sanity, not to mention that of your fellow passengers, don’t do it! There are plenty of tasty healthy, number-free treats you can try instead. End of rant!
The long and whining road
If you’re road-tripping with small people and their pea-sized bladders, don’t plan to get anywhere in a hurry. Your trip will take longer because you’ll need to stop – a lot. And that’s ok. Holidays aren’t about hurrying. Keep a bag of essentials on hand – wipes, empty plastic bags, first-aid kit, flannel, more wipes and a change of clothes. And, if you’re planning on renting a car at your destination, don’t forget to book an appropriate child restraint with your car rental company or you’ll be holidaying in the car park.
Before you reach for the iPad on a long haul trip give your tots a chance to learn to entertain themselves. Pop on a CD of their fave songs and they’ll happily sing away the k’s. Audio-books are also great. A goody bag filled with a bunch of small-scale toys and books is another lifesaver as is packing a few little gift wrapped surprises to bring out at peak boredom points, or as a reward for good behavior. If all else fails, you can always fall back on “The Quiet Game” where whoever can be the quiet the longest is the winner. Mine fall for that shit every time.
The scoop on poop
Toilet training is a fairly crap job no matter where you do it. It’s also pretty hard task for a little one to master. Add travel, with so many new distractions and you can expect more accidents! Ergo, you’ll need to use a little extra patience and be kind to your kids while they learn to love the lav.
If the whole toilet training shebang is new to your toddler, most experts agree that stopping temporarily is far less stressful for everyone involved. But, if you want to stick with your infant ablution program, invest in a travel potty and make sure they get used to it BEFORE you leave. Dress your child in easy to remove clothes (don’t forget a spare set) and pack several thousand wipes. Pull up training nappies are also handy. That way if your tot does fertilize their trousers in transit, it saves them from the kind of embarrassment which can cause setbacks.
All toddlers are curious and keen to explore, and new environments only create temptation so it’s essential to child proof hotel rooms. Try to book a room on a ground floor or with an adequately fenced balcony. If there is a balcony make sure you keep doors locked and move any furniture away from railings.
And be careful of staircases. This is how not to do it.
Keep hotel windows shut and use the deadbolt on external to avoid your toddler heading off on an adventure without you.
You should also keep in mind that local socket covers may not fit in international power points, so if you’d rather your littlies didn’t end up sporting a ‘fro, you pack heavy-duty tape to cover sockets.
Plan your days well and have a little consideration for your tiny travel companion. You might be keen to visit that priceless china museum but your busy toddler (and the neurotic curator) would most likely prefer you didn’t. You may also be shocked to discover that your toddler isn’t going to want to lay around a pool reading 50 Shades of Poorly Written Pap or chugging cocktails, though they’re almost certain to like the little umbrellas. Instead plan to wear them out at playgrounds and attractions so they’ll sleep well at night. Then, as long as your hotel has room service, you can suck back as many Pina Coladas as you want after they fall asleep… with vodka chasers. Or is that just me?