Tried and tested tips for travelling with toddlers

toddlers on tour

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 a little like herding cats. 

Travelling with toddlers comes with its challenges but after many, many attempts we’ve finally gotten it down to as fine an art as our recalcitrant tots will allow. While zen Raffles has always been a superstar traveller, rambunctious Sugarpuff is a little more… how do I put this delicately? Well… 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 travelling with toddlers, most of which don’t even require swearing!

Top Tips for Travelling with Toddlers

You’re going where?

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. Flying long haul with a toddler can quickly degenerate into hours of boredom interrupted only by moments of whining and fidgeting, if you are unprepared. 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.

Sweet Escape

flying with kids

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? This is not the path to a sweet escape. Holidays treats are a right of passage, just NOT! ON! THE! PLANE! 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, give them an apple or any one of the tasty, healthy, number-free treats available. 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. When travelling with toddlers your trip will take exponentially 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 behaviour. 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 fertilise their trousers in transit, it saves them from the kind of embarrassment which can cause major setbacks.

Room service

All toddlers are curious and keen to explore, and new environments only create temptation so it’s essential to child proof hotel rooms. When travelling with toddlers, 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.

Top tips for travelling with toddlers

Keep hotel windows shut and use the deadbolt on external to avoid your toddler heading off on an adventure without you.

Toddler by porthole of cruise ship

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, pack heavy-duty tape to cover sockets.

kid in an oversize hotel robe. Tips for travelling with toddlers

Cunning Plans

Plan your days well and have a little consideration for your tiny travel companion. You need want to think about travel from their perspective. While you might be keen to visit that priceless china museum, your busy toddler (and the museum 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?

toddler pushing her big brother in pram

21 Comments on Tried and tested tips for travelling with toddlers

  1. laurasmess
    October 15, 2013 at 10:13 am (11 years ago)

    Hahaaa! This post made me laugh, nod my head and smile for its entirety. We don’t have children of our own yet but I’ve taken the nieces, nephew and my friend’s kids around the place often enough to realize that traveling with children (of any age) is fantastically difficult. Great strategies mentioned in this post. I’m bookmarking it! Lovely pictures too xx

      October 16, 2013 at 7:18 am (11 years ago)

      Thanks. It is challenging but eminently rewarding and so much fun x

  2. Lauren
    October 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm (11 years ago)

    Great tidbits – I especially like the bit about potty training – we’ve had more than one memorable poop incident on the road.

    While I totally get the intuitive connection behind the no-sugar on flight rant – I’ve got to say that a carefully timed sweet while aboard our many 12 hour flights has been a much needed pacifier. Now, this TOTALLY depends on your kids – mine happen to be such that sugar doesn’t make them bat shit crazy, nor do they get it very often, so it’s a pretty serious weapon.


      October 16, 2013 at 7:24 am (11 years ago)

      I concur Lauren, it does depend on the kids and where they rate on the sugar/batshit crazy scale. You are lucky and I think the odd small treat isn’t go to hurt most kids. It’s those folk who stuff bags of lollies down their kids necks from airport to arrival (and I’ve seen it many times) whose journeys end in tears 🙂

      October 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm (11 years ago)

      That’s so kind. Thank you 🙂

  3. Renee
    October 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm (11 years ago)

    Lol. Oh God. We haven’t been brave enough to travel with kids yet, although we’re thinking of heading away to NZ for easter with our three and one year old. I’ll be reading this post again in preparation!

      October 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm (11 years ago)

      It’s doable. just be prepared. And pack the duct tape 😉

  4. mummywifeme
    October 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm (11 years ago)

    Lol. Oh God, we haven’t travelled with our kids yet, although we are thinking of going to NZ next year with our one and three year olds. Will be sure to read this post again before then in preparation!

      October 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm (11 years ago)

      You’ll have a ball! Travelling with kids is challenging but has it’s own rewards. We wouldn’t do it so often otherwise 🙂

  5. Stephanie Jefferson
    October 18, 2013 at 10:45 pm (11 years ago)

    Love the bit about fertilising trousers! We are in the throes of toilet training, I shudder to imagine if we had to travel at this time! Thankfully nothing planned till mid next year.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm (11 years ago)

      We’ve toilet trained on planes, trains and in automobiles and it’s a challenge but I figure it kinda sucks wherever you do it, so what the hey. Good luck with the toilet training 🙂

  6. Cooker and a Looker
    October 19, 2013 at 8:49 am (11 years ago)

    You’re hilarious! Love the duct tape and rubber band tips – I’ll definitely add these to the arsenal. Thanks x

      October 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm (11 years ago)

      Aww thanks honey. Don’t leave home without ’em I say.

  7. Bonnie Frank
    October 20, 2013 at 3:28 am (11 years ago)

    You have some wonderful pieces of advice and the photo of your little one lying on the stairs is great! I really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

  8. Have a laugh on me
    October 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm (11 years ago)

    It’s soooo not just you eg sucking back drinkies! I had a few LOL moments, the stairs, the robe, oh the adventures you and your little ones have been on! You really need to be thinking about writing a book you know – I’d read it, you have a way to make things interesting, funny and informative!!!!!!!! xx

      October 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm (11 years ago)

      Thanks Em, that means a lot coming from someone whose writing I love so much. 🙂

  9. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    October 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm (11 years ago)

    Great tips! I guess some kids are naturals with travelling while some less so. I’d love to see some video of Sugarpuff doing her thing. She sounds hilarious! 😀

  10. potty training
    February 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm (10 years ago)

    If you’re packing for a family trip bring along
    your detergent. Potty training your little one at a particular time
    regularly and staying consistent is extremely important.
    Buy special underpants in your child’s favorite
    character. Constant gentle reinforcement of the idea that the potty has
    to be used every time will help immeasurably in
    accelerating the learning.


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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