How Do I Travel With a Toddler?!

by Anna

Penelope, Parker and Baby

I’ve been pondering holidays a lot recently, for a few reasons

Firstly, it’s the start of the work holiday year and so I need to plan to use my days off well and make sure we get enough breaks. I didn’t take enough time off last year, only being at work 4 days a week made me think I didn’t need to take ‘proper’ leave too. Secondly, we don’t have much planned and I like having lovely things to look forward to. And thirdly because I’m trying to work out what sort of holiday will suit us best with a toddler in tow…

I love to travel. And I think it is important to use travel with a youngster, to show the new things, hear new languages, try new foods, learn about different cultures and history and understand about their place in the world. When Little B was immobile, jumping on a plane was so simple. He drunk his milk, he slept, he gurgled happily and he didn’t make much noise at all. Today, he’s in constant motion and if he’s not happy then everyone will know about it! For this reason, the kind of travel we are going to do this year has changed.



We’ll be staying closer to home

I am fairly certain I’m not the first toddler mum to realise that going away with your own car full to the roof is definitely the easiest approach. And thankfully Mr P and I have always been big fans of the staycation too! We can travel when we know he will sleep. We can take all his toys. We can take his pushchair. We don’t have to worry about the quality and state of any hired car seat with a hire car. We know our way around a kids menu or the supermarket and can keep him easily fed and watered. We can go away and still have the beauty of space to roam by hiring a cottage.



The world will still be out there in a few years and I have plenty of time to show it to him as he grows up. Although I do wonder whether he will want to travel in the same way as us. The environment and climate debate and action is something he will grow up with, especially with young people taking a lead on it. It’s very different to how we, and many people, have approached travel and life previously.

We are however still going to fly short-haul a couple of times. In May we have a wedding in Scotland and in June we are going to Greece. I’m already wondering how I keep him quiet and amused on just a 60-minute flight up to Scotland… It could be a world of pain for us and all the other passengers. Goodness knows what 3 and a bit hours to Greece will be like!! I’ll be reading all the blogs already written about flying with toddlers to work out how we can get through the flight in the least stressful way.

A wise colleague did give me some advice that they learned the hard way. Their little ones don’t really watch TV or play with tablets. When my colleague extravagantly presented his two-year-old with an iPad to watch videos and play games on for a long flight, it was refused as it wasn’t something the little one was familiar with. So whilst I don’t use the TV or tablet much at all with the little one, I can definitely see the benefit of having a little screentime now and then to be familiar with it because I feel sure that it will be our ‘get out of jail’ approach to flying… There’s only so much time you can leave a toddler to amuse the cabin crew (they were like babysitters on our long haul flight last year)!

I can’t write advice about travelling with a toddler, even though I’m a seasoned traveller. It’s a strange situation to be in, not knowing how to do a life passion well anymore. I’d love to know your thoughts on these things that I’m constantly pondering:


Stay in a spacious self-catering cottage driving distance from home or find an all-inclusive hotel with a kids club that’s truly family-friendly?

We’ve done both and enjoyed both equally and so I’m totally divided on what is easier and more relaxing. With a hotel it is easy – food is made, there are child facilities, there’s plenty to do for everyone. But, there’s much less private space as a family even if you stay in a suite or adjoining rooms. Having to creep around your room at nap time and in the evening and be stuck there is restrictive. Having to share a room with a baby that’s normally in its own space is also a shock for all! In a cottage or apartment there is oodles of space, but of course, no kids club and so no downtime for the adults!



Travel when the little one should be sleeping or travel in the daytime?

It normally works to travel in the car at night. Until it doesn’t of course, and then everyone gets a headache and the travel is torture, for the driver, the passenger, and the toddler that just wants to sleep in his bed. But travel in the day risks a nap at the wrong time or a very grumpy little one that doesn’t want to be strapped into his seat… I don’t think you can predict it on a flight as airport time and flying time and all the cabin announcements generally seem to come at the wrong time!


A short trip or a longer trip?

Our little one loves his own cot and does for the most part sleep very well. Travel cots and hotel cots are always smaller and less comfortable which puts me off staying away for a long time. Which is good as Mr P and I have always been fans of little and often for our trips… Although that said, the little one gets used to new conditions pretty quickly really and it does everyone good to be away long enough to get into the swing of the holiday! I guess actually, when he’s two we won’t be far off using bed bumpers when we go away, and I am sure that will help him sleep – although of course it also allows him to explore more too!


Travel short haul or long haul?

Once you’ve prepared to fly abroad and done and paid for all that goes with it, you may as well go the whole hog and do a long flight right? I am undecided. We flew to Dubai at six months and it was a walk in the park. Flying first class helped, but even so, he was easy – he slept, played and ate/drunk. We all did. But now I do wonder how I would entertain a toddler for 7 hours in a daytime flight or calm him if he couldn’t sleep at night… Plane walls close in and as good as the experiences we have had so far are, the easier route seems to be taking shorter flights!



How many toys to take?

The million-dollar question!! We always travel with far too many, taking as many as I can fit in a toy box or cabin baggage. And it turns out that his favourite toys at home are normally ignored when we are away. Instead playing with aeroplane seat controls, kitchen utensils or door handles instead…


Use the hotel baby listening service or not?

And if the last one was hard, this is harder! Should we or shouldn’t we leave our baby in a hotel room with just a wall-mounted sensor listening to him and a little machine in our hand that will vibrate if there is any disturbance in the room? We did it once when we were in Cornwall, but the restaurant was only 20 paces from our room and our WiFi monitor worked too – so we were as close to him as we were at home. But did I relax, not quite. Everyone else seemed to be doing it but I just can’t decide if we should!

Those are my quandaries. What do you think? What advice do you have for us please send help!


Anna x