The Ultimate 20 Tips for Travelling with Babies & Toddlers
One of my passions has always been travelling. I am thankful to have been able to do a lot of travelling before I had my children. Thankfully, now that I have my kids we’re still in a position to be able to take several trips around the world for various reasons – work, vacation or visiting family.
The first time I had ever taken a flight with any child was when my daughter was just 6 months old. We went to Toronto, Canada and I was by myself. I’ve had to travel on planes over 10 times in the last 3 years and many of those trips were by myself. I’d like to think I have a little bit of experience in travelling with a babies and toddlers, so I’ve made a list of things I think are really important to keep in mind when travelling with small kids or sheesh just kids in general. Here is my Ultimate Top 20 tips of travelling with babies and tollders.
Before you leave home PLEAAASSEEEEE…
- Don’t leave packing for the last minute: You’d think this is common sense but old habits can be hard to break? Before children were you a last minute packer like me? I could easily be awake and literally pack a few hours before my trip and subsequently I’d use the flight as a chance to SLEEP. Umm, that’s not a good idea now that you have kids – so don’t do it!
- Take your time: This is an extension from the above tip. Taking your time when packing for several people is really important. I used to be the woman who packed a few hours before flying, but now I’ve converted into the woman who packs about one and a half weeks before her trip. Taking my time now allows me to make sure I’m packing what we really need which helps minimize our luggage weight.
- Lists are your best friend: So even before you start packing, take some time and write out an extensive list of what you ALL will need. I mean everything down to underwear, socks, charger, jewelry & even toys. Run through your trip in your mind and write it all down. The good thing about a list is that it’s a great reference point that can be amended as needed. Once you’ve packed it, just tick it off and move onto the next item. You’ll feel such a sense of accomplishment when everything is ticked off.
- Pack smart: Where are you going? Have you checked the weather for the time that you’ll be away? Is it likely the weather will change? You don’t want to under pack but really think hard about what you’re packing. As I said in tip #2, if you’ve started packing early you’ll have the time to amend and make changes as you go along.
- Did you know this about baby formula and toddler milk?: Milk is considered a “liquid exemption” which means you can take it on board as long as you are traveling with the child (PLEASE check the amount that is permitted with your airline). The even better news this generally applies to formula, or juice, canned baby food. I have even been allowed to bring a flask of hot water on the plane (after it was checked of course). You will need to separate the liquid exemptions from the other things you’ve put in that annoying quart-size plastic bag. I suggest you separate everything already before you get to the airport. Pack all of your liquid baby things & your other liquids separately in 2 bags or put everything in close proximity so you minimize the amount of time you will spend sifting through it all at the airport. Also please remember, you MUST make a declaration that you have breast milk (or formula, etc.) at the security checkpoint once you’ve landed. I had to learn the hard way… I was kind of told off by a customs agent in Toronto. Oops.
- If you’re travelling alone – you need a letter: This is a really important one. So depending on where you’re travelling to, you’ll need an acknowledgement letter from the other parent of the child(ren) whether you are in a relationship or not. Also, you will need a separate letter per child if there is more than one parent. Basically, the letter needs to have the other parent’s name, address, contact number, your dates of travel, signature and a written acknowledgment stating that the other parent is aware that you’re travelling (to wherever). So, the first time I ever travelled I had this letter with me because I knew I needed it because of my work in Child Protection. Surprisingly, I was told a customs officer that I also needed to have a photocopied picture of my husband’s passport page as well. I asked him to call my husband if he was really concerned but he let us go through. So, I suggest you add that as well. Better safe than sorry.
- Invest in a good quality passport wallet: I didn’t know I needed one until I received one as a gift (Thanks to my Bestie). This has been the absolute best gift I’ve ever received as a traveler. I use it for my boarding pass, cards, change, pens, itinerary, and any other travel documents that I need to have handy. I can’t stress this enough but this is probably going to be one of your biggest Lifesavers. I also suggest that you get one with a zipper so it can close completely and to ensure that you won’t lose your documents. I also suggest you get a large one as it helps if you can fit your children’s passports inside as well.
- Check your passport’s expiration date: Again I had to learn this the hard way. Flashback to about 8 years ago. I got to the airport and guess whose passport had expired by just 3 days. Total oversight where I mixed up dates… Sigh! I got turned away but thankfully was able to renew it in time for another flight the very next day! Phew!
- Secure your strollers wheels: I repeat – make sure your wheels are secured on. An airport in Europe completely mishandled our luggage and lost a wheel from my buggy and another family’s. Believe me – you don’t want to arrive to your destination with one wheel missing and a tired/cranky 1 year old. I was not happy! But, thankfully they found my wheel or I’d have been is SERIOUS trouble.
- Can you check in online?: If so, DO IT!
- Be Comfy: Wear comfortable shoes and make sure your children wear comfortable shoes. Actually in addition to that, wear comfortable clothing. You really want to be as comfortable as possible in your travels for obvious reasons. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I see people taking their shoes off or changing because they want to feel comfortable on the plane. We all want our kids to look amazing when travelling but I’m sure you can be creative and figure out a cute outfit that’s comfortable as well.
Carry On & Nappy bag suggestions
- Pack sensibly: Try not to have too many bags. You don’t want to go on the plane with a purse, diaper bag, snack bag, toy bag, etc. Or maybe you do?
- Pack lots of different types of snacks: You never really know what’s going to happen when you’re in the airport. Lines are long, children are tired and children can get really hungry. As long as you have some great go to snacks that can help calm down, ease, or even soothe the kids, you are good to go and can have some breathing room! Also consider something to drink for the young ones. Caveat: Avoid things that are too sweet for obvious reasons.
- Pack spare clothes: Depending on where you’re traveling to, you need to think about different weather conditions. Layers are going to be your best friend when you travel just for the simple reason that you can adjust according to the temperature that surrounds you. In addition, if you’ve got small children you can almost be guaranteed that there will be some sort of accident at some point during your travels. It’s best to pack spare clothes to adjust for weather but also to be prepared for accidents.
- Try not to wear too much jewellery or accessories: Simply because once you get to airport security, detectors and CT scans you’ll have to remove everything anyway. You don’t want to get caught up taking a lot of time while taking your things off. You want to get through as quickly as possible.
- Entertainment is like gold: It’s GUARANTEEED that your child(ren) will get bored at some point. There’s no way around it. You have to be really creative when you’re packing entertainment for them. You want to choose things that can occupy as much time as possible – so have a think about things your child really likes and can spend a lot of time doing.
- Pack enough diapers & then pack extra: You don’t want to be caught in an airport with no more diapers. Arrgggggghhh! Soooo, on a trip to Switzerland I packed more than enough diapers for our return flight – or so I thought. The flight was delayed by around 5 hours and I had a very tired, hungry, cranky and bored 1 year old. Add a 3 hour flight and you can now see how low my diaper reserves became. And as always there has to be a big messy poop when you’re already stressed out –Right?? It’s like a universal rule or something. Anyway, she had 2 of them. So by the time we were on the plane, I had no more change of clothes and was on my very last diaper. Thank GOD we were ok but you can imagine the stress and anxiety I was dealing with that whole flight and then even more when we were going through customs. Once I got my checked luggage, I had to go straight to the washroom to change her and then we were off.
- Medicine is a good idea to have – just in case: It’s a great idea to pack some sort of pain relief both for yourself and your child(ren) because you don’t know how you or they will feel.
- Keep calm: Our kids pick up on stress and in turn it can affect their behavior.
- Ask for help: In my experience people usually seem to be really receptive to helping out when they see you need it. If you’re alone the flight staff can always be a great option. They have ALWAYS played with my daughter and even taken her if I needed to use the toilet.
- Think about your seating preference: If you’re nursing you may want to have a window seat to have a little bit of privacy and to allow your baby to feed without disturbances. Or, you may also want an isle seat as it allows you to get up as needed. I personally prefer isle seats to be honest. Also, some you may prefer to sit in the middle area of the plane that is generally reserved for familes but I personally don’t. I ALWAYS ask for seats at the very very back – the last row if possible. I don’t really like having to get up and walk through people constantly, or having to stand in lines in the isles with a restless child. Sitting in the back is a great place because it’s close to the washrooms and you can easily get up to use the toilet because you have closest access. But again, that’s my preference. Have a think about what works for you and your family.