15 Tips for Traveling Internationally with a Toddler
We packed up (and when I say packed up, I mean we PACKKKKED UP-like OVER packed but have you ever had to buy diapers or diaper cream in another country-that shit is expensive) and headed to the beach…all four of us. Prior to that, we had never traveled with a toddler. Mallory was 5 or 6 when we first traveled out of the country with her so this whole trip was a learning experience for us. You can get advice from others who have gone before you, but until you experience it yourself, it’s just not the same. I try my best to learn from other’s experience and often keep that in the back of my mind so I thought I would share the wealth with you fellow Mama’s who will be traveling internationally (or domestically) with a toddler.
I’m not even going to lie, I was so apprehensive as the time was approaching for this trip. I wasn’t sure how he was going to do with the flight, the waiting at the airport, the interrupted sleep schedule or the fact that he knows what NO means but he doesn’t give a crap and runs off in every direction but the one you want him to go in…..Mom’s do you feel me?!
Traveling with a Toddler
Stay at a hotel the night before your flight! We live over an hour (sometimes closer to two depending on the time of the day) from the closest international airport. Which means that when we take early flights, it means REALLY early mornings for us. This is a double edge sword because one one hand you want to leave early to take advantage of having lots of time at your destination on the first day but on the other hand it means that your child’s schedule is going to get ALLLL jacked up. One top of leaving our home at 2 or 3 in the morning, you have to find parking when you get there, wait for the shuttle, lug your bags (and your child) onto a shuttle, etc., all with a few hours of sleep and a screaming child. This year we did things a little differently. We found that most hotels that are near the airport provide free parking for up to 2 weeks if you stay there the night before. Typically we can spend anywhere from $80-100 for a week of parking at the airport depending on what service we use but for roughly the same price you can find a hotel within minutes of the airport that will shuttle you for free right to your gate, let you park for up to 2 weeks for free AND provide you with free breakfast. This is what we plan to do going forward for early morning flights. More sleep, less hassle, free breakfast and free parking. Winning!
Lap child versus having their own seat. While it’s awesome not having to pay for a seat for a child who is under 2, having them on your lap for hours is sometimes not ideal. Here’s what we learned…if you ask if your flight is full they will often try to get you an open seat so that they can sit in their own seat. This is exactly what we did. When we checked in to check out baggage, I asked the airline employee if we had a full flight and she said no. I then asked if we could get an empty seat for our lap rider and they were happy to help with that. Just be forewarned, if the flight is full, you’ll have a lap rider no matter what.
Take an activity for each 15 minutes you are on the plane. For example, if you are traveling for 3 hours, take 12 different activities for them to do during the flight-even if you are banking of them sleeping some of the time. This is my general rule because their schedule will be interrupted and everything around them is new that they perk right up and you’ll be wishing you would have brought those activities. Here are a few of my favorite things to do that kept him busy, were easy to pack and didn’t take up much space.
Magnetic Toys so that they don’t fall on the floor as easily!
Triangle Crayons that don’t roll onto the floor as easy!
Reusable Stickers: This kept him busy for a longer time than I had anticipated!
Magnetic Book with attachable string again so it doesn’t fall on the floor!
Wiki Sticks: these are genius wax sticks that can be molded into all kinds of things. As a matter of fact, these are so great that we ordered lots of them for the “busy bag” at restaurants!
Toddler Headphones: so that they can hear their electronics without annoying everyone around them. haha!
Prior to leaving for our flight, I had noticed that his nose was running and he was tugging at his ears so I made him a doctors appointment just to make sure he wasn’t coming down with something AND to make sure he didn’t have any type of congestion or infections going on. Turns out, he was getting some of his teeth coming thru but I’m so glad I made that appointment for peace of mind because the month prior, I had a stuffy nose and flew to florida and thought my eardrums were going to pop out of my head. I wanted to be sure that the same thing wasn’t going to happen for little guy because not only would I feel awful, everyone around me would be giving us dirty looks! haha! He got the clear but I could tell his ears were feeling funny because of the pressure so we kept looking at him and pretending to yawn which made him yawn. Problem solved! You can also pack candy for them to suck on (age appropriate obviously), have them drink from their bottle/sippy cup to drink from during take off and landing.
Let’s talk snacks + drinks. Depending on your child’s age, the type of airline you’re flying thru, the length of your flight you will want to pack LOTS of snacks. In our case, we were flying with a cheaper airline that charged extra for EVERYTHING. Water was provided for free but snacks, soda, etc, were all additional….and expensive. Levi loves milk but we knew that after so long in his sippy cup it would get warm and go bad…so after we got thru security, we filled up an empty water bottle we brought and used that along with the ice that the airline provided and the flavoring that you put into your drink to make him something to drink. Even though the flight attendants give you water, we chose to fill up the bottle because they only come thru the cabin every so often and when they do, they typically give you smaller amounts and we knew that we would need more. The drink flavor worked like a charm during the flight but at night he still wanted his milk….which brings me to my next point.
Toddler ground transportation. Think about whether you want to take a car seat or not. We chose NOT to (go ahead and Mom shame me!) because it was just another thing to pack but we did make sure to bring an umbrella stroller and the red wagon which ended up being a life saver! I wrote all about it on this post, but in my opinion, that red wagon really made all the difference for us when it came to traveling with a toddler. He was able to nap in it, I could lay him down to change diapers, we could carry everything around with us and he enjoyed riding in it because he felt like a “big boy”. It was a life saver! And yes, we could gate check it just like a stroller.
RELATED: Wagon at the Beach
Be prepared for your stroller/wagon to NOT be there when arrive at your destination, especially if it’s an international flight. I know some of the airports are different, but they alerted us that even if we gate checked it, that it had to go thru customs before we could get it back. SO….we had to carry him thru customs before getting back the stroller and the wagon. Luckily customs didn’t take a long time when we arrived we were the only plane that landed at that time but I could see how shit could have hit the fan quickly if it had. Typically with domestic flights, you can gate check your items and then they will be waiting for you there when you get off the plane…it wasn’t the case this time around. Just be prepared for that incase it’s the same for you.
Confirm there is milk for your child! This seems really silly but in our case we were staying on an all inclusive resort which means everything is included…but do you know how hard it is to find milk when the restaurants are close for the evening? Luckily for us, I had confirmed with our travel agent and then with one of the managers at the hotel ahead of time. During the day, it wasn’t a problem, we would just to go the bar (yes to the barn with a sippy cup! HAHA) or the restaurants and they would fill it up for you, but at night the process was a bit different-they would give us a carton of milk. We had to go to the one bar on the resort that was open 24 hours and they would send us on your way with a carton of milk for the night and morning. Where ever your destination is, make sure you know before going, it will save you LOTS of frustration. In some cases, this might not even be an issue.
Crib for your hotel room. I also had to confirm this before traveling. Most hotels/resorts will provide a pack and play or a crib for your room you just need to make sure you reserve it ahead of time. Typically, they don’t have enough for every single room so if there are lots of families staying at the resort who need one, they will probably run out leaving you SOL. When booking your room, specify you will need one so the hotel has adequate time to get you one. In our case, even thought we did, we still had to wait several hours to get one into the room which was a bit frustration because at that point, it was WAYYYY pack nap time, an interrupted schedule in a new place, he was getting cranky. Eventually they brought it and all was good in the world! Also…bring your own crib sheets, they only have top sheets and as you can see from him moving around in the middle of the night, they come off. I scrubbed that thing down before hand JUUUUST incase!
Kids Clubs at your resort/destination. Most resorts have a club where you can take your children for a few hours, sign them in and then pick them up a few hours later. It gives Mom and Dad a little bit of a break and the kids are able to play with other kids under supervision by licensed staff. I know not everyone is comfortable with this option but it’s something that Mallory LOVED when she was younger. Granted, she was closer to 5 or 6 years old but most kids clubs don’t allow children below the age of 4 anyways….or they must be potty trained as they won’t change diapers. Here’s a trick, even if your child isn’t old enough to say at the kids club, it usually had a play ground and lots of activities that are geared towards the kids…you can go in and let your child play, you just have to stay. This is great if you want them to be able to run/climb or just play with new toys. It’s usually fenced in so you can let them run and get out all of their energy before nap time! haha!
Pack your own kid floats…but more importantly, pack your own pump to blow up the floats. Trust me, you’ll thank me later ESPECIALLY if you bring more than one (which I suggest) so that if they get a hole in it you just move on to the next instead of messing with the patches that never seem to work anyways. Levi fell asleep inside of on of his floats at the pool one afternoon, so we threw a towel over him to protect him from the sun-it worked like a charm!
One of the easiest ways to keep them occupied at the ocean if they are a little apprehensive about the waves, is to make them their own little swimming hole. He played in there for quite some time which means Mom and Dad didn’t have to chase him down the beach. One of the other little tricks me had up our sleeves was to bring “treasures” which we buried around us in the sand. Once we showed him how to dig to find them, we walked around searching for treasures for quite a while as well. We just bought those cheap novelty gold coins to take with us. Just remember how many you buried so you aren’t the a-hole who leaves them there to wash up into the water.
Take busy bags for the restaurants. This is something I do anyways back home. We keep a little bag in the car with activities for him to do at the restaurants where the wait is longer or if we want to just enjoy our meal in peace! haha! Some of the stuff is the same as what I brought for activities on the plane. I also brought along his kid iPad and loaded it with games/videos he could watch without wifi. That is the key…some of the wifi is very spotty or non-existent at the resorts so making sure they can access their favorite games and videos without it is KEY. Speaking of restaurants and being able to eat with peace….
High chairs/booster seats in restaurants: in our particular case, I personally felt that the resort did not have adequate amounts of high chairs/booster seats. There were several times where they would sit us at the table while they tried to find one for 20-30 minutes. There’s me trying to wrangle a kid who is hungry on my lap, while trying to order my meal from the menu while trying to keep him from grabbing the plates, silverware or the fancy wine glasses they sit in front of you. I may have said a few swear words under my breath. There were a few times they had to run to another restaurant on the other side of the resort to get another high chair for us. It was a bit frustrating at times, but the staff was always super friendly and I know it wasn’t their fault. I wish I would have known to ask this ahead of time but who would have thought. The next trip it shouldn’t be an issue because he may not be in one by then but if I knew that sometimes “family friendly” resort didn’t always mean “family friendly” restaurants! haha.
Pack EXTRA essentials even if you have to pay for extra baggage fees. In most cases I would say, eh, I’ll just buy it when I get there, but unless you want to sell your first born, take it with you! Diapers, (swim diapers), wipes, rash cream, tylenol or teething gels, baby sunscreen etc…you get the idea. Even feminine products because that shit is expensive on the resort. For us an additional checked bag was $25 which was WELL worth it because a tube of 4 oz sunscreen there was $18 US dollars….diapers and other children items were upwards of $30-40 per pack.
And lastly…just go with the flow. Know going into it that you can expect some hiccups since it’s a new environment, and their schedules will be a little messed up. After the first day for us it seemed to get back a little more to what I’d like to call normal but even so, we just went with it! We had a great time and I hope you do too! Happy Travels!
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