I’ve been around.
I’ve eaten kangaroo steak in Australia, escargot in Paris, sulfurous black eggs in Japan, and skewered duck tongue in Taiwan. Travel, particularly international travel, is far and away one of the best ways to spend your money. Engulf yourself in new cultures and see the world through a whole new lens. And this doesn’t have to change when you have a kid.
In her comparatively short life, my two-year-old daughter has been to Hawaii, to Montreal, and most recently to Los Cabos, Mexico. Every time has been a little different, not only because of the destination, but also because she’s growing up. She’s a rambunctious little toddler and it can be hard for us to keep up.
Through our experience traveling with Addie, we’ve gleaned a few key insights into better toddler travel. And when I say “better,” I mean for the sake of keeping us sane (and having a good time).
Pack Plenty of Snacks
When you travel with a baby, airlines typically make certain accommodations about bringing milk and bottles and such. When your little one is a little bigger, things change. She will get restless during the flight. And she’ll want snacks.
Airlines aren’t so great with in-flight meals anymore, and even when they are, you should come prepared. Bring some familiar (and dry!) snacks that she can enjoy as finger food. I’d also recommend limiting sweets, as you don’t want a toddler on a sugar rush wreaking havoc on your fellow passengers.
Bring a Lightweight Umbrella Stroller
For the most part, our daughter has outgrown her stroller. That’s when we’re in town. Toddler travel is a different story. Since you can gate-check the stroller just before you board the plane, it can prove invaluable during long lines at the airport. And I don’t know about you, but we do a lot of walking when we travel. As energetic as she might be, she does get tired and a stroller is great for afternoon naps while the adults continue taking in the sights and sounds.
Seek Car-Free Open Spaces
Speaking of burning energy, one of the best toddler travel tips I can give is to seek out car free, wide open spaces ahead of time. There was a playground near our hotel in San Jose del Cabo and that’s a large public square you see in the photo above. Yes, she was dancing.
Toddlers like to run around, so you want to provide an environment where they can do so safely. Public parks are great for this.
Get Offline Google Maps
Modern technology has made things a lot easier for a lot of people. There are all sorts of useful travel apps out there and one of the best is Google Maps. Unfortunately, by default, you need an active Internet connection for Google Maps to work.
Open the Google Maps app on your phone (while you’re online), search for your destination, tap the name of the place at the bottom of the screen, and hit the “download” button. You can then adjust the area on the map that you wish to download; it’ll show the estimated amount of data needed.
Getting lost is bad enough. Getting lost with a cranky toddler is infinitely worse.
Download Netflix Offline Shows Too
Speaking of offline content, you can download many of your kid’s favorite Netflix shows and movies for offline viewing too. Yes, I know all about the general recommendations about screen time and how you might feel like a terrible parent, but for the sake of everyone’s sanity, it’s okay to bend the rules a little while on vacation.
Just don’t bust out the tablet the moment you get seated on the plane. Offline Netflix is simply a tool in your arsenal and it should be one wielded responsibly and with discretion.
While online, open your Netflix app, navigate to the program of choice, and see if the “download” button appears. You’ll need to nab each episode separately. Tap and enjoy (later). Be aware that these downloads do “expire” and the time period varies between shows.
Choose Appropriate Activities
When we went to Maui as a couple, we went snorkeling and ziplining. When we went to Honolulu with Addie a few years later, we did neither of those things. We barely even visited the beach, because she found it terrifying at the time.
This toddler travel tip may sound obvious enough, but you really do need to shift your mindset when you’re on holiday with a little one. Fine dining might not be off the white tablecloth-covered table, but it is a calculated risk. You might also spend more time in your hotel room than you would otherwise. And that’s okay.
Be Patient and Have Fun!
This almost sounds like advice for parenting in general, don’t you think? Kids have this unfortunate habit of frustrating us, testing the limits of our tolerance. Traveling with a toddler can be stressful, from navigating airport security lines to frantically seeking a public restroom for a kid with a full bladder that’s about to burst. Toddler travel can also be a lot of fun.
Remember when Aladdin told Jasmine he could show her the world? Take on the same perspective with your precious little rugrat and you’ll have a shining, shimmering, splendid time together indeed. Where to next?