Travelling with a toddler is different to travelling solo or even to travelling with a baby or an older child. No matter your experience level, you will find it more of a challenge. Your itinerary can make or break your journey. I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve made the mistakes. Through trial and error, patience and meltdowns, I’ve worked out how to plan the perfect toddler-friendly itinerary.
A little forward planning absolutely helps. This is where my Toddler Travel Tips come in!
Over the next three weeks, as part of Toddler Travel Tips Tuesday, I’ll be covering how to plan a toddler-friendly itinerary. I’ll cover how to plan a route, how to work out time-frames and how to manage your day-to-day itinerary.
Planning a Route
Don’t book too much in advance. Flexibility is key when travelling with a toddler. Unless you’re travelling indefinitely (lucky you!) you’ll know your start and end dates. Book your major flights, a couple nights accommodation in your first city and play the rest by ear. For example, for a month in Thailand book your flights in and out of Bangkok. arrange two nights in a hotel then adjust your itinerary as you go. You may think your kiddo would love two weeks at the beach but I can guarantee that if you book it and pay for it they’ll suddenly decide they hate the sand and scream every time you go for a swim! (I know this from personal experience!)
The exception to the flexibility rule is if you’re taking a long weekend away or a short one or two week vacation. In this case, it’s best to book hotels and flights in advance. You don’t want to stress about doing it on the road.
Pick flights (trains and buses) based on the time that suits. Travel when it’s nap time for short journeys during the day. Attack longer journeys overnight. Get the bulk of a flight or train ride out of the way when your child is sleeping. Check out my tips on flying with toddlers for more helpful hints.
Know your limits – when it comes to how long you can spend on a bus or train or strapped into a car seat. Any journey over three hours becomes a struggle. Three hours is the perfect journey time for a toddler – enough time to stare out the window, eat some snacks, play peekaboo with other passengers and take a nap. Anything beyond that and we’re in for tears, frustration, wet nappies (diapers) and boredom.
Don’t plan back-to-back travel days. Days when you physically travel are the hardest. It takes extra energy on the part of the parent to get packed up, organized and out the door. Being constantly conscious of your bags and your child, keeping an eye on the clock and an ear out for any announcements is draining. Factor in needing to be “on”, entertaining your little one and keeping them happy and quiet. Give yourself a quiet morning or day following any physical travel.
Research every option and have a back-up plan. Read the relevant Lonely Planet book cover to cover, jump onto online Forums or read blogs of other travelling families. Know as much as you can about the city, region or country you’re going to. If the weather is looking bad for the next week at the beach, pick another stretch of coast or head to a city with plenty of indoor activities. If your tot starts to finds big cities noisy and overwhelming, know that you can head to the countryside. If you’re exhausted after a few weeks on the road know where you can rent an apartment with access to childcare. Can’t handle another bus ride? You’ll know where the airports are and roughly how much a flight will cost.
Consider and manage your own stress levels. If you’re the trip planner, the pressure is on you to ensure everyone has a good time. Don’t take it to heart if your child or family doesn’t enjoy something you’ve chosen to do. Let it go and move on.