Are you terrified to travel with your toddler? Good. In all honesty, you probably should be. Navigating through security check-points, the barrage of snacks-requests at the most inopportune times, air pressure changes on teeny tiny ears … the list goes on. Oh, and who thought “pre-boarding” was a good idea? Cramming yourselves on a plane with immature wild animals for an extra 20 minutes is actually the worst idea ever. My husband and I just survived a 16-hour travel day from British Columbia to Central Mexico with two toddlers. A 3:25am start allowed plenty of time for crazy-making, and let me tell you….we made a whole lot of crazy this trip.
A few precious memories were made, like when my oldest daughter vomited all over me on the descent (sadly retired my brand new Aritzia cardigan) and then later peed on me through her pull-ups during her layover nap. Or when my husband made a huge mistake by offering our daughter her stuffy at the wrong time. Thrashing. Screaming. Drinks everywhere. Boiling water on his crotch, along with his coffee, ice water, and kids’ juice. Wtf were we thinking ordering a million drinks? Sigh.
For many of us, travelling is almost always worth it no matter how hard it gets. And while the journey can be rough, there are things that can make it a whole lot easier for you and your little ones next time you take off.
Tips for Travelling with Toddlers
- Snacks. This is first up because this will literally break you if you don’t get it right. Throw the rules out the door and stock up on what your kids love, because let’s be honest, food is serious business. I’m talking about the real goods, like graham crackers, fruit snacks, and goldfish. Splurge on Baby Bell if you have to. Toddlers are serious about snacks so you should be too. Oh, and don’t rely on layovers to fuel up or you will inevitably be disappointed.
- Frozen. My daughter watched it twice, and for our entertainment, burst out in song with her broken-toddler-English version of Let It Go. We were so prepared with coloring supplies, puzzles, stickers, blah blah blah. But honestly, giving myself permission to relax and let the kids zone-out with their favourite flick was so helpful. Give yourself a break.
- Gravol. A couple years ago we gave our oldest a Gravol and then sheepishly relaxed during the most peaceful flight ever while she slept. I remember the flight attendant commenting on how easy she was to travel with and my husband and I looked at each other with shame, as if we had drugged our child. After this last episode of her getting sick on the flight, the guilt is gone and I will forever offer those delicious little treats. Do what feels right.
- Rum. Take all my money for delicious adult drinks. Just one. Or maybe two. On our last leg to Mexico I sent a little bottle up to my husband a few rows ahead of me after noticing he ordered a boring diet coke, sin alcohol. I even felt a little sassy doing it, as if sent a drink to a babe on the other side of the bar. Whatever. We don’t get out much.
- Pull-ups. If there is anything that you can remove from your pile of stress on travel days, do it! For us, slapping on a pair of pull-ups was a no-brainer. Potty training has been a success for far, but sleep peeps is still a challenge. Just let this one go for a day.
- Layovers. People would gasp when we told them were taking three flights from Canada to Mexico. But in our experience, layovers were a gift. First of all, allowing a few layovers saved us some cash on the flight. Second, they were natural breaks for the kids to run around and stretch their legs. Toddlers can have a riot in airports! Especially when there are pigeons flying around inside (wtf LAX?). Use the time to burn energy and have some fun.
- Give less fucks. Worrying about other’s judgment is a total waste of energy, especially when you are under stress. You have to do what works for you and your family. Confession: sometimes I feel embarrassed when my 3 year old uses her soother in public. I decided this trip to throw ”soothers are for sleeping” out the window and let the girl be comforted. So liberating for us all. Allow yourself to comfort your kids in whatever way works best, and judgy-mcjudgers can pound sand (What does that even mean?)
- Surrender. This is my favourite word for all of life. And mostly for parenting. It’s all about letting go and accepting the way things are going. Of course you are going to try to make the best of your day, but realistically, there will be challenges. Many, many challenges. Just breathe, surrender, and trust that it will end soon. Doesn’t it always?
When we travel with little ones, we are forced to be in the moment, and get on with it when shit hits the fan. You literally have no time to dwell on hiccups. And, I bet you that most of those things will make you smile as you remember them later on. Maybe see if you can laugh as they happen.
Author: Kate Butler
Kate Butler is a writer, a wanderer, a digital nomad. A mother of two, lover to one, and dedicated to living an inspired, colourful life. She co-authors Flipping Moons and has an online therapy practice, LiveLight Counselling.