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.

 

 

Keep an eye out for next week’s post. In part two of this series I’ll cover how to work out time-frames for your itinerary when travelling with a toddler.

 

 

If you’ve got any feedback about my tips or would like to ask a question, fire away in the comment section below!

 

 

 

Bethaney Davies
A traveller for over ten years, Bethaney started blogging here on Flashpacker Family in early 2012. She founded the site to encourage and inspire travel and travel with small children and to share her own stories from the road.
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Showing 4 comments
  • Imogen
    Reply

    Great blog. I’m a Kiwi too, who never felt at home there so I know the feeling!

    We love travelling with our little boy and I’m considering taking the night bus with him from Amsterdam to Berlin. It will be just me and him as his dad won’t be able to get the time off work.

    Have you taken an overnight bus with your toddler? To me it seems like a great idea – he slept beautifully on a night train on my lap so having his own seat on a night bus should be a piece of cake – but people I talk to are horrified.

    Any thoughts well appreciated!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Hi Imogen! Great to connect with another travelling Kiwi Mom. Are you just on holiday in Europe, do your live there or are you a permanent traveller? We always try to go for night travel for trips more than four hours and, although we haven’t done a bus yet, I would totally go for that option. I say give it a go. The worse that can happen is neither of you get a good night’s sleep and you lose a day in Berlin while you catch up on sleep. Let know how you get on. 🙂

      • Imogen
        Reply

        Been living here for a while, after a roundabout extended travel with my daughter. Was snagged by a Dutchie (curse those tall good-looking men!) and am now in Holland with the whole family.

        Thanks for the positivity on the bus trip. It seemed like a fun thing to do so when I heard all the shock-horror I was wondering what I was missing 🙂

        • Bethaney Davies
          Reply

          Oh I don’t think you were missing anything! People who don’t travel with their children can really underestimate what a child can manage on the road as well as how good it is for them to learn through travel. Just think about the patience and sense of adventure your little one will gain from such a journey!

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