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!
Every Tuesday I’m posting my Toddler Travel Tips. This is the final installment in my three part series on creating a toddler-friendly itinerary. This week I’m focusing on how to get the most out of your day-to-day itinerary. In the past two weeks I’ve posted on how to plan toddler-friendly routes and toddler-friendly travel time-frames.
Planning your day-to-day itinerary
You can’t be on the go all day, every day. Think about what you can realistically achieve in one day. What would you do at home? Then factor in the time it takes to get everyone organized & out the door, use public transport and get lost trying to find that church you’re looking for. Spending an entire day out and about won’t suit most children. You might be able to do it once in a while but don’t make it a regular occurrence.
Prepare! Bring everything you could possibly need for the day’s outing. Snacks, water, something to entertain and something to soothe an upset child.
Pick and choose your activities carefully. Decide on the day what’s going to work for your child’s mood. If they’re already cranky, grumpy and feeling fragile – don’t push them. If they’re up early and itching to get out the door, make the most of it. Flexibility is key.
Research! Know what the eating, drinking and bathroom options are in the area you’re going to. Don’t head off for a day trip to a quiet beach without snacks or water only to find there’s not a single shop or restaurant nearby.
Prioritize. If you’ve got limited time, do the activity that’s most important to you first. If you’ve only got three days in Paris and you’re desperate to see The Louvre, do it first.
Don’t expect them to concentrate for too long. If you’re hitting museums and galleries, keep visits short. Depending on their interests and how interactive a museum is, you could get an hour or so of interest out of a toddler but not much more. Modern art and sculpture is infinitely more interesting for young eyes than the old masters. If you’re travelling as a pair, tag team and take turns at entertaining the kiddo while one parent enjoys exhibits.
Make the most of nap time. If (and it’s a big if) your kiddo will sleep in a stroller during the day, use that time to take a quiet walk through an art gallery. A midday movie is also a good place for a nap. Throw your child’s special blankie or snuggly in your day pack if they need it to get to sleep. Travelling makes parents tired too. Take a nap yourself. Snooze in a park or back at your hotel.
Meal times can be difficult – especially at the end of a busy day. Don’t under-estimate the time it takes to find a restaurant, decipher the menu options in a foreign language and wait for food. Sometimes it’s just not worth it, especially if you’re already strung out. Mix up your dining options and take the pressure off of the entire family. Eating cereal from a plastic bowl before you head out for the day, opting for a picnic lunch in the park or having fish & chips on the beach are all good alternatives to struggling through three restaurant meals a day.
Expect meltdowns…at the worst possible moment! When it’s least convenient for you, your child WILL lose their nut over waiting in line at an airport, when feeling overwhelmed on a crowded subway or when you’re enjoying a quiet museum and they’d rather be running through a fountain. Be prepared to abandon anything mid-activity. If something is really important to you, you can always come back an try it again later.
Make time for play. Build in time a playgrounds, amusement arcades or just time to run around some open, green space. Unused energy will make your toddler feel anxious and irritable.
Factor in some alone time. If you’re not travelling solo, make sure each parent gets some time to themselves. Read a book on the beach, get a massage or even just take an afternoon walk to the supermarket to get milk. Taking time to recharge your batteries will make you less likely to snap at the minor irritations of travelling with a toddler.
Enjoy the little moments. Travelling doesn’t have to be about seeing the grandest monument, the most scared temples or the World-renowned paintings. Take pleasure in feeding pigeons in an Italian piazza, watching street performers on the sidewalk in Las Vegas or eating ice cream out of a bread roll in Vietnam.
What do you think? Anything I’ve missed? Jump in and join the discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts!