I count my blessings that I have been able to travel with my daughter, NM, who is now two and a third. I loved every anxious moment of travelling and it has been worth every moment. I hope to make you a little less anxious if you are reading this by providing tips based upon my experience.
I have reiterated some of the points from my post about travelling with a baby younger than 8 months which can be found here. Many points still apply. With a mobile baby or toddler the difference lies in food and entertainment options.
Travelling with older babies and toddlers:
- Invest in a good and easy to use baby/toddler carrier. This is the best way to board the plane and keep your hands free. Also helps to get through the airport without worrying about carrying a baby on one hip and dropping your carry on luggage. My daughter was happy to go in the carrier up until about 18 months on my back. She made a fuss when she was a bit older though. Each child differs. Hands free is key. I used the Stokke baby carrier which is a little more complicated but worked well once I got the hang of it and allows you to carry a toddler up until 20 kgs (don’t quote me on this) on your back.
- A back pack is an easier to carry item than a handbag or wheeled bag. I’ve tried using all three options and the backpack was easiest except when holding her. If you opt for a carrier and your baby/toddler happily travels in it on your back then go for the wheeled bag.
- A stroller is a personal choice. For our long haul travels, and here I mean a total of 23 hours, I invested in a Baby Zen Yoyo. It is a smaller stroller option and folds so incredibly easily and is compact. You can unfold one handed which is great when travelling as a solo parent. In my opinion if you can leave the stroller at home the baby carrier works best but once again it depends on whether your baby/toddler happily travels in one. My daughter also preferred the stroller when she was over 18 months as she could run ahead but when she was tired to could hop in the stroller.
- Pack diaper/nappy changing kits. I bought ziploc packets and put in each one a diaper and two wipes. If I had to change her I could grab a packet and whisk her off to the change room without having to take my whole bag when on the plane. It also made for easy use in the airport.
- Pack change of clothing kits. You never know. Put a whole outfit in a ziploc bag. For long haul flights I would recommend two or three extra outfits in separate backs for ease of use. You never know.
- A blanket is always a good idea as aeroplanes tend to be a little on the chilly side.
- Booking seats. I know it is cheaper to fly with your baby/toddler on your lap (if they are under 2 years) but if you can afford it I cannot stress how much it helps that they have their own seat. On a short flight you can get away with holding them but long haul I was incredibly blessed to have been able to get her a seat. Show up at the airport early as well and pray that there could even be an extra open seat next to you. That way they can sleep comfortably across two seats.
- Where I fall short of providing any experience is with regards to bottle feeding. I am grateful for how easy it is to breastfeed. I didn’t carry any bottles or formula on the flight with me. Just my nursing cover and we were good to go.
- Pacifier use is recommended for take off and landing as the sucking helps them to deal with the pressure changes in their ears. Here again my daughter has never taken a pacifier or dummy so I have no experience but fortunately she hasn’t had any pressure issues. In fact she slept through four landings. Lollipops for toddlers helps here too and they are fun for them.
- Entertainment for an older baby and toddler comes down to one word: stickers! Ok I did have a bit more than stickers in my entertainment kit but when in doubt stickers worked the best. I bought a number of fun stickers that are easy to peel from the Crazy Store (or Dollar Store). The raised stickers are the best but any stickers can be fun. Also a lesson learnt from my mom is to pack a box of band aids for toddlers over 2. They love opening the band aids and then sticking them all over themselves and the seat. Stickers and band aids have kept my daughter busy for up to 30 minutes at a time, oh and painters tape (simple but effective).
- What was in my entertainment kit:
- Band Aids
- Painters tape
- Post its
- Surprise eggs
- Pipe cleaners
- Crayons (the triangular shaped ones from Melissa and Doug as they don’t roll off the tray)
- Small colouring book
- Also a great way to pack all the entertainment is in a toiletry bag that you can hang from the seat in front of you.
- Another key element when travelling with an older baby or toddler is snacks. Having a large amount of snacks helps. I found a great idea on Pinterest whereby you pack a variety of snacks in a plastic craft box. I packed blueberries, popcorn, dried fruit, and rice crackers in ours. She loved her snack kit.
- An iPad I have heard also helps. You can download some kid series or movies offline. My daughter however watches for all of one minute and then wants something else to do. So for us the iPad was a last resort. I know the aeroplanes normally have kids channels to but my daughter wasn’t able to reach for it and honestly wasn’t interested. I think that is best for older children. The iPad I think could also help in the airport between flights.
- Last thing on travelling with a baby or toddler. Ask for help. People I also find offer help so accept it. The air hostesses on most flights were incredibly helpful and fellow passengers helped me stow my luggage. Find someone you can trust to hold onto your little one when you need to use the bathroom. It’s not easy taking them with.
IMPORTANT: Do not put hand cream on your hands or bum cream just before going through security. I did this and got pulled in for a search as the hand cream made my hands test positive for some or other chemical. The security staff where very friendly but being in a small locked room with a toddler is not easy. At least she had fun playing with the inspection gloves.
As I have said before traveling with a baby or toddler may seem daunting but it really doesn’t have to be. The lead up to the flight always makes one most anxious but once you are checked in everything will be ok. Travelling with my daughter has been amazing and I wish I had the time to take more trips. Honestly travel with your children as much as possible. It is so worth it. Here we are safe in the Toronto Airport on our previous international trip. I cannot wait for the next one!
Have you travelled with your toddler? Any tips you would like to share. Please comment.