Toddler travel essentials

We have travelled a lot with Willow over the years, but her travel needs have definitely changed the older she gets.

Last week I flew with her to Cape Town and she was simply incredible. I was so proud of her. That said I did deploy the tricks I have learned and took a few things along with me that made life a lot easier. Most of these items can be used for both air travel and road trips. I just make adjustments as needed, depending on our situation at the time.

  1. Try getting your child to sleep before you travel. With both road trips and plane rides, I try to make sure Willow is well rested before we leave. The chances that she will fall asleep en route are always very slim, she doesn’t sleep as well in a car seat or on an aeroplane and she is much harder to entertain when she’s tried. If I can time it that she naps before we leave I always try to do that.
  2. Make it fun by doing things that you don’t normally do. For example, Willow watches a huge amount of cartoons on trips. It’s the easiest form or distraction for us and once you have had a peaceful journey there is simply no going back. We also do things we don’t normally do, like watch the aeroplanes out the window, eat sweets etc. I try making it an adventure.
  3. Don’t forget your iPad. The iPad is a lifesaver! I have it loaded with toddler-friendly games, cartoons and movies. I make sure it’s fully charged before we go. If we’re travelling by car we have a mount that attaches it to the seat in front of her. If we’re travelling by plane I have it in one of those unbreakable cases that also acts as a stand. I also have a fun pair of headphones for her. These are kids’ headphones that have a noise restrictor on them so they can’t get too loud. We only use these on the plane.
  4. Bring snacks! This is a huge thing for us. I never travel without snacks. For flights, we take lollipops with us to help with the ear situation. I also travel with two bottles of milk that have about 100ml in them. That was she can suck on the bottles during takeoff and landing. I also take biscuits, biltong, mini salami sticks, grapes, cheese etc. And a bottle of diluted fruit juice or water. And gum and water for me. I do tend to take more for road trips and keep the snack on planes quite concise. Our average road trip is about 4 hours.
  5. Build up the anticipation by talking about your trip a day or two before. I tell Willow where we are going, how we’re going to get there and who we are going to see. It gets her really excited for the adventure ahead. I try to only start building her up a day or two before though. It’s a fine line.
  6. Bring a comfort object from home. With Willow, this is quite difficult as she hasn’t attached to an object. But we have a rag doll that has become our travel doll. She loves to cuddle it and talk to it. She tells the dolly what we’re doing and shows her the aeroplanes. It’s adorable and helps her to come to terms with the trip in her own way. It is also really nice to have something familiar if your child is sleeping in a strange bed.
  7. Try not to deviate too much from your normal routines. Kids find comfort in being able to anticipate certain events. With all the excitement of travel, I find Willow can get overwhelmed quite easily. While I do relax a lot of the rules, I try to keep meals at the correct times in the day and keep her bath and bed routine as close to normal as I can.
  8. Don’t forget nappies, wipes and bum cream. Been there, done that! Thankfully we’ve always gone to a place where these items are quite readily available. For the car journeys, I just take a full bag of nappies with us. For our recent flight, I had to open the pack and spread the nappies out in amongst the items in our suitcase. They do take up a lot of room though. My suggestion is, if you can, buy nappies at your destination and take a few in your handbag or child’s backpack for on the go changes.
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