Top Tips for Toddler Travel

I’m a natural wanderer and I feel at home in airports, in-transit and in-between. All my travels have taught me to appreciate the journey as much as the destination…but of course that was much easier before children.


The first time I flew with my infant daughter I felt all eyes on us as we boarded. That look of: ‘please don’t let them sit next to me,’ a familiar expression I had worn many times. Karma in action. We survived that first round trip flight from Melbourne to New York, a journey that takes no less than 24 hours, when Lavinia was six months old. It was far more nerve-wracking for me than it was for her. Cut to our second trip over a year later and I am dealing with an entirely different animal. One that walks, talks and knows how to defy. If I thought passengers were looking at us wearily last time… those looks evolved into sheer terror.
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To prep for ‘operation toddler migration’ I asked advice from my American Expat community- they came up with terrific suggestions outlined in this post here. I’ll explain which ones worked best for us plus my own two cents.


1.To drug or not to drug that is the question


This one is controversial but I would be dishonest if I left out this part of my experience. I took my toddler halfway across the world and decided to give her an antihistamine to make her sleepy. I’m not a huge ‘medicator’ and usually reach for natural remedies first. I felt our scenario was rare and unusual enough to consider it. I spoke to three doctors, a pharmacist, my therapist and the advice ranged from; ‘Technically we are not supposed to recommend it,” to “dose her up as soon as you get on the plane.”


The downsides: It’s not recommended for children under two and sometimes the medication can cause an adverse reaction, making the child more alert (test it before you travel) so I’ll state the obvious: proceed with caution. That being said, for us, the drugs were a freaking lifesaver! The only time Lavinia slept was after I dosed her up (a meagre total of 6 hours.) I truly believe the sleep benefitted her far more than any adverse affects of the medicine (she was suffering from a cold on top of everything else.)


2. Snack bribes


My ‘emergency’ stash of M&M’s came out before we even made it to the security line at the airport but at least they kept her quiet. It’s all about survival. Little treats, even if they are not exactly ‘healthy,’ can be a good distraction.


3. Keep supplies within reach


Generally when you travel with children they seat you in the bulkhead- which means no storage in front of you. If your kid melts down the last thing you need is to dig through the overhead bin. Pack a nappy bag with a few basics in it (diapers, a few snacks, a change of clothes, wipes, and toys) to keep in the floor in front of you during the flight. Store the bag plus refill supplies in overhead during take off and landing.


4. A new toy every hour


I went to the dollar shop and bought a bunch of little (disposable) toys to present throughout the flight. The ones that held her attention the longest were interactive for example stickers and a notepad. My apologies to the clean up crew.


5. Give in to the power of the iPad


My daughter didn’t spend much time playing with our iPad until the flight. I admit we have crossed over to the dark side now as it’s a new favorite. Most mornings the kid wakes up asking for specific apps. Oops. Sometimes you just have to let things slide when at Grandma’s e. Which brings me to my last point.


6. Chill..because the flight will end eventually and so will your trip
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A lot of my stress as a mother has to deal with trying to control the uncontrollable. Lavinia’s sleep schedule, what she eats, wears, who she sees. You can’t control external factors, especially in a big steel bird in the sky. The flight was super difficult, even horrible at times but it is now a memory.


While in the USA Lavinia has become obsessed with juice, bagels and ice cream. She’s been staying up late, bruising her shins and chasing dogs. She’s fallen into a pool, gotten slightly tanned, and you know what? She’s having a freaking ball.


If you are hesitant to travel with young kids because of the planning, packing and lugging-do it anyway. The memories you will make are more than worth it. I’m a firm believer that, no matter how young, travel makes you a better, richer human being.

Dawn is an American wanderer at home in Australia. Searching for bliss and kangaroos among the everyday. Follow Dawn on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Subscribe to her Blog!

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