Toddler Travel with Sue White

Sue White with Toddler

Thinking of travelling with toddlers? Our new quarterly blog has you covered. Sue White shares her top tips.

Ahh, toddlers: those walking (okay – running!), pointing, smiling, determined entities that keep us on our toes regardless of location…

The myriad contradictions that make toddlers simultaneously charming and challenging bring a few new considerations for parents. How do you travel with a 15 month old who is determined to be independent, yet has little idea that running onto a busy road isn’t safe? Or a two year old who, on one hand, will easily be entertained by an ant or a bee for ten minutes at a time, but who won’t sit still for the duration of a ninety-minute flight?

Every child’s developmental milestones (and temperament) is unique, but our age groupings will help to you loosely predict where the wins, challenges and memorable moments will come from on your next holiday with a toddler.


Eating on train1

Travelling with toddlers: 1 to 2 year olds

Your travelling tot:
Within these ages your child will likely begin walking, soon followed by (for better or worse) running! Great for them, but a busy time for their adult travel companions. Be ready to spend your energy trying to entice your toddler back to your preferred location – multiple times! (No different to at home, right?) Remember, kids fly for free before age two, so this is a great time to get out there and travel.

Wins on the road:
Good news! At this age your toddler is still easy to distract. Turn their attention to a passing bird, answer enthusiastically as they point at everything from buses to cars (“Yes! That’s a blue van!”), and they will quickly be pulled out of a funk.

Have some strategies for:

  1. Child-proofing your accommodation. Your child’s ‘safety inspector’ radar is evident; they’ll sniff out power points and scale tables and chairs within seconds. Keep your eyes peeled!
  2. Being extra vigilant around road safety. In early toddlerhood children still delight in running onto roads without warning.
  3. Getting through plane rides. Toddlers are notoriously bad at sitting still for long periods. Take toys, books, and be ready to wander the aisle for most of the flight to keep your one to two year old entertained.

Try this:
Beaches and parks are superb additions to a holiday itinerary. Just be prepared that every visit to a beach, regardless of the weather, will result in everyone getting wet – toddlers of this age don’t generally respond well to, “No, we’re not swimming now”. Equally unpopular: “Sorry, home time!”


Sue and Ollie in park 1

Travelling with toddlers: 2 to 3 year olds.

Your travelling tot:
Your toddler has now truly left babyhood: he or she is falling over less and communicating more (the latter is very handy when travelling – they can now let you know, with words, what they need/want).

Wins on the road:
The downside of having to pay for your toddler on planes once they are two is balanced out by one thing: they now have their own seat, potentially making flights slightly more comfortable for you.

Have some strategies for:

  1. The optimum toys to take. Mostly you’ll want small and light, but consider taking a trike, bike or a scooter. If it’s easy to assemble it may even be worth dismantling one to pack for a flight, or pick one up cheaply when you reach your destination and leave it behind if necessary.
  2. Helping them settle quickly into a new environment. Favourite doll? Blankie? This week’s high rotation books? All worth their weight in gold.
  3. Keeping that precious day sleep while you’re on holidays (unless you want life at home to be vastly altered on your return).

Try this:
Local playgrounds are a hit with two to three year olds. Do some research and you might even find some with a local twist: the Dutch have community-run playgrounds called Kinderboerjerij, where pigs, chickens and rabbits roam – great free entertainment!

Travelling with toddlers: 3+

Your travelling tot:
In some people’s minds, three year olds are ‘kids’, not toddlers. But at the early end of this bracket you might still be working around nappies, toilet training (tip: don’t coincide this with a holiday) and the last remnants of that precious day nap.

Wins on the road:
By now, most parents have likely abandoned their aversion to toddler screen time – at least on long trips or planes. This makes transit easier, but remember, audio books are great too.

Have some strategies for:

  1. Resorts’ kids clubs and cruises if your child is still in nappies. Double check when booking that they can use the kids club (resorts) or swimming pool (on a cruise) if not fully toilet trained. Once they are, consider travelling with a plastic under sheet for night time accidents.
  2. Sleeping. If they’re already sleeping in a ‘big bed’ without side rails at home, great. If not, buy a purpose-built product to take (Shrunks sells an inflatable side rail) or consider a mattress on the floor.
  3. Food on the road. When a toddler needs food it’s usually “NOW!” versus when it’s convenient. Take snacks, always.

Try this:
Three year olds can usually do well on short walks, especially if they’ve become used to this at home.

You’ll still want to take something to carry them in when they fade (an umbrella stroller would work for paved paths, otherwise consider a baby backpack – just check your child isn’t too heavy for it). While you’ll need to scale back length of hikes and bush walks now, train up the kids at this age and it will pay off within a year or so!

– Meet Sue White – journalist, travel writer, founder of and mum to an energetic and well-travelled toddler. She’s also the moderator of a Facebook community where travel-keen parents talk tips and tricks for family travel – all welcome!


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