International Travel with Toddlers: 10 Tips to Not Just Survive But Thrive

Two Toddlers.

A Twelve Hour Overnight Drive. Followed by approximately 14 hours of International Air Travel.

These are the things of a parent’s nightmare.

But somehow I found myself willingly signing up for this torture and then much to my surprise actually enjoying (most) of our trip.

I definitely learned a lot!

So how does one survive travel with toddlers?

1. Snacks!

On this trip our youngest learned the word “nummy’s.” It was literally the solution to everything. He would wake up crying “nummy’s”. When he fell down he wanted “nummy’s”. I know comfort food is probably not the best habit to develop in my 20 month old but when he’s totally out of his realm and completely exhausted I just don’t have the will to break his heart by piling on strict parenting. Plus all the food is not his usual fair so while he willingly tried most of the things we ate we did always have a back up of the familiar goodies.

They devoured gallons of prepackaged apple sauce and oodles of granola bars. Yogurt covered raisins were our saving grace on the trip home.

We also toted along the boys Klean Kanteen sippy cups. These are the best. My kids almost refuse to drink out of all other sippy cups.

2. New Toys!

Novel and new toys actually stayed entertaining most of the way to the Netherlands which was great! We didn’t want to constantly be shoving a screen in front of their faces (though that definitely did come into play). Our oldest has recently become attached to a small stuffed dog and of course little brother needs whatever big brother has so we got a couple new lovey’s for cuddling in their car seats during turbulence.

Melissa and Doug’s water color books are amazing! Perfect for little hand and they don’t make a mess!

Magnetic toy trains provided lots of fun as did a few new animals books and cars.

Each boy has his own Kikki backpack from Deuter to keep his treasures in. Absolutely love these!

3. The iPad

Yup that’s right. Unashamed extra screen time is a definite life saver in my book. Due to jet lag we watched Moana every night at bedtime so if Papa and I fell asleep first at least the kids were happy and safe.

4. Cosleeping

I know it’s not for everyone and we are slowly moving our youngest into his own bed but for travelling we all piled into one bed or at least had our oldest on a mattress on the floor right next to us. It definitely got us some extra rest so we could play hard and make the most of our trip.

5. Babywearing

This was huge. I brought 4 carriers for two kids for a 10 days trip. Talk about overkill right? But these babies were exhausted and needed extra love. In the airport we used the soft structured carriers for easy ups and downs. They need to wiggle those legs after being cooped up but we also need to catch our connecting flights. But then when our little guy was overwhelmed by all the new he needed his wrap snuggles in order to settle down to sleep. Since he rarely does this anymore it seriously melted my heart. I could have honestly gotten away with 3 carriers but you never know right? I was thankful to have them all there. The wraps also make great blankets for little people.

6. The Stroller

But wait?! Didn’t you just say babywearing? Yup I sure did. But I love both. And actually no child sat in the stroller until we had landed safely on the other side of the ocean but boy did it come in handy. It’s like a perfect airport trolley though and it flies free. We piled our car seats on top of it along with the kids back packs, my purse, and even a carryon suitcase.

7. Pack Light

This is something I say in hindsight. It’s so challenging to know what you will actually need with kids but lugging all the junk around with toddlers through a crowded airport makes you fell like a 3 ring circus. I’m pretty sure we looked like one too. On the way home we checked one of our carry on suitcases and it helped a lot! So for the 4 of us we needed one carry on. The boys did still have their cute backpacks and I kept my purse so we had easy access to the important things like snacks.

8. Car seats

Also a hindsight tip. While I feel very strongly about keeping my babies safe, lugging 15 lb carseat all over the airport was a challenge to say the least. I wish we had gotten lighter smaller ones just for flying. Yes it’s an additional financial cost but what it would have saved me in sanity would have been worth it!

I did love having their car seats once we were on board. They were definitely more comfortable for sleeping and still have the option of being on our lap if they wanted too. The real reason I was so glad to have them on board was about 2 hours of decently rough turbulence. While the boys didn’t love being stuck in their seats that long I knew that they were safe and they tolerated it fairly well. Bonus I could focus on not throwing up without a screaming toddler in my lap.

9. Everyone has a seat

Now if I was traveling with an infant I might be saying something different. But the squirming almost 2 year old definitely benefited from having his own seat and did I.The extra floor space so all our crazy amounts of stuff had extra places to be stuffed was also very helpful.

10. Take it Easy

Understand that little people that are traveling are being ousted from their world. It’s big and scary but they will do ok as long as they get lots of reassurance and you don’t push too hard. We planned around their needs like naps and food. It meant we didn’t get to do everything we wanted, but it also mean that we all enjoyed the things we did.

We thrived instead of merely surviving. I hope you can too!

Don’t be afraid of taking your littles abroad! Go out there and makes memories!

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