Guys, I just went to Spain with my husband and 16-month-old and let me just say, three flights each way is super fun (or not). Get this – on our trip home, the longest flight was nine hours and my sweet baby slept 30 minutes… 30 MINUTES!!!
Just soak that up for a moment. That’s basically a no nap day, on a plane, in a confined space where you are willing them to be somewhat quiet and well-behaved. Let’s just say we probably gave a few people stories to go home with. You know the kind: “There was this child on the plane, and…” You know how it goes.
This was my second trip over the Atlantic with my little dude and many more will follow as all my family are in Scotland and we kind of like to see them. So, how do you cope?
Let me share my top tips for international travel with toddlers!
Top Tips for International Travel with Toddlers:
It really does come before first, because if you’re not relaxed, ain’t no one relaxed. Being chill and taking it all in your stride makes all the difference. Getting wound up and into a panic and worrying about everything makes everyone’s life well, not so nice.
Do Your Best with Flight Times.
You don’t have a whole lot of choice on when planes fly internationally. My experience is traveling to Europe, you have an overnight flight and traveling back home is during the day.
Window Seats are a Must.
It is free entertainment, for sure. Our guy spent at least 30 minutes before/during take off looking at everything and also gazed out during landing and taxi. Those are precious occupied moments of relief for you!
Get More Seats.
As he’s under two, we saved on cost and had our guy on our laps rather than paying for a seat for him. Well, that was fine on the way as it was overnight and he pretty much slept the whole flight. But coming home was a different story. Remember what I sad about that nine hour flight, y’all. Shew. We were incredibly blessed to have a whole row of empty seats beside us and they were our saving grace! If you can afford the extra ticket it is so worth paying to have a seat for them.
Bring Comforts from Home.
Take your kiddo’s blanket from home if they have one. Those blankets they give you on long flights are okay, but there’s nothing like snuggling up in your own blanket, washed at home, to go to sleep.
Use a Baby Carrier.
Last year, when he was just a baby, I took my baby carrier. He didn’t sleep in it. He never had, so if you plan to do that (which is great if you are traveling solo with a baby), practice at home. Get them used to the idea of napping in the carrier with you sitting down.
Bring a Toy Bag.
You get to take your own baggage allowance plus a diaper bag on most flights. Use that space! I had a bag solely for extra diapers/clothes and toys. Use ziplock bags to portion out toys and bring out a new bag when your little gets restless. Go ahead and get a few new toys, too! Take a plastic tub and rip up pieces of paper, sick bags, anything. It’s incredible how much it amuses toddlers in confined spaces! In the tub; out of the tub; in the tub; it might drive you a little crazy but it’s worth it!
Consider Other Entertainment Options.
Most long flights now have the individual screens on the back of the headrest in front of you and you can choose from a pretty good selection of movies, etc. Do yourself a favor and take some toddler-appropriate headphones with you because the ones the airlines have aren’t great.
Bring Food for hours… or days.
Basically, pack as many snacks/pouches of food as you think your kiddo will need to get through the entire time – then add some. Don’t rely on being able to give them plane food. We had one nice air steward who gave us an extra breakfast which was awesome, but if you’ve paid for “on lap” travel, it doesn’t include food. Also, don’t rely on buying food at the airport because if you’re in a situation like us and you’re hot footing it to make it to your flight on time, it might not be possible.Speaking of food, keep in mind that some security checks are crazy and pull aside any food item to do an extra scan. Pack all food together, remove it from your bag and put it on a tray to go through the scanner. Also, a straw sippy cup is awesome. Don’t let them drink for awhile before take off/landing, then drink during those times to help with their ears as the adapt tot he pressure changes.
General Advice for While You’re Abroad:
We take squeeze pouches of vegetables with us. The selection of those kind of things is much more limited in many countries and, unless you are fluent in reading chemical names in foreign languages, you have no idea what you are feeding them.
We travel with Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and a basic first aid kit, including the sunscreen you normally use. You can get all the general stuff but it’s nice to know you’re giving them what they get at home. On a medical note, take some pouches of pureed prune. I’m serious. Long flights and longer traveling can play havoc on a toddler’s system and we’ve found half a pouch a day does wonders!
Coping with Time Changes
This is what we have found works. As soon as you get there do everything within your power to get them onto the new timezone. Here’s an example: We arrived at around 10am Spanish time (5am ET). He hadn’t had a full night’s sleep but we kept him up until his regular (new) nap-time in the afternoon. I set an alarm so he/we only slept 2 hours, got up, went out for a walk, had dinner, then back to the hotel for a normal night routine and bed. He slept through the night and I woke him at 9am and repeated. He woke that 2nd night a couple of times but other than that he 100% adjusted immediately. Coming home is the same. He woke early for a few days but I kept him going until his normal nap- and bedtime and a few days later we were back to normal. Something else might work for you, and no it’s not always fun keeping them going when they’re tired but getting outside generally works.
Having Dinners at “Home”
My family from Scotland met us in Spain and we all stayed in a big apartment together and ate in 8/10 nights. Yes, it’s fun to go out but it’s expensive and life is so much easier if you can keep your kiddos on regular schedule and get them a full night’s sleep. Make lunch time your big adventure meal if you like to eat out.
Enjoy Your Adventure
By the end, we had our guy waving and saying “Hola!” Expect hard days and don’t over-schedule. Your toddler will be exhausted because their senses are being exposed to so much new and their brain is in constant overdrive. Don’t forget to plan down time, it’ll be good for you, too.