Travelling With A Toddler: A Few Learnings

I know, several parents have already chronicled their travel experiences with kid/s here but I would still go ahead and offer my two pence on travelling with a toddler [mine is 2 years and 3 months old].
I am just back from an 8 day trip to Rajasthan. Barring the flights we took for reaching and leaving from Jaipur, rest all travelling involved road trips of long hours. We traveled to Jaipur-Pushkar-Ajmer-Jodhpur-Jaisalmer by road – one of the road trips lasting for as many as 10 hours! Had it been just the two of us, it would not have been as maddening as it eventually turned out to be. But sigh! You do and you learn. Not that I had not read hundreds of articles about travelling with toddlers but nothing can truly prepare you for the actual experience [much like having a baby].
Here are my learnings from this amazing trip on travelling with a toddler, which included air and road travel:
  • Take the flight at the time when your child usually naps because it is difficult to keep a toddler tied to a spot for long. We were lucky to have both our flights around D’s afternoon nap time. He blissfully slept during most of the first flight and all of the second one.
  • Kids get agitated during flights [especially the take offs and the landings] due to the discomfort in their ears. D had a bad experience, owing to his naive parents, the last time we took a flight [D was all of 10 months then]. This time daddy had the foresight to play a little game with D in which both of them had to put cotton in their ears. And this was done while we were still hanging around the airport. Since D loves dry fruits, especially cashew nuts and raisins, we were loaded with those. The moment our plane took off; I kept talking inanities to him and also fed him continuously. Our both flights went super-smooth on that front.
  • Screen time can be a boon during road trips and even during flights. We were not carrying our laptops or tablet, and I was cursing myself for that. The idea was to keep ourselves off those gadgets during the vacation, but for our otherwise screen free toddler, it would have been a nice deviation and enticing enough to keep him glued. We even contemplated buying a cheap tablet but then good sense prevailed.
  • Carry some new board books or games or activity sets. For example, during one of the road trips, we took a bunch of colourful strings and started putting the die cut ABCDs through them, making up some game out of it and this really kept him occupied for quite some time. His old board books and toys were royally ignored for much of the time.
  • On road trips, take breaks after every 2 hours at least. Toddlers have a lot of energy which needs to be released. So every time we would stop for food or snacks, we would choose a spacious place, and make him run around for a while.
  • I did not fuss about either food or TV time or any such rules of the household. I let him eat or not eat as per his mood. I really love the buffet breakfasts. They offer so many options that something or the other certainly clicks. In the car, we had stocked up a lot of fruits and dry fruits.
  • Resist making the most of each day. Limit your sightseeing to half a day. This was our biggest mistake. D naps during afternoons. And when he has to sleep, he would not just sleep; he would become hyperactive in delirium till the time one of us would soothe him and put him to sleep. We realized how hard it was on him around after lunch to go on. So, sometimes we skipped a few things in our itinerary because the more important thing was that each one of us enjoys the trip rather than rush around.

Everything said and done, there were good days and bad days with a toddler in tow during the trip. And we came back wiser about travelling with a toddler. We already know a lot of things but tend to overlook. It was our first major trip with our little one and since we plan to take many more in the times to come, the learnings are certainly going to make the next vacation a better success.

So, tell me, have I missed anything important that comes to your mind?

Reema Sahay is a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Freelance Writer, Voracious Reader, Passionate Blogger, Social Media Enthusiast, Internet Junkie and Ex-Marketing Communication Professional. She spends her days running after her very curious toddler, ‘the star’, and catching up on books when he naps. She writes about charms and challenges of life at Pen Paper and shares her passion for books at Recommend Books. She sometimes feels that her 5.5 years stint in Marketing Communication was in another life
  • Hi Reema: Very practical tips. I think long trips in car are the least enjoyable by kids, as they are confined to a small space, hence the breaks are very important. We too skip a lot of places when traveling so that kids have their naps/breaks etc…

    • Reema Sahay

      Thank you Prasad. Indeed long road trips are difficult for young kids. Even if you can keep them hooked with something or the other, still they need to release their energy. And really, how many forts can the 2 year old see and appreciate ha ha!

  • V ki Amma

    Great tips Reema. We are planning a family trip in December (Rajasthan too) and we will have our share of traveling with the boy. We have never done a road trip with him and I think we will have a tough time. Do you use a child seat?

    • Reema Sahay

      The most important advice I want to give you is do not keep a choc-a-bloc schedule. The better thing to do would be visit fewer places. With too many places, you are literally running all the time. Barring Jaipur, we never went back to any other hotel again; it was so crazy!
      When you have a toddler, you are busy while travelling in keeping him busy / entertained, and you also do not get much rest when you reach the hotel because the toddler needs his share of fun / running around. So, keep some days off from sightseeing to relax.
      No, we don’t use car seat. I know, we should but we haven’t.

      December would be a great time to go. Have fun 🙂

  • sirisha achanta

    Nice article. Very helpful! We are also learning as we go but we started real early. She was 3 months when we first travelled and now she loves travelling and being out .. Makes it fun for us too 😀

    • Reema Sahay

      Thank you Sirisha. I was extremely reluctant to travel till he was 1 year old simply because I did not want to feed him in public places, especially till 6 months when the baby needs to be exclusively breastfed. At 10 months, I just had to go for a family function, and those were just one hour flights to and from Goa.

  • Sid Balachandran

    Great tips Reema, and yes, fully-packed itineraries and kids do not go hand-in-hand !

    • Reema Sahay

      Thank you 🙂
      You know, we have never been the type who would pack our itineraries and yet the first major trip we took with little D, we ended up doing that! We always go to one place, for 2-3 days. I guess, we got carried away by the number of days and therefore, making in trying to make it more productive by going to more number of places.

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