Tantrums, a short attention span, and the tendency to spontaneously require something completely unexpected (or unattainable) can scupper the best-laid travel plans. Here are some top tips from parents who travel to ensure your toddler is on best form on holiday.
Tell them what is going to happen –From an early start and travelling in their PJs, to what it feels like to board a plane, boat or train, tell your toddler what to expect on the journey. Who they may encounter, the crazy spaces they might experience, and what the travel staff expects of them should all be revealed.
Let them pack their bag (with some assistance) – Maybe you don’t think FooFooFluffBunny is an essential travel item, but your child might, and it could be the one thing that they demand if they get a little travel stress. Let them pick their own toys to take, and compromise with some parental recommendations. Taking them shopping for their own travel essentials will make sure it’s not a fight to get a flannel and toothbrush in, but it will also get them excited about the adventure ahead.
Pack the right snacks –Hunger is the enemy, but don’t let sweet treats be the way to distract. You’ll never get a toddler to sit still after a box of raisins let alone a pack of sweets. Keep the snacks simple, nutritious and on-hand.
Pack the right entertainment –A tablet is a compact and versatile answer to keeping a child occupied on a long journey. While colouring pens and paper and travel games might seem like the superior choice parentally, rummaging for dropped bits under seats is no fun. Just remember to load plenty of games, drawing apps and books on to the tablet before you set off.
Break everything up into bite-size chunks– The journey AND the holiday! Some parents recommend 15-minute activity slots on a long journey, and while on holiday break the days up so that there is something for everyone. A sightseeing tour for the grown ups in the morning for example, followed by an afternoon of adventure play or a pool. Throw in the promise of a holiday ice cream for being patient, and you should have a happy family all round.
Play dress-up for sightseeing– Longer excursions for less toddler-exciting attractions will require a little creativity. Take along their favourite dress-up set, or get something that ties in with the theme of where you plan to visit. Dressing up will make the whole experience more immersive for them, and hopefully keep them occupied so you can enjoy it too.
Devise a treasure hunt –And make it last for the whole holiday! A simple list of things to spot will be a great distraction when toddlers are getting a little testing. Keep it simple with flowers, cats, dogs, cars, trams, tuk-tuks – whatever is common in your destination – then throw in a few curve balls like a heart shaped cloud, banana shaped hat… you get the idea. Make sure there is a reward for hitting certain targets – more holiday ice cream for example, and encourage a bit of teamwork if travelling with more than one child.