Alex is our Senior Content Manager and in his spare time he blogs about life with his wife and daughter Matilda. We asked him for some top tips for people heading off on holiday with a toddler. We hope you enjoy his advice and some photos of his adventures. You can read more about his travels at ‘Adventures with the Girls‘.
Make the journey fun
As an adult traveller I’ve always seen the journey as something to get over and done with as quickly as possible. I’m not a nervous flyer but I can’t say I’m a fan either. This didn’t change too much when Matilda was a baby; she needed milk and nappy changes but it still felt like adult time with my wife for most of the flight. Travelling with an inquisitive toddler is a completely different experience! Just like at home, Matilda needs lots of entertainment – over a few different holidays our strategies have improved, but it wasn’t so easy the first time.
Nowadays we make the holiday fun from the very start; at home Matilda helps pack her own little Trunki suitcase. She loves knowing that her favourite toys and books are all coming on holiday with us. The suitcase really comes into its own when we arrive at the airport – she doesn’t walk around like Mummy and Daddy, she is towed on the back of a Gruffalo from check-in to the door of the plane. Now that’s how to travel in style…
On the plane the books and toys are invaluable. We read lots of stories, have toys to cuddle (although sleeping never seems to happen really) and take our time encouraging Matilda to eat her meal. Our secret weapon is a laptop loaded up with the BBC iPlayer app and downloaded episodes of all of her favourite shows. On terra firma we try to limit her screen time, but on a flight where she can’t run around we relax the rules and let her watch Mr Tumble and co.
Don’t be precious about your pre-child travelling routine
Before there were three of us we did lots of travelling as a couple; we’d arrive at the airport with the bare minimum of check-in time, grab a sandwich and dash to the gate via a newsagent. On the plane I’d nab the window seat, watch us take off and settle down to read. After a little while I’d put my headphones on and nod off for some sleep. Like our sleep patterns at home, this routine has been well and truly left behind travelling with our little girl.
Now we leave ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, check-in and head to the airport lounge. They aren’t just for champagne and nibbles; lots of the lounges welcome children and have places for them to play or watch films. We find it less stressful with Matilda away from the hustle and bustle of the main airport departure lounge. On the plane Matilda likes to have the window seat, I’m happy to say I get the middle seat so still get a nice view, although it does meant I am in charge of toddler wrangling for take-off and landing.
During the flight we take her for walks (sorry to anyone in an aisle seat who we’ve disturbed) up and down the plane. It burns some energy and she enjoys not being in her seat for the whole flight. Just in case it does all go a bit wrong and Matilda is poorly we ALWAYS have some children’s paracetamol sachets on hand – we’ll always be grateful to the kind Mummy who gave us one on a flight before we knew to pack them!
Don’t stress about your toddler coping
It is natural to be protective with your little ones but it is really important not to stress yourself out. Toddlers are often really great at coping with new things in ways that surprise their parents. Matilda never tried to climb out of her cot so we kept her in it as long as possible, not an issue until we realised she was too big for a travel cot and would have her own double sofa bed on our holiday to Greece! We fretted like parents are wont to do but needn’t have. Matilda loved her big bed and it actually made the transition out of her cot at home much easier. I’m sure the situation was helped by the creative way the maid laid out Matilda’s toys each day!
Try new things
Holidays are for trying new things and this doesn’t stop with a toddler. If you think about it, even things we adults take for granted is given a new excitement by taking your toddler along with you. I enjoy kayaking but hadn’t ever taken Matilda out before; she absolutely loved it and was telling people about “going in the boat with Daddy” for the rest of the holiday.
I am a keen tennis player, so watching my daughter in her first ever tennis lesson made me so proud. I would never think to take a toddler down to the courts but with a professional playing fun age-appropriate games with her, it was a big success.
We like to encourage Matilda not to be fussy and let her try anything she is brave enough to taste when we are on holiday. She loved hummus, tsatsiki and will even eat olives now. Being adventurous on holiday gives us many more foods to give to her back home.
But keep some things familiar
With all of the new experiences, foods and surroundings on holiday it is really important to keep some things familiar for your toddler. I mentioned some books and toys from home but I also suggest trying to bring some of your little one’s routine with you on holiday. Matilda, like most two-and-a-bit year olds loves going to the park, so wherever our holiday might take us we always try to find some swings or a slide for her to play on.
We pack lots of Matilda’s favourite healthy snacks in our suitcase so that we can always get her to eat something, even when she doesn’t like the local food. Being able to read one of her stories and let her eat a little box or raisins makes her happy again whatever the problem.
It isn’t always plain sailing with a toddler on holiday but practice makes perfect (or things much easier anyway). I hope these tips make your travels that little bit easier and more fun. To take a look at some of Sovereign’s best hotels for parents with little ones, head to our toddler-friendly holidays collection.
Do you have any tips for travelling with toddlers?
A little note from the Sovereign Blog team: Alex and his wife welcomed another little girl to their family last week and we’d just like to wish them huge congratulations from everyone here.