Guest Post by Aisling Gray from Mummy on the Run
Travelling abroad with toddlers can be a daunting task for even the most relaxed parents. The research and planning, the choice of destination, the duration of the break, not to mention the packing required, for normal daily life with a toddler as well as thinking about all the contingencies. Once you get started on the mountainous task, it’s quite likely that you might consider packing it all in and opting for a staycation instead.
My advice is stick with your overseas adventures! I’m sure you won’t regret it and I offer this advice with some experience: we have recently returned from a one-month adventure in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia with our four and a half year old and our, at the time, almost three year old.
The trip was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences which were possible even with toddlers in tow. Travelling with the kids was so much easier than I could ever have anticipated – they are quite a handful at home so I had low expectations for the trip. The whole experience has given us a renewed thirst for travel and a fresh view that family travel doesn’t have to mean resort holidays every year if you don’t want it to.
In case you need some extra persuasion, here are my top reasons why you must travel abroad with toddlers:
- Children are more resilient than you think: they will adapt much more easily than you might anticipate when it comes to their usual routine. I was a Gina Ford follower whose life was once ruled by sleeping and feeding times! For me, once my youngest became old enough for me to be more flexible with his lunchtime nap (from around the age of two), life became much more easy going and we took full advantage of this timing for our big trip.
- You are creating amazing memories: From the age of approximately three onwards, the chances are that you are creating lifelong memories for them. Experts say memories are created from as young as three. Thanks to smartphones nowadays, memories can be kept alive much more.
- You will create an interest in travel from an early age: You will inspire them to visit more of the world. Seeing one country and trying out simple words in a new language is likely to inspire an interest in visiting new countries around the world. At the very least, it will instill a real life understanding that the world is much bigger and full of very different and interesting people and things than the village/town/city in which you currently live.
- You will open their minds: They will learn that there is more to the world than their own sphere. My daughter and I played a game over the course of our adventure where we took it in turns to point out differences between the countries we were in compared with London. It often resulted in ‘why’ questions off the back of our ideas as she understood that life is very different in other parts of the world and the differences are fascinating.
- You will introduce them to cultural differences: You will inspire an interest in people, nature, language, geography. People behave differently in other countries. My kids are not used to strangers talking to them but whilst we were away, we barely walked past a person that didn’t smile/speak to or touch them. This resulted in sometimes tricky conversations about dealing with strangers but very positive discussions about cultural differences.
- Even if they are fussy eaters, you will manage: If you’re not going totally off the beaten track, chances are your kids won’t starve even if they are fussy eaters. Our kids eat a lot but they are fairly stubborn when it comes to what they eat and like most kids they love their staples of spaghetti, sausages, fish fingers. We set a holiday rule that spicy dishes aside, they couldn’t say they didn’t like something if they hadn’t tried it first. As a result, they tried different types of noodles, chicken, fish. Having said that, they ate A LOT of fish fingers and chips and spaghetti bolognaise – two dishes that featured on the menu a lot more than we expected. Failing that, plain or fried rice (with or without protein and vegetables) often did the job for us.
- A double pram is a must buy and you can plan your travels around it: Transport was a big sticking point for us. At home in London, we were used to a Maclaren Techno XT pram and a scooter as our standard mode of transport. We thought about taking the Maclaren and a buggy board. But we knew the heat would probably mean more day time napping plus we wanted to be able to go out for a meal and/or drinks as a couple whilst the kids slept at the same time. We needed a double buggy that allowed both kids to sleep at the same time. And we needed one capable of tackling all types of terrain. My ‘been to every country in the world’ brother thought we were bonkers bringing a pram – but he doesn’t have kids! We really didn’t have a choice though. We bought a second hand Mountain Buggy duet for £30. Aside from a few minor dramas with a couple of flat tyres, it did the job perfectly for us. My four and a half year old (taller and heavier than average) fitted in easily too. We were intending to chuck the pram after this adventure but we’ve decided to hold on to it for the next one ‘just in case’.
- Long haul flights are more manageable than you think. Check out my website for my top tips for flying with children. One of them is to hedge your bets and book an evening flight: you increase your chances of your pre-schooler getting some shut eye. Invest in a Fly Legs Up if you’re travelling in economy. If they’re awake, it will make them more comfortable and if they are feeling sleepy, then you will find it an essential accessory to a better quality sleep.
- You’ll probably get more sleep than you’ve had for a while! Sleep when your kids sleep: this reminds me of the advice from the newborn days but it still applies. At the end of our adventure, I’ve had more sleep than I can remember as more often than not, we went to bed at a similar time as the kids. They got up reasonably early (7ish local time – later than our usual 6am start at home) so we made the most of our days but after we all had dinner together, we usually were back to our rooms. If we had a separate area or a balcony, my husband and I would stay up and chat, have a beer and play some cards, but a lot of the time, we went to bed at roughly the same time as them.
- Sharing exciting new experiences is good for YOUR soul just as much as it’s good for theirs. Chances are it’s likely to inspire you to do more on a regular basis which will do wonders for your parent-child relationship in the long-run.
About the author
Aisling Gray is a mummy blogger – see her blog at www.mummyontherun.co.uk