Top 6 Tricks for International Travel With Toddlers

International travel with toddlers is daunting, I should know. I've done it three times already. The first tip is controversial but it works!
International Travel With Toddlers
This is how you travel internationally with Toddlers and boss it.

International travel with toddlers is daunting. I've flown with my daughter from Australia to New York three times before she turned three. This is what I've learned- I hope it helps other ex-pats and international families like mine.

These suggestions are mainly for toddlers or older kids, click here for a post specifically related to travel with an infant. My first tip might sound controversial, feel free to disregard, but it works.

A Born Traveler

My travels taught me to appreciate the journey as much as the destination because anything and everything can, and will, go wrong. Of course, this sentiment is much more romantic before children come into the picture.

I’m a natural wanderer (at least I used to be, which is how a gal from Buffalo ended up in Melbourne Australia.) I feel at home in airports, in-transit, and in-between time zones. 

The first time I flew with my daughter she was six months old. I felt panicky like all eyes were on us, probably a bit of karma. During my days as a solo passenger, I prayed no little seat-kicker sit near or behind me. 

click for baby

My daughter and I survived our first trip across the globe, and she was a champ compared to what I had imagined. Lesson one- don't be your own worst enemy. I spent more time stressing before and during the trip and she didn't even blink. Yes, there were moments when she fussed, just as there are fussy moments in everyday life.

I'm pleased to report that the people sitting near us were always cool. Even if they weren't, children are part of the population- tell them to deal with it. (And don't you dare bring little treat bags with candies and earplugs for your fellow passengers- do not apologize for having a baby in the world).

They say that the younger the baby, the smoother the journey and it's probably true. That first trip was much easier than the next two. Toddlers are a whole different animal.

When I mentally prepped for ‘operation toddler migration’ I asked lots of other ex-pats their best advice. They came up with a terrific list which you can read in this post here. I took these suggestions on board (literally) and below is my run-down of what worked best.

click to fly.jpg

Here they are, Six Tips for International Travel with Toddlers

1.To drug or not to drug, that is the question

This one is controversial but I would be dishonest if I left it out. I took my toddler halfway across the world and I gave her an antihistamine to make her sleepy. When it comes to my kid, I typically reach for natural remedies first. I spoke to two doctors, a pharmacist, my therapist and the advice ranged from; ‘Technically we are not supposed to recommend it,” to “dose her up as soon as you get on the plane.”

The downsides: It’s not recommended for children under two and sometimes the medication can cause the adverse reaction, making the child more alert (test it before you travel) so I’ll state the obvious: proceed with caution. That being said, for us, the drugs were a freaking lifesaver! The only time Lavinia slept was after I dosed her up (a meager total of 6 hours out of 24.) I truly believe the sleep benefitted her far more than any adverse effects of the medicine. 

2. Snack bribes

My ‘emergency’ stash of M&M’s came out before we even made it through the security line but at least they kept her quiet. It’s all about survival folks. Little treats, even if they are not exactly ‘healthy,’ can be a good distraction.

3. Keep supplies within reach

Generally, when you travel with small children they seat you in the bulkhead- which means no storage in front of you. If your kid melts down the last thing you need is to dig through the overhead bin while they scream. Pack a nappy bag with a few basics in it (diapers, a few snacks, a change of clothes, wipes, and toys) to keep in the floor in front of you during the flight. Store the larger bag with refill supplies in overhead during take-off and landing.

4. A new toy every hour

This is good one. I went to the dollar shop and bought a bunch of little toys, stickers, and games to give throughout the flight (you can wrap them up for an extra five seconds of entertainment.) The ones that held her attention the longest were interactive like stickers and colouring books. My profuse apologies to the cleanup crew for the decorations we left behind.

5. Give in to the power of the iPad

My daughter didn’t spend much time playing with our iPad until that second flight (when she was two-years-old). I admit we have crossed over to the dark side now as it’s a staple during travel. So be it. Sometimes you just have to let things slide. I don't want her to be the only freak in kindergarten not knowing what her top three favourite apps are (I joke, I joke.) Which brings me to my last point.

6. Chill..because the flight will end eventually and so will your trip

This may sound funny coming from me because I am anxious. A control-freak from way back, parenting has brought out the worst of my perfectionism. It's been a huge lesson to me that I can’t control my daughter or her environment, no matter how hard I try to schedule things. Letting go is a big part of this whole experience (travel and life).

I let a lot slide.

While in the USA, much to my displeasure, Lavinia has become obsessed with juice, bagels, and ice cream. She’s been staying up late, bruising her shins, and chasing dogs. She’s fallen into a pool and gotten slightly tanned (a no-no for Aussies), but you know what? She had a freaking ball.

If you are hesitant to travel with young kids because of the stress- do it anyway. The memories you will make are more than worth it. I’m a firm believer that, no matter how young, travel makes you a better, richer human being.

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