After travels this year with my four-year old, it’s safe to say that I learned a few things. For some of you hoping to travel abroad with your baby, toddler or bigger kids, rest assured; it can be done. My daughter and I traveled to four countries in less than a month and she was more upbeat than I was the entire time. I learned a few tricks along the way, and I hope I can help you learn a few here too.
1. Create an Itinerary – I cannot over-emphasize the importance of planning ahead of time. Mapping out locations, activities, and tours ahead of time helped me avoid chaos down the road. Once you get on the plane with a toddler, there is no turning back. My daughter is energetic, loves to be occupied, so I planned outdoor activities that would dissipate that energy on the road. My spreadsheet included activities by area, ratings and reviews. We didn’t get to do every activity, but we did the most important ones, for example, in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower was a no-brainer. Remember to be flexible. Your kid may get sleepy, tired or anxious due to the new environment. Look for cues that they need their rest, and return to hotel for a short nap.
2. Schedule for Sleep, Nap and Jet-Lag: Plan your travel times to co-incide with a day-time arrival. Don’t make the mistake of putting them to bed as soon as you get to your destination. My daughter had no issues with jetlag. We booked a late night flight out of the U.S to France. I kept her up halfway, and she slept halfway. Upon arrival in the morning, we had brunch and went touring the Eiffel tower, she later fell asleep and we went back to the hotel at 6pm. I woke her up to eat dinner, and she went back to sleep at 7pm. She was fine the rest of the week and adjusted to not only Europe, but Morocco and Nigeria time-zones since the time zones were so close. Kids actually fare better when it comes to distance travel and overcoming jetlag. Keep your child up if it’s not bed time at your travel destination.
3. Location is Key: Because you have a toddler, it’s important to stay close to an area where there are tons of activities within walking distance. We stayed at La Defense in Paris which had shopping malls, playgrounds, restaurants, carousels, picnic area, coffee shops, and plenty other things to do. If you decide to stay in a remote location that requires travel, your daily commute may put a strain on your child. We practically rolled out of bed to eat at our favorite brunch restaurant, tour the Grand Arch, shop at the mall and visit a nearby park where my daughter played with other kids. We did this in every country we visited this year.
4. Travel Light: We had to pack heavy because we were stopping to visit family but we left most of our heavy luggage in Paris with a friend while we visited some parts of Europe and Morocco. Less is more when it comes to travelling. She successfully wore one pair of black ballet flats for the entire month. We wore this same dresses in Paris, Morocco and Nigeria. There are washing machines in most hotels and while in Nigeria, I handwashed everything. It helped reduce the amount of time we would have spent deciding on what to wear. My rule of thumb is to bring half of what you think you need, and only pack things you can’t find elsewhere.
5. Just Do It: There are other things to consider when traveling with a toddler: potty-training, keeping them occupied on the plane so they don’t freak out other passengers, worrying about their eating habits, bringing their favorite pet (we have a teddy bear that traveled far and wide this year), the list goes on. My advice is to just do it. You will never regret taking your child on a journey across the world. My daughter learned to speak French, Arabic and Yoruba this summer, a few words here and there, but she held conversations with friends she met in those places and even taught some of the Arab friends English.
Yes, you can’t have the type of vacation or experience you will have with friends, a partner or traveling solo, but you will make amazing memories with your children and they will learn so much more about themselves. You’ll look back and cherish every bit of it.
This story was curated by Blessing Oyeleye.