We are currently planning a longish trip for July, which will be Noah’s 9th country by age 2 (well, he’ll be turning 2 while we are there). I am by no means an expert at traveling with a baby/toddler, but we’ve done it enough to learn some stuff along the way. It was usually learned the hard way, but sometimes we stumbled across some things that made it easier before it was difficult.
I was going to say that traveling with a baby is easier than with a toddler, but that would be a lie. Both ages have their pluses and minuses. Babies sleep more and are more likely to sleep in weird places, but they eat more frequently and require more stuff. Before moving to Europe, we only took two short trips with the baby (plus some pre-move traveling around California), but I was kind of glad we had a truck. Kidding, not kidding. Toddlers experience emotions- curiosity, joy, wonder. That makes traveling fun.
Here are some things we have learned that help make traveling with babies and toddlers a little easier.
Getting around. The right stroller is important. It really depends on where you are going, but I love our tiny umbrella stroller for Europe. It’s small enough that we can easily carry it one-handed up and down stairs and it folds into practically nothing. But if you’re traveling with a baby and going to a place like Disneyland (where there’s lots of space and ramps and stuff), a larger stroller with storage underneath might be best. If you are an outdoors-y kind of family or just don’t want to deal with a stroller, then a kiddie hiking backpack is an excellent investment. I wish ours was a little smaller, but the concept of it is great.
Airplanes. Until a kid is 2 years old, they fly for free (or almost free, it depends on the airline) on a parent’s lap. However, if your car seat is airline approved and your kid likes it, you can check it at the gate. If there are available seats on the flight, most airlines will gladly let you have that seat for the car seat. Hands free flight? Yes, please! Also, Noah has always been more likely to fall asleep in the car seat. If your child is older than 2 or your car seat is large, or you just don’t want to use it on the plane, then they make special car seat bags so they don’t get damaged in the checked baggage process. Ours is a backpack, and we can usually stuff some blankets or extra diapers around the car seat. Then of course, bring a few toys, snacks, and maybe a favorite stuffed animal to encourage naps. I would recommend getting a new toy or coloring book (from the dollar store!). The novelty keeps them entertained longer.
Food. Always have snacks with you. Always. Babies and toddlers go from happy to hangry in about .6 seconds and it isn’t always practical to find food immediately. A handful of goldfish will buy you some time.
The comforts of home. Usually we all have the brand of diapers and wipes we like, right? Well, bring plenty. Now, at almost 2 years old, I bring 4 per day, 1 for at night (we use a different brand at night) and 4 extra. But I know we can always buy more if necessary. Then I would recommend bringing a familiar blanket, a couple toys, and 3-4 books to make hotel rooms seem less foreign. A small bottle of dish soap is great for washing sippy cups and getting poop out of pajamas. Real life, ya’ll.
Hotels– If your baby/toddler is used to sleeping in the same room as you, then you can kind of skim over this. Noah sleeps in his own room at home, so he doesn’t understand hotel rooms where we are all in the same room. “Hey, I still see you, it’s play time!” Nope, it’s 10 pm, not play time. Of course, sometimes a hotel is more practical (which has me reading my kindle under the blankets until he goes to sleep), but Air B&B has become our new best friend. You can check the box to rent the entire home and choose a place with two or more bedrooms. Some hotels in various countries offer small apartments, which is also great. And if you don’t want to cart your pack’n’play around, most hotels and B&B’s offer cribs (Air B&B, not so much). Then keep your child’s interests in mind- look for places that have a pool or a playground. At 10 months old, Noah got in the hotel pool in Cyprus and it became his favorite thing ever.
Finally, just slow down and enjoy yourselves. The pace of travel slows, but that doesn’t mean you should stop traveling! Experiencing new cultures and food is so important for kids, no matter how young.