Essential tips for travelling with toddlers

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ, with additional information provided by Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

What’s the best tip for travelling with toddlers? “Don’t”, would be the instant response from many experienced parents! But seriously, leave them with the grandparents. Just kidding.

Travel can be an incredible thing to experience with your children, but it can also be overwhelming and unpredictable. However, it is possible to have a wonderful family holiday, to create amazing memories for your children and yourself for years to come. Honest!

So here are six top tips to help families enjoy a stress-free holiday with toddlers in tow.

1. Pick your destination wisely

Toddler swimming 

Do plenty of research about your destination and accommodation options. Consider your child’s age and personality. Are crowded streets your personal nightmare? Are there plenty of open spaces to burn off excess energy? Are you comfortable staying near the ocean?

Also check out what activities have free or discounted entry for toddlers to help keep the budget down. Some attractions offer discount cards if purchased in advance, usually for multiple venues. Check with your travel agent, local tourism offices, or the attraction’s website.

2. Health check

A routine check with the family doctor 

Make an appointment with your doctor to get the family any necessary vaccinations or boosters for your destination. Get these sorted as early as possible so any short-term side-effects have time to clear up before you travel.

Also ensure that you have enough of any prescription medication that the kids or you need to last until you get back home. However, make sure you do some research to find out whether your medication is legal at your destination as laws can vary. Ask your doctor for a note to confirm that the medicine has been prescribed and always carry it in the original packaging.

You can also check SafeTravel for any international health warnings, required vaccinations, and the latest travel information for your destination.

3. Flight tips

Baby sleeping on a flight

Check with your airline as to what you can and can’t bring onboard including food, drinks and formula. If you can bring familiar snacks for your little one they may be lifesavers should they reject the airline food.

You may be able to bring your stroller to the gate and then collect it again as you disembark. This can also be an absolute lifesaver when you just need five minutes to sit and relax in transit, or if you need to fill in customs forms without trying to keep your toddler within arm’s reach. Check with your airline beforehand.

In your onboard luggage, pack a change of clothes for your child for the inevitable spillages. Also consider a light change for yourself because, you know, kids! Sanitising wipes are your friend for basically everything. If your toddler isn’t overly confident with toilet training yet use the convenience of pullups to contain any accidents, as you can’t always immediately get to a toilet.

Toys can be a bit hit and miss for distracting your child. Maybe stick to a favourite book, soft toy for snuggles, and a drawing pad with some stickers. They will be more interested in the new experience and will likely spend more time putting the window shade up and down, pushing every button on the seat, and interacting with fellow passengers.

Don’t try to restrict your child to their seat for the entire flight as the chance to have a little wander up and down the aisle may be just what they need to avoid cabin fever.

Popping ears can be distressing for kids during take-off and landing. Sucking helps, so try a sippy cup, suckie pouch, lollipop, bottle, or breastfeed.

4. Bring a backpack

Toddler travelling with a backpack

Ditch the nappy bag or handbag and instead opt for an easy-to-carry compact backpack, to hold your day-to-day essentials at your destination. Consider including the following:

  • A small first aid kit
  • Sanitising wipes
  • Snacks
  • Your family sunscreen

5. Car seats

Toddler sleeping in a car seat

If you’re renting a car, ensure that you are also able to book a suitable car seat. Other countries have different regulations (or none!) regarding restraining children in vehicles, so be sure you know what you’re getting into.

6. Safety first

A young family crossing the street

Always consider your surroundings, whether it be in the airport lounge, your accommodation, at activities, or moving around cities and towns. Identify the hazards for your child and how you can minimize those risks.

Your accommodation is unlikely to have stair barriers or locked pool gates. Traffic may flow differently, or from the other side of the road to what you’re used to, so keep hold of those little hands. Balconies, doors and windows need to be secured.

More top tips

  • Be very clear to regularly communicate between adults about who is responsible for watching children at any specific time, particularly around water, traffic, or heights.
  • Ensure your toddler has plenty of down time while you are away, to help them cope with jet lag, disrupted bedtimes and routines.
  • You may want to bring a nightlight to use in your accommodation to help settle the kids.
  • Layers work best for dressing toddlers comfortably for changing climates.

Travel insurance

Holidays usually mean that families and kids are more active than usual, experiencing all the fun of their destination. But that can also lead to an increased need for medical intervention due to the effects of trips, falls, insect bites, gastro bugs and more.

As soon as you have booked your tickets, it’s a good idea to get your travel insurance sorted. Kids have a habit of affecting the best laid plans when sickness or injury strikes, so don’t wait until you’re about to hop on the plane before you get that travel insurance quote.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance has an Emergency Assistance Team who are available 24/7 should you have an unexpected medical emergency overseas.

You should always contact your travel insurer if you or anyone on your policy has had any changes to health prior to travel, so you can ensure the whole family are covered for your own peace of mind.

It’s also important to read your travel insurance policy so you understand what you are and aren’t covered for overseas.


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