We recently flew from Brisbane to Auckland and then braved a five hour drive from Auckland to Kaitaia with our extremely active toddler.
We had an amazing time with limited issues, so here's my advice on travelling with a toddler:
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Before entering the plane or car, we endeavored to release as much of bub's energy as possible, so we were always on the look out for an appropriate place to do this.
For example, at Brisbane airport they have a lovely fake grass area, which was the perfect spot to chase a toddler up and down before a flight. It was also great to have a picnic style meal where your toddler can stand up if they prefer, before being strapped in for the flight.
Also, depending on your airline, they may wave you through to their sectioned-off part at the gate before you board. It provides you with a great big area for a fun game of chasey – the perfect way to stretch those little legs and have heaps of fun!
Whilst on the road, keep an eye out for cafes with playgrounds or next to parks. Have a run around, enjoy your meal and have a bit more of a run around.
2. Be flexible with their sleep routine
Some toddlers like to stay awake if you let them. The night before our five hour drive, my todler was quite happy to stay up untill midnight playing, so I let her.
After a few hours sleep, we popped her into the car where she slept until we stopped for lunch. Perfect. She quickly fall back into their regular pattern.
3. Prepare "presents"
Before our trip, I went to a cheap store and purchased lots of little toys that I knew our toddler would love, and individually wrapped them up. This meant that I had loads on hand for the flight, as well as the car trip. Items included: stickers, plastic rings or stamps, and little objects they can count or put in and out of things. Also, unwrapping the exciting surprise is half of the fun and takes up time too!
4. Take sugar free snacks
Toddlers love to graze, so we took a whole box of food with us in the car to make sure we had a wide variety of foods. Make sure to include plenty of low sugar foods – you don't want to be in a car with a toddler on a sugar high!
5. Think carefully about their travel buddy
I always sit in the back of the car next to bub. Whilst we were travelling, when sleep routines got changed and bub became overtired, I did everything I could to console her, but all the singing and peekaboo in the world did not work. Then I leaned forward to hand something to my mum in the front seat (which took a few moments) and what do you know? Bub fell straight to sleep as soon as she couldn't see me!
We're very gentle parents and I would never leave her to cry alone, but we realised she was a lot happier to go to sleep in her car-seat whilst being consoled by daddy. This is because the primary caregiver is generally the person with whom a toddler feels most comfortable expressing her strong feelings. That's just something to consider during extremely long road trips with little people.
We do our best to be as screen-free as possible, so we took plenty of bub's favourite toys. However, we also took along the iPad as a backup. Upon returning from our road-trip and having a very successful run, we hit gridlock traffic and bub had had enough. So we used our emergency plan and grooved along to The Wiggles. Make sure to download these before your trip unless you are able to hotspot in the car.
Have you travelled with a toddler? What tips would you give?