Traveling with a Toddler
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Daniel and I always dreamed of the day we could take Taylor with us back to Korea and Japan. We knew that traveling overseas with a toddler would come with its challenges, but we also knew that it would be one hell of an adventure!
The question I seem to get asked the most now that we’re back is, "Tips on traveling with a toddler?" This was our first international trip with Taylor so it was a huge learning experience for us as well and we definitely don’t have all the answers, but I’ve tried my best to compile a list of all the Do’s & Don’ts of traveling with a lap toddler as well as a checklist of things you should pack that really helped us throughout our trip. One very important thing to keep in mind when traveling internationally with a toddler is that you need to first throw all your usual rules out the window. Don’t get too caught up trying to follow strict schedules and itineraries and understand that things will NOT go as planned.
A Few Tips When Planning Your Trip:
Choose the Right Flight—Taylor is a super light sleeper so although a late night flight would be ideal for us, (for some babies this could be a great option) we chose a morning flight so that she would be awake for the majority of the flight.
Choose the Right Seat—Most people will recommend choosing one window seat and one aisle seat for you and your partner because most people will avoid being seated in a middle seat. This increases your chances of having an open seat between the two of you and even in the case the seat gets filled, they will most likely, gladly give up their seat for yours. You want to try to maximize your chances of getting an extra seat. When checking-in for your flight, be sure to ask if the flight is full and if there are any extra seats on the plane. Often times they will say the flight is full, but a friend of mine had told me to be persistent and to ask again at the gate. We weren’t so lucky with an extra seat on our first flight, but coming home we got extra lucky with an empty row. (Choosing a weekday flight def helps!) If in the case there are extra seats, they will most likely try to accommodate. However, if your little one is still small enough for the bassinet, I would highly recommend choosing a bassinet seat. The extra leg room will go a long way and it helps that there is standing room for you to walk in case your little one gets antsy.
If your little one is older than 24 months and will have a seat on the plane, you may consider bringing along a carseat. We didn’t take a carseat with us, but depending on if you will be traveling by car, you may need one.
Convenience over Luxury—Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for 5-star hotels and scenic views, but when traveling with a toddler, you have to always think of convenience over luxury. For us, having a fully equipped kitchenette as well as a washer and dryer were key. Easy access to subway stations as well as markets and convenience stores were also important things to consider.
Pack electronics—we are usually against giving Taylor too much screen time, but like I mentioned, all the rules go out the window. Make sure to download videos and movies onto your Ipad so that they can watch even without wifi. Don’t forget to pack baby headphones as well.
Pack Non-electronic Forms of Entertainment such as Toys, Stickers & Books—while screen time can be a great way to pass the time, toddler minds are designed to wander and you will definitely need other forms of entertainment to keep them busy.
Small toys such as cars or figurines are great for them to play with on the plane. I found a bunch of cheap and lightweight toys from Dollar Tree (which you can easily toss if they get dirty or won’t mind losing because they weren’t expensive) and also packed her favorite Elmo figurine. Bring along a small toy that your little one loves.
A word of advice I got from all my mom friends was to make sure to bring stickers. All kids LOVE stickers! It’s also a great fine motor skills activity having them practice peeling and placing them on the paper and a great way to pass time.
Taylor loves playing with pens and markers and drawing on paper, but it can get messy so I invested in a Magnetic Doodle Board that kept Taylor busy for a good half hour or so here and there. She also played with it every morning when she woke up during our trip!
Pack Snacks….LOTS of snacks— Taylor can’t live without fruit, so I packed a few disposable containers full of blueberries, strawberries and brought a bag of tangerines to get us through our flight. In addition, easy to eat snacks such as cheerios, goldfish or pretzel sticks are perfect for little hands. I packed small amounts into snack size ziplocks to have readily accessible. TSA enforces strict guidelines with regards to liquids, but this doesn’t apply to water, juice, or formula for babies so I brought along some applesauce and yogurt pouches for Taylor as well as a sippy cup to fill with water and juice on the plane. Other great options were fruit leather, dried fruit and little boxes of raisins—all things that take longer for her to eat than other foods and will keep her mouth and hands busy. I think the key thing is to bring a wide variety of snacks that are relatively healthy and can keep them busy when they get fussy.
Lollipops—So I think 9 out of 10 people couldn’t stress enough for me to make sure to pack lollipops. I didn’t understand this at first, but it made complete sense once I realized how much the elevation change was affecting Taylor’s ears. Taylor wasn’t used to how sweet the lollipops were so luckily I was able to nurse her during take off and landing, but having your little ones suck on candy or chew on something can help ease the pressure.
Go for Aisle Walks—Your toddler will get fussy and antsy, but it helps to get up and let them stretch their legs. We were so lucky that all of the stewardess and cabin crew on our flights were all so friendly and understanding. (I LOVE KOREAN AIR)
Diaper Bag—make sure you have a large and comfortable Diaper Bag. Cute and trendy styles are great, but make sure that it is practical for you to carry all day. One with padded shoulder straps as well as lots of compartments are great. I personally prefer backpacks because they are easier to wear than shoulder bags.
Changing pad—I always keep a few disposable changing pads because you never know when you’ll find yourself in a “not so clean” bathroom. I also always carry my Gathre Changing Mat because it’s thin and light weight and easy to fold up and throw in my bag.
Diapers—I projected that Taylor would need an average of 5-6 diapers a day as well as an overnight diaper for each night. I packed additional overnight diapers in case of emergencies or accidents. The great part is after you’ve used up all your diapers and wipes, you’ll have extra room for any shopping you do while on your trip.
Wipes—I packed 3 large packs of wipes assuming I would go through a pack a week and then need extras for clean ups and messes. I took wipe cases so that I could carry them easily and refill them when needed so they wouldn’t take up more space than necessary.
Baby Carrier—If you are still physically able to carry your little one in a carrier, I highly recommend bringing a carrier not only for the flight, but for your trip. On some days, the weather in Korea and Japan was too cold for Taylor to sit in her stroller, so the best way to keep her warm was to have her in the carrier and for me to wear a jacket over and keep her bundled up. My personal favorite carrier is the Pognae, but you should definitely bring one that is comfortable and easy to wear.
Portable high chair—We were so lucky to have discovered the Bombol Pop-up Booster before we left and got it just in time for our trip. (If you haven’t heard of Bombol, it’s absolutely genius!) We found that many restaurants in Korea and Japan were too small to allow you to bring in your stroller and did not have high chairs readily accessible. It really came in handy throughout our entire trip! The best part is that Taylor loved that she could sit in her own chair and join us at the table and it also didn’t hurt that it was so lightweight and portable!
Compact Stroller—I contemplated between taking our umbrella stroller or borrowing my sister’s Recaro Compact Stroller and chose the compact stroller because it folds up and fits inside the overhead compartment on the plane. The one handed folding mechanism made it easy for us to open and close when getting on the subway or into a taxi.
Emergency First Aid Kit—Its always good to have an emergency first aid kit in your diaper bag wherever you go. In addition to bandaids and antibiotic ointment be sure to pack any allergy medicine, blunt scissors, thermometer, medicine dropper, bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator and any medicine your child may need.
Swaddle Blanket—A light weight swaddle can go a long way—you never know when you’ll need one for warmth, shade, comfort or to sit on.
Ziplock Bag with Extra Clothes—I always keep a set of extra clothes in a large ziplock bag in my diaper bag, in case of any accidents. This way you can change them and place the soiled clothing back in the bag.
Handwipes/Hand Sanitizer—the more the better. The last thing you want while on vacation is for you or your baby to get sick. Disinfecting wipes came in handy so we could wipe down Tay’s hands as well as tabletops and other areas that needed disinfecting.
Don’t Forget the Essentials—you will want to bring along any other items that you normally need for your little one. (Sunscreen, toiletries, bibs, sound machine, humidifier, monitor, diaper cream..etc. you know best!)
Make a checklist and start packing early!
Pack extra plastic bags to wrap up dirty, soiled clothes
Avoid leaks by placing liquids and toiletries in sealable plastic bags
Pack an extra set of clothes for you in case of accidents/spills on the plane
Don’t forget chargers and cords for your personal electronics
Make sure to pack some high energy snacks for yourself as well such as beef jerky, dried fruits and nuts.
Take a foldable duffle bag that you can roll up and pack in your suitcase for any extra items and souvenirs you may buy so you don’t have to worry about going over the baggage weight limit. You can return with it as a carry on item.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, have fun, roll with the punches, be present and indulge in the moment with your little ones.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR TRIP TO KOREA & JAPAN!! <3
Su & Tay