How to stay sane when traveling with toddlers.
So, we have just returned from holidays in New Zealand. Close to 24h travel time from New York! The journey both ways went slightly different and some tips I shared with you earlier this year really did magic.
As it appeared – and as expected – sleep is the crucial component that binds the rest of travel together. During the outbound flight, when Fern had a decent nap during first leg of the flight, she was rested and happy at the start of the long 2nd leg (12.5h). But, that also made her more playful at 10pm at dinner service and kind off tired and whining again when most people wanted to doze off a few hours later. Good luck managing that.. ;)
Lesson learnt: trying to adjust to the new time zone as quick possible, as we usually do, may not always be the best way to go. This way round, it was easier for us to leave Fern to sleep when she he felt she needed to. That way she was rested and cheerful (think: much nicer travel companion). And when your child sleeps- and if you can (try to!) avoid the temptation of flow of free wine and new movie releases – it’s always good that you get some beauty sleep also. I am such a different human if I don’t get at least 2-3 hours of decent sleep during a long day of travel… Aren’t we all?
2 Top Toddler Travel Tips
So besides having brilliant holidays and being (positively) exhausted after spending almost every minute with family, friends, family friends, friends of friends etc. we’ve learnt 2 important lessons about traveling with our 21 month old. I thought it would be rude not to share.
Here they come:
#1: Don’t be a slave to the daily routine
You soooo can expect this to happen. The routine you so cherish and stick to will probably go out of the window. After all, it’s your time off: you want to do different stuff, explore, walk, lunch, see people, be outside..Be. On. Holiday. So for us, this time round, it really helped to just relax and go-with-a-flow rather than stress every minute of the day trying to chase the routine we have back home.
So what if Fern didn’t have her lunch on time- she’s been snacking most of the morning anyway! So what if she slept only for 1 hour during her delayed afternoon nap – she had a lovely swim in the ocean instead and met 5 dogs, 2 rabbits and a sheep during our walk in the nature. We can pop her to bed earlier tonight if needed..
Toddlers can adapt quickly and are more resistant than we think. A little change here and there won’t hurt them, but can bring many fun and lovely first memories.
#2: Be patient (and keep your s*it together)
During the first 24 hours of our holidays, I saw Fern’s moods changing from historical laughter to manic tears in a few seconds. I was spat on, pinched with those tiny fat fingers and had my hair pulled in all possible directions at least 50 times- all with either a smile on Fern’s face or while sobbing and arching her back. I was stomped, walked and sat on during the red-eye flight a hundred times – both while being awake or trying to sleep (“silly mother, how dare you trying to sleep). I heard ‘mama’ in all possible noise levels. I was ‘the good one’ when giving Fern yet another cracker and cup of milk; and ‘that terrible mother’ trying to stop the iPad time at 30,000 ft.
All the above could go so wrong if you loose it. Especially in the middle of the night, on a plane, with a number of sleeping strangers around you, giving you angry glances. Keep it together. Be a confident strong parent sticking to what you decide on. I know… It can be easier said than done. Also, remember: extra loving and understanding goes a long way too – even (or especially!) during such exhausting time like traveling. It dawned on me: if I am so tired after 20h of traveling with 3h of sleep, how must my favourite little person feel?? They have no control in keeping it together. But we do.
I am already looking forward to our next trip, even though I know I will be dreading the long flight closer to the time. Traveling with toddler sometimes feels like constant learning and testing ourselves as parents or a couple on every front. But at least now I know that – damn yes! – we will and can do it again.
What’s your sanity mantra when you travel with toddlers?