BY AMANDA BLAKLEY
As a seasoned traveler, my wanderlust runs deep (from backpacking to business travel, I have circled the globe numerous times). Now as a mother of two, I am passionate about cultivating and passing along that love of travel to my children by placing an importance on collecting experiences, not things. Our eldest son, Atticus, was conceived in Australia and when my husband and I found out we were expecting, we hatched a master plan to spend a paternity leave traveling Central and South America with our new babe. It was an unbelievable experience to have as new parents. We had the opportunity to expose Atticus to new cultures, cuisines and customs, while we got to practice this whole parenting thing together as a team (in some beautiful, foreign lands no less). Fast forward five years and we’ve added another little boy (Archer) to our growing clan and have been on many more adventures together since. Some of our most treasured memories have been made while on the road as a family. Below are some of our top tips for traveling with tots in tow:
GETTING THERE | Whether flying, driving or riding the rail, we operate on the same rule of thumb – a day of travel means there is A NO RULES- RULE. Your ultimate goal is to arrive at your destination alive and sane. With that in mind, our philosophy is ‘anything goes’. Our normal rules about screen time, junk food and schedules go out the window. Whatever it takes – until we arrive at our final destination. Then it’s back to business!
PACK A SURVIVAL KIT | These are some of the items I never leave home without when traveling with tots:
– A lint roller comes in handy for picking up crumbs left in your airline seat or at restaurants, and also takes care of glitter, Cheerios and any other droppings a toddler leaves in his or her wake.
– Make a distract-a-bag: Fill a child-size backpack with special snacks (packets of seeds, dried fruit, cereal), a water bottle (flimsy airline cups are forever being knocked over), toys they haven’t seen in a while, simple crafts or colouring projects and a few new toys. When they get to the brink of a breakdown or just need a new distraction, pull something else out of the bag.
KEEP YOUR ITINERARY LIGHT AND LOOSE | We always try to set our collective expectations in advance of a trip to ensure we are all aligned on what we hope to see, do, experience at a given destination. The less expectation and pressure you place on yourself and your traveling tot(s), the more flexible you can be in the moment. Toddlers require routine and as a general rule, we try to keep things like naps, mealtime and bedtime similar to the rhythm of an ordinary day at home. When we’re on the road we usually plan only one activity per day (this might be an excursion, an activity or a museum visit). If we can add in something else, by all means we will, but when jet lag or fatigue set in, breakdowns are inevitable – and this we prefer to avoid at all costs!
DON’T SKINT ON TRAVEL GEAR | we love the BABYZEN YOYO travel stroller – because it’s a stylish workhorse that allows us to zip from place to place, in and out of vehicles, small restaurants and crowded cafes. Weighing-in at only 12 pounds it could be the only stroller you need. The best part, it stores in the overhead compartment on the plane or train – brilliant.
CHOOSE YOUR DESTINATION WISELY | – a beach holiday that used to be relaxing pre-kids, will be a very different trip with tots in tow, but as long as you know this going in, you can minimize the potential outcomes by being prepared – whether that means lining up babysitters in advance so mom and dad can have a night out or just a child-free afternoon by the ocean, do the leg work in advance to ensure the destination or resort is able to accommodate your needs.
PLAN AHEAD | pack light by ensuring you have baby or toddler necessities at your destination upon arrival. Many cities have a delivery service for things like cribs, high-chairs, strollers, toys and even diapers. Or call ahead to your hotel to inquire what kid-friendly amenities they might offer.
DINE AT NOON | Because dinner out with kids can be challenging at times, we love to have our nice family meal at lunch time when the kids are in better spirits. Lunch menus also tend to be less expensive than the dinner versions and so your money can go further.
Amanda Blakely is a Toronto based mama, travel writer and owner of baby label www.petitsgenoux.com.