Top 5 Tips for International Travel With a Toddler
Traveling with toddlers can be really overwhelming! I recently took Harper on her 1st international trip to Paris. Prior to the trip, I was a little concerned about how she’d handle the fight, time change, food, and us getting around by metro. She’s flown a good number of times leading up to our trip, however, she like most toddlers is high energy. It was definitely a learning experience so I’m sharing all the details!
These are my top 5 tips for international travel with a toddler! She & I traveled solo for this trip, these tips are great for solo travel or family travel with a toddler.
First let’s dive into the details to give some context:
Travelers: Me and Harper
Her previous flights: 8 (all domestic)
Where we traveled: Paris, France
Airline: Delta (1 layover each way)
Date of travel: Late October - Early November
Weather: Pretty cold between 50 - 55 degrees
1. Pack Light
I can’t stress this enough! Make life easy and pack just what you need. The best part of traveling is creating memories, you don’t want to let the nightmare of taking too much luggage ruin the fun. For our trip I checked 1 medium size suitcase and carried on 1 small duffel for the things we needed in-flight (change of clothes, diapers & wipes, sippy cup, snacks, a few books/toys, etc..) I packed very minimal mainly because I traveled solo, the ease of taking this approach has transformed the way I’ll travel forever, less is more! Here’s how I managed to pack light:
I packed 5 complete outfits for myself I could get multi-wear out of (Most Airbnb’s have washing machines) I washed my clothes midweek and re-wore pieces
I packed 2 pair of shoes. Sneakers and a comfy chunky heel boot. We did a lot of walking and I knew comfort was most important
I packed the same way for Harper, complete outfits we could wash and wear again
I brought 1 very small purse. I wore a waist belt purse (or fanny pack) where I kept my bank card, passport, chap stick etc... This was the best decision ever because it was hands free
I didn’t bring a diaper bag. I have this amazing stroller bag that was perfect for carrying everything Harper needed while we were out (I added similar bags in the link at the end of this post)
We actually had space in our suitcase which was great because I picked up a few things for Harper while there and had enough space to fit it all in coming home. I highly suggest packing light traveling with a toddler.
2. Ask if your flight is full -OR- request a bassinet seat
Most airlines have bassinet seats available on a first come first serve basis for international travelers with babies/toddlers. If your child fits the weight requirement they offer an actual bassinet to you. For in-lap infants (kids under 2) this is a great option even if your toddler can’t fit in the bassinet. You’ll have plenty of leg room and space for your toddler to move around in-flight. We flew Delta and were able to get a bassinet seat for our leg to Paris. We made a pallet on the floor using the free pillows and blankets, Harper had a comfy place to sit right in front of me when she was tired on being in my lap. These seats are usually right next to the bathroom which is also a huge plus!
You can also ask if the flight is full at check-in and request a hold (basically a free seat) next to you. On our way back I wasn’t able to secure the bassinet seat so I asked if the fight was full and was able to get Harper a FREE seat! Talk about winning, that was awesome coming back from a long trip! So for those of you traveling with toddlers under 2 make sure to take advantage of these options.
3. Entertain your toddler in-flight the same way you do at home
I read so many articles on how to keep a toddler entertained in-flight. When it comes down to it, it’s not much different than what they normally do at home. I suggest packing their favorite toys from home (tablet, books, etc…) and plenty of snacks you know they’ll eat. I knew Harper would be fussy if she didn’t have her snacks, I packed plenty, but not too much, just enough to get us to Paris. She wouldn’t eat any of the food provided by the airline…win more food for me, which I anticipated. We took a night flight to Paris because I wanted her schedule to be as uninterrupted as possible. Our first leg was DC - Atlanta (just over an hour) by the time we got on the international leg it was close to 10pm and she was good and ready to go to sleep. So take that into consideration when booking your flights, more often than not going with their normal schedule is a life saver.
When we returned home from Paris, we had a morning flight, mainly because checkout at our Airbnb was at 11am. The few toys/books I packed came in really handy, in addition to the free seat I mentioned in my previous tip. I picked up a new batch of snacks the night before and we were good to go. Having her own TV really helped too, she was able to get some TV time in which kept her entertained in spurts! Again, keeping things similar to her normal schedule, I prepared and kept things consistent to what she’d normally be doing…wake up, play, eat, nap, etc…
4. Ditch the full size stroller and take an umbrella stroller
I brought my full size stroller but will opt for an umbrella stroller going forward for international travel. Europe is very compact so there were some challenges getting in and out of the metro. I had to remove the wheels at some stops to make it through the exit, the plus was Quinny strollers, the brand I own, are really great due to their thoughtful design it’s easy to dismantle and reassemble. The wheels pop right off which saved my life! That being said I still highly recommend an umbrella stroller. They’ll make the check-in process easier on flights because they’re so compact, also, they’re inexpensive so no big deal if they get damaged during travel. The plus is you can easily tuck them away when you don’t need them. They also have cheap carrying bags for them which are great to have. Overall I think you’ll worry less and minimize travel setbacks internationally if you opt for an umbrella stroller.
5. Adjust your toddler to the time zone you’re in
This is pretty straight forward, your toddler may want to sleep at odd times based on their normal schedule. Try your best to keep them awake according to the time zone you’re in. This’ll help them keep their stamina the entire trip and make each day run smooth. It may be difficult the first day or so but they quickly adjust. Harper didn’t struggle with the time change, we had pretty full days and a 6 hour time difference, so I was pleasantly surprised! All I did was follow this tip!
So there you have it! If you’re planning international travel with a toddler I hope these tips are helpful for you! Leave any additional tips you have in the comments! Share your international travel experiences as well it’s always good to hear different perspectives! For all the moms looking to travel internationally feel free to ask any questions you may have!
For all you moms on the go, I created a travel essentials list HERE check it out if you have family travel coming up! Alright mamas up up and away you go! xx