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Who would’ve guessed that they’d turn out to be such great little travel buddies? I was definitely pleasantly surprised by how well they did!
So many people gave us suggestions and offered travel advice before we left- and many of the tips made such a difference for us! Since my inbox has been brimming with travel-with-toddler questions, I thought I’d compile those terrific tips in one place.
Our top ten tips for traveling with toddlers and babies-
Plan with them in mind- Your days (and thus your entire trip) will be more successful if you arrange your schedule with your kids, their schedules, and their interests in the forefront of your mind. That means building things into each day that will interest and delight your kids (yep, that’s a picture of an indoor carousel in Muscat, Oman. And, yes, the indoor amusement park was one of our stops that day).
On this note, we also visited playgrounds in each city we visited (we joked that we were on the playground tour of Greece and Turkey). Even though the thought, “We could play on playgrounds at home” ran through my head more than once, those little just-for-the-kids side trips were such a highlight for the Smooches that they were completely worth it.
Always have snacks on hand- At all times, there were enough Clif Kidz bars and Lara bars, almonds and dried fruit, Clif Twisty Fruits, trail mix and apple sauce pouches in my purse to substitute for a meal for all four of us. I know that sounds way overboard (and Adam and I never pack that many snacks when the two of us travel), but hungry kids are grouchy kids. And those snacks came in handy more often than I’d expected.
Pack diversions for the flight(s)- Burke and Piper Jane each had their own backpack- and you’d better believe that I crammed those babies with as many distractions possible (while keeping a watchful eye on the weight of the backpack).
Piper’s bag included her snack bag, a couple small coloring books and a crayon roll-up, a MadArt dry erase book (which quickly became our go-to for distracting her on airplanes), stickers, paperback Elmo books from the dollar bin at Target, and Elmo Pet flashcards.
Burke’s backpack included his snack bag, a couple small coloring books and a crayon roll up, a MadArt dry erase book, stickers, a magnet board and a Cars 2 coloring book (with markers that only work on that specific paper).
Pack small presents (aka- more diversions)- After reading your suggestions in my Call for Travel Help post, I hightailed it to Target to find little presents to wrap up and open along the way. Piper’s pile included lots of plastic jewelry, a flip book, a mini brush and fruit snacks. Burke’s presents were coloring pages, sticker books, fruit snacks and small plastic snakes/lizards/insects (which were mostly lost the way, and that’s totally fine with me).
Don’t underestimate the allure of Scotch tape and pipe cleaners– Although the Scotch tape and the pipe cleaners were both in the ‘small present’ category, they were so magical and such a great way to kill time that they get their own point. At the end of each flight, my kids were covered in Scotch tape, with pipe cleaners wrapped around their wrists, ankles, etc. I was thankful that I brought two packs of each one. Brilliant (though, not my brilliance- thanks smart blog/facebook friends for the tips).
Slow your pace- Kids aren’t fast explorers (or walkers, or climbers, or museum perusers), and that’s part of their charm. Build in at least twice the amount of time you think it’d take you (or you and your spouse) to see sites or explore neighborhoods. You might find, like I did, that the slower pace suits you.
Give your kids ownership and input- Before we arrived in each new place, Burke and I would sit down at the computer and decide on things we might like to do there (Piper is still too little to have many opinions, plus she just copies Burke’s level of enthusiasm anyway). Even though there were definitely sites we visited that weren’t on Burke’s priority list, we made sure that we did something that he chose each day. And his level of excitement was much higher when we were doing something he planned- a bonus for everyone.
Things that were high on Burke’s list- the Acropolis, the ‘zoo’ at the National Gardens in Athens, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Red Beach in Santorini, the aquarium in Dubai, sandcastle beach in Samos.
Prioritize food- Our kids loved trying local fare- they could eat their weight in Manakeesh (Omani cheesy bread), Naan (not quite ‘local’ to anywhere we visited, but still everywhere in Oman and so yummy), Simit (Turkish sesame pretzel-esque yummies), gyros, pomegranates and Turkish pizza. Even better, we endeavored to try the local sweets- little cakes, Turkish delight, gelato and loved every minute of it.
Find the wildlife. For kids like mine that are animal lovers, spotting animals of any kind is such a highlight. And you’d be surprised at the urban wildlife that you can find if you’re looking for it. We ran into camels (in Oman), cats and kittens (TONS of cats and kittens), peacocks, goats and bunnies (at the National Gardens Zoo in Athens), donkeys (in the islands in Greece), a hen and her chicks (in a park in Istanbul), frogs (again, National Gardens), crabs and fish in our beach-y locales, and pigeons (my kids loved chasing them). At one point near the end of our trip, Adam asked Burke what he would remember about Greece and he said, “THE CATS!” Haha!
Lest you think that every minute of our travels was a blissful, amazing adventure, I wanted to share this picture of Burke after a HOT day in Ephesus. Even though my kids were Travel Champions, and even though we had a really great time as a family, travel with kids is just so different than pre-kids travel, and sometimes harder too. Worth it, but totally different.
Happy family travels to you!
If you have any other fabulous kid and toddler travel tips, would you leave them in the comments? And if you’re looking for more (GREAT!) ideas, check out the comments of my call for travel help post!