Travel tips for toddlers

May 11, 2013

Beach huts, BournemouthIt’s official, we finally all have passports, we are going on a summer holiday. It took so long securing the passports that the actual break seems to have crept up really quickly. Also, how hard is it is to get a wriggly one year old to sit still for the photo?

We’re off to France soon with all of Alex’s side of the family, so Eliza will be able to get up to lots of mischief with her cousin. I’m really looking forward to eating all the cheese, drinking all the wine and having lots of friendly babysitters on hand.

Last year we couldn’t quite get out heads around the logistics of taking a newborn out of the country, so it’ll be a certain mademoiselle’s first non-UK break, and our first proper holiday for over two years (I’m not counting our Belgian babymoon).

So here’s where we need help:

  • How do you entertain a constantly active 15 month old on a long car journey? What are some distractionary tactics and absorbing iPad apps?
  • What essential items do we need to take with us, considering it will be sunny, fingers crossed (does she need a long sleeved swimsuit? Are there any baby travel gadgets?)
  • And then ten million dollar question, how do you get a toddler to keep a sunhat on for longer than three seconds?

Answers on a postcard, please! If you have any tried and tested tips holiday tips, let me know, or send me your blog posts and I’ll link them up.


  • Luci –

    May 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    In-car entertainment… we bought a DVD player that goes on the back of the headrest. It really helps with our daughter’s car sickness too. Best purchase we ever made for travelling happy.

    Sun hat – buy one that does up under the chin? Or Sellotape mittens onto her, so she can’t take a hat off…

    1. gillian

      May 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Mittens are a great idea! We’ve been fighting a losing battle recently over hairclips, so there’s no way she’s keeping a hat on. I should try it! x

  • Joanna Fulford

    May 12, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Here are my tips:

    1. Expect your drive to be made up of many small segments rather than the ambitious long stretches you might have done in the past. An then be prepared to throw all your plans out the window and just be guided by when your daughter needs to stop. This can be difficult for the driver (usually Dad!) who wants to make progress. On one of our long trips with our two we had to make our first stop before we’d got through zone 1 of London…
    2. Obviously plan the breaks to coincide with eating and leg-stretching. If you are able to hop into the back with her at all (for choking emergencies), I would really recommend giving Eliza her meal at the end of a stretch of driving and THEN stop to eat yourselves – she can run around while you are at the services and probably won’t want to sit and eat anyway as there will be too many distractions. And eating in the car will buy you an extra half hour or so of drive time! This was a great tip from a colleague of mine who drove to Germany a few times on her own with four young children – she took car picnics do everyone then they would stop at a forest/lake etc and she’d let them run about for an hour before getting back in the car.
    3. Fill a little bag with random small toys (old or new) that she can spend time ‘unpacking’. She will litter the back seat and the footwell with these items but every time you stop it will take a minute to pick them all up and she can ‘unpack’ again on the next stretch.
    4. Save the iPad/DVD player until really needed – it’s difficult to go bak once it’s been unleashed. Apps she might like could include Zoo Train, Peekaboo Farm/Forest/Wild, Rumble in the Jungle, Itsy Bitsy spider, Wheels on the Bus.
    5. CDs. You should be able to pass some time with CDs of nursery songs, especially if you all sing along!
    6. If you haven’t booked your crossing to France yet, I’d recommend the ferry rather than the tunnel. Yes, it takes longer but Eliza can run around and explore the whole time whereas on the train she’ll still be in the car.
    7. Some people like to drive overnight but it’s never appealed to us. But we quite like setting off early in the morning (scooping the kids out of their beds about half an hour before they’d normally get up and putting them straight into the carseats with a cup of warm milk). They are a bit bewildered for the first part of the journey, have a picnic breakfast and we can make it to Dover from south London without needing to stop. It also gives you the added bonus of packing all the last-minute bits (bibs, toothbrushes etc), loading the car and doing all th bits round the house (emptying nappy bin, checking window locks, setting light timers etc) without any distraction.
    That’s all I can think of – hope some of it’s helpful!

    1. gillian

      May 16, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      This is brilliant, so helpful – thank you! Loads of things I’d never even considered. The bag is a great tip, she loves having a rummage through mine so it will work really well. Luckily we are going on the ferry – hoping her Dad and Granddad are feeling energetic enough to take her for a run around 🙂 x

  • Christine

    May 12, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I’m about to undertake my third trans-atlantic flight with Emily! This time she’s walking and into everything so is going to be a different experience for sure. As you know they have very short attention spans so keeping her amused for the whole flight will be fun. I’m hoping she’ll sleep!

    iPad apps: We have one she enjoys called Peek-a-Zoo. She loves looking at photos and videos of herself just as much as that though.

    Sunny gear: we have a pop-up tent we take with us to the beach etc to keep us in the shade (essential here in California); she has a one-piece long-sleeved and legged swimsuit so we only have to put sunscreen on her hands, feet and face.

    Mercifully she will keep a sun-hat on. To get her to wear it I used to distract her with tasty treats, toys etc until she forgot it was there. The velcro chin strap helps too.

    1. gillian

      May 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Oh wow, she’s a seasoned traveler already! Fingers crossed she sleeps for you. Thanks for the iPad tip (E loves looking at photos of herself too, how funny are babies? So not self-conscious at all). Sounds like you’re having such a lovely time out there xx.

  • Katy from Modern Mummy

    May 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

    I wrote about this a couple of years ago! My post is here: Have a fabulous holiday—- so jealous! I need some sun ridiculously badly!! Xx

    1. gillian

      May 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      This is brilliant, thanks so much! I’m worried it’s going to be exactly the same weather as here though – I’ll cry if it is! x

  • Josie

    May 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I’m with you on the sun hat thing, no idea. Although we got A a cap with a bit at the back which she wears a little longer so you could try that?

    As for car journeys, we’re going away this weekend and I read on an American site I think about travelling at night so they sleep. So we’re setting off on a 5 hours journey at 7pm. Don’t know if that’ll be possible for you or at least nap times if not. There’s also this post: you might find useful.

    1. gillian

      May 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Aaah, these are great tips, thank you! We have to set off at about 6am – what’s the betting that this is the morning Eliza chooses to have a lie-in? A night journey is such a good idea though.

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  • A Mum in London

    May 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Hi, I recently wrote about flying with babies, but some of the tips could apply for car journeys, like nap time travelling, exhausting the beast (!), and surprising your little one with a new toy/book.

    As for the sunhat, that’s a tough one, but the sellotape mittens sound like a brilliant idea!

    Have a great time!

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