How to travel with a toddler or pregnant
By Mariana Laabs
Yes, it's possible to travel with a toddler or travel while being pregnant, and you can do it too!
Here's my take on why it’s important to be prepared, especially since traveling can already be overwhelming, plus an 18-month toddler and being 5-months pregnant on a 10-hour flight to Italy. It can either be a total disaster or an amazing experience!
So how in the world did we do it?
We knew we had six months to plan, from the day we bought the tickets. Which gave us enough time to save money and plan it effectively. Not to mention, that shortly after that I found out I was pregnant with my second child, which to many this would have meant to cancel the trip altogether, but we were determined to succeed (plus we had already purchased the tickets).
So here are my tips based on what we (husband and I) did to make it possible:
1. Traveling with the correct mindset
Always be flexible; keep in mind you cannot control everything, even when you want to, you can't. Traveling to another country plus a toddler can either be super fun or super scary no matter where you travel. Nothing is going to be perfect. Things will change, be canceled or you won’t reach places on time even when you already paid for them. Remember why you went there, in the first place. Enjoy yourself!
For example, most countries have different eating schedules. In Italy, we had a hard time finding places for breakfast other than our hotel because it’s the Italian custom to eat past noon or to have a croissant and espresso for breakfast, which didn’t fill us up at all.
2. Always always, always carry snacks
It doesn’t matter if you are about to eat or recently ate. For instance, eating in a country where you are learning and tasting new things can be overwhelming for some, especially for toddlers. Being able to have a snack that is familiar for them or even for you, can really make the experience much easier when it comes to mealtimes.
3. Staying hydrated
This goes for everyone on the trip, especially for your babies, and I could not express this enough. In fact, sometimes being dehydrated can not help us think straight, we need to be vigilant at all times while traveling. Therefore, bring water with you everywhere, sometimes the reason for a bad mood or headache is dehydration.
4. Not all places are kid-friendly, investigate in advance.
Most restaurants or shops are either registered on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or you can find them on google to save yourself the uncomfortable situation and investigate in advance. Thus, check for places that allow strollers or have child boosters.
5. Pack for any weather and carry extra clothes
Trust me, you’ll never be 100% sure what the temperature will be like until arrival, so be prepared for anything. On a road trip or when traveling to different cities with various altitudes, you may encounter rain, heat or cold in a matter of hours.
6. Do what makes you feel safe
Before I share, let me say that I’m a bit embarrassed about because it’s looked down upon by many but I get really anxious and this helps me a lot to calm down:
I carried a small backpack with a leash (which I didn’t even use in the end), but when I do use it, it’s for super crowded places where my toddler doesn’t want to be in a stroller. We just hold hands while I have the leash on my head as well. I NEVER let her walk by herself with the leash, but this makes me feel secure and since she tries to pull her hand away from me at times, it’s like double security. So if you’re like me, this might help. It definitely is not the cutest thing in the world but it helped us, due to the fact that my toddler has lots of energy and loves to run and explore.
7. Try to respect naps or bedtimes
Of course, it can be difficult while traveling but try to give some time for naps. First, you may even have to search for peaceful places or for quiet times. For us, the time change was a tough one, but there are tips to overcome jet lag for toddlers we applied. In fact, you may contact your doctor before using melatonin for kids; it made such a big difference for us. Make your best effort to keep a similar bedtime routine. For example, travel with their favorite blanket (small) or teddy bear for comfort, or favorite pajamas. Our hotel offered a small crib to put on the side of the bed, which was amazing!
8. Have fun above all things
Needless to say, the things we remember the most about the trip are the funny experiences or the times when we didn’t plan for certain things to happen.
To illustrate, I didn’t have a snack with me and I was pregnant, plus traffic and hunger. That day, I had really bad morning sickness, I’m sure you can imagine the rest...
At the time it was horrible because we were in the car with lots of traffic. It was a disaster but at the end of the day, it was a unique circumstance so I now laugh about it; it's those little things that you decide what attitude to take for the rest of the day, rather than to let it affect you for the rest of the day.
9. Be grateful for the experience and always say Thank You!
Not everyone has the opportunity to travel. Thus, be grateful for the opportunity and the adventures you are able to make for yourself and your family. Whatever country you go to, especially learn to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Please’, in the main language of the country you visit, if different than your own, it will make your experience so much better and locals will appreciate your effort!
10. Learning a bit of the language
Wherever you decide to go in the world, learn the essentials of the main or local language. In particular, phrases related to food, restroom, bank, hotel, directions, etc. Of course, you don’t need to speak the language fluently upon arrival but it does make it easier, plus people see that you at least try and they may try to be more helpful as well. For instance, carrying a small dictionary or book of terminology helped us. Often times, people are more helpful because they see you try.
11. Respect other countries’ customs and ways of life.
Needless to say, just because you go to a tourist area, doesn’t mean you should be entitled and rude. Obviously this isn’t everyone although it does happen a lot. Meaning improvise! If a small restaurant doesn’t have a child menu or high chair make it work. In other words, don’t complain, because it only makes you have a bitter experience. Some folks on the Western side of the world in general, have a bad rep in other countries and feel entitled that everyone must learn or know the English language. Instead, you can make a difference and make the effort to speak at least the essentials.
12. Purchase your tours before you go.
As we know, buying in advance saves money, time and waiting in line, meaning fewer tantrums. We purchased our tours on Expedia or legit websites with reviews that helped us. While waiting in line to enter a place, my husband and I would take turns walking our toddler around while waiting for the line to advance.
13. Ask for help
By all means, if you don’t understand something, ask someone for assistance or search on google. Don’t stay with the doubt. Asking can make your life way easier while traveling; even if sometimes we are embarrassed to ask obvious questions, don’t feel bad to ask for a favor.
Another tip would be to investigate the most of the country you visit, such as daily customs, eating schedules and local traditions. As a matter of fact, we made ourselves a planner specifically for the trip, printing out all of our necessary information to know what was next.
14. Setting alarms
Truthfully, everyone wants to get the most out of their vacation. Although we love sleeping, early mornings are less crowded in most countries, and that means the best time in town and early sleeping toddler at night, even with jetlag. Setting alarms is a great idea so you don’t miss the hotel breakfast, which actually happened to us! Ha ha.
Finally, here’s what I carry in my bag for toddler-essential traveling:
I dare say, this clear tote bag was a life changer because you are able to find things right away as you need them, instead of digging deep into the bag or taking all the stuff out to find that one thing you need and swore you left it where ‘you could easily find it’.
Diaper bag with essentials is another ‘must’ because not all places have diaper changes in restrooms or restaurants.
Also, be sure to pack for your toddler:
- Extra clothes
- Baby wipes
- Toy (if lost, toddler will survive)
- Always have your cell phone charged and cash with you.
- Hand sanitizer
- Carrying ziplock or biodegradable bags for diaper waste, in case you don’t find a trashcan nearby.
In the end, you’ll never be perfectly prepared for every situation but I trust these tips can help you make the trip easier to travel with your toddler(s). I hope you find this information helpful.
Overall, we loved our trip and would do it all over again.
Just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean it can’t be worth it and enjoyable.
For sure, our trip to Italy will be one of our best and funniest memories of our lives, and even if our daughter can’t remember when she’s older, we’ll always have the pictures. This experience has encouraged us to keep traveling as a family so I encourage you to find your way of traveling as a family as well because it is completely worth it.