Like most new parents, we swore that having a child wouldn’t stop us from travelling the world. We’ve both travelled extensively, either backpacking or through work, and wanted to pass that love of new cultures (and foods!) on to our next generation. Things started well, we took our son on a staycation at six weeks of age and to Crete at five months. Then at 15 months, we went long haul and visited Antigua… it was bliss; until we realised that taking a toddler on holiday is significantly harder work than a baby.
To start with, a toddler needs entertaining. They need constant watching to ensure they don’t dive head first into the pool. They need naps and a proper sleep pattern that they’ll fight with every inch of their body. They need to live off of more than milk and are far less cute when they’re screaming their lungs out. Put simply, travelling with a toddler is a whole new ball game.
This year, my Google search is less ‘five star resort in Antigua’ and more ‘homes for rent in France‘. And whilst there’s a part of me that mourns the holidays of the past, I’m excited for a new stage of travel in our lives… travelling with a toddler and a baby.
Our previous adventures have allowed me to feel pretty confident with what we need to consider when travelling with kids; but here’s an updated list of what we’re considering when travelling with a toddler in tow;
When it comes to location, I want the feeling of being on holiday without the stress of long distance travel. Having done a nine hour overnight flight whilst constantly bouncing and shushing, I can safely say it’s not something I want to re-enact any time soon. Yet I want warmer climes and a different culture to the UK; I love a staycation as much as the next person but sometimes, you just need a change. That’s why we’re looking at keeping it fairly local (HA!) and sticking to France. Being on the South coast, ferries are a definite option and allow us to take the huge piles of paraphernalia that children come with. Failing that flights are short, regular and affordable; all things to consider now that we’ll be paying for three seats.
Our son isn’t a fussy eater, but he knows what he likes and he likes what he knows. For him, like me, carbs are king. We want somewhere where we know that we’re going to be able to cater for his tastes, as well as ours. Breads, pastries, frites and yoghurt; I think it’s safe to say that Europe is going to be the best fit for him at this point. Plus it gives me an excuse for a daily trip to the bakery… We tend to keep restaurant trips to during the day and eat in in the evening due to bedtimes, so it’s important that there are food supplies (and eateries) in the relatively near vicinity.
With little ones in tow, I want to be sure that we can speak the lingo, whether that’s calling on my GCSE French or cracking out some incredibly poor Spanish. Whilst I can mime as well as the rest of them, I want to know that we can understand menus, visit tourist attractions and get help if we need it.
We’re not huge adventurers but being able to get around is certainly high on our list of priorities. Whether it’s to the beach, the supermarket or into a local town for some lunch, it’s important that there’s good access that’s easy to use. In the past, I’ve gotten to grips with public transport and subways but our reality is we’re more likely to want to drive with two children; whether that’s in our own car or having hired one. Good roads, understandable signage and ease of parking are all (rather boring) things we bear in mind!
Whilst I’m tempted beyond belief with a hotel stay (with a spa. and childcare.), when it comes to taking a toddler away, we’ve concluded that a villa or home rental is probably the best bet for us. It allows us to have more space to spread out. Why’s that important? Whilst routine goes out of the window a bit on holiday, it’s safe to say that we’ll all have more fun if bedtime for the toddler stays relatively early. It means we can put him to bed in one room and enjoy our dinner and evening in peace, giving us a little bit of well-earned rest as well. We also found from previous trips that it allowed him to keep his naps without one of us being stuck in the room with him. A week or more of us all sleeping in the same room would turn into a (sleep deprived disaster). Put simply, we all need a bit of space.
Whilst we’re on accommodation, it would be silly not to mention security. Whilst I’m a firm believer in not stopping going somewhere, having children with me has made me far more aware of potential holiday no-go areas or potential risk areas. We’ve always preferred smaller towns and villages, believing we get a chance to take in a little more culture. I think it comes from spending my childhood being dragged from French town to French town on road trips with my parents! It also reduces the stress element… I don’t fancy taking two little ones into Paris or another built up area, it’s hard enough to control one at home!
Additionally, we want a living space that we feel safe in. Whilst a pool is high on our list of preferences, we’d want to know that there was safety fencing or access alarms to stop the toddler wandering into it without our knowledge. With small ones around, lockable doors and controllable access is also important.
Ahhh the big one! Whether it’s a week away or longer, we like to have some things to do to break up the days and get us out and about. From day trips to the beach to days out at local attractions, it’s my aim to at least try and get one or two little trips in… otherwise we may as well stay at home! It’s another reason France is looking appealing to us; I’m hoping to sneak in a vineyard tour at some point. Well it’s my holiday as well…
If you’re travelling with a toddler, a good pushchair can make or break your trip… check out our review of the Joie Pact pushchair, the ideal holiday companion!