Tips for Solo Travel with a Toddler

Don’t let the thought of travelling alone with your little one put you off. With a few tweaks to your ideal itinerary and some extra time planning, travel with a toddler can be an amazingly rewarding experience.Travel is a wonderful thing. Whether you’re exploring the world or a local town, travel can open your eyes to new ways of thinking, amazing experiences and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Travelling with young children can make small trips seem like big adventures (or big adventures seem like mammoth expeditions!) but the advantages of taking those trips far outweighs the negatives.

I never thought I’d be road tripping through Europe with a toddler, let alone on my own with him. From that experience I learnt never to pass up an opportunity to travel with my child.

travel europe with a toddler

Don’t let the thought of travelling alone with your little one put you off. With a few tweaks to your ideal itinerary and some extra time planning, travel with a toddler can be an amazingly rewarding experience.

When my son was 18months old we headed over to Europe for a fantastic 6-week holiday. We travelled as a family of three for most of the trip but for a week it was just my little boy and me. I knew in advance this would be the case so spent plenty of time before the trip researching locations, accommodation choices, tips and travel tricks.

I thoroughly enjoyed that week. On the one hand, it was like I was travelling solo in that I had complete control of where I went and had to rely on my own capabilities. On the other hand, I never got lonely. My little person was always with me (often strapped to my body), he was great as a conversation starter and he helped me find joy in the most simple of things.

 

When it comes to travelling with a toddler (solo or otherwise), I have a few tips to make the adventure memorable for all the right reasons:

  • Don’t worry too much before hand
  • Choose child-friendly locations and accommodation
  • Slow down and allow for rest times
  • Research and prepare thoroughly
  • Avoid queues where ever possible
  • Make it obvious you have a toddler at airports
  • Don’t forget to pack toys
  • Baby wearing is awesome
  • Pack light

travel solo with toddler

  • Worry is a misuse of you imagination

While I spent a lot of time researching and preparing for our holiday, I also spent a fair amount of time worrying about what could go wrong. And you know what?… Nothing did! Don’t let fear, doubt, anxiety or worry stop you from travelling alone with your child. (You can read more about my pre-travel anxiety here)

 

  • Choose child-friendly options

I’m not a thrill seeker so was happy to have a relaxed time while it was just the two of us. I did my research and stayed at places where children were welcome and provided for. I deliberately booked self contained, modest units with kitchenettes so we had space to play and spend time indoors without the fear of breaking something or falling off a balcony. We also stayed a few nights at a bed and breakfast on a working farm, that was a great experience for a child.

 

  • Slow down and soak things in a little more

If we were all together as a family we would probably have gone for long day trips, booked restaurants at particular times…we would have been on the go. Instead, when travelling solo with my toddler, I spent afternoons walking through the forest, milking cows or splashing in the lake. I also allowed for plenty of chances to have a rest or nap. Making the effort to slow down and look at the world in wonder, through the eyes of a child made the quiet activities even more special.

slow down solo travel with kids

  • Preparation is key

That old saying if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail repeated in my mind while planning the holiday and I’m so glad it did. I wrote lists, pinned articles, read reviews and packed all the right things. I felt prepared and I was! I had all the ‘things’ organised and it served us well because we didn’t need to worry about where to find something, what number to call, what to wear etc. It was all taken care of in advance meaning fewer things could go wrong.

 

  • Skip the crowds

I’m not a fan of crowds (my son likes them even less), so my advice would be to avoid them if at all possible. Booking tickets ahead of time and visiting tourist destinations early in the morning or late in the afternoon might be a better bet than lining up and risking being stuck in a queue with a cranky toddler.

 

  • Airport Queue Jumping

In every airport we visited in Europe we were invited to cut to the front of the queue. For a family not used to VIP treatment this was quite a thrill! At one stage we were at the back of a long line and our little one started to squirm, we knew it would be a very uncomfortable wait for everyone around us, so I sat him on my shoulders and in less than a minute there was an airport employee ushering us to the front of the line. This privilege is reserved for parents with young children.

 

  • Pack some favourite toys and new activities

It’s super important to keep your child amused on flights and long drives, but it also pays to think about what they’ll need when you reach your destination. I spent plenty of time pre-holiday researching appropriate toys to take with us. I wanted to make sure everything I chose would hold my child’s interest, were age appropriate, versatile, lightweight and compact so they don’t take up too much room in our travel bag. If you’re stuck for ideas on which toys to take, I have a few suggestions here.

Flying Sprout puppet busy bag

  • Baby wearing is a life saver

Little legs can’t be relied on to do much walking and pushing a pram around all day is hard work. Having a baby carrier meant I could have my hands free, my toddler could nap whenever he liked and we both felt safe and secure. (Read more about the advantages of baby wearing here)

Baby wearing travelling solo

  • Don’t pack more than you need (besides nappies. Always pack extra nappies!)

Think long and hard before leaving home about what is absolutely necessary while travelling. Especially if you’re travelling solo, remember that you’ll be responsible lugging it all around while also looking after you child (see previous point about baby wearing 😉 )

 

Travelling with a toddler was easier and more fun than I expected. While I prefer travelling as a whole family, I’ll never again shy away from travelling alone with a little one, and hope you wont either.

 

If you have any great family travel experiences or tips I’d love you to share them below!

 

Toys, Activities and Books for Travelling Toddlers

Travel is fun…but not always with a toddler, especially a bored, restless one. Keep your little one entertained and engaged with this list of tried and tested toys, activities and books for travelling toddlers.

Travel is fun…but not always with a toddler, especially a bored, restless one. Keeping your little one entertained and engaged will make travelling more relaxed for you and more fun for your child.

It is super important to keep your child amused and entertained while flying, or on long journeys by road, rail or sea, but it also pays to think about what they’ll need when you reach your destination. You might plan to be on-the-go most of the day but in those moments when you need some quiet time or your child needs to wind down before a sleep, having a quiet, independent activity on hand can be invaluable.

You want to choose a range of activities and toys that will hold your child’s interest, are age appropriate, versatile, are lightweight and also compact so they don’t take up too much room in your travel bag.

Here’s a selection of great toys, books and activities to give you inspiration when it comes to screen-free travel entertainment for your child.

 

Educational Busy Bags

Busy Bags are the perfect way to keep your child engaged and learning while travelling. These Toddler Busy Bags are colourful, compact and provide different task options in one little bag. You can select activity bags to target specific skills and concepts such as numbers 1-10, making patterns, colour awareness and threading.

Flying Sprout’s Carrot Busy Bag

Stickers

Keeping little hands and minds active is made easy with stickers. Peeling the stickers builds fine motor skills. If you choose reusable stickers with background scenes, like these offered by Tiger Tribe, they can engage your child’s imagination and be used as inspiration for story telling.

Tiger tribe sticker book My little town
Tiger Tribe Sticker Activity Set – My Little Town

Finger Puppets

Puppets are a wonderful way to encourage your child to tell (or listen to) stories. They can be used to perform puppet shows or as little companions that can easily fit in a pocket. This set of 6 finger puppets come in a handy storage bag.

Flying Sprout puppet busy bag
Puppet Busy Bag – Watermelon 2

Puzzle Books

Activity pads and colouring pages are an easy way to occupy your child’s concentration. If they have the dexterity; colouring within the lines, tracing and completing mazes are small, satisfying challenges they can work on. This activity book is made especially for younger children.

activity-travel-book
The Usborne Little Childrens Travel Activity Book

Magnetic Drawing Pads

These are a fantastic, clean, all-in-one way of drawing. Magnetic sketching pads can be used for drawing or playing games like tic-tac-toe. Having the drawing instrument attached means there is no risk of misplacing a lid or even a whole pencil or texta, plus they won’t mark the furniture! Quack makes this compact magnetic drawing pad.

Quack Magnasketch Art Board
Quack Magnasketch Art Board

Lift-the-Flap Books

Interactive books are always popular with little ones. The joy of lifting a flap, opening a door or peeking behind a window means they are likely to want to read one book over and over again. Spot is a classic lift-the-flap series. Spot Goes on Holiday is perfect to take traveling.

spot-goes-on-holidays
Spot Goes on Holiday Book

Quiet Books

These are not traditional books in the sense that they don’t tell a story, rather each page has a simple activity to entertain and build fine motor skills. Quiet books are fabric, often felt, and stitched to include things like buttons, laces and velcro shapes. A great deal of work goes into the creation of these books so they are not cheap but are a worthwhile purchase. This one is made in the Philippines and money raised from it’s sales helps the local women.

Quiet Book for Toddler travel
Quiet Book by Story Time

Look and Find Books

Exploring all the details in a densely illustrated book is like a visual treasure hunt. Collections like Where’s Wally and Seek and Find are full of amusing and surprising illustrations while books in the I Spy collection contain photographs of many items on each page.

i-spy
I Spy 4 Picture Riddle Book

A Favourite Story

Having a favourite book on hand can provide your child with a familiar comfort when their surroundings are not so familiar. Reading a story can have an instant calming effect and help transition your child to sleep time. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite of many children and parents alike.

ERIC CARLE
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Drawing

If you’re not sure about letting your toddler loose with pencils or crayons, drawing with water is a fantastic idea. Add a little magic into the mix with these mess free water pictures by Melissa & Doug.

melissa-and-doug-water-play
Melissa Doug Water Wow!

A Favourite Toy

Taking a favourite toy along while travelling can be really reassuring for your child and can providing them with entertainment as well as comfort. Just don’t lose it!

mini diggers set of 5
Mini Diggers Set of 5
Ragtales - Tilly Rag Doll
Ragtales – Tilly Rag Doll

Wearable Toys

Often when travelling there are unexpected delays or unavoidable queues. In these situations it is not always convenient to search through your bag for something to entertain your child. Here’s a great idea from @critterz_, a wearable toy! The necklaces each include a toy figure so your child can wear their entertainment.

shark-necklace
Critter Necklaces by @critterz_

There are many, many great toys and activities to keep toddlers entertained while travelling. When shopping for items to pack on your next adventure make sure your choices are appropriate to your child’s age, will hold their interest for more than a few minutes, are lightweight and compact and will also provide them with entertainment once you reach the destination.

Activities Using a Deck of Playing Cards

When space in your bag is at a premium but you know you’ll be needing something to keep your children entertained, make some room for a deck of playing cards.

When space in your bag is at a premium but you know you’ll be needing something to keep your children entertained, make some room for a deck of playing cards.

maths activities using a deck of cardsWhen out and about be it in a café, sitting in a waiting room or in the airport departure lounge a simple deck of cards can provide your kids (and you) with plenty of entertainment. Sometimes it can be tricky to think of what to do with all those cards so, to make life easier, I’ve compiled a list of simple activities. In addition to being nice and easy, the activities on the list are educational, enjoyable and provide some quiet time.

playing with cards kids maths

Rainbow Facts – Turn over one card at a time and ask your child to tell you the number’s partner to 10.

Addition – Flip over two cards at a time and ask your child to add the numbers together.

Subtraction – Ask your child to flip two cards at a time and subtract the smaller from the larger number.

Multiplication Facts – Flip two cards at a time and have your child multiply the numbers together. To increase the challenge, you can add a third card (or more).

Multiplication Tables – Decide on a number to multiply by (a set of times tables). Turn over one card at a time and multiply the displayed number by the selected number. Timing your child while they go through the deck of cards can make this more engaging.

Make 10 – Ask your child to choose four cards that add together to make 10 (or any other number you choose).

dice and playing cards Flying Sprout

Vertical Sums – Lay out a vertical sum using the cards and ask your child to show the answer using cards rather than writing it down. As an extra challenge, you could lay out the top line of the sum as well as the answer and ask your child to work out the missing number.

Skip Counting – Create a number pattern for your child to identify and complete. To make this more challenging, create 2 digit numbers with the cards, count backwards or start at a number other than zero. You can also ask them to make their own counting pattern.

Missing Numbers – Ask your child to put some cards in number order (they can use single digits or make the numbers more complex with multiple cards). Have them close their eyes while you remove a card. When they open their eyes ask them to identify the missing number.

Making Sums (also requires operation cards) – Lay out some cards facing up, ask your child to make some sums using the operation cards.

Greater Than/Less Than (also requires < and > cards) – Lay out two numbers, side by side. Ask your child to place the greater than (>) or less than (<) sign in the correct position to show which number is smaller/larger

Making Numbers – Ask your child to make numbers meeting specific criteria e.g. Select three cards and ask them to make the largest or smallest number possible or, ask them to make a 3 digit number that is a multiple of 5 or ask them to make a number with a 3 in the tens position

take a deck of cards with you kids maths activities

Roll and Collect (also requires a 10 sided dice) – Lay a full suit of cards face up in a row. Ask your child to roll the dice, read the number aloud and collect the correct number card,

20 Questions – Make a 2-digit number using the cards and have a partner guess your number by asking yes or no questions.

Roman Numerals (also requires matchsticks or paddle pop sticks) – Select a playing card and make the number in roman numerals using the sticks.

Snap – Divide the deck of cards equally between the people playing. Players take it in turns to turn over one card at a time, placing it face up on the centre pile. When two cards of the same number are placed on the pile one-after-the-other, the first person to yell, ‘snap!’ collects both cards. The winner is the person with most pairs when all the deck has been played.

Memory – Select two full suits of cards. Lay them facedown in rows. Players take it in turns to turn over two cards. When a player turns over two cards of the same suit, they keep the pair. Continue until all pairs have been found. The player is the one with the most pairs at the end of the game.

Traditional Card Games – Play some good old-fashioned card games such as Solitaire, Rummy, Poker, Go Fish etc. For instructions on how to play an enormous range of traditional card games click here.

Your child will have heaps of fun building a card tower.
Your child will have heaps of fun building a card tower.

Build a Tower – Make a tower, as tall as possible, using the full set of playing cards.

52 Pick Up – Drop all the cards on a surface and have your child pick them up. They could pick up the cards one suit at a time, in number order or by skip counting.

If you liked these suggestions, head on over to Flying Sprout’s Etsy Store to purchase your own Grab & Go Bag, complete with an activity idea, extension tasks and set of playing cards.

As you can see from this list, there are plenty of ways a humble deck of cards can help your child to improve their maths skills while they are keeping entertained and having fun!

Flying Sprout's Grab & Go Bags practise maths skills in a fun and engaging way.
Flying Sprout’s Grab & Go Bags practise maths skills in a fun and engaging way.

30 Ways for Kids to Collect and Keep Travel Memories

Photos are a fantastic way of storing memories while travelling but they are certainly not the only way. Here are 30 other child friendly options for collecting and keeping memories of your next adventure.

Having a camera built in to our phones means capturing moments and storing memories is easier than ever. It’s super convenient to flick through digital photo albums and relive special travel experiences. Children particularly enjoy taking a digital walk down memory lane.

pexels-photo-129426

Photos are a fantastic way of storing memories while travelling but they are certainly not the only way. Here are a few other child friendly options for collecting and keeping memories of your next adventure:

 

Videos

Videos are a great way to truly capture a moment. You can record your kids in action, whether that be splashing around in the water, eating a meal or trekking through a forest. Alternatively, you (or your children) might like to create a video diary or interview people you meet along the way. Videos, even more so than photographs, can truly record a moment in all it’s glory. Plus they provide a real talking point that helps make memories more relatable for kids, especially young ones. With things like Go Pro you can even record hands–free.

 

Specialty Books

If you are visiting new counties, major landmarks or popular tourist destinations you may be able to find engaging children’s books that capture the destination in print. There are fabulous sticker books, pop-up books, children’s map books, atlases and stories published to engage, inform and educate young readers. Like photographs, books are easy to store, look through and revisit again and again.

9781409582373
First Sticker Book London – available from www.bookdepository.com

Collections

Starting a collection of items from each location you visit is lots of fun for children of all ages. Your child might like to choose something different each time or keep it the same; postcards, mini landmarks and key rings are easy to find and generally kind on the budget. Alternatively, they could fill a bottle with a little sand from each location you visit, collect admission tickets, boarding passes or perhaps collect a pebble from each location, If you are visiting multiple countries with your children, they might like to collect stamps or coins from each place.

pebble collection

Journals/Diaries

Travel journals can be as simple or complex as your child chooses to make them. They could create an elaborate scrapbook or simply write a sentence in a notebook to reflect on each day of their adventure.

Your child might like to write a letter or postcard home every chance they get, that way when the adventure is over they will have an instant collection of memories, neatly packed away in envelopes waiting to be relived.

If your child is school aged, they could post their correspondence to school. Their class would have the opportunity to read the mail and follow your child’s adventure before returning the mail to your child when they get back to school. The lovely thing about this is the writing will capture your child’s personality at that age; the spelling, letter formation and pictures can be looked back on in many years to come.

love-heart-hand-romantic

Maps

Recording your journey on a map is another fantastic way to keep a visual memory of places travelled. You might like to place coloured stickers on a map or upgrade to a scratch map or pin board map. They are easy to use, educational and look fantastic hung on a wall. Not only are maps great to show where your child has travelled but they are handy to use before setting off to show distances, places and create some excitement about adventures to be had.

BBJB-scratch-map-web
Scratch Map – available from National Geographic

While there are many options, most of the time taking photographs is the simplest, easiest and most convenient way to capture your memories. But that doesn’t mean the photos can’t be interactive. Professional printing services now offer a huge range of options when it comes to creating something a little more exciting. You can create puzzles, clothing, mugs, cushions, even snow globes with your happy snaps. Plus, of course, there are photo books. With these books you are not limited to images, you can add headings, stories, captions; any text, to accompany each photograph and build a great resource about your experiences.

Regardless of which method you and your child/ren choose to store memories, the most important thing is to make them in the first place! Don’t concentrate too hard on taking those photos or finding items for a collection when you could instead be totally present and immersed in your experience, making some amazing memories you’ll keep with you forever.

pin map

In summary here is a list of ways you and your child can collect and keep memories of your travels:

  • take photographs
  • take a video diary
  • record video interviews
  • buy location specific sticker books
  • buy location specific pop-up books
  • buy children’s map books
  • buy an atlases
  • buy location specific stories
  • collect postcards
  • collect mini landmarks
  • collect key rings
  • create a bottle of sand
  • keep admission tickets
  • keep boarding passes
  • collect pebbles
  • collect stamps
  • collect coins
  • write a journal or diary
  • make a scrapbook
  • write letters to themself
  • write letters to their school
  • place stickers on a map
  • use a scratch map
  • use a pin board map
  • create a photo book
  • create photo puzzles
  • create printed clothing
  • create photo mugs
  • create printed cushions
  • create a photo snow globes

The Advantages of Babywearing While Travelling

When faced with the choice whether to use a pram or babycarrier while travelling or on holiday, the benefits of a wearing your baby make it a clear winner.

The advantages of baby wearing while travelling are many, too many to list. I have found baby carriers to be one of my most valuable possessions as a parent, particularly a travelling parent! While I love using a pram for everyday walks around my local area, I have never taken one on a holiday. I’ve always chosen a baby carrier rather than a pram, here’s why…

baby wearing Infographics

  • Using a pram to get around can be hard. I find it challenging to manoeuvre through crowds of people, tricky to load in and out of the car and near impossible when faced with a flight of stairs. All of these scenarios are almost guaranteed when travelling. Wearing your baby in a carrier, wrap or sling makes crowds insignificant, getting into a car easy and allows you to run up the stairs if you really want to!
  • Travel can be overwhelming for adults and is especially so for children. With all the new sights and sounds little ones can easily get emotional and clingy. Being in a baby carrier where they feel physically safe and secure is hugely reassuring for them and can eliminate a potentially stressful meltdown for you.
  • The safety and security your child feels when being worn also helps them to sleep comfortably and we all know how important that is, ESPECIALLY while travelling!!
  • Moving through crowds, airport checkpoints and sightseeing in new cities is made much easier without a pram. Having both your hands free to fill out forms, feed yourself on the go and hold luggage is made possible by wearing your baby.
  • Finding yourself in crowded places with a young child can bring up issues of safety. Keeping your little one close means less chance of getting separated from them…. and you cant get much closer than having them attached!
  • Packing light can be a challenge, especially when you have a young child! Baby carriers are light and most fold up very small; small enough to place in a nappy bag or carry on. Prams, on the other hand, can be very heavy, awkward to fold and are too large to pack away, meaning you need to take an extra piece of luggage everywhere you go.
  • Family travel often sees us accompanied by a mountain of luggage, usually too much for one person to wheel around, baby wearing frees up your hands so you can wheel along a suitcase or trolley without also having to chase after your child.

There are many different baby carriers in the market. They vary in price, comfort and ease of use.

For newborns I can’t go past a stretchy wrap, like those by Moby or Hug a Bub. You can take your baby in and out of the carrier without having to unwrap it each time.

http://www.lelong.com.my/moby-wrap-original-100-cotton-baby-carrier-deep-blue-bosstore-147800437-2016-04-Sale-P.htm
Moby brand stretchy wrap

For babies who are a few months old all the way up to 20kg toddlers, my saving grace is a Tula. Tula’s are easy to use, weigh nearly nothing, fold down very small, are ergonomically designed (very important!), super comfortable and look great! They aren’t cheap but are worth their cost ten times over in the piece of mind and convenience they offer.

Tula baby carriers can be worn on your front or back
Tula baby carriers can be worn on your front or back.

Next time you are travelling, do yourself a favour, leave the pram at home and take a baby carrier instead.

Travelling with a Toddler – Unnecessary Stress and Worry

Travel can be an exciting adventure. It can also be a stressful struggle. In many cases, the difference between these two experiences is simply our mindset.

Travel can be an exciting adventure. It can also be a stressful struggle. In many cases, the difference between these two experiences is simply our mindset.

Travelling with a toddlerWhile we certainly cannot control everything, and children have their own way of creating chaos, we can control ourselves. The way we plan for and approach our travels can help ensure things run as smoothly as possible, with the minimum amount of stress.

I am very fortunate to have travelled a lot with a toddler so I know the stress that can come before setting off on a big journey. I also know the anxiety that comes from imagining the worst-case scenario and the relief when you realise all the worry was unfounded.

When my little one was 18 months old my family went on a European adventure. We flew from Australia (2 flights, 23 hours in the air) to France and road-tripped through six countries. In that time I spent 5 days travelling alone with my son, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road through non-English speaking countries and …. I had a blast!

I look back and think of all the time I spent worrying about what could potentially go wrong and seriously regret all the unnecessary stress I caused myself.

I worried about:

  • My child crying throughout the flights and disturbing everyone
  • None of us sleeping on the aeroplane
  • Not being able to communicate with locals
  • Not finding places to park or being able to read road signs
  • Having an accident in the hire car

None of those things, which I’d spent so much energy worrying about, actually eventuated. Not one!

  • My little one was wonderfully behaved and we all slept in the flights.
  • There are many English speakers in Europe plus loads of translation apps you can use to communicate.
  • The GPS worked wonderfully, so reading road signs was a non-issue and finding car parks was easy.
  • We handed the hire car back without so much as a scratch.

I've got 99 problems and 86 of them are completely made up scenarios in my head that I'm stressing about for absolutely no logical reason.

They say ‘live with no regrets’ but I’ll tell you what, I seriously regret the time I worried about all the things that would never even happen!

The only benefit that came from worrying about what could go wrong, was an increased motivation to through plan our trip; good places to stay, activities to keep a toddler amused, apps that make travel easier etc. Good planning meant everything that could go right did!

It was an amazing learning experience and I am so proud of what we achieved. We made memories that will last us a lifetime, I discovered abilities I didn’t know I had but most notably, I learnt that worry is a serious misuse of my imagination and there is no need to worry about what may or may not happen in the future because, that only takes away from the present.

Worry is a misuse of your imagination

Disclaimer: The worst we experienced was 2 days of seriously grumpy teething in 35 degree heat without air conditioning. But hey, plenty of cuddles, gelato and taking things a little slower was all we needed to get through that!