5 Tips for International Travel With a Toddler

SA-Durban-Guillermo-Mini-City-2015

Toddler enjoying Mini Town in Durban, South Africa.

Our baby started traveling with us when he was six months old. We started domestically (short flights and familiar airline experiences) and moved on to international flights once the baby was a year old. To find out why we travel with our little one, click here. We visited South Africa in September (Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban) when baby was eighteen months old and Brazil in November (Sao Paulo, Rio, Salvador and Iguacu Falls) when baby was twenty months old. We’re heading to Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong in March when baby will be twenty four months old. We’ve had really positive experiences and I thought I’d share how we did it.

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Dad and toddler look at the Orishas at park in Salvador, Brazil.

#1 Choose a child friendly city

We like museums, hiking, thrifting and wandering around. For us a child friendly city means someplace that we can meander around and have a good time people watching and eating at random places. When things are too structured it creates stress for us. We especially enjoyed Cape Town and Rio. Some might say these cities are places to be wary of, but I say that with common sense these places are as safe as any other place to take your baby/toddler/child.

Brazil-Rio-Guillermo-Rental-view

The view from our rental house in Rio, Brazil.

#2 Choose a comfortable rental house

Since our little one is still a young toddler, we look for rental houses that have a crib, a bathtub and a way to easily access transportation. We have used hotels on occasion, but we find that get the best value (good amenities at a good price) when we use AirBnB. I’ve read good and bad reviews of staying with an AirBnB property, but our experiences have all been positive. We prefer to rent a whole home (sometimes a house, sometimes an apartment) that has multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, air conditioning and heat, a bathtub, cable and wireless internet. We’ve rented homes in the swanky financial district in Sandton, South Africa (suburb of Johannesburg) and average sized apartments in Salvador, Brazil. Before we had kids, we CouchSurfed in Japan. I’d do it again but most CSers tend to be young and are usually NOT looking for a family to move into their home!

Guillermo-South-Africa-Travel-Toys-2015

Blocks, magnets, cloth animals and wooden fruits make up the bulk of the baby’s travel toys.

#3 Bring touches of home

We travel a lot. A LOT. We’re usually on the road for business a few times a month and the way these travel deals (TheFlightDeal / SecretFlying) keep happening, we are traveling internationally more and more. To make sure that we don’t all lose our minds, we bring things from home that make us feel comfortable and help us keep our routine. For the baby that means bringing one of his turtle blankets, some familiar toys, a few snacks (granola bars) and a tablet with his videos (Storybots, Rafi, Mulan and Kung Fu Panda are his faves right now). Regardless of what’s on tv in the country we’re visiting he can sit on his blanket, play with his toys and watch the same thing he might watch if we were at home. It keeps him grounded and helps us all sleep well.

Shay-Guillermo-Babywearing-South-Africa-Kirstenbosch-Family-2015

Babywearing our toddler at Kirstenbosch Park near Cape Town, South Africa.

#4 Think strategically

Traveling with a toddler can be all fun and games IF you put things in place to lessen your stress and create opportunities for awesome things to happen. We’re all different and what that looks like to you may be different than what it looks like to me, but here are the things I do to increase the chances that fun will happen:

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How I babywear through the airport. Baby goes in a front carry so I can also wear my backpack. Easy peasy.

  • Choose fewer sights to see in one day. What do you absolutely want to make sure that you get to do?
  • Choose times to see sights when foot traffic will be low. This is a no-brainer.
  • Bring snacks for everyone because cranky adults fight with cranky kids. A hand full of trail mix and an apple can turn even the worst attitudes around.
  • Bring our baby carrier. There is no way I’d even attempt all this travel without my handy mei tei.
  • Use caribiners to attach water bottles and snack cups to backpacks and mei tei.
  • Bring a small backpack inside of my larger backpack for day trips. Less weight means less effort expended on humping items and more effort enjoying the day.

 

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The baby learning to walk in a park near Buckingham Palace in London, England.

 

#5 Let ’em be free range

Some of the best experiences we’ve had, have happened because we are open to letting  the baby explore a bit. In Salvador the baby and a waiter played tag while we ate. It was still early (we have to feed the baby before sleepy time) so the restaurant was pretty empty. There were two waiters that started playing with the baby. At one point, he wanted to get out of his high chair and then wanted to get down off of my lap. The waiter assured me that it was fine and then began chasing the baby around! The baby loved it. He began running and squealing with delight! The other waitstaff came to see what was happening and joined in. That’s one of the best memories I have of Brazil and it happened because we allowed the baby a little freedom. See what can happen when you allow children to experience the world they live in on their own terms.

This is how we’ve managed to take our not-yet-two-year-old on almost twenty five flights on four continents in four countries. Do you have any tips about traveling with a baby or toddler? I’d love to hear ’em. Please share in the comments below.

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