Having a toddler doesn’t mean saying goodbye to travel adventures – you just need to follow some tried-and-tested golden rules...
I was warned that having a child would be the end of our adventures. Never again, apparently, would we want to go on a trip that took us further than the local bus stop. But not so far. With a bit of preparation and the right attitude, I’m finding that travelling with a toddler doesn’t need to be torture.
After a few mishaps early on, mainly caused by me forgetting parental essentials, my wife and I have learnt to have a ‘go bag’ ready by the front door loaded with food, wet wipes and a change of clothing. We’ve added doubles of our lad Jake’s favourite toys and books, which have been a pain to buy, but worth it to make sure nothing is forgotten.
Our golden rule for happy toddler travel is booking the right train or flight. It can make the difference between a successful trip and a screaming nightmare. We always aim for a departure neatly coinciding with a daytime nap or the start of nighttime sleep. Then we get Jake to burn a bit of energy by pulling a case full of bricks before he hops into his seat to snooze.
At least that’s the idea. If he won’t sleep it’s time to reveal a new toy or a book. Luckily for us, Jake loves trains, planes, cars and views. So we enthusiastically identify everything that might hold his attention, or we distract him with the changing landscape, or with clouds that look like elephants or Daddy’s nose.
I like to think I’m pretty good at talking to him. I’ve suffered enough indignity on my TV programmes to feel unembarrassed about chatting away to my own tot. And talking about the journey really seems to work. Parents on planes ignoring their screaming children drive me to rage. Talk to your kids! Engage with them! Often they just want attention and to know what is going on.
At the other end, even when we’re a couple of hours late arriving, we avoid a grumbling stomach because we pack food for delays. Wherever we’re staying, we’ll produce something small from home, even if it’s just a little alarm clock. He finds it familiar and comforting.
Before Jake arrived, my wife Anya and I travelled the planet together for work and play, crossing the Sahara for a TV series, trekking through the jungles of Laos or boating across Bangladesh, snacking in endless dodgy cafés.
Jake’s just a tad too young to enjoy those adventures quite yet. Until he’s ready to see the extremes of our world, we try to make everything about our simple family journeys a mission or a game, whether we’re going to Brighton to see friends, Denmark to see family, or to Greece on the hunt for sunshine and sandy beaches. It can be draining, but so are many of the best experiences, and the reward for taking our happy, chattering toddler on a family adventure are memories to treasure.