Monday, July 25, 2011

On Transatlantic Travel With a Toddler

For those curious as to what I was dreading most - and yes, some people do think that way - about traveling to Europe with a toddler, the four flights were at the top of my list. Yes, four. New York (after the previous day's ferry, might I add) to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Hamburg, and then the same thing in reverse. Pretty much as soon as the Babby got used to being in another country, too.

traveling with toddlers

But honestly, things went swimmingly. On-plane meltdowns were averted quickly with novelties purchased on sale in the grocery the day before or seatback cartoons (thank you, KLM). Only one on-plane diaper change was necessary, and that was on the way home when a very warm and sleepy Babby was already suffering from a bug and with a very sore stomach and tush sadly said "Oh mama, I pooped..."

But enough about poop. See those fabulous people? That's us, in the Amsterdam airport, enjoying a fabulous breakfast with beer for the grownups, gorgeous coffee for me, and juice for the Babby. Bedankt!

Now once upon a time, I imagine that traveling overseas with a toddler would have been utterly terribly, since once upon a time there were no in flight personal video consoles with 40 cartoons to choose from or airline kiddie boxes with an extremely odd assortment of things ranging from colored pencils to what felt like the world's smallest deck of cards. (A question for KLM: Do you really want your flight attendants to have to play 52 Pick Up after every flight? Do you?) Nowadays these things exist, as do other things, that make spending six hours or more on a plane with a toddler just sliiiiightly more bearable.

Here are the BabbyMama's six tips for flying with a toddler in tow and traveling with toddlers without losing your mind:

1. Get thee an iPod Touch or an iPad or the Blackberry version of an iPad. Really, haven't you always wanted one anyway? Besides the animated and interactive picture books, there are apps that let you sketch with your fingers, coloring apps, apps for toddlers, and so on. The Babby actually watched a fair bit of Dinosaur Train because while there were numerous interesting cartoons in the in flight entertainment system, we didn't want her getting her ears blasted every time the flight crew made an announcement.

2. Prior to leaving, explain what will happen during the flight. Will she be sleeping on the plane? Will she watch movies? Will she have to sit in her car seat most of the way? That sort of thing. And don't neglect to explain what will happen when you get there, either. We told the Babby numerous times that she'd be sleeping on the plane in her car seat and then we'd take another plane ride, then a car trip, and that we'd be going to a farm. In all the explaining, don't forget the fun stuff, like what you'll eat that's new or different!

traveling Europe with toddlers

3. Don't overpack toys, diapers, blankets, or clothes in your carry on luggage. Let's say you have a six hour flight - more than six diapers in your carry on bag is probably overdoing it. And don't waste a lot of checked space on diapers, either. The diapers in other lands are usually just as good, or better, than the diapers at your local drug store, so do like we do and plan to buy some when you get there. As for the other stuff, blankets are sometimes non-negotiable depending on sleeping arrangements, but consider that the Babby wanted to re-wear certain outfits and overall she probably played with the same five dinosaurs for our entire trip.

4. Have familiar things and necessary things at the ready upon your arrival. The BabbyDaddy's luggage took a slightly longer trip than did my own, so it was a good thing we had extra wipes and the Babby's blankets and, very important, extra toys in other bags. That means that in an utterly unfamiliar setting where people were speaking an utterly unfamiliar language, yours truly could still throw biology out the window and hatch a squeaky frog from a big yellow egg.

flying with toddlers

5. Know where the kiddie stuff is. Where we were, it was a small kinder spielplatz that was not only good for keeping the Babby occupied when she started to get antsy, but also represented an escape from all of the new people, the new spaces, and the new language. The Babby may not understand German - yet - but she definitely understood swings and climbing toys and having sand underfoot.

toddlers and traveling

6. Don't neglect yourself! Unless you're traveling with a toddler specifically to do child-specific activities, there is probably grownup fun waiting for you at your destination. Forgoing grownup fun to micro-manage your toddler will only result in your not having any fun and your toddler wondering just what the heck is going. Provided, of course, that you don't micro-manage your toddler at home. Give your wee one plenty of time for safe free play in your country or countries of choice, and use that time to sit back, relax, and have a glass of whatever the local specialty happens to be. Alternately, make sure there is plenty of family present - think omis and babushkas - who would be happy to take your toddler off you hands for a few minutes or a few hours.


  1. Like the whole post, but the 52 card pickup got an audible laugh out of me.

  2. we have a plane, train, auto trip coming up so I paid attention to these tips and took notes!

    great pics to illustrate btw!

  3. You just sealed the deal...I'm buying the iPad. Glad you survived!

    Lots of yummy love,
    Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner


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