Little lady P has been on some epic journeys. As a teacher I get a lot of holidays and like to take advantage of them when I can. I’ve friends and family all over the world and UK so we’ve done a fair bit of long car, train and plane journeys.
Toddler P travels well, I really cannot complain about how she’s lasted on 11hr flights and 7hr car journeys. Here are some of my tips that helped:
1. Plan ahead.
I’m naturally organised in a lot of ways (people that know me may disagree because the situations and times when I’m not then I’m really not!) and when planning a trip away with little Miss P, I’ve planned the journey as much as the break. I’ve looked at when and where to stop on a car journey, I’ve googled facilities and used a recommended blogs for ideas and answers to any of my questions or potential issues. There’s a great website Motorway Services where you can search what service stations are on your journey and what they offer. As a result of this I’ve been able to plan stops where there are play areas to allow her time to let off some steam and stretch her chubby little legs!
I also planned meals and snacks on the plane, how I was going to entertain her. I planned for eventualities. How I would juggle her and feeding myself, going to the toilet, changing nappies. I thought through what both of us would need, when we would need it and how I could keep us both safe and happy and most importantly what I might need to pack to enable this.
2. Provide entertainment.
This may in someways seem like an obvious one but it’s so important and requires a little more thought than you realise. For any journey I’ve packed suitable toys and some of her favourites, in the car I placed them within her reach and on the plane I hid them in various different pockets of my flight back providing the added excitement of a hide-n-seek game to the entertainment menu.
This isn’t always enough though and when driving in the front of the car it’s impossible to pass back the dropped toy and the specific dolly that’s out of reach and flight seats make for restricted room. Therefore I’ve fallen back to some good old fashioned favourites, traditional nursery rhyme singing, games of I spy, sight seeing out of the window. We’ve even managed to spot dragons, unicorns and fairies!!!! It just means some capturing of their imagination, that combined with the regular planned for stops has kept toddler P a happy content little soul.
Ok there’s not much to see out of an aeroplane window however the inflight entertainment system, a wander up and down the aisle and some whispered nursery rhymes and hand clapping/copying games also worked wonders. I also went to the pound shop pre-flight and bought some cheap new toys she had never seen before and brought these out periodically to capture her attention when she got restless, it was an inexpensive way of adding some new excitement to a long haul flight.
3. Recreate bedtime.
This is a tough one and to a certain extent depends on the journey length, time of departure/arrival and time zone differences. What is useful though is to think about sleeping and when they usually nap or go to bed and what their routine is for this and try to work with that or recreate it. If possible I aim to set off within a reasonable amount of time for nap so a bulk of the journey is taken up by nap time. Or I try to recreate bed/nap routines to settle her into a relaxed slumber. I’ll read a book and have some calm down time, put her in pyjamas if appropriate and necessary and get her mentally prepared for some r&r whilst on the journey.
4. Food glorious food.
I always have a tendency to make picnic/packed lunch when going on a long car rides a lot of service station food is expensive and not always very healthy. Packing up plenty of snacks for on the plane or in the car really helps with little P, I make sure they’re easily reached for her and use mini Tupperware tubs to give to her to keep her happy.
5. Chill out.
This is possibly the most important. Kids feed off the emotions around them so if you’re stressed they will be. I’ve started to view long journey’s as a bit of r & r for me and my girl. Toddler P can relax and nap, I can sing along to my favourite playlist (as well as baby shark on repeat 🤦♀️). As soon as I do this the journey is easier, it becomes part of the holiday and we both enjoy it more rather than seeing it as a chore.
6. She’s cute so play on it.
This was quite possibly the best piece of advice I could’ve been given before stepping onto that 11hr flight! One of the biggest worries about plane travel with a child is upsetting the other passengers. So once we had boarded the plane, baby P was in full form, so I showed her off. The flight attendants cooed over her, the passengers around us greeted us with a knowing smile, most were with older more grown up children so engaged in small talk of their travel tips and horrors. They knowing laughed, wished me luck and told me not to worry if she got worked up. This put me at rest so as I said in point 5, I was more relaxed., however it also provided some extra entertainment. As people passed us in the aisle, as they sat around us, they chatted to me and little P, they played peek a boo with her, sang and pulled faces with her. If ever she did get a bit wingey, they looked over with sympathy rather than annoyance and offered kind words, helped me juggle things and just generally held put little P (and me) at ease.
7. Hands free.
Now I’m not talking Bluetooth or loud speaker!! What I’m taking about is keeping your hands free whilst keeping baby or toddler close. I would highly recommend investing in or borrowing a baby carrier or sling for travelling with a little one. Mine was a god send, it helped in the airport because I could strap her to me if she was unsettled in the buggy and I could put bags etc in the pushchair. It meant I had my hands free to get documents etc for check in, I could eat my food on the flight, I could keep her on my lap whilst we both napped. It served a multitude of purposes-even made going to the loo easier (I’ll spare you the details).
Now obviously she’s an older toddler so dislikes such a carrier and would have to be on my back but a set of reigns is also a wonderful idea. I don’t always use them in day to day life as they can be more hassle and I want her to learn to hold my hand, but they are a good extra safety net in many situations, including service stations. It means I have my hands free to pay for items at the till or pick up things from the counter. They also provide that extra reassurance in the busy areas that if her hand accidentally slips out of mine I still have hold of her.
8. Let off steam.
Screaming the lyrics to Baby Shark at the tops of mine and girl’s voices as we cruised along the M6 towards Inverness will forever be one of my most favourite memories. Toddler P howled with laughter in the back of the car and we cheered and shouted “shark” and spotted dragons and unicorns on the road side. Our journey was our chance to let of steam, it was a holiday and we were there to relax and forget about the stresses and strains of daily life. I work hard in my job and my holidays are precious, my time with my daughter even more precious, so make the journey time to chill as well.
I find driving relaxing anyway so I just needed to train lady P to enjoy travelling too. With built in regular opportunities for her to let off steam. As I said earlier I ensured I planned for when and where we could stop and I ensured it provided a safe space or area for P to burn off some excess energy, even if just a grassy area where I could chase her around for a bit. Even if this meant going a little off piste to find a local park or playground.
This obviously wasn’t so easy on a plane but at the time toddler P wasn’t quite walking so I took advantage of the aisles to get some practise in, she walked the length and breadth of the plane and shortly after during the holiday took her first couple of unaided steps! Now as for the singing at the tops of our voices, no once again, not appropriate for a plane, however the point I’m making is think about your child and their energy and nature and find a way to let them channel this as part of the journey.
I plan on many more adventures with little miss P, life is too short and there’s a world for the two of us to explore and yes comes with that long journeys and transport but with some careful planning and the mindset that the journey is all part of the trip and adventure it doesn’t have to be as hard as we might imagine!