How to travel with an active toddler–tips, lessons and mistakes

Many parents ask me how I am able to bring Tristan along with me to my travels, both for my show, #TrendingWithKelly and when my husband and I go on vacation. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment (I guess it is), but it seems that I make it appear easy, especially on social media. Which is why I immediately set it to them straight that while it might look fun and exciting on Instagram and Facebook, photos and videos only tell 5% of the real story. Bringing a toddler with you when you travel can be quite a handful, and I usually need a vacation from that vacation afterward.

It isn’t just that my son is active. There are so many things to consider when you have a toddler along with you. First off, his safety is the most important, so you will need to watch him and guide him at all times. This seems easy enough when you think about it, but having to do it 24/7 can be quite tiring. This includes running after him, coaxing him to do as he is told, distracting him and entertaining him. All while following a flight/tour schedule and trying to do some sightseeing. Other options you can do is to carry your child using a baby carrier or to put him on a stroller, but sometimes your kid may not be in the mood for these (for example, Tristan loves walking)–so, yes, it’s a constant battle. I think your patience just has to be extra long for times like these, especially if you’re used to having a nanny around. I’ve found that rewarding good behavior works, and talking to Tristan to explain the situation also seems to help (sometimes). The important thing is not to lose your cool.

Then, there’s his eating/sleeping schedule to consider. One may think this isn’t a big deal and that you can just let your child follow your schedule, but no, when this schedule is messed up, you will really suffer the consequences. Carlos and I have already learned our lesson–we’ve gone through an upside down sleep schedule where Tristan slept during the day and was awake at night. And this was the worst, as you are tired during the day and don’t get any rest at night. So, yes, following a sleep schedule is imperative! Like now, I am so adamant about following his nap schedule. Tristan cannot miss his afternoon naps, or else he will end up sleeping much later (like at dinnertime) and wake up in time for his night sleep. Then, he will end up sleeping at 3 or 4 am and you wouldn’t have any time to rest! I’ve gotten so traumatized by this, I really put my foot down and try to follow his nap/sleep schedule at all times.

Of course, there is the food situation to consider–for instance, last year Tristan was used to eating only rice with ulam like tinola, nilaga, etc. and we didn’t think about this when we went to Europe. There was no rice available in most of the restaurants we dined in, and they didn’t have his favorite Filipino dishes as well, so we had to teach him to eat french fries, grilled chicken, burgers, steak, pasta, etc. while we were in Amsterdam. It was so difficult to do the transition (it involved a lot of crying), but eventually we were able to do it. Thankfully, I was also breastfeeding at the time (I still am), so he would just run to the boob when he was hungry. Now, I always pack his favorite snacks with us, because I also found out the snacks that were available there were not to his liking. We ended up buying different kinds of food and he ended up not liking any of them! So, it’s best to stick to the familiar. If you can learn how to make his favorite dishes and bring certain ingredients with you, all the better! Your toddler might not be as experimental with his food (especially if you’re in an exotic country), and you will end up with a hungry, grumpy baby. Also, don’t forget to bring along his favorite snacks, as these might help tide you over while you find something he likes eating.

In case of emergencies, have a personalized medical kit with you. This was something we learned the hard way when we were in Barcelona. Tristan had cough, colds and a fever and we didn’t bring any medicine with us (can you imagine, we didn’t think we needed it). And so we went to the local pharmacy and bought medicine we were not familiar with that was just recommended to us. It made our little boy so drowsy, we were worried that it was too strong for him. But then we just had to make do, as we couldn’t consult with a pediatrician and there was a language barrier to consider. After that, I promised to always be prepared. True enough, that day came. We were traveling to Camiguin last December, which seemed easy enough because it wasn’t a long-haul flight. Until Tristan got super high fever all of a sudden, and he was so unhappy about it. It’s a good thing I had packed Calpol with me, which is a brand I know and trust, and after a few hours of giving him his first dosage our little guy was okay again. Like his fever went away and didn’t come back. After a day of observing him, he was swimming and enjoying the beach with us! Being prepared gives you that peace of mind, so don’t leave home without these essentials. For Carlos and I, we were less stressed that our son was sick as we knew Calpol would work well, especially since our pedia recommends it.

Lastly, be prepared to entertain your baby. Your toddler will be bored during the mundane parts of your trip–waiting in the airport, in-transit on the plane, train, car, bus, etc., waiting at the lobby of the hotel, waiting for your orders to arrive in the restaurant, etc., etc. So you have to be prepared and have simple activities for them to do. Bringing colored pens and a coloring book is always good, as well as packing stickers, small toys like cars, trucks, etc., a tablet or smartphone filled with educational videos and games, or your happy self. I once entertained Tristan at a hotel lobby using nothing but a rubber band, and we were laughing so hard. So, yes, as important as it is to be prepared with all these activities, having you in a fun, happy mood will ultimately be a better option for your toddler (I’m sure he will appreciate it more).

I can’t seem to think of other travel tips at the moment, but I’m sure you have a few more to share based on your experiences. Share your stories at the comment section below.

  1. Kate Reply

    Haha I can so relate on all your points and lessons learned. Thank you for your candidness and practical tips. We just came back from Singapore with our 2 year old. It was so physically tiring but the memories were priceless. For me, having a patient and hands on hubby saved my sanity. He was there to do the (literal) heavy lifting and even changed his dirty diapers in the plane. Whew!

    Yes on snacks, entertainment and nap time! We realized my son wasn’t used to taking long naps on the stroller so on our 3rd and 4th day, he was already super cranky probably due to lack of sleep! I heard all the NOs a mom could hear. Haha.

    The biggest challenge for us was having him sit on his own seat in the plane. He was crying so hard when the FA was prying him off my arms. Poor boy! We were better prepared on our flight back and gave him all the entertainment and goodies so he’ll sit on his seat. He was awake though so we had to entertain him the entire flight. I think that was the longest 3.5 hours of my life haha.

    Traveling with a toddler is hard and different than before but the memories make it worthwhile. 🙂

    1. Kelly Misa Reply

      Aww, I’m glad you can relate! It is so difficult to travel with a toddler, but we do it because we want to create amazing memories. Physically tiring, yes, but worth all the trouble! And hooray to our hubbies for being the best travel partners, right?!

      As for sitting on his own seat on the plane, well, he ended up on my lap instead because he refused to put on the seatbelt. I just made the take off and landing a counting game, which he enjoyed but nope, no seatbelt for our little man. Kudos to you guys for trying! Hehehe.

      Thank you for dropping by! 😀

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