It's already June, which means summertime travel is here, and that can be complicated when you have a toddler! Last year, when our little guy was still under two (he was 21 months old), we went on a trip to France. We had so many questions about the logistics of it all (air travel, lodging, which activities to attempt or skip, sleeping and nap routines, etc), and if you're about to take a little one on a faraway trip, you may be asking yourself many of the same questions.
After two weeks abroad, we made it home safely, with bellies full of bread and cheese, stories of great adventures, lots of photos, and wonderful memories. If it sounds like the trip was a breeze, well let me assure you, traveling with a toddler is hard, particularly if your little one is spirited (and aren't they all at one time or another?). It's for this reason that I've narrowed it down to my top 3 tips for traveling abroad with a toddler.
Tip 1 - Rent an apartment (or house) vs. a hotel room.
Airbnb and VRBO saved us. While the hotels we stayed in were wonderful, with helpful staff and often delicious breakfasts, having the space to let our toddler run around was key. When we were in Paris, we spent so much time and effort keeping our little guy contained ("Stay out of the street! Hold my hand! Don't touch that!"), that being able to come back to a place that was more spacious than a hotel room (especially a tiny Parisian hotel room) made a huge difference. Even indoors, toddlers need to run around in an open (safe) environment, and being on vacation is no exception! The more you have to keep them contained and on lock down, the more tantrums you'll run into and tears you'll both shed.
Pro tip: If it's possible on your budget and locale, rent a house! This may not be possible when visiting a large, bustling, metropolitan city, but if you're out in the country or traveling with a large group, it's so worth it! At one point in our trip, we stayed in a small town in the South of France with a large group (there were 8 of us total), and we stayed in an entire house that had a completely enclosed perimeter. That meant our little guy was free to actually run around, get dirty playing in the yard, and enjoy some freedom outdoors. This made for an easier transition to nap and bedtimes, and a happier overall environment.
Tip 2 - Choose street food over restaurants.
Depending what country you're visiting, you'll find variations in the "street food" culture. While France doesn't have as much of the classic "street food" as say, Thailand, (besides of course the little stands serving delicious crêpes), the French have the most wonderful specialty food shops and open markets! Whether you like fresh bread, pungent cheese, cured meats, fresh fruit and veggies, or artisan-made anything, really, get some "street food" and bring it back to your lodging. It's so much less stressful than eating at a restaurant with a toddler, and it still tastes incredible - plus, the price tag will be far less and you can save your leftovers if you have a little fridge.
Tip 3 - Ask for a crib.
The sleeping arrangements for both naps and overnight sleep was honestly one of our biggest concerns, and I wasted so much time researching how to rent a pack n' play, where to buy them, or whether or not to bring one. While I'm not sure how it works in other countries, it was so easy in France to attain a crib at all forms of lodging. Sometimes they referred to it as a "cot" (which was usually a pack n' play), and other times they had full on cribs, but just asking for what we needed made it all so easy. As for getting our little one to nap, once we got over the initial jet lag, he slipped back into the regular routine we had at home and thankfully slept very well, all things considering! That being said, it never hurts to bring a baby-carrier pack just incase!
BONUS Tip - Learn at least a few words of the host county's language and teach your little one to say them.
I truly believe that even a little effort goes a long way, and if your child can say hello, please, and thank you in the host country's language, you will win a million brownie points and people will go out of their way to help you!