10 Tips for Solo International Travel with A Toddler

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This summer my husband, my 14-month-old, and I traveled to London for my little sister’s graduation.

While our trip to London was anything but breezy (canceled flights, missed connections, trying to entertain a sleepy but overstimulated toddler in airports, and having him on our laps the entire way to our destination), the return journey home is the topic of this article.

My husband returned home to Wichita after a week in London, while I continued on to Beirut, Lebanon to be with my parents for some additional TLC. It was when I had to take three flights back to Wichita without my husband that the real adventure began. Here’s how I survived:

Find a travel buddy

First flight and we are already exhausted. Thankfully, Auntie Lynne was there.

My amazing sister changed her travel plans to help me with the first flight: Beirut to London. Levi loved having his auntie Lynne on the flight. She helped so much with entertain him on the flight (and changed a few diapers) that I was even able to eat a meal, and use the restroom peacefully! If you can find someone to join you, at least for part of the trip, it will make a massive difference.

Travel (as) light (as possible)

I have never been called a light packer… and with a little one, it is even harder to be minimalistic! However, I knew I was going to need to carry him, a small portable stroller, and my carry-on bag – and I am also not known for my physical strength! When having to fit everything in a backpack, you better stick to just the essentials: a couple toys, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, pacifier, charger, and passport (and maybe some earplugs for your fellow travelers!)

Levi patiently waiting to board our flight to Dallas from London Heathrow, in his Clutch Stroller by Delta Children

Pack snacks…and more snacks

The most important packing tip… SNACKS! There is nothing worse than a hangry toddler. If you are traveling with a child under 2, they will not get their own seat, and hence, no meals. Make sure you have a good balance of filling/protein-based snacks, and “distraction” snacks like cheerios or puffs.

Pack extra clothes

My toddler mostly travels in footed pajamas – super simple and keeps him warm. I am so glad I listened to my mother and packed six changes of clothes for him as he had exactly SIX explosive diapers! We went through every single set of pajamas and onesies. Also, don’t forget to pack extra clothes for you!

Offer new toys

New toys are important as Levi spent as much time on the packaging as the toy itself! I had a small new toy for every flight, and as expected, some toys were more popular than others. Here are some of the toys that worked well for us:

Don’t forget the wipes, wipes, and wipes

Wipes are your best friend! Not only for diaper changes and dirty faces, but to wipe down your airplane seat, the bassinet, and everything your curious toddler will  touch. Also, if your little one has the same explosive experience ours did you might need to use an entire pack just to wipe them down!  Be prepared!

Make new friends

My son loves people and he waves and smiles at people wherever we go. That worked well for us while traveling. Everyone around us was really helpful and offered us so much grace when he was screaming because of his ears. The people sitting next to us were happy to hold him while I ate and watched him while I needed the restroom. Be kind to those around you, you never know when you will need an extra set of hands!

Making new friends while waiting for our last flight home.

Do your research

Before traveling, check your flights and the airplane configuration to get the seats with the bassinet. This will give your arms a much needed break and hopefully allow your child to sleep a bit. If you are lucky, you might even be able to watch a movie! Also, research the airports you will be connecting through to identify family rooms, restaurants with kid friendly options, and play areas. It will save you a lot of time and stress.

Don’t forget to eat AND drink

I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to forget to eat and drink (water) when you are looking after a little one. A hungry, dehydrated mama is no fun, so don’t forget to pack your reusable water bottle and some protein-filled snacks for yourself.

This too shall pass

Back with Daddy in Wichita!

Finally, remember that it will not last forever! Try to keep in mind why you took the trip in the first place and how valuable traveling is for little ones, even if they don’t actively remember the trip, it will help shape their identity and how they relate to the world as they grow older.

Traveling with a little one is so tiring, but also  so worth it to see family. I try to focus on all the memories Levi creates when he is with my family and the cultures he is exposed to when I am stuck in my seat for hours with a sleeping toddler in my arms. Also, I know that soon this stage will not last forever he will be more independent soon – we will all miss these days!

 

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Léah was born and raised in Abu Dhabi in a Lebanese family and grew up speaking three languages: French, English and Arabic. She moved to Australia for college where she met her Wichita-born husband, Paul, while they were both completing their graduate degrees. After getting married in Lebanon, they had a brief stop in San Francisco before deciding to make Wichita home. Since becoming a mother to a very cheeky and energetic toddler, Levi (2018), Léah has slowly transitioned from full-time community building work with the Greater Wichita Partnership into a more flexible contract role allowing her more time to build castles, blow bubbles, and raise Levi multilingual.

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