International Travel with Babies and Toddlers

Emma J is back with us! This time sharing some tips for travelling with the kiddies…


Em's son travels in style!

Em’s son travels in style!

My family recently travelled to Vanuatu for my brother’s surprise (but nobody was really surprised) wedding. My husband and I were avid travellers before we became parents; we have visited over 40 countries, backpacked around Europe, hiked the Inca trail to Machu Pichu, lived in Colorado and London, survived food poisoning in Laos, slept in Eastern European train stations and airports, and sky-dived in New Zealand, just to name a few of our adventures. This trip to Vanuatu however caused me severe anxiety in the lead up and I truly feared for how I would cope. Why? Because we were taking our two and a half year old son and four month old daughter!

If you ever find yourself contemplating an overseas trip with your children, I have prepared the following tips for you:

1. DO NOT DO IT! Seriously, don’t. Unless you have a very good reason (like a surprise elopement), do not. Even if you do have a good reason, please consider how much you like the bride and groom (I went because I like my brother and his new wife a lot).

If this is the case, and you need to travel, here are some other things you will need to consider:

2. Extra bodies to help on the flights. Seeing as the only reason you would ignore tip number 1 would be for a family wedding, the rest of your family will also be joining you on the trip. Make sure Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles are booked on the same flights as you. On our way to Vanuatu we had a ratio of 10 adults to two children, this worked quite well. There were enough arms to hold the nappy bag, the food bag, the baby, the toddlers hand, the toddlers suitcase, the pram, the passports and any other junk you brought as carry-on. The ratio dropped to 6:2 on the way home and this was not as ideal but still effective.

3. Don’t think you’re going to be on ‘holidays’. Your kids are your job and they are coming with you! They will be even more high maintenance and clingy with the unfamiliar environment, food, beds and people, so prepare yourself for double the tantrums and exhaustion. Refer to tip number 2 and ensure your family stays in the same accommodation to help you entertain the children.

4. Do not choose a flight that arrives at midnight. Don’t kid yourself and think if you have a flight taking off at 7pm the kids will sleep the whole flight because that is their usual bedtime. Haha, you’re dreaming! It just means your kids will be extra tired and cranky the whole flight. And when you arrive at your destination it will be a scramble to find beds, set up portacots, unpack pyjamas and settle kids into bed.

5. Don’t pack light! I used to travel around Europe with all I needed in my backpack totalling 8kg. Since having kids, I can’t even duck out to the park without a giant nappy bag filled with nappies, wipes, changes of clothes, bibs, snacks, sunscreen and anything else that the kids could possibly need in the space of 45 minutes. I ignored all advice to travel light, packing a week’s worth of nappies, wipes, creams, medical supplies and even snacks, and I’m glad I did! The first two days were raining so we didn’t have a chance to run out to the shops and get everything we needed. Even if we’d had the chance, I wasn’t paying AUD$20 for 10 huggies nappies, my scroogieness outweighs my need to travel with light bags*.

6. Don’t travel on the day Australia changes to Daylight Savings. Our return flight home was at 7am which meant a 4am wake up (don’t choose a 7am flight). Our phones were on Vanuatu time and alarms were set. Hubby and I got up, ate breakfast, woke the baby and were ready to go at “4.10am”… But, the rest of my family was not awake yet so I went to check on my sister, her phone said 3.10am. My stupid phone had automatically added the hour for Daylight Savings in Australia when Vanuatu does not have it.

7. Try to enjoy and have fun. Although you’ll need to keep some routine and consistency to avoid the kids completely losing the plot, don’t coop yourself up in your hotel/apartment all week. You’ve already gone through the pain of international air travel so you might as well take the kids out past their bedtime in order enjoy some of the experience. Thankfully after a few days back at home the kids are now mostly back to their pre-Vanuatu routines and sleep patterns.

If all else fails, please refer back to tip number 1.
Happy travels.

(On a side note, congratulations to my brother and his beautiful wife and a HUGE thank you to all of my family for helping with the kids!)

Em J

*Vanuatu is a very expensive destination, for example, some of the family went buggying one afternoon and it cost AUD$120!!!

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  1. I love this article because even though I don’t have kids I agree with rule no 1 unless its absolutely necessary 🙂

  2. I eagerly clicked on this article to read but am quite disappointed. Hubs and I too traveled lots before kids and now plan on taking our 6 week old and 20 month old to the US for a month. Yes, Christmas and my sisters wedding….but I am excited. I know it won’t be as simple as traveling with just hubs but I think it’s important for our kids to learn flexibility and experience this. Guess I’ll have to check back in after the fact but was really hoping for some more helpful and positive tips :/

    • Hi Stephanie,

      This article is meant to be tongue in cheek, there are a million blogs out there with practical tips for travelling with kids, so I just wanted to share my experience. Some of the tips are serious though, i.e. which flight times to avoid, enlisting help where possible and making sure you pack everything you need.

      I hope your trip goes well.


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