Traveling Abroad with a Toddler

May 15, 2015

There's a whole lot involved when you're planning a trip with a toddler, especially if its international and its for a long period of time. Because I had never traveled abroad with Erin before, I did a lot of guessing in terms of what I thought I would need. There are definitely a few things I shouldn't or didn't have to take and there were things I should have taken or should have packed more of. Here's a little of what I've learned after our trip.


I was really dreading the flights. I've heard horror stories of kids having meltdowns and crying throughout the entire flight. Luckily for us, Erin actually did pretty well on the flights. There were no meltdowns, just some whining here and there mostly because she was uncomfortable and tired. Score for us! Here are a few things that made the flight much easier for all of us:

  1. Doodle board. This thing was her favorite "toy". I actually didn't let her open it till we got on the plane so it was all new to her. She really liked the doodle board, not only on the flight, but throughout our trip. We took it around with us for meals to occupy her during downtime. This definitely made the time pass quicker on the plane.
  2. Lollipops. I brought a bunch of lollipops with me because I wasn't sure how Erin would do with the altitude. We gave her the lollipop (which she loved), but it wasn't necessary. She didn't seem bothered with the altitude at all. I'd suggest bringing some lollipops on long flights either way, because it did keep Erin busy and quiet for quite some time...and that's what you want. Keeping your child occupied during an 11 hour flight is no easy task. 
  3. Stickers. What kid doesn't like stickers? I got rolls of stickers and sticker books. We spent a nice chunk of time putting stickers on the chairs and on Dad (wish I took a picture of it).
  4. Grab N' Go play packs. These things are only a $1! So of course I bought a few for the trip. I let her open them up one at a time. When she started to get bored of one, I'd let her open up another one. She likes anything with crayons, so this occupied her for a good chunk of time.
  5. Security bunny. She doesn't have a security blanket, but she does have a security bunny. She sleeps with him every night so of course we made sure to take Mr. Bunny with us. Mr. Bunny helps with naps so he helped us on the plane. She took some decent naps on the flights. He was also helpful in Italy. (It's crazy to see how white the bunny used to be. It's more of a gray color now, as you can see hah.)
*Most international flights will have bassinets for use in the bulkhead seating area, but you'll have to call ahead and reserve it. They'll only have a limited amount. All airlines will have different size bassinets, so make sure you ask what the height and weight limit is. Erin didn't fit into the UA one and she barely fit into the Lufthansa one. 

What to Pack

We packed a lot for this trip. Most of it was for Erin. The items below were quite vital to our trip and I was so glad we had them.
  1. Brica travel changing pad. We had to change Erin's diaper in many random places throughout our trip. Didn't find any public restrooms and if you did, definitely no changing table. This changing pad is pretty big, so no body parts were touching the ground. 
  2. Ergo. Erin took most of her naps in the Ergo. I'm lucky that Erin isn't a heavy child, so I didn't mind carrying her around. I even hiked with her in this thing. I love the Ergo. We stuffed it in our backpack and took it with us everywhere. Seriously one of the best baby purchases I've made.
  3. Straw cup. Many of the restaurants in Italy didn't have baby friendly eating products, i.e. plastic-ware, straws. I'm glad we brought along this straw cup. We carried it with us everywhere we went so Erin could drink her water/milk throughout the day.
  4. Oatmeal. Erin loves Trader Joe's Maple and Brown Sugar oatmeal (I do too!). Knowing Erin is a picky eater, I packed a bunch of these oatmeal packs for Erin just in case she didn't eat anything. I was right, Erin refused to eat anything for breakfast while we were there. This oatmeal saved us, or saved Erin at least. She ate it almost every morning we were there. Lifesaver fosure.
  5. Snacks. I brought a lot of snacks for Erin. I'd really suggest that you bring snacks that your kid is used to if you've got yourself a picky eater like Erin. I get a lot of Erin's snacks from Plum Organics. She likes their nutrition bars and smoothies. I also brought along goldfish crackers, raisins and some Asian crackers.  
  6. Korean food. A lot of what I packed was food oriented for my picky eater. I brought along instant rice as well as some instant curry and soup. My kid loves rice so I knew she'd eat it. Erin didn't eat much for the first few days in Italy, so these instant meals really kept my kid from starving. Again, a lifesaver fosure.
*We brought a dinky stroller with us. It did come in handy because Erin took a few naps in it and it gave us a break from holding her. We didn't bother bringing the stroller back home wish us though.
*I also highly recommend getting these space savers. These allowed us to pack more and it kept everything organized. 

Jet-lag and adjusting to the new environment

I'd say that jet-lag lasted about a day and half for Erin. We didn't let her sleep in too much and we kept her up till her normal bedtime. Having her adjust to Italy time faster helped with the jet-lag. However, adjusting to the new environment was hard on Erin. It took almost five days for Erin to adjust to Italy. I knew she'd have a hard time considering her personality. The first day in Italy was the toughest for all of us. The jet-lag and the new surroundings were a lot for Erin to handle all at once. She didn't really eat, didn't want to walk around and she looked a little unsure about everything. Most of her meltdowns happened during these first few days. Erin got a tad bit better as the days progressed, but it wasn't till day five that she was acting like herself again and eating like she normally does. Poor kid. I wonder what was going through her mind. It's tough on the little ones when you're traveling far away from home, so remember to consider that when you're planning out your first few days. There were definitely days when I was so frustrated with her...about her super clinginess and her refusing to eat, but I had to step back and remember to be more understanding. I'd say she was a trooper throughout our time in Italy though. High five to Erin!


  1. Be flexible - We made changes to planned activities when we needed to. Traveling with a kid means there will be unexpected situations which may cause you to cancel plans. So I would go into a trip with more of a relaxed itinerary. Unforeseen meltdowns or super unpleasant children may force you to change/adjust plans.
  2. Try to keep a routine - Keeping a routine, even when you aren't home, really helps your kids adjust faster to the new environment. A well napped child means you'll have a somewhat "good" kid during meals, which means you might even be able to eat your meal while its hot.
  3. Do stuff that kids will enjoy - Kids probably don't usually enjoy what adults enjoy, so I say you plan some activities that are strictly child oriented. We spent one afternoon at a kids museum and it really felt like we were one of the locals. No foreigners, just Italians..with their kids, having fun at the museum.
I most definitely recommend parents to travel with there little ones. It really teaches you as a parent new things and it teaches the kids new things as well. Erin grew so much physically and mentally while we were there. I feel like she matured in a lot of ways. She got to see and do so many things that most people here in CA can't. But, would I do this with more than one kid?? I guess we'll just have to see how I'll feel about that if and when that time comes.

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