Seeking Tips for International Travel with Toddler

Updated on June 26, 2009
A.K. asks from Reston, VA
8 answers

My husband and I are planning a trip to France this fall. Our daughter will then be 20 months. We're staying in a "self catering" home to allow for extra space and a yard for her to play. I am looking for any tips or lessons learned from any mother who has traveled with their toddler. Things like what to expect, kid friendly activities, and what to pack. The rental cars company will provide a car seat, but I am wondering if it would be better to bring my own carseat (we know how to install it, my daughter may be more comfortable in her own seat, etc.. but it is one more big item to pack). We are not buying a seat for her on the flight, but hoping she will sleep (since it is a night flight). Thanks for any information!

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So What Happened?

It was a wonderful trip! I could not have survived without a DVD player! Other ideas that worked: stickers, coloring, small magna doodle, buying cheap new toys there. I wasn't prepared (don't ask me why not) for the jet lag that my daughter experienced! She was up all night most of the time we were there. That was a huge learning lesson for me! We rented a carseat from the rental company and it worked perfect. My husband had to install it - but didn't seem to have any problems. Both flights weren't full - so we were able to spread out a little which made a huge difference!! Thanks for all your ideas!

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answers from Washington DC on

My son is almost 2 and we've travled 12 times. I've had success with stickers and movies on a portable DVD player. Also, my sitter suggested sleepytime tea to help him relax -- it worked like a charm. I just added a little Splenda and gave it to him with his milk and without his milk.


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answers from Washington DC on

We just traveled with our daughter (20 months) to Germany. To say the least, it was a bit stressfull. We got her her own seat and brought her carseat cause we figured she would be more comfortable in it... that was not the case at all and being in a car seat brings them in the perfect position to kick the passenger in front of them... I brought plenty of things for entertainment, the things that seemed to work best was a photo album of her and family and snacks. Bring plenty of snacks, in all varieties. Also, I know this sounds absolutely horrible and I refused to do it, but maybe give her some benadryl, dramamine etc. My daughter had the hardest time falling asleep (we had a night flight as well) and thus got fussier by the minute. It was about 12 hours into the trip before she finally slept for 1.5 hours... So you might want to talk to your ped if there is anything you can use, or ask other moms who have done this. FYI, most of these meds are not approved for under 2 year-olds. As for the car seat, be aware that not all European cars have the same latch system as in the US, we had to switch rental cars because the first one they gave us did not accomodate ours. Good luck and I hope you have a great trip!



answers from Charlottesville on

Traveling with a toddler is difficult, but it can be done. Just do not expect her to be perfect. Most everyone on the plane or in the airport has had a baby, a sibling or known someone with a toddler. And most people will understand that they get tired and fussy. When I traveled with my daughter who is now 12 as a toddler, we didn't go as far as your planning, but we did do some flying. I made sure I brought her favorite snacks, finger foods (goldfish, fruit snacks, things that store well and do not take up much room.) I would bring her sippy cup empty and plan to fill it in the airport once you cross security. I also went to the books store and got her several sticker books. They have a story with a missing pictures and then a page with all the stickers to fill in the missing pictures it is fun for them to find where they go in the book. At 20 months- this may or maynot be something your child can do, but with help, it is probably something she would like. Now with portable DVD players and I-Pods (which they didn't have 11 years ago) you can have some of her favorite movies or shows to watch. Most parents try to limit TV viewing, but for the sake of your peace and those around you, you might make some exceptions to allow her to put on the headphones..(oohh how cool) and watch a big girl movie/show. Hope these ideas help.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi, A. -- Search Mamasource archives under "Travel" for a lot of tips. Several moms have posted the same kinds of questions in recent months as summer has approached and you'll find loads of help there.

We've traveled to England annually with our daughter, now 8, since she was six months old. Here are two basics related to your post:

1. Do bring her own car seat. Hassle to carry? Oh, yes, a big hassle! But she will be more used to it; you KNOW it is safe and has not previously been in an accident (how can you know the rental company's seat hasn't been in one? Once a seat's in an accident, here at least, you're advised to get rid of it and replace it even if it appears perfect); and you know it's the right seat for her. I've had friends go with the rental car co. providing a child seat and found the provided seat too loose, hard to install or tighten, or the wrong type (company provided a booster for an infant, etc.).

2. Do buy her her own airline seat both ways and use her car seat in it; she is likelier to stay put because she's used to staying put when in her car seat. It would be ideal if she slept, of course, but there is zero guarantee of that, and the time changes, excitement, etc. mean she probably won't sleep much; being in her familiar car seat may help her get more rest. If she's on your laps, you and your husband will arrive in France exhausted and irritable from having her on top of you for hour after hour, whether she's sleeping on you or wiggling and fussing. Also there is a safety issue; if there is serious turbulence, you cannot necessarily hold onto her. In other words, I would give her the same safety level on a plane as you would give her in your own car.

One more tip -- if you do get her an airline seat, check that your carseat is "approved for aircraft use." Should be in the manual for the seat. Then call the airline and double-check with them. Not all seats fit on all aircraft or can be secured correctly with the aircraft seatbelt, but many, probably most, can.

Have fun in France! Self-catering accommodation is the way to go with younger kids -- we do it every time in England. Let us all know how it goes.



answers from Washington DC on


Well...this probably won't be the best flight ever, and you probably won't be looking forward to the return flight if things don't go to well during the flight to France. We just flew to TX with our family and didn't get our daughter a seat, she was inbetween daddy and mommy. She was great for awhile, but then she was tired of being stuck in the same area. We brought coloring books, books, her toys, snacks, drinking cup, a dvd player is a MUST!!
Be sure that when you are taking off you have her cup for her to drink from, so her ears can pop.
On the way home we upgraded our seats to 1st was better because it gave her more room to play, we were in the 1st row. She was still bored after a bit.
As far as her seat goes, that's entirely up to you. If you get a seat in France and they hook it up for you, if it is different, then you should be good to go. One less thing to pack, but if you do bring yours, it's free luggage. So is a stroller...depending on your airline, that may be all. I am not sure with International flights. Been awhile since I was on an International flight, and my daughter wasn't born then.
Do enjoy France, it's so beautiful and amazing there! Watch out for the traffic, however. It's insane, can be worse than DC's traffic! Do you have your International-European driver's licenses? You can't use your American License there, you can get a temperary license, if you weren't already aware.
Again, enjoy your trip, I do hope that the night flight works out for you. When I flew over there with my son, he was 4 at the time, it was night and he slept most of it! :-)
We were stationed in Germany for a couple years, we LOVED it there!!
Ok I am done now, lol!! Good luck!! If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them if I can!!



answers from Richmond on

We took our son traveling at that age. We did use the car seat provided by the rental company and it was totally fine. In France, they have stellar playgrounds so we spent a lot of time there. My other suggestion would be to rent a bike with a baby seat on back. It was such an awesome way to see the countryside.



answers from Richmond on

I would recommend, upon getting to your gate, to let the gate attendent know. Sometimes they are nice and if it's not a full flight they'll leave a seat open next to you. Makes a world of difference.

Also, bring a DVD player, new toys and plenty of snacks.



answers from Washington DC on

I know many people don't want ot hear this, but here goes... I cannot fathom taking any airplane trip without a seat for my children. The thought of them being injured at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic in turbnulence is enough. But then the thought of having to hold her that long and feed her and getr her to sleep - yikes! And then when do you sleep?? Please get her a seat!!!!!!!!!!

I also suggest you call your pediatrician to ask about advice for the trip regarding her ears and air pressue and benedryl. My doc advised giving it for even a short flight to a two year old. She gave us the correct dose for wweight and told us to try it os make sure it didn't have an opposite reaction (hyperactivity). I didn't do it because I didn't like the idea of drugging her, but I brought the stuff with me since I was worried she would have ear pain.

Also, bring your own baby tylenol and otehr meds since you may not know where to find them oversees and they may not be in English.

(I have a five year old and a 16 month old and we are frequent travelers!!)

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