Growing up, I remember a lot of parents in our circle would travel the world, thinking nothing of leaving their children behind with nannies... Not my parents: they took my sister and me virtually everywhere with them, from Zimbabwe to Cuba, we were both incredibly lucky to be very well travelled even before we had left junior high-school.
Fast-forward to the present, I'm now a mamma of a buoyant little toddler, and though I have made a point long before he was born that I'd take him travelling as much as possible from the earliest possible age, I can see why some people don't.
If you think travelling is stressful, try taking small children along: it can transform into a unique yet very effective method of torture. Travelling with a toddler means transforming yourself into a sherpa, an marathon runner, a UN negotiator, and even a food taster (yes, the lovely people at Heathrow security will make you open and taste four out of five food containers you've brought, because if you're going to attempt an attack you'd obviously be taking a screaming toddler with you, didn't you know?)
So yes, you can opt for a travel ban (especially air travel) until your children are eighteen, but then you'd be missing out: when you're plowing through months of wintry work in London, there's nothing better than a week-end escape to one of Europe's cultural hot spots, except one with a wide-eyed child in tow. My approach? I've decided there is no reason not to travel as much as we did pre-baby, but at the same time I've significantly changed my approach to travel... Read on!
1) Check in online to get the best possible seats and save time at the airport... planning ahead will save you a lot of aggravation;
2) Assume you'll be slower: Many of us are used to zipping through airports, with little ones it's always a little slower than you're normally used to, so arrive with plenty of time to fold the pushchair at security, divide the bags into the x-ray trays, etc.;
3) Visit the lounge: Once you've passed the over-zealous security staff and had your fill of baby milk and other purées, head over to the lounge and have a sip of champagne whilst your little ones runs around, many lounges are now equipped with play areas and have more comfortable seating than elsewhere in the airport;
4) Invest in a small easy-to-fold pushchair: we've recently traded our City Mini for a MacLaren Globetrotter, it's small enough to take on board some airlines, and it will be a good resting place for your little one to have a nap on the go;
5) Layer up: Airplane temperatures tend to vary so I go for a multi-layer look, for Little Monsieur and me... and a big shawl from Hermès is the perfect va-va-voom airplane blanket;
6) Make them drink! For the flight, make sure you have bottles pre-prepared and that your little ones drink plenty, especially on the way up and the way down... it will help with the pressure on their little ears!
7) An Ipad is the jet-setting parent's best friend: my father gave Little Monsieur one a while back, and though it's quite extravagant a gift for a toddler, it's filled with kids apps and cartoon movies, and he is exceptionally calm for hours on end thanks to it (worryingly, he does tend to put "Cars" on repeat...), just make sure it's fully charged before leaving...
8) For longer holidays, consider shipping some things ahead: this means you'll have less to carrry yourself (when we went to Puglia last summer, we sent a box of nappies, baby milk, fruit compotes, pool toys etc.);
9) Find the tour bus: ok.. you've arrived... consider the local tour bus which allows you to hop on and off, this way you can visit the city at your pace and your little ones won't get tired from walking;
10) Variety is key: try to alternate between cultural visits and more children-friendly activities: we always visit the local parks, zoos and aquariums wherever we go, it ensures Little Monsieur doesn't get cranky and annoying;
11) Most important rule of my little manual, take the toys along! I take a couple of his favourite toys and his comfort toy everywhere we go, from restaurants to monasteries, it recreates a familiar environment anywhere.
So far, Little Monsieur has been to Morocco, Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Mauritius... Check him out in the picture above visiting the Pedralbes Monastery in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago! We still space our travels enough so he has a stable routine in his home in London, but he is slowly becoming used to being around and seeing new things, and we get to indulge in our love of travelling!