There are loads and loads of great blog posts about the best ways to travel with a toddler, with lots of good advice on how to make it as easy as possible. Obviously every family and every child are different, so you have to filter out the things that you think will work for you.
I really loved the idea of having little things to distract and entertain Willow, that we’d wrap up as individual gifts and give her each hour of the flight. As it turned out, none of us kept much of an eye on time, so we ended up with some left over that we kept for Christmas. It was quite a lot of effort trying to find things small and light enough so that we weren’t weighed down even more, but I really enjoyed the hunt.
I chose things like these Toy Story puzzles, which I separated out into individual Zip bags. Crayons were a must, and I also made my own fuzzy felt shapes and put them into this Travel toy tin – which was also very useful for bundling all the gifts into at the end of the flight. I think this idea would work really well for slightly older kids, who are more aware of the length of the flight and how long is left, but it certainly worked for us with some careful tweaking. Remember – nothing large, noisy or with flashing lights (especially on those red-eye return flights!)
As we are cloth nappy users, we decided to pack Flip disposable inserts for chunks of the holiday when we wanted to carry around the least amount possible – such as on the flight and on our full-on theme park days. We already had Flip covers so this seemed like a nice half-way point between cloth and disposables. For all other days we packed a small stash of our usual cloth nappies, plus I used our time in the USA as an opportunity to buy some more – which I had delivered straight to the villa to arrive around the same time as we did. Then I spent our first day doing the pre-washes, so they were ready for action by day two. Overall it just meant that flying out we had lots of throwaway bits in our luggage, but coming home we had lots of nice new cloth nappies.
It is worth noting that there is quite a walk from the arrival gate to baggage claim in Orlando International, so sling users may want to pack a comfortable sling if carrying a tired toddler after ten hours on a plane sounds like hell – it did to me! Although we took our buggy to Orlando, I knew it would go through with our luggage after it gets taken away at the gate in Gatwick. I didn’t fancy carrying her so I also took my Tula Toddler. As it happened, Willow had a meltdown just as we landed and was in dire need for ‘daddy hugs’, so he carried her in his arms instead. Oh well, it was nice to have the option!
We all know it’s impossible to ‘pack light’ with a child, but certainly it is possible to at very least prioritise. It’s obvious stuff really, but think about what your child ‘needs’ and what they would ‘like’ to have. Willow needed a selection of her usual snacks, her favourite coat, and Teddy, and we thought she would like her blanket and her own headphones to drown out some of the noise on the flight.
We ended up with several items of hand luggage, and it might sound mental but we designated one bag as a ‘shouldn’t need to open during the flight’ bag – and it went straight up into the overheads and didn’t need to be touched. This bag contained the valuables such as my camera and US $, spare, spare nappies, the spare clothes you have to carry in case of nappy leaks, along with a change of clothes for all of us on arrival. We also packed Willow’s PJ’s in here so that we could find them easily when we got to the villa (we landed well after her bedtime). As soon as we were at Orlando we whipped out our lighter clothes and nipped to the toilet to change (bearing in mind it was much hotter there than here in the UK). This saved us an uncomfortably hot journey to the villa, and meant we didn’t have to rummage through our main bags. In this hand luggage bag was also all of the booking details we needed such as for the car hire, the villa details and our Sat Nav (with all the addresses pre-programmed in beforehand!) When you are tired from the flight, and trying to keep it together for your toddler, it is these little details that make all the difference!
We also tried to keep the contents of each of our other bags separate so that we wouldn’t ‘lose’ things – so my hand luggage bag just had my things in, the change bag just had Willow’s stuff, and Mike’s bag held our technology bits – his laptop and headphones for work, plus the iPad loaded with ‘Sarah and Duck’. When you are squashed into those airplane seats and the overheads are jam packed, I just think it’s a nice idea to make things as simple as possible, even if it means a little more prep beforehand.
Interested to know how it went? Have a read here – Our trip