Planes, trains and automobiles: travelling with your toddler in tow

It’s summertime and a great time to be out and about with the family. Whether you are going abroad or staying at home this usually involves time in a car, or a train, or a plane. Here’s LadybirdMum on travelling with her little one…


We’ve all been there. Settling into your flight or train trip, when a mum or dad appears with a small bundle in their arms or toddling behind them. You can’t help but tense a little bit. ‘Please don’t let them be sitting by me’ you think to yourself, eyeing that unpredictable little person nervously . . .

We’re now on the other side of this experience. I am the mum with the high-spirited, emotionally unstable mini-dictator at my heels, in a confined space with many other people, whom I worry are eyeing us nervously. Be reassured it sets my teeth on edge every time he squeals exuberantly or screams because he doesn’t WANT his shoes on or he doesn’t LIKE ‘happles’ anymore and only wants baked beans. He’s two and a half and he’s playful and excitable and doesn’t understand the concept of sitting still. He beseeches me with his eyes when I say ‘No, no, no!’ all the time in these situations; I feel the weight of agitated glances every time he shrieks. I also appreciate the knowing looks and smiles from fellow parents on their travels. I bet a million pounds Peppa Pig is loaded up on their devices too.

And my how grateful we are for that small pig and her little brother George when it comes to travelling these days. Whether it’s a picture book, an app or an episode, these days Peppa is like a magic elixir when it comes to Keeping Him Distracted. But our travelling adventures with Zach didn’t always require an emergency back-up of ‘Do-do-do-do,dodododododo Pehhhhhhhh-PA Pig.’ Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s stuck in my head most days too.

As a small baby, taking him on his first trip abroad opened up a whole new world of questions. Having never flown with my own baby before, I found myself wondering would he be frightened/in pain from the change in pressure? Suddenly in need of an alarming nappy change on take-off? Would he scream all the way there? Be sick over us? Well, none of these worries applied, because Zach couldn’t have been less fussed at his first flying experience. He mainly slept in Adam’s arms whilst I peered at him in wonder. What about the three cartons and two bottles of emergency travel milk I’d packed? The pre-sterilised emergency dummy? The books and toys? I was over cautious, Zach overslept; I’d taken the boy scouts’ motto too far.

We were very grateful for this first easy flying experience. It gave us the confidence to maximise flying abroad with Zach before he turned two and was no longer literally free to accompany us. My memory has been sieve-esque since his birth and I don’t recall any major head-in-hands moments on these trips. But I do remember one occasion where we sat next to a mid-twenties man, who practically tried to crawl into the window frame to escape the young, now 15 month-old Zach from invading his personal space. And more importantly, from prodding and gurgling at his iPad every five seconds. I totally get it, this is not what dreams are made of, sitting by a baby all the livelong flight to Menorca and I distracted Zach as best I could.

So far so good on planes and he’s equally fun to travel with on trains. We venture up to the Midlands a lot to visit family and friends. Due to my aversion to battling the M25, now we live the wrong side of South East London to make it an easy journey by car, Zach and I are now pretty expert London Euston to Birmingham International travellers. I know all the tricks to avoid staircases at London Bridge with a buggy and a heavy bag and we always get the spot on the train where I can park the buggy behind our seats. I save the iPad for the last twenty minutes of the trip, once distracting him with window views, sticker books and food from the trolley service loses its appeal. If I’m not in the mood for feeling anxious about potentially being judged for sticking the iPad under his nose, I like putting on Toddler Fun Learning on YouTube. ‘See Zach, it’s learning for toddlers and it’s FUN, everyone’s a winner!’. He loves the Nursery Rhyme Compilation and singing a few classics, from those Wheels on the Bus to his current favourite to recite, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, How, Wonder, You, Are.’


As for road trips, again we’ve been very lucky in that he’s always enjoyed going in the car and has been very happy to be entertained by the views, his books or just to sleep, on the whole. But on a very long trip to Cornwall last month the iPad came into its own again, this time with his apps starring Thomas, Spot and of course, Peppa. He loves his ‘Peppa Paintbox’ app and I love seeing the ‘art’ he creates with mere taps of his little fingers. He can do what I can no longer do and read in the car. By ‘read’ I mean look and point at all the pictures, but I do love gazing at him in the mirror or turning around and seeing him with his nose in a book. Travelling anywhere with a small person has its challenges, but going away for holiday adventures as a family? That novelty won’t wear off either.

Thanks LadybirdMum and happy travels everyone!

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