A shop in Bangkok's canal.
Elephants at a sanctuary near Chiangmai, Thailand
The Daintree Rainforest, Australia
Rice terraces in Bali
Around the world in 90 days toddler-style
Packing for a three-month round-the-world trip for us and a toddler was no mean feat.
We were so determined to bring our son’s home comforts that his toys took up half my case. His clothes took up a third. His travel cot and booster seat took up half my husband’s case.
Seven weeks in, with just about enough clothes for me, I realise I needn’t have bothered. His one little bag of Octonauts characters and the everyday objects he discovers in each hotel would have been ample.
In fact, as is my way, I massively over-worried this trip. I was afraid our son would miss his friends and nursery, I thought he’d hate the food, I feared sleeping in a new room every few days would be unsettling and I thought long flights would be a nightmare. But travelling with a toddler is the most fun we’ve ever had.
At three-years-old he’s too young to feel daunted and is oblivious to what he’s missing back home yet he’s old enough to be excited by each new experience. He happily tries new foods and mostly likes them and is so exhausted by all this newness that he sleeps like a log.
This trip and the memories and stories we are collecting as a family are pure gold. So far our adventure has taken us to Thailand, Bali and Australia. Next stop Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina.
Our son has ridden on tuk-tuks, played with children of all nationalities, gained a love of Thai Food, seen stunning rice terraces, fed and bathed elephants, travelled through the world’s oldest rainforest on a scenic railway and viewed The Great Barrier Reef in a glass-bottomed boat. And he’s learning to swim.
He greets each new place with infectious excitement, giggling and jumping around.
Many of these were new experiences for us too – but sharing them with him makes them all the more enjoyable. I wonder if he will remember these experiences – if he doesn’t the stories will flow through his childhood and I hope the sense of adventure he’s gaining will stick.
Until this trip I felt anxiety pump around the blood in my veins. The trip followed a particularly terrible year and I thought grief might hang like a cloud over me. But it hasn’t. We’ve been running a lot in each destination and that, together with the fun we’re having, has been the best tonic.
I’ve realised how busy our lives were before and how stressed I’d become. Having proper time out, new experiences, hot weather and family time has led to a new, chilled-out me.
We’ve deliberately tried not to do too much and to balance sightseeing with time on the beach and in the playground. Our bedtime routine is the same as it would be at home, though we’re pretty relaxed about what time our son goes to bed and wakes up.
Last time I travelled was a decade ago, I hardly rang home and emailed once a week. This time, with Facetime and Skype and by buying a sim-card in each new country, we’ve had precious calls with home and the grandparents have been able to see and speak to their grandson.
It’s hard to believe we’re only half way through. It’s already the best adventure we’ve ever had and the most fun.
If you’re thinking of travelling with a toddler (whether for a few months or just a week) these are my top 12 suggestions for things to pack:
A Trunki Booster Seat (great to use on taxi rides to increase safety in countries such as Thailand, Bali and Fiji). You can also store things inside it and, as a car seat, can check it on the aeroplane as an extra piece of baggage.
A LittleLife Travel Cot. We’ve had this tent-like cot since our son was a baby. It is very light and packs up really small.
An I-pad with movies and the Kindle App. Thanks to this we’ve been able to download storybooks and haven’t had to take actual books.
Crayons and paper and stickerbooks
A small scrapbook to stick our ticket-stubs and drawings in to document our travels.
A sun-protection swim-suit, swimming shoes and armbands
Kindles (you can download travel books as you go so you don’t have to carry them).
A small bag of imaginative play toys (e.g. Playmobil)
Sweetie-style vitamin tablets (particularly good in countries where you’re worried about eating the salad in cafes).
The McLaren Globetrotter pushchair is fab. It folds up small, is light and, when we’re not pushing our son in it, it’s handy for carrying all the bags.
Savlon antiseptic spray-on plasters (great in humid countries where infection can set in quickly).
A Potette Plus travel potty (which doubles up as a toddler toilet seat).