How To Backpack With a Toddler (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of Eternal Voyageur’s incredibly helpful post on how to travel with the kiddos. For clever responses to nay-sayers and packing list suggestions, do pop over and check out Part 1!

Transportation
Stroller
: I didn’t take one, but some people swear by them. Research the state of the country’s roads, pavements and public transport before you decide to take one, and remember that you’ll be carrying the stroller half of the time. If you don’t have a super-lightweight one that folds up and can turn into a spaceship at the push of a button, get a cheap second-hand one that you won’t mind ditching before your return flight, if only to make space for souvenirs.Baby carrier: the Ergo carriers are probably the best for travelling, as they are famous for zero back pain! Ergos are also super-light and they roll up really small. You can wear them on your front and back, and you can even buy a fleece cover for cooler weather. Scour Ebay for cheap second-hand ones!

Leash: Now, the idea of a leash is not that your child is straining on it like an untrained puppy, but that it gives you extra security while the child holds your hand. When one end of the leash is on your wrist, you can feel safe that the child won’t suddenly wriggle its little hand out of yours and run across the street or escape while you need both hands to get money from your purse. Pequenita actually likes her a lot, it seems to give her a sense of security! The one I have can also be used to strap smaller toddlers into a chair in restaurants.

General Travel Tips

Don’t just get stuck with doing only child-friendly stuff. Kids will learn to participate in many grown-up activities, if you give them the chance. I’ve seen a 2-year-old daughter of musician friends who could sit quietly through hours-long classical concerts, just because the parents had always taken her with them.Do remember to do things for your child: go to one place where they can have the time of their life for a change. It doesn’t have to be Disneyland, a pretty park with a fountain can be just as delightful! Take frequent breaks, where the child can stretch their legs. Just let your kid free to run around wherever it is that you are. Take the time to point out and explain stuff to your kid, even if you think they don’t understand much.

How to occupy your child

Bus rides, waiting in the airport, and (the hardest) waiting for the food in restaurants – all of these are tough. Make origami animals from napkins, play some finger games, and bring out the notepad to draw in. Teach your kid to observe the space around them, spot things out of windows, count them. Bring snacks!
Surviving flights and drives

The good news: it does get better. Kids are extremely adaptable. Travel during the night, when you can. Most kids usually sleep everywhere. If yours can’t, he will probably learn fast. Arrive early at the airport or the bus station. If all the seats are not full, chances are that you’ll be placed next to some empty ones. Ask for seats that have more space (usually the front in airplanes, and the front and near the exits in a bus).During the waiting time at the airport/bus station, let your kid run free. Better still, chase them to tire them out. Don’t be the first to board, you’ll only have the rest of the passengers pushing against you as you try to squeeze your toddler into the seat. Using the same logic, disembark last. In the plane, you can always go to the back and ask the air hostesses for extra food or drinks for your child. For best results, bring your kid with you. Pequenita discovered that she could charm the hostesses into giving her more crackers! If your child is having a tantrum that’s disturbing the other passengers, take her and her tantrum to the air-hostesses room at the back of the plane.

Surviving museums

This was the toughest part for Pequenita. In some of the museums she could run around (an away), in others she struggled to escape from the carrier. So I don’t really know a fool-proof way to do this.However, here are some tips: Eat before going, make your child walk or run a bit, and try to time the visit before nap time. A fully-fed sleeping kid in a carrier is perfect for museums! Be prepared to cut your museum visit short, or even go there twice. We learned our lesson when we spent hours looking at the introductory pieces and then had to rush through the best stuff (which is always at the end).

Prepare a ‘kid pack.’ Since you can’t take your usual bag into museums, prepare a tiny bag with whatever your child needs: water, diapers, snacks, a toy. Don’t condemn your kid to boredom – point things out to them and describe it in simple language. They won’t understand it all, but they do grasp a lot. There is a lot of delightful every-day items that kids will recognize; Pequenita liked cups and bowls in the shape of animals.

Food

Simple is best. Try something healthy, that takes little time to prepare (kids are so impatient in restaurants!) Pequenita thrived on delicious Peruvian fruit smoothies and I was thrilled: they always arrived instantly and she couldn’t have chosen a healthier alternative! Other favorites were bananas, beans, corn… You can always ask for a small portion of something simple, with one or two ingredients and no spices, most restaurants readily oblige. Also, let your child try whatever it is that you are eating and you’ll find out what they like. Resist the temptation to feed them chocolates and junk to keep them quiet. Small kids usually love fresh fruit and you can always find healthy local snacks. Lots of restaurants try to bring everyone’s food at the same time – tell them that you’d prefer your child’s meal to be served earlier, if possible.I hope that all of the above tips and ideas will help you have a smoother journey with your little one. However, there is nothing that can really prepare you for backpacking with a toddler: you’ll have plenty of crazy stressful moments, as well as unexpected adventures, lots of fun and laughter. Your child will teach you patience, a sense of humor, and will show you the amazing little bugs walking on the grass blades of the Altiplano. Just go, and take them with you. It will be a whole new experience!
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3 Comments

Jessika

Bringing a toy or a few small toys is a good idea. This is a tip from friends that travelled with small children. Kids can find play opportunities where adults can't see them. A stone can turn into something you had not imagined if you just leave some space. If you've been "creating" spaces for play such as playdates it might be a dab more difficult but kids have wonderful imagination.

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Kitty

I think baby leashes are wonderful. I hate it when people get all hung up on this. It's not as if you are suddenly treating your baby boy or girl as an animal. It keeps them safe, and makes both you and the child a lot happier. You can even get ones that look like mini backpacks! That would be fun for a backpacking trip! Great post!

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Anna

totally agree with all you say! we took our one year old to south africa & swaziland this summer. it was great! next year we're thinking india or mozambique. we didn't bother taking a pushchair because we knew there wouldn't be pavements in the areas we would be in – & we don't use one at home much anyway. we took the magic boobs & we were good to go! one note: in swaziland we could only find nappies in the big supermarket in the main cities, not in the rural areas. in both south africa & swaziland they were incredibly expensive. next time i would consider taking cloth nappies.

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