How to Successfully Holiday with a Toddler

How to Successfully Holiday With a Toddler

This summer we took our first ever family holiday abroad with our two-year-old toddler. It was unforeseen, unplanned and incredibly last minute but we (mostly I) were deliriously happy and grateful that we were able to take one.

A fortuitous series of events meant that we could actually take a holiday for the first time in three years, and it was, hands down the most exciting thing that had happened to us since we moved house. With only a week between booking and actually going on holiday (very uncharacteristic of us), we very quickly got ourselves organised and packed, and before we knew it we were jetting off.

We decided to only go for a short four-day jaunt, but anyone with a toddler will know what a military operation going on a holiday is regardless of how long you go for. So for anyone about to embark on a similar adventure, here’s what  I learnt about how to successfully holiday with a toddler:

Flying with Toddlers is Unpredictable

Flying with a toddler is unpredictable. We had a morning flight out of the UK and a night flight on the way back in. The logical expectation therefore would be that your toddler would probably be awake during the morning flight and sleep on the night flight back in.

The reality was the opposite. Our little lady was catching z’s on the morning flight before we even took off from Heathrow and on our return refused to go to sleep until well into our flight, some two to three hours later. Completely and totally unpredictable.

Jet Lag and Little People Don’t Mix

Your toddler will not acclimatise to the new time zone as quickly as you. Despite our best efforts to keep our toddler awake till dinner, she inevitably fell asleep each evening just before we got to a restaurant, and woke up just as we were finishing our meal.

It was uncanny and slightly annoying, although we made the most of the opportunity and had a few faux “date nights” with our snoozing toddler in tow. Since then we’ve taken holidays in places like Tenerife and Gran Canaria where there is no time difference to the UK so you can start your holiday as soon as you land on the tarmac.

They Have Their Own Holiday Diet

There is a toddler version of the holiday diet. Whilst most of us adults liberally throw caution to the wind and our diets out the window the moment those plane tyres hit the tarmac, toddlers seem to do the opposite and go on a very strange, very restrictive holiday diet.

For example, regardless of the wonderful wide range and dare I mention, fully inclusive buffet breakfast on offer each morning, Ella decided that each breakfast would consist of grapes, and grapes only. For four days. Some may call it dedication. I call it craziness.

You’ll Need the Extra Baggage Allowance

You probably won’t pack enough clothes for your toddler. We packed two outfits per day and a few “back up” outfits for good measure, and still managed to run out of clothes by day two.

The next time we go away I’ll probably pack half of her wardrobe to be on the safe side. Taking some washing detergent with us would probably be even smarter.

They Probably Won’t Like the Beach

If it’s the first time you are taking your toddler on a beach holiday, they probably won’t like the beach. Chris and I were both so excited to take Ella to a beach for the first time, only to discover to our disappointment that she hated it.

She refused to touch the sand and was not impressed by being dipped into the sea. Suffice to say that our fleeting 15-minute stay on the beach made it officially our shortest “beach” holiday ever.

Despite all of that, we had the loveliest holiday, a much-needed break and made lots of new memories. Since then we’ve taken lots more holidays because once you know how to successfully holiday with a toddler it’s just wonderful.



  1. September 16, 2015 / 11:29 am

    Lovely to hear you managed to get away on holiday, Emily. This made me laugh – the toddler not liking the beach thing especially. Mine loves it now, but for a while wouldn’t be put down on the sand or dip his toes in the water, so we had to walk round dangling him at all times! x
    Jess Paterson recently posted…Children’s Art: Chuck or Cherish?My Profile

    • My Petit Canard
      September 16, 2015 / 11:35 am

      Thanks Jess, it’s always nice to know it’s not just your children that have certain aversions, tendencies or behaviours. Little people are so funny sometimes!

  2. September 16, 2015 / 5:21 pm

    Going abroad with a toddler is certainly a different experience, we took one of ours then waited after that till they were 6 and competent in water as it made it much less stressful. Glad your holiday was a success.
    Coombe Mill – Fiona Cambouropoulos recently posted…Win Dora and Friends on DVDMy Profile

    • My Petit Canard
      September 16, 2015 / 8:12 pm

      Thanks. Waiting till they are a little bit older sounds like a very smart idea, I can definitely see the benefits of doing that. Especially if you have more than one! 🙂

  3. September 17, 2015 / 7:02 pm

    Oh sorry but this did make me giggle! We had a hate-the-beach toddler too and when we tried to go to America to stay with family, the kids had had three breaksfasts, each an hour apart, by 7am. There was no sleeping AT ALL on the way home and we were totally out of sync with each other for days!
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    • My Petit Canard
      September 17, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      Oh dear, sounds like that was an adventure and a half for you all! Its funny how children are so similar in so many ways. Glad you had a giggle reading the post!

  4. Betty and the Bumps
    September 18, 2015 / 6:48 pm

    When we went to Center Parcs for four nights in April, we took practically every item of clothing Gwenn owned at the time, so I feel your pain!! x

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  5. My Bored Toddler
    September 20, 2015 / 9:34 am

    I’m about to pack for a cruise – I’ll be making sure I PACK EXTRA FOR MY TODDLERS NOW!

    • My Bored Toddler
      September 20, 2015 / 9:36 am

      sorry, not sure what happened with the caps lock!

    • My Petit Canard
      September 20, 2015 / 10:31 am

      How exciting! Yes, definitely do pack a little bit more than you think you’ll need just in case. Have a great time 🙂

    • My Petit Canard
      September 20, 2015 / 10:07 pm

      Thanks, its always good to know its not just us!

  6. Nige
    September 21, 2015 / 6:20 pm

    Great post toddlers and travelling can be stressful but so worth it thanks for linking to the binkylinky

  7. You Baby Me Mummy
    September 24, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    Great tips lovely. We are taking Baby on a plane for the first time next month so all this is good to know! Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx
    You Baby Me Mummy recently posted…8 Photos Of HappinessMy Profile

  8. January 23, 2017 / 11:05 am

    Such an insightful post Emily! My husband and I took our daughter with us on our honeymoon last April (she was 10 months) and we experienced so many of the things you did too. We’re hoping to go abroad again this year with our now 19 month old and I can imagine the flight being much more entertaining this time around as Sadie doesn’t sit still for two moments.

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