Flying with a toddler

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Guest Post by Sarah Morales

Ever wondered what it would be like to live a life on the road with a baby or toddler? Sarah, Emille & Kian are doing just that! This guest post was written by Sarah and she shares what works and what doesn’t for their family! You can follow Sarah and Emille on Instagram!

I am Sarah Morales, and thanks to my husband Emille’s unique line of work, we are travelling the world with our two-year-old, Kian. Until the end of last year, we worked very normal jobs and lived very normal lives in Las Vegas where Emille worked for Cirque Du Soleil on the Las Vegas Strip.

On paper, we had what most would consider the American Dream. Our little family had a house, two cars, and we each had very stable jobs. But, we worked different shifts with different days off and realized we had fallen into a slump of merely passing Kian off back and forth as one work shift ended and the other began. We wanted more quality time together as a family and knew we needed to make a change.

Emille took a different position and on January 1, 2017 packed up for London to join one of Cirque Du Soleil’s touring shows, Amaluna. Kian and I joined him slightly after and we haven’t looked back since!

So far, we have lived in the UK, Austria, Italy, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil.  In the next 6 months we will add Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia to that list.

travel with a baby

We live on the road, moving cities every 6 weeks or so.  We are housed in hotels or apartments, sometimes with an in-suite kitchen and sometimes with simply a common room with a microwave.  We are allotted 4 suitcases each that the company transports for us, anything else we have to move on our own.

Depending on the cities, sometimes we have a few days to a week off once we reach a new city, sometimes Emille starts work the day we arrive. There are definitely challenges to life on the road, but we figure them out as they come and wouldn’t change it for the world. Luckily, we joined a tour with many other families, and we are able to share tips and learn from one another’s victories and missteps. I can now say that anything and anywhere is possible with a baby as long as you want it to be, and here is some insight on how we do it…

Everywhere is Baby Friendly If You Try Hard Enough

We did a lot of research on strollers before leaving and settled on the Baby Jogger City Tour. One big perk is it has hard plastic wheels instead of inflatable ones. This means no flat tires when we are out and we don’t have to travel with a pump.  However, the main selling point for me is that it folds into an included backpack and weighs around 15 lbs.

We have always been fond of baby wearing, so I keep the backpack and a baby carrier in the stroller all the time. This gives us an enormous advantage to sightseeing in that we can always have our stroller for long walks and naps, but then toss it into the backpack and move Kian to the carrier on a whim.  We were able to do many “no strollers allowed” tours this way without having to commit to leaving the stroller at home the entire day.

Backpack Diaper Bags are a Must

They still can hang off the stroller, but after a long day of sightseeing, with possibly baby wearing on top of that, a backpack diaper bag rather than a one strap messenger style bag, is a lifesaver (ok maybe just a back saver, but I love it.)

Size to Weight Ratio is Golden

Anyone with a kid knows they need a lot of stuff. And generally, the more stuff you have the easier it is to take care of them and keep them happy. Except when it comes to travel.

Although our bags are transported by the company, we still have some very strict limits on size and weight. In order to have as much toddler necessities as possible, they need to be as small and light as possible.

We went through a few different options before settling on a bed for Kian, knowing that co-sleeping isn’t always an option on tiny hotel beds. The winner for us was a self-inflating camping pad. Since it is his full-time bed and not just for a weekend getaway, we didn’t get the kid sized pad. We got one of the thickest options, at 2”, and the full size adult mattress. It’s roughly 2 feet wide and 6 feet long. But it is extremely light and rolls up to smaller than a pillow.  And unlike an air mattress, it is able to be bent or folded while still keeping its softness.  Thus, allowing it to be wedged into whatever space we have.  We top it with a waterproof mattress pad and comforter from Ikea, as they were cheap and fold up to almost nothing.

Travel with a toddler

Toys are the Hardest

Toys are where I have the hardest time. I want to buy every cool thing I see, and it’s hard not to. We have one suitcase allotted for toys and games, and anything I buy means something else has to go. But then again, we only have small apartments and hotels, so there’s not much room for a lot of toys anyways. 

I try to focus on toys that can span several ages as opposed to something that is easily outgrown, as well as things that can be used for multiple purposes like an action figure or car that is able to be a bath toy too. Legos and Duplos are great for travel, as they can be incorporated into almost any topic during imaginary play.

Airbnb with a toddler

Food is not the Same Everywhere

That was a hard-learned lesson. Kian is lactose intolerant and always drank almond milk at home. I was completely surprised to find out that almond/soy/rice milk all taste different in every country we have been to. Thinking back on it, I should have seen it coming, but didn’t. Nope, found out when I gave a bottle to a moody teething toddler at bedtime the first week and got it thrown at my face.

travel with toddler

This one is still a work in progress. My current plan with this is to always start with a small container, usually you can find juice box sizes, and make sure he likes it before buying a larger one. Also, not waiting until he “needs” it before trying it.

There are No Rules on Travel Days

If I could only give one piece of advice for someone looking to travel with a toddler, this is it. This is our saving grace. Moving and packing and shuttles and airplanes are just one piece of stress after another. Almost all of our flights are international, adding even more customs checks and lines and stress. The first few times happened on accident. A bit of “whatever, take it, just stop crying,” so to speak. Then we realized how well it worked and how much more relaxed everyone is. To clarify, “no rules” doesn’t mean completely anything goes, but as far as my toddler can tell, it does. 

Flying with a toddler

There is always a cheap toy or two packed in our carry-one that is new to him. We stock up on extra granola bars or protein bars, things he considers a treat for breakfast. There’s chocolate milk if you sit still and wear your seatbelt when the airplane takes off. And of course, watching those awful videos on YouTube of people unwrapping toys repeatedly. Anything (within reason) that is a treat on a normal day becomes acceptable on travel days.

Kian quickly associated travel days with fun and excitement, and runs to grab his suitcase and backpack now instead of being confused and clingy.  And there is no way to even explain how much easier and less stressful travel is to a parent when there’s no crying baby as you are trying to make it through customs in a foreign language or search for your passport and tickets to check in.

Before we had Kian, we had talked about living on the road like this, always saying if we wanted to do it we had to do it before we had a kid. Even when he was younger I still believed this idea, all of the rules and standards that Instagram and Pinterest have drilled into your head about what kinds of things your kids must have and what you should feed them and what time they need to be in bed- you’d better not travel or it will mess up their nap times and feeding schedules.

family travel nomadic family

We kind of stumbled on the opportunity to do what we do, and thankfully it snapped us out of the stereotypical brainwash of how society says you should raise your kids. We still have the same family values, we just do it a bit differently now. My kid goes to bed at midnight and sleeps until 10 because that is the schedule that allows him to have dinner with his dad after work. We live out of suitcases in a hotel because then we can have time as a family every day. He has 1/10th the toys of his friends because his “backyard” is the Roman Ruins, the Austrian Alps, or the Amazon jungle depending on the week.

He may not remember everywhere we go or everything we have seen, but he will remember that when he was a kid, his family was always together and always had fun stories to tell about our adventures.

nomadic family travel

Have you ever dreamed of a nomadic life? Did you think it was possible with kids? Tell us in the comments below!

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