My top 10 tips for travelling with baby and toddler

Expats are seasoned travelers. We share a love for exploring new countries and visit friends and family at home. However, most will agree that the actual process of getting from A to B is always slightly annoying. Depending on public transport, going through busy train stations and airports, and just spending endless hours in transit saps energy and sanity. My remedy used to be to plug in my headphones and read a good book. As a mom to a toddler and a baby, these options are no longer available.

When the Joneses travel to the grandparents in England, our itinerary contains a bus journey, followed by a train, plane, bus, and rental car trip. Takes us 11 hrs door-to-door, if all goes well. I am stressed out before we even leave the house. In fact, the stress starts a few days before with packing and getting ready. Keeping everyone happy, fed, and otherwise content on the journey is a major logistics operation. A 1.5-year-old can be so determined on wreaking havoc onto the early commuter train from Odense to Copenhagen that I have previously thrown up my arms in defeat only half an hour into a day of traveling.

No wonder that I have since tried to make our journey easier and these are my top 10 tips for traveling via plane with baby and toddler:

1. The Car Seat Backpack Bag

We lug around one baby car seat and rent the toddler car seat from the rental car agency to compromise on costs. Renting two car seats doubles the price of the car rental (they do know how to make money). On the first few family trips, we had a big holdall for the car seat, which was awkward to carry. Since we need to maximise the number of free hands to hold on to little humans, I have since made a car seat backpack bag that makes it so much easier to transport and safely check the car seat. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find one to buy (anyone wants to start a kickstarter campaign with me?), so I took the straps off an old backpack, sewed them onto two big IKEA family bags sewn together and voilà, one problem solved.

Me with my DIY car seat bag

2. Reduce number of transfers

This one is kind of obvious. Every transfer means to gather all the bags, belongings, and children and move them. This is annoying and minimising the number of transfers is therefore paramount to a good travel experience. Every transfer also holds the risk of missing the connecting transport or that the next mode of transport is delayed. This is annoying for a single traveler but disastrous when traveling with babies and toddlers.

3. Throw money at the problems

This one relates to reducing the number of transfers. Find your compromise between ease of transport and the amount of money you are able to spend. The same goes for individual vs. mass transport (e.g. rental car vs. train) and provisions on the journey. If you can afford to reduce effort, do it.

4. Dose everyone with decongestant nose spray

This is something I do before every flight to avoid problems with inner ear pressure decompression. My babies received decongestant nose spray even when they were still very little. For them, I diluted adult nose spray with sterile saline solution 1:10. In Germany, it’s possible to buy decongestant nose sprays for newborns, in Denmark it’s not. My dilution had the same proportion of active ingredient as the one sold in Germany. We only ever had a screaming child on the descent once, and that was the one time we had forgotten to give nose spray to my toddler before the flight. Never again will I see my kid in pain during the descent because I know how to avoid it.

5. The packing list

This one is the holy grail. We have a master packing list in an app that syncs between my husband’s and my phone, where items can be ticked off, and that can be reset to use anew next time. We just use iOS Notes but there is plenty of apps that would support this functionality. The packing list is sorted by members of the family and also contains a list of things to do to get ready (e.g. organise cat sitter) and last-minute tasks (e.g. take the bin out). I would be lost without this list and plan to patent it (just kidding).

6. The get-ready to fly list

It’s surprising how many tasks have to be accomplished after security and before boarding at the airport. Everyone needs food and drink for the journey if you are not depending on on-board catering, the little ones need new nappies and in our case treatment with nose spray. Plus all passports and boarding passes need to be located and carry-on luggage split into overhead compartment stuff and under-the-seat- in-front-of-you stuff.  I found it eases the stress level to have a similar list on the phone to tick-off pre-flight tasks. It’s a bit overkill, I admit that, but it makes it easier for my husband and I communicate about what needs to be done.

7. One bag to rule them all

After a particularly uncomfortable home-bound journey, I went on Amazon and found the biggest bag I could buy. I kid you not. Now, it’s one bag for the whole family because we have to keep hands free for little humans, so one person handles all luggage to be checked in. That also means minimising stuff to take, but we had great success with this and have not missed anything. The first cheapo gigantic bag from Amazon has since been replaced with a high-quality version, which again much improved our traveling experience.

These days we have learned to travel without our kitchen sink

8. One big bag for carry-on

Again a tip to minimise the number of bags to lug around. We once forgot a backpack at a car rental due to the sheer amount of different bags we had with us. That was early days of our parenting and we have since learned. I bought one of these shoulder bags that can be folded into a tiny pouch. Mine is from IKEA but many places have them. Whenever our hand luggage becomes unmanageable, I whip that thing out and all goes in, reducing five bags to one. Great.

9. Get a good collapsable push chair and use baby carriers

Check the airlines regulations for size and shape of push chairs that you will be allowed to take up to the gate. Four wheels are better than three and most fold-up strollers will comply with the regulations. Make sure it’s one where the seat can go all the way down into a horizontal position to make it easier for the babes to sleep in it. It doesn’t need to be an expensive one, however. We bought a good-quality, second-hand one because we mostly use it for air travel, and are very happy with it. Otherwise, and on and off the plane, use a baby carrier of your choice to have hands free for luggage.

10. Make sure your kids sleep

This is actually a big one. Kids’ need for sleep and their ability to sleep under different circumstances vary greatly with age of the child. However, an overly tired child will always have problems to manage their emotions, mildly expressed. It’s easy to oversee that they need to sleep because the action of traveling day keeps them up well past their naptimes. But if at all possible, try to make them sleep in the pushchair or carrier, on your lab, or in their seat. It’s so tough to calm down a child in melt-down mode after a long day of traveling, and we managed to avoid this since we have made sleeping on transit a priority for them.

Finally, I didn’t put it on the list, but something I often wonder: how did people travel with toddlers before the Ipad?

If you have secrets of traveling with kids, let me know. I always love to learn something new.  Maybe our paths cross at the airport one day. Until then, stay well.

From Denmark with Love,

Julia

Travelling with toddlers is a special kind of torture. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids dearly and I find many enjoyable moments even on travelling day, but I will also fall into bed at the end of it with the exhaustion of a marathon runner. Luckily, there are ways to prepare and a few tips to make the whole rigmerale easier.

The story of stuff

Let’s start this new year and new blog with a very practical topic. Where to get all the stuff that babies need. When I was pregnant with my first, I spend months buying clothes, prams, cots, and whatnot. From then onwards, “the buying” just continued because the little babes grow faster than one would think possible. After I stored most things for child no.2, I have recently entered the next phase: “the selling” of things. Newborn clothes, toys, and sleeping places need to hopefully find another baby to make happy by being sold or donated.

But let’s begin with “the buying”. Lists of the tremendous amounts of stuff recommended to buy before the arrival of the new bundle of joy are just a short look-up away using your favourite web search engine. When you have a list, here is where you can get those things in Odense.

There are three large dedicated baby and small children stores. BabySam, ØnskeBørn, and Kære børn are all located around the Rosengårdcentret. I let you build your own impression on the different shops, but I will say that these days I mostly shop in ØnskeBørn. There are a few high-end children boutiques in the city center. Among these, All about kids is lovingly filled with hand-selected designer baby equipment, toys, and clothes, by its owner Heidi, who also offers a range of services to make urban parenting easier such as renting of strollers and the use of a finely decorated baby care room.

All of the larger stores also have webshops that I leave you to find using your favourite search machine. Online shopping is generally quite big in Denmark, as anywhere I would think. Among the many online stores, I will only mention one, kids-world, because it offers free shipping. Attention though, long hours of feeding babies and sleep deprivation-based decrease of inhibition control can lead to over purchasing of stuff, as I may or may not know first-hand.

If you want to find used items for the sake of the environment and the bank account, then there are three main sources I would recommend: physical stores, reshopper, and Facebook market place.

Physical stores encompass Børnetorvet, Alt til barnet, and Børneloppen.  These three places function as permanent children flee markets, where people rent shelf space to sell their used baby items. They are particularly good for buying clothes and toys, but also prams, strollers, and car seats. There are a number of charity-associated children second-hand stores like the Red barnet shop, and the two Mødrehjælpen shops, one in the city center and one in the Skibhuskvarter. I’ve found good things in all these stores. They mostly focus on clothes but also have blankets, cots, and other larger items. Those may be stored in the back or basement, so don’t be shy to ask the staff.

A lot of the second-hand trade of children equipment occurs on the mobile phone app reshopper. People create selling adverts for individual items and the app conducts location-based searches by keyword. That means that it will show you items in a 1 to 20km radius around where you are, depending on your settings. Finally, as is typical for Denmark, Facebook is also a place to buy and sell children items. There are numerous selling groups, but most people who advertise in groups also create an advert in Facebook marketplace. So I would recommend skipping the groups (unless you like your wall filled up with second-hand selling ads or like to adjust your settings to avoid this). Instead just search on Facebook marketplace, which again shows you selling ads by keyword and distance.

Now you might be wondering, how to do all this when you don’t speak a word of Danish? The staff in the shops will always try their best to help you in English. And for the private market, just translate the term using a web dictionary and try your best. Don’t hesitate to contact people in English, they want to get rid of their things, so they will be happy to try their best in English as well.

Good luck with the stuff hunting. Until then, stay well.

From Denmark with Love,

Julia

There are three large dedicated baby and small kids stores in Odense, plus a number of smaller high-end boutiques in the city center. Online shopping is also a good option. For second-hand baby gear, there are different physical shops in Odense, and private people sell their stuff on the app “Reshopper” or “Facebook Marketplace”. Don’t worry about the language. An online dictionary will help with translating terms and people will do their best to help you in English. Everyone wants to sell their things!