How we survived a holiday abroad with a toddler…

I have been in a grump most of the week as I have seen friends and family getting ready to jet off on exciting holidays. This year we can’t afford to go away so are having a ‘stay-cation’ and having day trips.

I have an awful fear of flying so have only  actually been on a proper ‘sun and sangria’ holiday 3 times in my life. Two pre-motherhood and one with our little man (in August 2016).

(Hotel Elba Sara, Feurteventura)

As it was our first trip abroad with a toddler I read every blog I could find  before leaving. I wanted hints, tips and things to avoid. I wrote a guest blog for Happy Mummy about how we survived the plane ride, so I thought I’d write about surviving (and enjoying) the holiday.

Where to stay

We were going with J’s Grandparents, Auntie and cousins so there was 8 of us in total. We wanted a hotel to suit the kiddies and us adults. All I really wanted was all inclusive and sun so my demands were pretty easily met. For some people a hot sunny country may be their idea of torture especially if you have a child with medical issues where hot weather can be hard for them. It’s worth finding out when it is ‘peak sun’ season as you may find different times of year are better. In terms of hotels, I prefer 4* (+) as it means there’s more amenities. We planned to spend a lot of time around the hotel as travelling to day trips with the children would have been more stress than it’s worth. So we needed a good hotel. We wanted a kids club for my cousin and play park/toddler pool for J. We got both of those.

We love evening entertainment (maybe not my Dad so much but he likes to keep us happy). So, we asked for hotels with good entertainment (which we certainly got, it was hilarious). If this sounds like hell for you then bare this in mind when booking somewhere.

We didn’t want to be too far from the airport so chose somewhere a short bus ride away (transfers included in price). 4 hours on an aeroplane followed by an hour on a bus was not going to end well!

Do you want all-inclusive or half board?  

For me, I prefer All Inclusive. I don’t want to have to worry about finding somewhere to eat, wondering if the restaurant menu is in English, will it be something we’d all enjoy etc. Our hotel had a buffet system with a different theme every night. Mind you, J’s fussy eater ‘quirks’ had started so he ate sausage, chips and fruit the entire holiday…not even exaggerating!

I also like the all inclusive drinks too as it was easier to keep us all hydrated and keep topping up J’s flask with water (and cheaper I’m sure). I would have worried about cost and do I have enough euros for whole holiday? This way we drank what we liked, when we liked.

Swimming Pools and a Beach, skiing and lots of trees? What do you want from the holiday?

The first two were my stipulations. I wanted there to be somewhere we could take J to swim and with a separate adult pool (for the times my parents had J). There was a great toddler pool with slide and water features. J loved this and was in and out everyday.

I also wanted a beach and the sea so J could experience this. I wanted him to feel the sand and the waves. Well, he liked the sea as long as he could cling on to us and not touch the bottom. But the sand he was not as keen on (still isn’t now, but will happily sit in a sandpit at preschool).

We didn’t want to pack too much so we found a cheapy tourist shop and brought J sand toys such as diggers, wheelbarrow and spade. I was happy enough to leave them at the hotel when we left.

What to pack?

You don’t have to go mad. If you have booked somewhere ‘touristy’ then you’ll find there’s a lot of shops nearby. We had a ‘spar’ just around the corner. For J we packed:

  • One pack of nappies and enough night nappies for one a night. HINT: if possible keep the nappy pack sealed as they are vacuum packed so will take up less space than if opened.
  • 3 packs of wet wipes (they came in soooo handy and put one in suitcase, 1 in carry on and one in families suitcase).
  • Pack of nappy sacks (J had an explosive nappy just as we got to the hotel-we hadn’t even checked in, so nappy sacks were our best friend!).
  • A poncho towel. This was amazing and made life easier. I could pop it over him for shade and easier to keep on than wrapping a towel.
  • 1 long sleeved tshirt, 5 short sleeved tshirts, 5 vest tops. 1 trouser, 4 shorts. 1 smart outfit and 1 jumper (didn’t end up using). 1 waterproof jacket. 1 pair of nice shoes, 2 water/beach sandals (he lived in these), 1 pair of trainers. J slept in just a nappy as it was so hot-even with aircon.
  • 3 swimsuits. I tried to buy ones with UV protection where I could. Didn’t really need 3 as they dried quickly. I would rinse them in the shower and hang on the balcony.
  • Suncream. We had two bottles of factor 50 and avoided sunburn so thumbs up 👍🏻
  • Tablet and charger (yes, we were those parents. I felt guilty at first but do you know what…it encouraged J to stay in the shade/buggy and helped him be less stressed at busy times and in turn meant we were less stressed).
  • Medications (inhalers, allergy formula, eczema cream and calpol). We took a note from the doctors with a list of our medications. I put all of this in a clear bag so it was easy to get through security. We took calpol sachets rather than bottle as saved space and was easier. Make sure you count up your medication in advance so you can order more if needed before you go.

HINT: If your little one is on formula or you want to take anything from shops like Boots but without getting it all in the car and affecting weight allowance then you can order online for collection at the airport shops, and take in hand luggage.

How do you keep a child entertained?

As well as the tablet, we took a few small toys in the Trunki. If you don’t have a Trunki I very much recommend. You can have it as – carry on item for the aeroplane AND it has wheels and can be used as a ride on toy (something that kept J amused in the airport).

We packed some cars, colouring in, threading toy, stickers, books and nibbly foods. These were easy to pop in a bag and take out with us so he had things to keep him occupied at dinner table whilst waiting for his food, to keep him in the shade, and to play with in the hotel room. Mind you, J preferred to play with the safe and wardrobe doors! Don’t worry about taking too much as you’ll be surprised at what amuses them when in a new environment.

Be warned-if you have a tablet you may find the a) hotel wifi is crap and b) some streaming apps won’t work in some countries (found out the hard way). So, have some bits downloaded already!

How do you keep to a routine?

To be honest, we didn’t. I intended to but it went out the window pretty fast. The change in weather, environment, exciting things to do, lighter mornings etc etc all meant that our usual routine was screwed. We decided to ‘go with the flow’.

Our day started whenever J woke up (around 7-7.30) and we’d hang out in hotel room watching the crappy tv. Then go for breakfast buffet. Meet up with family and discuss plan for day (I use the word plan, loosely). Then go for a swim or head out to local town/beach. Then back for lunch. Then hang around the pool, park or hotel room if too hot. J would nap about 3-5pm (back home to is a serious danger nap). Send them go for dinner and hang around for the kids club/evening entertainment to start. We would stay out till 9pm-ish then head to our room for bed.

It’s amazing how much energy J had on holiday. We took the buggy (we brought a little umbrella stroller for the holiday as it’s easy to collapse and make it small) to the entertainment evenings. This was so J could lay back and fall asleep if he wanted…which he never did! He would climb in to get away from people once he reached his tolerance level, and when he didn’t like the lights or sounds. But he would rather be running around (he had a set pattern he would run around EvErY night) or watching the tablet. Either way he was enjoying himself and so were we!

Once you are on holiday and know what’s about it is easier to fall into a routine that works for you. I was worried about when we got home but by day two he was back to our usual routine with no issues. It was just me crying on the sofa. As I didn’t want to cook tea and I missed the sangria!

So, wherever you go just plan ahead. Make lists and be organised. That way, when you get on holiday you can relax, take lots of photos and have fun. Feel free to send me a virtual postcard 🌴

Note: this is not an ad. The photos and opinions on the Elba Sara Hotel are my own.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Looks like fun! Great tips for travelling with a toddler, I’ve yet to fly with my kids

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      I was dreading it and Picture J screaming the whole time but actually he loved the plane ride and even had a little nap which was nice. It was only a 4 hour flight so not sure how he’d deal with a long haul x


  2. AnEveryDayDad says:

    My wife and I really want to take our son on a similar vacation soon. He just turned one. Thanks for the advice and tips! Looks like you had a great time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Thanks AnEveryDayDad, we had an amazing time. Wasn’t a relax by the pool holiday with a toddler in tow but was so much fun seeing him enjoy himself x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Debbie says:

    I envisaged my first flight with the kids being a complete nightmare too and they were both amazing.
    Looks like you had a fab holiday x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      We did and I can’t wait to go away again next summer. I miss the sun and sangria haha x


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