- Follow your toddler’s pace and not vice-versa. Don’t rush to tick every box on your must-see list. Remember, you are not travelling alone. The control buttons are with the smallest member of the family so be prepared to keep the pace slow and leave some things for next time.
2. Make the most of the ‘flying with family’ option. Look for the check-in counters for families. This can significantly reduce wait times and make the entire check-in process faster.
3. Book a hotel room with a bar fridge… but not for what you think! Buy some milk, yoghurt, cheese and fruits and store them in the bar fridge for those toddler hunger pangs.4. Pack light, even in winters: Unless you are planning to ski, avoid heavy winter jackets. Invest in a good quality down jacket and thermals. Layering is the key. Remember, toddlers have zero tolerance for discomfort and you don’t want them to be too hot or too cold. And don’t forget that all-important puddle suit for wet weather.
5. Carry easy-to-cook food for those toddler hunger pangs in the middle of the night. My little one invariably had the “bhuku” (hungry) moment every night or in the small hours of the morning. I carried roasted wheat flour and semolina. All I needed to add to it was hot water, milk, sugar or salt. Don’t forget our very own favourite breakfast cereal – Weet-Bix. I haven’t yet met a single kiddo who doesn’t like them.6. Take a stroller with the knowledge that you won’t need it a lot. Avoid the pram at all costs. A cheap $25 stroller will do the job. Probably the only time it will be used for the purpose it was made for is when your toddler decides to take a nap. Otherwise, feel free to use it as a luggage carrier.
7. Be prepared to lift the stroller on kerbs and steps. In Australia, we are spoilt when it comes to footpaths. But don’t expect the same in Europe and the UK. Not all footpaths and train stations are pram-friendly or wheelchair-friendly and, to top it all, finding a lift at the station is like a treasure hunt.
8. Be mindful, even at pedestrian crossings. Road etiquette in Europe is not as well ingrained as in Australians. Don’t assume the car will stop just because it is a pedestrian crossing. Driving can be rash, so be extra cautious with a restless toddler on the road.9. Take care at store doors. Not all shops and department stores have automated doors or open doors. Again, a good amount of co-ordination will be required in opening that door and keeping that munchkin from fleeing.
10. Mind the gap at train stations. While we may know this well and it is a common reminder at the train stations here, some stations in the UK and Europe can have a significant gap between the platform and the train. Mind your toddler when boarding and alighting from trains.
11. Book family coaches on Swiss trains. Some double-decker trains in Switzerland have family coaches where one can park the stroller on the ground level and kids can play in the play area on the upper level. Not all trains have this special coach yet. At the moment, you can find them on the following routes: St. Gallen-Zurich HB-Bern-Geneva Airport; Romanshorn-Zurich HB-Bern-Brig; Basel SBB-Bern-Brig; Basel SBB-Bern-Interlaken Ost; Basel SBB-Zurich HB-Chur.
12. Dress your toddler right for the mountains. Make sure your toddler has a pair of sunglasses on, enough layering, snow gloves, boots and a wooly hat.13. Shopping? Stock up for the next season. You will be spoilt for choice with the variety around. Whatever season you go in, Australia will invariably be experiencing the opposite. So find the best deals and buy your toddler’s wardrobe for the next season.
14. Don’t lose sleep over comments about toddler tantrums. If you get those stern glances and sometimes even murmured comments, IGNORE. Don’t feel apologetic for your bub’s tantrums in public, feel sorry for those who don’t understand that toddlers are meant to throw tantrums.
15. Make a photo book. So that your toddler never forgets this trip ever, make a photo book with a collection of some of his/her favourite photos and show it often. Do it while the memories in that tiny brain are still fresh. This tip goes for any holiday.
Planning a European holiday? Remember this
Always, always go for a bed-and-breakfast option. A bit dearer but it is that ‘every extra cent spent worth it’ kind of expense. You save on time and energy that you desperately need to store for the day ahead.
Don’t expect air-cons in hotel rooms. Because of the summer season being so short-lived, not every hotel invests in air cons for their rooms. And even if it does, they don’t turn it on all the time. So, in summers be prepared to let in some fresh air through the window.
Buy travel passes to save a significant sum. Enquire at travel info desks or train stations about these and buy the one that best suits your itinerary. If you are travelling to Switzerland buy a Swiss travel pass without fail. For a tourist, it is the best way to travel within Switzerland.
Carry your passport along with the Swiss travel pass. The pass is non-transferable and carries your passport details on it. There are no automated ticket machines at the train stations in Switzerland. All tickets are checked manually by ticket checkers in trains.
Check the weather before planning a trip to the Alps. When planning a trip to any of the major mountains, be it Mt Pilatus, Mt Titlis, Mt Rigi or to the top of Europe at Jungfrau, make sure you check with the travel desk in the morning about the day’s weather forecast. Jungfrau in particular, because it is an expensive trip despite a certain discount that you may get because of the Swiss travel pass. Don’t buy tickets in advance. Buy only when you are sure it is a clear day. It takes almost a full day to reach Jungfrau and you don’t want to go on a foggy day and waste all the money and effort.
For inter-country travel by train or air, book tickets well in advance. This can at times save you as much as 75%, and if left for the last minute, can burn a big hole in your pocket.
If flying between countries within Europe, reach the airport well in advance. Queues can be very long and the security process very slow.
Hire a car where possible. We drove around Scotland. Some places are best explored driving and Scotland is definitely one of them.