Travelling with a 1 Year Old: UK Edition

Good morning! It’s looking like the most gorgeous day outside today after the most atrocious, nonstop rain yesterday. The days are getting longer (which I love) and summer is starting to creep in. It’s by far my favourite time of the year.

I’ve attached a handy travel planning checklist at the bottom of this post so let me know if you find this helpful!

We’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel with Rory around the UK, whether that be to stay with family or a trip to the Cotswolds.

Luckily lockdown restrictions were starting to lift by the time we wanted to spend time away from the house and I’ll always be grateful for that. Pregnancy and labour was a different story but I’m relieved I didn’t have to face proper lockdown with a baby – I applaud all those parents who survived it!

I remember the first time I stayed away with Rory was when he was 6 weeks old. Tim was struggling with working and the very long nights so I went down to my mums for a night. I remember being so nervous about that trip and having to plan out the stops on the motorway. Rory was an angel until we pulled off the M40 and onto the A404, 20 mins from my mum. I ended up having to pull into one of the pull off areas and clamber over into the back and feed Rory. He was always a quick feeder but I would have to spend a while winding him so he didn’t get sick. (I definitely don’t miss his reflux!) 20 mins later we were on our way again. 

For any long journey we’d plan out our stops so that we knew where we were aiming for. I remember the Health Visitor saying something like you shouldn’t go for longer than 30 mins at a time with the baby in a car seat and it really stressed me out to begin with. Long motorway journeys would get me worried and I’d meticulously plan out stops. I don’t know at what point I stopped worrying so much but I think it happened when Rory was 4 months old. Don’t get me wrong, I never stopped worrying (chronic overthinker here!) but my irrational fears started to rear their heads less often. Most likely hormones looking back on it and being a first time mother.

Once a week, I’d travel down to my mums so Tim could get a good sleep once a week and so I could get some more help from my mum. So I’m pretty used to nights away with the little guy.

To be honest, Rory was never very good at sleeping when we stayed elsewhere, but to be honest, it isn’t until recently that he’s started sleeping consistently better (sleep Gods please don’t punish me for saying that!)

We’ve done a few ‘proper’ trips away with Rory: The Cotswolds, Ireland, Bath, Norfolk and finally Cambridge with some friends.

We’re going back to Ireland in August for a week and also are planning our first long haul trip to Florida in December. These are definitely different types of trips but the same principals of planning apply!

Rory’s sleep (or lack of) used to always worry me but fingers crossed he’s now at an age where he’s sleeping much better at night (until his next teeth come through or he gets another illness!). I just try to remind myself, the first night is usually the worse and then it gets much easier as we all settle into a routine.

Anyway! To the useful bit

How do I travel with a 1 year old… 

I’m going to split this out into a few areas…

The car journey:

I’ve only ever travelled with Rory in the car but I find it helps to have it all planned out. We’ll usually try to time it for nap time, but this is now proving a little more difficult as Rory will usually just have 1 midday nap. If we are driving somewhere first thing in the morning and Rory falls asleep, we’ll just try to adjust the day and take it as it comes. If he has over an hr he usually won’t have another so we might just have to bring bedtime earlier, but we try not to stress too much (emphasis on the word try).

Plan out any stops on your journey

  • These are definitely needed for both your toddler and yourself! Stretching the legs, a toilet break or nappy change, and snacks, snacks, snacks (and water of course!)
  • My favourite services so far has to be the Gloucester services! The farm shop is lovely to walk around and the food court great. I stopped there to break up a trip down to Somerset when Rory was 5 months and the outdoor space also looked great.

Bring a bag of toys for the car

  • We have separate toys just for the car so that they keep Rory’s interest.
  • We clip his avocado toy or firefly onto the car seat belt so he can’t throw them away.
  • He loves a remote as I’m sure most little ones do! I think he’s been given 3 as pressies, so we have 1 in each car and a spare.
  • We find a popper toy will also keep him entertained (even for a few mins!) to pop or chew.
  • We’ll also have a few teething toys on hand as this little boy is currently cutting his molars.

Have the soundtrack ready

  • We got a 3 pack nursery rhyme cd to play which keeps Rory quiet. I mean it’s questionable if S Club ‘Reach for the Stars’ or The Macarena are nursery rhymes but it definitely mixes it up!
  • If we want a change from the cd, we pop on Super Simple Songs on Spotify. Super catchy songs and I find myself humming away to the during the day. (I like to eat, eat, eat, apples and bananas… IYKYK)

Packing:

Pack the night/ day before you go so you don’t forget anything.

What to bring and how much

  • How much you bring for the little one really depends on their age and what they’re like. Until Rory was about 7/8 months, he’d have several outfit changes a day and needed so many nappies. Now unless he gets particularly messy he’s generally ok and we only need to pack 1 change of clothes a day just in case!
  • Enough nappies for the whole trip along with baby wipes

Bath time

Bedtime 

  • Depending on the time of year, we’ll pack either a baby grow or a long sleeve vest for Rory to sleep in
  • A 1 or 2.5 tog sleeping bag (we’ll usually bring 2 along just in case)
  • Moisturiser
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Calpol just in case!
  • White noise machine
  • Baby monitor 
  • Travel cot
  • Cot sheet
  • Snoozeshade 
  • Teddy or comforter – for Rory this is a blue cup (he’s never really been into a comforter but looooves this blue cup from his stacking cups)

Other

  • A bag of toys and books (although tbh if we’re visiting a new place he’s normally more interested in exploring, so we’ll pick a few toys such as his stacking cups, eggs, a couple cars and a few books)
  • Your pram of course! Staying in the UK and driving by car we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had to worry about finding a smaller/ lightweight option yet but when we go to the US, we’ll definitely be looking for another one to bring.

Food:

I was going to include this under packing, but I feel like it needs its own section.

Food/ snacks for the travel day

  • We have this pack lunch bag for Rory which is the perfect size for a day’s worth of snacks.
  • Things we might usually pack are a banana (by far his favourite fruit), a fruit pouch, some cheesy crisps, a petit filous and maybe a banana biscuit.
  • These banana oaty cups are also a firm favourite which I sometimes wiz up.

Have a rough plan for what you’re doing for the trip and if you’re planning to eat in or out

  • If eating out, check out if there is a specific children’s menu and if there’s anything appropriate/ your little one will eat. If not, could they have some of your meal? Are there are any sides you could give? We’ve previously ordered a side of sweet potato and carrot mash and Rory devoured it! 
  • If you’re eating in, you obviously have a bit more flexibility and can cook up food for your little one. We generally try to eat the same as a family so it cuts down on prep.
  • If we want a quick and easy dinner we might pack a Tilda rice pouch and give it to Rory with some fruit or veg like a banana, avocado or cucumber.

Other

  • Travel High Chair – this is so handy and packs down. We take this whenever we visit somewhere in case they don’t have high chairs. 
  • Silicone Bibs – we looooove these ones from Kidly. We saw a friend using one and had to get ourselves a pack. They come in lots of different colours.
  • Easytots travel plate
  • Spoons
  • Sippy cup or straw cup – we love using this tumtum one

Where to stay:

This obviously depends on many factors. Our preference is for Rory to be in a separate room but that isn’t always possible. We all end up having a worse night but we just try to think it’s just one night.

If we’re in the same room as Rory, we’ll try to get all our bits ready before we put Rory to bed so we’re not making unnecessary noise. The snoozeshade also helps.

We’ve stayed in a few Airbnbs in the Cotswolds, Norfolk, Bath and Cambridge. All of these we ended up being in the same room, however, for trips coming up we now try to stay in separate rooms. Both us and Rory definitely sleep better in our own rooms now. In the UK, the recommendation is for your little one to be in the same room as you until they are 6 months old and this is what we followed. 

If you’re in an Airbnb, having a kitchen really helps and so does a bath. We find, keeping to our bedtime routine wherever we are, really helps. We have stayed somewhere where there wasn’t a bath and one night we did a shower. It worked ok, but then the next night we cleaned up the kitchen sink and Rory had a wash in there and it worked well!

Other tips:

  • Get your changing bag sorted. Have a couple changes of clothes for your little one ready and make sure you have enough nappies in there (we’ve forgotten to top these up once before!).
  • I use these clear bags to help organise. I use 1 in his changing bag for his clean clothes (I find it really easy to pull it in and out), 1 for his bath things and finally 1 for his monitor, white noise, calpol etc.
  • Bring disposable nappy bags. These are obviously great for dirty nappies but also for throwing dirty clothes into so they don’t get mixed up with the clean clothes!

Basically plan plan plan! It’s just like that old phrase goes… if you fail to plan, you plan to fail…

My top tip is definitely don’t worry too much if your routine is messed up. It’s only one night and you can try again tomorrow. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember babies can surprise us with how adaptable they are.

Travelling with Rory used to stress me out, but I now just try to go with the flow as much as I can. I try to prepare what we can the night before and will list out everything so we can tick things off the morning we’re packing the car.

We haven’t had to travel by plane with Rory yet, that’ll be in December when we travel long-haul to Florida!

I’ll get another post written up on travelling to Ireland with a 6 month old via ferry. We’ll be going again in a few months’ time and it’ll be a bit different with a little boy who can run up and down the aisles of the ferry!

Do you have any good tips for travelling with a toddler or things you won’t leave home without?

Until next time,
Cathers x

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

Click below to download a JPEG file of my travel planning checklist:

Don’t forget to pin in it on pinterest for a later date!

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