Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 9, 2012

Long-haul travel with a toddler

Nearly eight weeks since I was last on a plane, I’m getting severely itchy feet. So I’m already thinking ahead to trips with my baby – and getting inspiration from other travelling parents. Here’s what friend of a friend Simon, who spent 10 days in South Africa with Hayden, four, and two-year-old Helena, had to say about his holiday.

The holiday: A self-catering apartment in Fish Hoek, just outside Cape Town for a week, then a drive to Knysna for three days in a lodge-style B&B.

The reason: Both our children love beaches, and South Africa has some of the nicest I’ve ever seen, although away from the tourist areas some beaches are half golden sand, half plastic bag. And we wanted to go back and see the penguins. Most of the area’s wildlife is on private land and for over-12s only but there are still wild baboons, mountain zebra, ostriches, lizards, large tortoises, eagles and vultures once you get out of the town. At one point an ‘African Skunk’ tried to steal our picnic. It’s also mostly English speaking, even if the accents are occasionally impenetrable.

The planning: All on the internet – car hire, guest houses, places to go, things to see. We’d planned to go to Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth but reviews of Mossel Bay said it was now an industrial town and two days in the car would have driven the kids wild, while Port Elizabeth was not particularly child friendly – lots of hotels had a minimum age of 12. But the Knysna/Plettenburg Bay area had lots to do and interesting scenery.

The tricky bits: The seeming lax attitude of car hire firms about needing two child seats. In the end we went with a big firm, Avis, because they did at least seem to guarantee child seats on arrival.

The best bits: The beach at Fish Hoek was just stunning, or possibly when the penguin swam up on to the sand at Boulders Beach, meeting elephants, or discovering that Hayden (the world’s second most difficult eater) loved grilled hake.

The hardest bits: The flight, then the drive in the brand new Audi hire car from the airport after 26 hours of no sleep. It is difficult with children on a plane for that long and we got very little sleep, but they were actually brilliantly behaved for the most part.

Top tips: Plan everything before you go, including rainy day activities. That way you can just pick what to do off a list, plug the destination into the sat nav and go. And you need to be picked up from the airport, because you’ll be shattered.

They said: A couple of people said it was a waste taking the children as they’d be too young to appreciate it, and we had some commiserations about the 11-hour flight with them, but otherwise we mostly got a ‘wow, holiday of a lifetime’ attitude. Hayden keeps asking when we can go back, or maybe even live there…

Image: Marti McFly/Flickr


  1. awesome! have kiddos will travel 🙂

  2. We did a long road-trip from Cornwall to Loch Awe in Scotland via Bristol, Birmingham (visited friends), the walled city of Chester, then the lakes before driving towards Scotland. My daughter then was only 1. Lots of stops of course, toys in the car, cds. The Cbeebies double cd drove us mad… But entertained T till we reached our little cabin by the woods in Loch Awe for ten days. Then back again. We have fond memories of that trip 😀

    • Wow. What an amazing trip – and quite an undertaking with a one-year-old. I can imagine the CBeebiea CD was ingrained.. but a fantastic experience.

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