For those who follow the blog it should be obvious that we love to travel. We try to escape every time the stars line up and allow us. Both the fact that we have the dogs or have children does not prevent us from traveling around, it only takes different itineraries, less running, much more patience etc.
Since we were only two, we always thought about continuing to enjoy things that we always like, differently, it's true, even more so enjoying.
Alice is quite a travel partner, but it's a good job traveling with a child, that's a fact. In these almost 2 years of parenthood, we have acquired a lot of experience and tricks to minimize stress, both in us and in it, and make the most of any trip we make.
Here's a list of tips (totally my own opinion – far from the rule or oracle – is what worked and/or works for us):
1. Travel time
We've had several flight schedules and you can get an idea of what's best. For example, we went out once, before the sun came up from home to catch the flight before six in the morning. We thought she'd wake up to take off her pajamas and stuff, but none of that happened, she didn't go to sleep long after. Of all the combinations, we are preferring the trips that start more towards the end of the day or overnight (at night), soon the bedtime arrives and hopefully she sleeps on the flight, until arrival.
One more person, eba, more bags and more space to take (and bring) things. Right? Wrong!! We are reducing baggage with each trip to avoid the inconvenience they provide (loading, large taxis, etc).
There is also the fact that we always tend to take a lot more things than necessary. Making the combinations of clothes helps and does laundry in a nearby laundry room (or at the hotel) is something we always consider nowadays.
All the more reason to take fewer bags. The cart is an essential item. On the trip to Brazil and Europe, we chose to take our big cart, which despite being compact, takes a good space.
But it was essential for long walks and good option for naps (when Alice still took naps in the cart).
On the last trip, to Florida, we opted for a folding cart, here calls umbrella stroller. Very light and compact, it was a good option, especially for long walks at airports (our boarding gate is always the last!) and to circulate in the parks.
Speaking of parks at Disney, you can rent a cart, both single ($15) and double ($31), per day. And both Disney and Universal parks are super prepared for children and strollers, so much so that all attractions for children have parking carts, in the vicinity of the access of the attraction.
You leave the cart there and go (people even leave bags, clothes, toys and no one moves).
Also known as a kangaroo, because the child hangs. I am a big fan of slings, so much so that I use it to this day.
We use the wrap sling several times, the one you wrap and tie on the body, but for trips we prefer those pre-adjusted that has more supports for the back and shoulders.
Alice took several (not to say all) her naps on the sling during the trip to Florida. We use Ergo's and it's super approved.
It is also super useful for places that you can not enter with the cart, very common thing in Europe, with its various small places, which sin in accessibility or that very crowded, many of them where carts are prohibited. For example, Palace of Versailles, you can only use the cart in the gardens and surroundings, but the visit inside the palace does not allow the use of the carts.
The sling/kangaroo was our salvation.
Alice has always been and still is a fan of a quiet moment, me and her. I succeeded in breastfeeding her, although the beginning was not a sea of roses, so much so that we still continued for those almost 2 years.
During the trips, whenever she asked, we stopped and she nursed, wherever we were. I've always worn this protective breastfeeding cover, which gives both of us privacy and avoids prying or evil looks. We've never even had a problem with that.
In Europe, she only ate vegetable, cereal and fruit papers and after they finished the ones I took in the suitcase for the first few days, we had no major problems finding in the market wherever we were (I just thought I had a lot less options).
At Disney, with our little girl more comilona, we opted for some grilled meat with vegetables and rice, which is what she likes most anyway.
I've always heard of the story that you only eat turkey leg, french fries and burgers at Disney, but there are plenty of healthy options there as well.
Pasta, chicken salads and fruit are often seen there and cost an average of $9 per dish.
Of course, that on any trip we made that extends for more than a few days, we try to go to a fair or market, to buy fresh fruit and some snacks to avoid excessive expenses and have to surrender to crap (better known as snacks etc).
But of course, this varies a lot, depending on what you and your baby are used to. Some people prefer to take aparthotel with kitchen and make baby meals. I think this restricts a lot and we always wanted to get used to it to eat what it had available (chosen by us, of course).
A few months ago, we preferred to take our usual meal and divide between the three of us. It's usually some dish that has something she can eat too.
Nowadays, we are beginning to use the children's dishes for Alice, since she eats more now, at 18 months, but we continue to share with her what we choose also (you become a father and mother and never eat anything without sharing again – fact!).
7. In the bag
I'd say it's always nice to have some key item on hand to avoid surprises and whining. Here are the things we always have in the bag:
- Some toys
- Cap or hat
- Lately – tablet loaded (salvation!) or mobile
- Cup of water
This is clear, not to mention the basics, such as diapers, moistothered scarves, ointment diapers (only for eventualities), first-need remedies (for fever etc.), one or two changes of clothes and a coat.
8. Diapers and exchanges
In Canada and the United States, almost every place has diaper changers in women's restrooms. In the newer places, there's also in the men's room, and we think it's great for when Alice wants daddy to change her diaper.
Also have no major problems if you are on the street and need to enter some establishment because of a diaper emergency (ok, I invented the term).
In most places you do not even need to ask to use the bathroom, just enter and go using, but even in places like restaurants, I think it is very unlikely that someone will bar you if you ask to use the bathroom with a child in your lap, especially in Canada.
In Europe the story is totally different. I got tired of changing Alice on the bathroom floor (under a washable changer that we have in the bag, but still, on the floor!), this when we found an accessible bathroom.
Many of the public places, with train stations and even at McDonalds, you have to pay to use the bathroom in general. It's $25 to $75 euro cents. Okay, at least they had a changer. But most of the time, besides being difficult to find bathrooms, you have to be paying to be able to enjoy the bathroom (dining or paying entrance).
Anyway, arduous task. As it was relatively hot, we changed Alice's diapers outdoors sometimes.
Now our next challenge is potty training and it's going to be a different experience. Are we always going to take the potty to the lap? We only go to places that have toilets nearby? That's the mystery.
I guess that's kind of obvious. Your travel pace will no longer be the same with children.
You have to have a kind of flexible script and a lot, but a lot of patience, especially after they start walking.
There is a break for snacks, maybe for nap, for endless curiosity, to join toy that fell and for thousands more photos that you still want to take, but they do not!
At Disney, many of the attractions have height restrictions and they don't make exceptions for security reasons. So it's good to program that at least some adult will have to stay out of the attraction every time.
In Europe, we think that greater restriction was even the fact that we can not enter with cart and consequently have to carry the baby + bag + bag etc.
The lack of accessibility in subways, trains and some public places also bothers (we went down endless times carrying the cart on subway stairs and some museums). Then go prepared for a good gym!
Phew, it's long. I wrote a lot and I'm sure i'd have more to report here. If I remember anything, I'il come back… 🙂
Here are my tips for traveling with slightly older children, from 2 to 5 years!