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Motherhood, Travel

How To Travel With a Toddler

This has been my most requested blog post since I returned from our holiday to Greece. I am definitely no expert, but I am only too happy to share my experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly.

This is what worked for us and hopefully you can take something from this too.

I want to share our actual story… but I know that when I am looking for tips and I see a long story before getting into the tips, I get put off and don’t feel like scrolling to get the info I am after. So I’m going to go straight into my tips for those who are here just for that. If you feel like reading on for our story/experience, then that will be underneath.

Pre-preparation:

  • Know what you will need for a flight and what you’re allowed to take on board with you. International flights require liquid bottle limits, so if you need to take medication, know that you might need to decanter out of a big bottle or ensure that it’s not bigger than 100ml. Also remember this for your child’s water bottle.
  • Pack snacks that aren’t messy and easy to eat on the plane and in layovers at the airport. We packed rice cakes, cracker bread, some diced fruit (nothing too juicy) and we had those puree baby squeeze pouches with us (we noticed they’re either 110/120mls, but we had no issues.)
  • Ensure a bottle of formula/ breast milk is ready for when you take off. You don’t want to have to fiddle around while you’re trying to hold baby and settle on the plane. Make sure you buy a bottle of water once you’re past security.
  • Have their security/comfort item with you. If it’s their teddy, or in George’s case his Love Bunny, or their favourite blanket, it will make them feel a bit more secure.
  • Have a Muslin cloth in your carry-on that can either act as an extra blanket (planes can get really cold) or it can be used to shield from the light of the cabin (or the bloody TV screen that is right above the Bassinet – that will be in the story below.) A friend of mine, Chelsea, actually suggested this from a flight they took and it was a great tip for us.
  • While you’re packing extra clothes for the baby, don’t forget to have a change of clothes for you and your partner. Accidents happen. Another tip I picked up from my friend, Amanda, who experienced this first hand.
  • If you are traveling overseas with your baby, but without your partner, get a signed affidavit from the Police Station allowing your partner to travel with your child. Sox and George came back from Greece a week after I did and he needed a letter saying that, I, George’s Mother, allowed my husband to travel with our child. I don’t think it’s needed if you’re a Mother traveling with your child… which seems bizarrely biased, but we’ll leave that there.
  • Pack your sense of humour and an open mind.

Flight Booking:

  • If your baby is under 10kgs, ask for the Bassinet seats. George was 10kgs when we flew, so we just managed to get those seats. Great leg room and great to be able to put the baby inside if you need to eat or go to the bathroom. They are absolutely tiny though. Also be aware that if there is turbulence, you’ll need to remove the baby and potentially wake him/her up. There are Pros and Cons to a Bassinet.
  • If your baby doesn’t fit the Basinett, ask for the aisle seat so that you don’t need to disturb anyone if you need to get up a few times.
  • If the plane isn’t full, ask for a seat that doesn’t have anyone next to you. An empty seat is wonderful for extra space.
  • Try and stay away from the back of the plane as the toilets are there, so there’s a lot of foot traffic and the attendants move backwards and forwards, which can be disruptive.
  • Certain carseats are certified to travel on an airplane. I know our Doona is certified. The only thing is that you have to book a seat for the carseat to be on it. We were lucky to be able to use it on a flight that wasn’t too full, so they allowed us to bring it on board.
  • I’d love to say “try to book a flight that’s around nap time/ sleep time.”  That sounds lovely in theory, but be prepared for nap or sleep time to be out. There is a lot going on around them, so don’t be surprised when they get over stimulated. Don’t worry… They will eventually settle and the planes white noise does help. Eventually 😳

On the Flight:

  • Their little ears can really hurt on take-off and landing, and the best thing to help them is for them to suck. If they take a dummy, you are lucky. George took a dummy for the first 2 months of his life and then rejected it. The next option is to drink a bottle of milk. If they are asleep then don’t worry about shoving a dummy or bottle in, as 99% of the time, they won’t be affected when asleep. For older toddlers, give them a sugar free lolly to suck.
  • Rules go out the window for the length of the flight… which means, there’s no judgement on screen time. There are plenty of kids movies on the inflight entertainment. For local flights, take a tablet and ensure you have their favourite programs/games.
  • A tip that I was given was to get the reusable stickers, which keeps them occupied for hours. Any fun activity is going to be useful, even if it’s I-spy.
  • We had 3 books with us and that kept G amused for a while.
  • Our little songs with actions (Greek nursery rhymes and the English ones, like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Little Star, Humpty Dumpty and so on) also kept him amused. Don’t worry, the hum of the airplane will drown out your singing 🙂
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the air stewards and hostesses or even the passengers next to you. I flew from JHB – CPT on my own once and George kept rolling when I tried to change him in the tiny plane bathroom. I needed the help of the air hostess to distract him, so he wouldn’t roll constantly.
  • What about all the people on the plane, while your child is crying hysterically? I know, it’s incredibly daunting, because you are acutely aware of how many people are around you. You definitely want to be considerate of people, but at the same time, your child is not crying on purpose. It’s how they communicate. People are generally pretty lovely (and understanding / empathetic) so if your baby is crying, don’t worry. Take a deep breath. Most people are pretty understanding and if anyone has anything negative to say, it says more about them than you. Be the bigger person.
  • Don’t be afraid to medicate. When I posted on Facebook, asking other Mommies for their travel advice, the number one thing came out to: Medicate the baby… it helps with their ears and helps them sleep better. Obviously, please speak to your Paediatrician / doctor about this as I don’t want to advise you further. We did not medicate as we didn’t think we needed to. Let’s just say, next time we will be speaking to our GP/Paediatrician before our flight.

Traveling Equipment:

  • The Doona was the best thing for us! It’s a Car Seat/Pram rolled into one. It is such a pleasure for not having to carry a car seat and a pram separately. We literally pressed a button and the wheels released for a pram to push him right up to the taxi/ rental car, a button to push the wheels away and into a car seat. We secured it with the cars safety belt. It is a travel pleasure.
  • Baby Carrier. We have the Baby Bjorn and it was really helpful on the ferry’s and long walking trips, when we weren’t using the pram. We didn’t use it as often though, purely because it was so hot, but it was definitely useful to have.
  • A backpack nappy bag. I have 2 of the most incredible nappy bags and I can’t rave about them enough. They’re leather bags from Jean Kelly. Firstly, her bags are not only stylish, they’re really practical. Secondly, I love that they have pram clips, so you can attach them to the pram. One less thing to carry. The one I have for my everyday life at home, which is a normal handbag style. It’s the Toffee 2 Pocket Leather Shopper. The other one, I bought as a gift for Sox, when he looks after George while I’m at work. It’s the Toffee Leather Nappy Backpack and let me tell you, it’s a dream to travel with. Not only does it have the pram clips, so you can attach it to whichever pram you own, but the back straps make it instantly hands free. It was amazing for when we had the pram and our carry on luggage. I’ve linked them.

Routine:

  • If you’re on holiday, so is your routine. I’m not saying don’t have some sort of routine or structure, but you have to be completely relaxed and flexible about it or you’re not going to enjoy your holiday. The sun in Greece only set at 9pm, so everything ended up being +/- 2 hours later… He was waking at 7am (no matter what time he got to bed) and then 4 hours later he would have a nap. 4 hours after his wake up time, he’d have another nap and then have a later bed time. It really worked for us and I think that’s the key. Find what works for you and be flexible.
  • Something that Sox and I observed is that George seemed to really thrive with the relaxed/flexible routine. It’s not that there was no structure, it’s just that being relaxed about it really served all of us.
  • In Greece, you have dinner so late… so we were getting off the beach anywhere between 19h00 and 20h00. Dinner for George was usually at the beach. We would get him food from the little taverna’s there, or from the supermarkets close by. George has moved away from purees, so it really did make our lives easier when it came to food. Once we were off the beach, it was the familiar routine, we’d do at home:  Bath time, PJs, songs and then he’d go to sleep in the cot in our room, and we would eat in, or we would put him in the Doona where he would fall asleep and we’d have dinner at a restaurant. We have been going out with George since he was 10 days old, so he is used to noisy backgrounds to sleep, thank goodness.

Here is Our Travel Story – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

George was a week away from turning 13 months and still crawling. He had take his first few steps, but was still happy to crawl from A-B as it’s faster. We had visions of him wanting to crawl down the aisle and crawling over people’s feet.

However, we were taking a night flight, so our thought was that it would be within his routine and he would sleep.

We thought wrong.

There was so much going on around him, that he was stimulated by all the lights, the people and of course the bloody screen that happened to be placed right above the Bassinet. That is the ultimate fail, in my opinion. He kept wanting to stand up in the bassinet to touch the screen. Of course, I then realised I wouldn’t be able to sleep properly, in case he woke up in the middle of the night and decided to stand up to get the screen (and possibly fall out.)

You can order a Basinett for a baby to sleep in. The weight limit is 10kgs. George was 10.2kgs so we just made it. However, it was so tiny so he was really squished in there and he couldn’t move. He likes to sleep in a fetal position or even on his tummy and he couldn’t roll over properly, so he was incredibly uncomfortable. Also, they will only bring the bassinet once the dinner service is over, so it’s frustrating if you want your baby to sleep sooner.

Let’s go back.

Here we are… all excited for the trip ahead… No idea what to expect…Our flight took off just after 8pm. We gave him his bed time bottle (double whammy of soothing any sore ears) and thought he’d drift off to sleep.

I know! You’re laughing too, aren’t you?

Instead, take off went smoothly, he finished his bottle and proceeded to sit up and look at everything going on around him.

Luckily, he was quite happy on our laps and didn’t want to crawl around… but after 2 hours, of us trying to get him to sleep and being unsuccessful, he started getting irritable and crying a bit from being completely overtired. The Bassinet was put up, but all that happened was he kept standing up to touch the bloody screen that happens to be right above it. It honestly was such a fail.

After an hour of him standing up and sitting down… he started to cry. 11pm. After about 45 minutes of him crying hysterically and Sox and I not really sure what to do with him or ourselves, he EVENTUALLY fell asleep on Sox. We debated about whether to put him into the bassinet or not and as Sox did, it woke him up as he tried to get comfortable. More crying and more under our breath cursing from us (and I’m sure some of the passengers.) He finally found a comfortable position, but he looked so squished.

Finally. 00h15. Sox and I looked at each other with relief. We were so drained. We should probably have got some sleep, but I wanted to open the headphones provided and try to watch something on the inflight entertainment. What we discovered next is that once the bassinet is up you cannot open up the TV screens. At first Sox and I thought we were doing it wrong, so when we called the air hostess, she informed us that the plane we were on was older, and we wouldn’t be able to unfold the TVs. It’s a 10 hour flight… Surely not!
There were 3 seats… So what about the 3rd person (who happened to be my Mother in Law this time), who didn’t have a baby and wanted to watch something? They must miss out because of an “old plane?”Absolutely crazy. Another fail.

Just as we were starting to breathe a bit and relax, we hit turbulence. It wasn’t too bad and Georgie was fast asleep… but then the announcement came. Why are those announcements so LOUD!?

He still didn’t wake, BUT the announcement said: “There is some turbulence and the Captain has switched on the seat belt signs. The Toilets are out of use now and all babies must be removed from the Bassinet.”

Well, I looked at Sox in disbelief. You can’t be serious!? Sox and I had a mini disagreement. I didn’t want to take him out and Sox, all of a sudden, wanted to abide by the rules! 😉 We picked George up, who of course woke up and started screaming because he was just so exhausted and now rudely awakened. It took us another 30 mins to get him to stop crying and I was so upset.

George isn’t really a crier, so when he cries non-stop, I must be honest, it’s completely unnerving.

He finally got to sleep again, 01h30 and yet again Sox put him in the Bassinet, where he cried trying to get comfortable. I was close to crying too.

I must have nodded off after that, because 30 minutes later, the same announcement came. I looked at Sox and told him that we are NOT moving him, until an air hostess physically comes and tells us to take him out. Praying and hoping they wouldn’t.

They did. I wanted to cry.

The screaming began again and I felt so defeated and cross at the same time.

Sox and I just felt so helpless and didn’t dare make eye contact with anyone. I was glad the lights were off in the cabin so I didn’t have to see or feel the glaring eye balls.

George eventually fell asleep on Sox and we decided to hell with the bassinet… He slept on Sox and then on me, when Sox needed the bathroom, or to stretch.

In a 10 hour flight, George maybe slept 3 hours. It was just awful.

If there was a button to press that said: Turn this plane around. Abandon your glorious Greek holiday NOW! Sox and I said we would have pressed it in a heart beat. Sox just kept telling me (especially when G’s cries were really bad) “This too shall pass.”

I honestly wish we had medicated him so that he would have slept, or at least found it easier to sleep. I remember other Moms giving that advice on Facebook, but I didn’t think it would be something we’d need to do. Why I thought this, I don’t know.

I just kept thinking of our journey still ahead… a 4 hour layover in Dubai, a 4.5 hour flight to Athens and then a 2 hour layover in Athens airport and a 45 minute flight to Rhodes… and I wanted to just run away.

George slept through the landing, so we didn’t need a bottle for his ears.

He proceeded to sleep in the Dubai Business Lounge and through boarding. 

We were exhausted and it felt like someone was pouring sand into my eyes. We were ready (mentally) for another difficult flight from Dubai to Athens, but he ended up being an Angel. We read books and sang. He slept easily (out of the bassinet) and for the first time, I slept when the baby slept! Haha! Before we knew it; we were landing.

Our last flight from Athens to Rhodes, was so short. Only 45 minutes, but just before the landing, I had George on my lap. All of a sudden I felt this warmth and wetness. George had poo’d and wee’d and the wee had seeped out of his nappy and onto me. It felt like the “perfect” end to our travels and I couldn’t stop laughing. You really do need to pack a sense of humour (and spare clothes not only for the baby, but for you and your hubby.)

I’ll admit, by the time we got to our friends at their holiday home in Rhodes and I had an ice cold G&T in my hands, all was forgotten. We were pretty glad that an “abort holiday” button wasn’t a real thing. Sox was right. This too shall pass… and the holiday was worth every second.

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3 Comments

  • Reply cassandra

    probably my favourite post of yours ever!

    August 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    You are made of sterner stuff than me Bailey! Would probably sat in the aisle and cried! xxxx

    August 29, 2018 at 4:41 pm
  • Reply Natasha

    Wow, that sounds hectic. Good on you for coping so well!

    August 30, 2018 at 6:26 am
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