Travelling with a toddler

Our recent trip to Pompano Beach, Florida was our first time really travelling with the little man. Sure, he’s already proven himself to be extremely road-worthy, but this was our first time flying with him.

Admittedly, by air travel standards, it was short – only 3.5 hours on a direct flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale. But still….we had to go through all of the hassles at the airport, go through a take-off and landing, and manage an extremely squirmy and active little man on our laps for the duration of the flight. So it’s nothing to sneeze at, either.

While I obviously don’t think one round-trip vacation makes me an expert on travelling with a little one, I did think it could be useful to share my experiences flying to, and staying in, a sunny destination.

Palm frond

Here goes:

Flight Time

If at all possible, try to time your flights with naptime. On our way down to Florida, this didn’t happen. Our flight was in the early morning and Boo was wide awake and super active for the entire duration. By about the 3-hour mark he had had enough and got cranky, and started making escape attempts.

The flight home, however, coincided with Boo’s naptime and though he didn’t sleep the entire way he did nap for a large part of it. That rest prevented him from getting too restless or cranky (though because he was travelling on our laps, and of course he fell asleep on top of me, it completely prevented me from being able to use the restroom….a very big deal when you’re 6+ months pregnant. But I digress).

Airline Seats

I’m still undecided as to which seat on the flight was more convenient – the aisle or the window. On our way down to Florida we had the aisle seat, which made it super easy to head to the restrooms to change diapers, or to pull out supplies from the overhead bin. It was also much easier for Boo to make his escape attempts under Daddy’s legs and down the aisle.

On our way home, we had the window where it was easier to keep the little man from escaping, and easier to position myself for his nap. But we felt sooo bad every time we had to ask the guy sitting in the aisle seat to move so we could go to the bathroom or dig out supplies (we tried to have everything on hand…but there’s always something you forget….or the sippy cup falls to the floor and rolls away, never to be seen again, and you need to get your backup).

Toys & Entertainment

We brought way too many carry-on toys for the little man. In my defence, this was because Boo didn’t have his own checked bag – he shared one with me, and I just didn’t have the space to pack most of the items I intended for him to have over the week, so I dumped them into his carry-on. My little man has an extremely long attention span and a very serious addiction to Sesame Street…I bet we could have gotten away with his Elmo and Cookie Monster figurines, and just a few songs and video podcasts for the entire flight.

That being said, he did make his way through all of the toys I brought for him during our week-long stay. Obviously, it helped that we were staying in one place only and were renting a car. Had we been moving about and using public transportation, it would have been impossible to bring as much as I did.

What did I bring for him? Let’s see…

  • My Pal Scout (indispensable in the morning, as it keeps the little man occupied until a reasonable hour, and for diaper changes – for some reason Boo becomes a complete nightmare at diaper changes whenever we’re on vacation, and he needs a good distraction)
  • Elephant lovey (for sleeping with and sucking on)
  • Handmade stuffed monkey (as a back-up…which we needed when Elephant got peed on)
  • Small bucket and shovel (for the beach)
  • Small ball (for playing catch)
  • Small set of wooden dominoes (in lieu of building blocks) – these mostly got strewn about, and thrown in/out of the portable crib, but Boo totally enjoyed doing it
  • Stacking cups (because they’re light, and the boy likes to stack)
  • Ziploc bag filled with random Sesame Street and animal figurines

Boo playing with Scout while wearing a diaper on his head

I know, I know…too much stuff. But it was all very light. That is, until I packed some food for the little man…

Food

If your child is under two, you’re able to bring food – most notably liquids – that are exempt from the 100ml security restrictions. I brought yogurt, drinkable yogurt, several fruit pouches, and one toddler meal to get us through each travel day. Because yogurt is dairy, I also had to bring an ice pack. It got heavy. Fast.

But considering Boo’s aversion to table food, I saw no way around this one. The little man had to eat.

If bringing food for your little one (or, I’d imagine, formula or breastmilk), be prepared to pull it all out when you go through security. Depending on if the security agent has children or not (!) they’ll either examine each item extremely carefully and rub it down with one of those weird little sticks to determine if there’s any contaminants on it (Montreal), or they’ll look at it all and kinda go “yeah yeah…it’s baby food.” (Fort Lauderdale).

Stroller

A good stroller is golden. I’d considered bringing our super light and super small umbrella stroller but it just wouldn’t have been enough. Instead we brought our everyday stroller (still a lightweight umbrella-style stroller, but much more robust – we use the Hauck Torro). It has a HUGE sun canopy which proved absolutely necessary in the hot Florida sun, reclines significantly to allow for naps, has a decent basket underneath in which we could throw supplies, and proved sturdy enough to allow a piece of carry-on luggage (or my purse/camera bag) to be draped over the handles.

Boo napping in his stroller

Though it did not in any way meet Air Canada’s gate-check stroller guidelines, nobody even batted an eye at it, as it still proved much smaller than most strollers we saw around the airport. I wrapped a bungee cord around it to ensure it didn’t pop open by accident, and checked it at the gate with no hassles.

Diapers

Though our condo had an in-unit washer/dryer, there was no way I was bringing my cloth diapers on vacation. So if you’re going somewhere you know you can buy diapers, just bring enough to get you through a day or two – i.e. until you find somewhere to buy more. We basically packed our bags, and then stuffed diapers into whatever space we had left. A few days into our trip we stopped at Walmart and bought the exact same brand we use at home for significantly less money.

Having said that, it was helpful to have “mini diaper packs” – a ziploc bag containing 2-3 diapers and another ziploc with a handful of wet wipes – in multiple carry on bags. This way, no matter who was taking care of the diaper change, and no matter what bag was most handy, we always had supplies on hand. I had one of these packs in my purse, in my carry on, and in Boo’s carry on.

Swim diapers

Before our trip I spent far too much time and energy debating between disposable vs. reusable swim diapers. Ultimately, I opted for reusable ones. I already had one from last summer that still fit, so I bought one additional (larger) Bummis Swimmi. Boo would wear one pair, and we carried a spare just in case he had a poop…luckily, or because I generally know my son’s schedule, we never had any cause to change him at the beach or pool.

Once back at the condo, I’d wash/rinse the diaper out, and hang to dry until our next foray into the water.

Boo in the surf with Daddy

The only catch with swim diapers is that they don’t hold pee. Considering we had a ways to go to get to the beach (we had to walk through the resort and cross the road, then through another part of the resort before getting to the hot hot sand) we initially made the trek in a regular diaper, and changed Boo at the beach. But it was a huge hassle. For the rest of the week we opted to put the swim diaper on immediately, and put a towel underneath to catch any accidents.

Bibs, Sippy cups, spoons, etc.

I only brought enough food to get us through the first day of travel. Once we’d arrived, our first order of business was to find a grocery store and get supplies – for ourselves and for the little one. We were lucky to be staying in a condo with a full kitchen, so there was no need to worry about where to put everything.

What I didn’t want to have to buy, though, were re-usable things like bibs (I brought a few of the plastic variety, so I could just wipe them down), sippy cups (I brought two – one for milk and one for water), and toddler spoons (I brought three – enough to get through a day of meals). For everything else, I just worked with what was provided in the kitchen, except…

Hook-on High Chair

I knew beforehand that the resort didn’t have highchairs available for use within the units. I also knew we’d have a full-sized kitchen table. Considering Boo’s mushy eating requirements, I knew I’d need to have some kind of highchair for mealtimes. So before leaving I bought the Inglesina Fast Table Chair. It’s not the smallest or lightest hook-on out there, but it’s also not the biggest/heaviest. It folded up small enough to easily fit in my husband’s suitcase. And it was a Godsend. I loved it.

Its design is such that it works on a large variety of table types, including round tables which is was what we had in the condo. It was super easy to attach. Super easy to detach. And pretty easy to completely disassemble and wash when we had a diaper accident (I love that you can disassemble and wash the fabric seat…not all hook-ons allow you to do so).

Boo excited in his hook-on high chair

….and that’s about all I can think of. There were, of course, other small items to remember. Like reserving a car seat at the same time as making our car reservation. Discovering that the resort only distributed portable cribs on a first-come first-served basis, and then miraculously (luckily) getting the last one (we’d already determined that, had there been none left it would be cheaper to buy an inexpensive one from Walmart over renting one from the vendor recommended by the resort).

What worked best for us was generally just remaining flexible, and going with the flow….something I usually have a very hard time with (I used to be the mega vacation planner, with itineraries, and maps to/from every attraction, etc.), but which I’ve gotten much better at. With Boo it really isn’t about what I want to do, anyway, but rather what he’s up for, and what he’s enjoying. When we discovered he loved the water so much, we didn’t see any need to fit in any big ticket activities…we just enjoyed the water with him instead!

Boo at the splash pad

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2 comments on “Travelling with a toddler

  1. Randy

    Looks like the little fella had a good time. Hope you did too. Very usefull informations here. I would definitly forget to consider some of these things.
    Pompano Beach is really a great place, have been there almost every summer for several years now. When retirement hits us, we maybe even move there.

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