Category Archives: Travel

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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Friendly vs. not so friendly people

We recently spent a week in the US….it was a very pleasant experience. Not only because of the hot balmy weather and the ocean view, but because of the people.

Americans are friendly.

It could be that having the cutest toddler on earth (!) makes them a little more inclined to be friendly with us, but I don’t think that entirely accounts for how easy it was to smile and engage in small talk with complete strangers.*

Boo Boo smiling at the park on Pompano Beach

I mean just look at him….he’s adorable.

Everyone seemed willing to at least smile and say a quick hello. Many were happy to chat and engage in actual conversation for the duration of…whatever it was we were doing…riding in an elevator, checking out at the grocery store, watching our kids play in the park, riding an airport shuttle, whatever.

It was so nice.

And a nice change.

Once back home, we immediately saw and felt the difference. It only took….10 minutes? We jumped in an elevator at the Montreal Trudeau airport with Boo’s stroller, smiled at the other parents already inside and said hello. They ignored us, and shifted their gaze so as not to make eye contact. Locals.

Montrealers aren’t friendly. Though there are, of course, exceptions, I generally find them to be downright unfriendly. Often rude. And totally unapproachable.

It’s not just me who thinks so. A recent survey released by Statistics Canada suggests that the people of Quebec are less sociable than other provinces, and that they trust strangers, neighbours, whoever, less. Overall, Quebec came in dead last in a number of categories meant to determine how friendly and outgoing they are.

So yeah…not exactly sure where I’m going with this.

Maybe it just serves as a good contrast as well as an explanation why I can’t make any mummy friends at the park. The friendliest folk I’ve encountered have been grandparents (from a different, and probably friendlier, generation), and dads (because let’s face it…I’m pregnant and have HUGE boobs…of course they’re smiling at me).**

What about you? Have you noticed a difference in friendliness between Quebecers and elsewhere (anywhere)? Am I nuts? Or am I on to something here?

* Even a rough looking leather-clad biker took one look at Boo, smiled, and told me I had a “beautiful child”.
** It’s also got me wondering, yet again, why the hell do I live here? (Answer: my husband….though many might consider me crazy, I don’t particularly like Montreal)

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Pompano Beach, Florida

Lots of people say that travelling with a little one is never really a vacation, but rather just a trip – you still have all of your regular parenting responsibilities and duties to perform, just in a different place.

I kind of agree…but not entirely.

This was the first time we’ve gone to a sunny destination since becoming parents. Before Boo, we’d spend our sunny travel days exploring the area, repeatedly going to the beach, combing the beach for treasures, relaxing, reading, drinking rum punch (or local beer), and listening to the waves if we happened to be lucky enough to have scored an oceanfront rental.

Palm tree

With Boo, however, it was a very different experience. Much of our time was spent caring for our little man. We had to make sure he was eating, sleeping and safe. We spent far more time in our rental than usual – thank heavens it was large enough (thanks Mom and Dad!) – so we didn’t go stir crazy or trip over one another.

The grounds at the Wyndham Sea Gardens

Fountain on the grounds at the Wyndham Sea Gardens

Some of the grounds at the Wyndham Sea Gardens – our home away from home in Florida.

Because Boo is still refusing to put anything in his mouth, including table food, we generally had to go back to our condo for meals. Just to make things a little more interesting (ahem, difficult), he also decided that every meal had to begin with yogurt, otherwise he just wouldn’t eat anything. EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL.

And since we were already there for lunch, we generally stuck around for naptime, too….which wasn’t all bad since more often than not, Mummy and Daddy napped as well (that hot sun makes you tired…especially when you’re carrying around an extra 20 or so pounds of pregnancy weight).

Boo Boo napping on Mummy

But aside from ensuring Boo had his necessities, this trip was nothing like our regular routine.

Most mornings, while Boo had his initial glass of milk, we watched the sun come up over the ocean. Not routine.

Watching the sun rise

Our view each morning – that blasted building always just blocked the view of the sun rising up from the ocean itself.

Boo on the balcony in the early morning

Still in his PJ’s Boo was happy to wander out onto the balcony in between sips of milk (which happened to be all over his chin in this photo).

After everyone had eaten we all put on our bathing suits, got slathered in sunblock, and headed down to the beach. Our first full day in Pompano Beach just happened to be my birthday and when Boo had his very first experience seeing and being in the ocean. He loved it. He couldn’t stop smiling and giggling. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present. Every day following, we all went swimming (well…me and the hubby took turns swimming vs. holding onto the little man and swooshing him around the water). Not routine.

Boo Boo looking at the ocean for the first time with Daddy

Boo Boo smiling at the ocean

Boo’s first real look at the ocean with Daddy – he was delighted, and never stopped smiling.

Boo experiencing the waves with Daddy

Boo sat with Daddy and giggled each time the waves crashed into them…though he was a little less impressed when they splashed his face, he never lost that smile for long.

Family selfie on Pompano Beach

Afternoons were mostly spent on the Pompano Beach boardwalk where we got ice cream (little man still won’t eat it!), explored the park, and played in the splash pad. Not routine.

The Pompano Beach Boardwalk

Boo Boo exploring pinwheels with Daddy

Adjacent to the boardwalk (right near the ice cream shop) there was a very cool kite and novelty shop – Boo loved running around the place, as its owner tried desperately to get his attention, pulling out all the stops, including a giant bubble-maker.

Boo going down a slide head first

Still preferring to go down on his tummy, Boo made sure to make the rounds of the slides.

Boo splashing in a fountain

Half fountain, half mini splash-pad, Boo had a few impromptu runs through the water, trying desperately to catch it!

Heading home after running through the fountain

The first time we stumbled upon the fountain we weren’t prepared with a change of clothes…no matter – we put on a dry diaper and took the little man home as is! He definitely didn’t mind.

Evenings were probably the most similar to our regular routine…shortly after Boo had his dinner we put the little man to bed, and then passed out ourselves. I suspect, were I not pregnant, there might have been a little more time spent on the balcony drinking wine, rum punch or beer…but that’ll be for another vacation. So….kinda routine.

View from our balcony

The daytime view from our balcony.

We spent an entire week together. All three of us. All day long. Not routine – and such a fantastic deviation from our normal lives when Daddy is stuck at work all day long!

I actually believe this past week in Florida has been an awesome bonding experience between Boo and his Daddy. It was, after all, his Daddy who brought him into the ocean for the first time, and who was much better equipped to play with him in the water. I loved watching the two of them together. And with this time together, I think that Boo has formed a much stronger attachment to his Daddy – so much so, that he’s been crying whenever the hubby leaves the house (much to my husband’s delight, as he believes an upset and distraught little man is far preferable to an indifferent one!).

So was our trip the ultimate experience in relaxation? No. Not with a toddler to run after, keep busy, and care for.

Private beach

Was it a nice break from reality? Absolutely.

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Abby Hill Farms Country Market (or that day Boo fondled a pumpkin)

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my mom and I took Boo Boo to the Abby Hill Farms Country Market to see some pumpkins. I didn’t expect too much of a reaction out of him, but basically wanted to plop the little man down in the midst of piles and piles of pumpkins and see what he would do. I wasn’t disappointed.

Boo Boo feeling his first pumpkin

Boo Boo and a pile of pumpkins

There were pumpkins everywhere….Orange ones, of course, but also white and grey ones.

Scream scarecrow in a pile of pumpkins

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…and little pumpkins, pie pumpkins and gourds, gourds, gourds!

Mini pumpkins

Nana, Boo and a pumpkin

Multicoloured gourds

Boo mauling a gourd

In addition to the main attraction (the pumpkins, obviously), there were all sorts of activities for the littles. There was a corn sandbox, bales of hay to climb on, big John Deere tractors to investigate, a mini train to ride, a petting zoo, pony rides and a banjo-playing clown! Though Boo was still a little too little to enjoy most of them (he cried when we put him in the corn!), he did enjoy the clown and petting zoo:

Nana, Boo Boo and the banjo-playing clown

Nana and Boo at the petting zoo

A goat at the petting zoo

In addition to the pumpkins and activities, there was an actual farmer’s market with produce and flowers for sale. We picked up some tomatoes and brussel sprouts, as well as a few gourds for Boo:

Cabbage

Flowers at the market

It was a wonderful and sunny fall day!

Mama, Boo and Nana

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Random Photos (part deux)

More often than not this is the sort of photo I take:

I take my time, I try to come up with an interesting composition and, most importantly, there’s nobody in it. I’ll get into position, frame my shot, and then stand (or crouch), sometimes waiting minutes just to take my photo during that small window in which nobody is in my viewfinder.

Granted, it wasn’t too difficult to do in the above photo taken at the Whirlpool on the Niagara River…there was only a small handful of people there…and I was mighty glad of it.

Last week, I bemoaned my inability to take spontaneous photos. Looking through my library tonight I found evidence that, every once in a blue moon, I do manage to snap a super spontaneous photo…

A few years back while vacationing in Italy, after an exhausting day of walking way past the Aurelian Wall to the catacombs and back into Rome again, when I was just dying to get back to my hotel room and never use my feet again….we passed a wedding party posing in front of the Colosseum. I couldn’t resist: I pulled out my camera, and as I was hurrying by, took one quick photo of the happy (and wholly unknown) couple.

It was spontaneous. It was well-timed. And it was of complete strangers….something I’m normally too embarrassed to do. But having seen the shots my boyfriend takes of “the locals” and having fake posed so he can snap a photo of the homeless guy behind me…I now see the value of taking photos of strangers. Seeing how they’re interacting with and reacting to their environment can offer you a whole new perspective and appreciation of a place or a view.

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