Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back from St. Martin! - Vacationing with a baby & toddler

My parents heading out for a sail!
We did it!  We packed everything from swim diapers to paperback story books for the plane and we hauled all our stuff, a one year old, and a two and a half year old through airports and planes and car rentals and island traffic to the French side of St. Martin in the Caribbean.

Ok, so we cheated.  REALLY cheated.  We had two sets of grandparents with us to help entertain children on the plane, haul stuff from place to place, and help out while we were there so we could have some dinners to ourselves and time to relax on the beach.  They are awesome and it was awesome.

That said, here are some of the tips I read that helped me the most, and that might be more helpful for traveling parents of small children than "grandparents!"

1. Have a convenient way to secure and transport each child.  We brought just one stroller for the two kids, but also had the ergo baby carrier with us.  That meant that when the two year old was tired, or we were dealing with ticket counters and couldn't risk him running off, we could put him in the stroller and the one year old in the backpack carrier.  Then when we were through security with time to kill, he could walk around while our backs got a break because we moved the baby to the stroller.  The ergo is great because it's hands free, didn't bother my back even when I carried Andrew for over an hour in it, and folded up small enough to tuck into a backpack or bottom of the stroller.  We've even used the ergo with Will when he was almost two to carry him from place to place on our vacation in Cape Cod - in a pinch, it beats carrying a toddler and not having your hands free for luggage or risking them running off while you're handling suitcases.

2. The travel experience and interacting with you are a great source of entertainment.  Everyone recommends an activity bag with some new books and toys for the plane.  Absolutely a great idea - but also remember not to pack too much because you've got to lug it, and honestly, most of the time Will was more entertained by looking around, asking questions about the plane, talking to us about everything he saw in the airport, and looking through the in-flight safety information. Snacks are also great time killers and mood-boosters, but think about whether you need to bring more than a few or if you can buy them as you travel to save weight and space.  Jet Blue offers great snack boxes with lots of variety including one aimed directly at kids complete with raisins and squeezy applesauce pouches.

3. They sense your mood.  If you're feeling impatient, they sense it.  If you try to enjoy every aspect of the trip "Ooh, now we're waiting for the rental car... we're so close to the airport we can see the planes going by!  What kind of a tree is that?  Let's look at the leaves while we wait!" then your kids will take your lead.  Also, I actually enjoyed traveling more because it really was an adventure each step of the way.  Did you know that a lot of airports have little plane motifs on their floor tiles?  Yeah.  I didn't.  They do.  If you have time, you can count them pretty high.

4. Avoid the trifecta. When you're traveling, you might have to skip a nap, or wait longer than normal for lunch, or get a little too hot or cold as you switch climates.  One is ok.  Two might be ok briefly... but don't let your kids get tired and hungry and hot or cold.  I found that by making sure I was thinking ahead about their food intake and what they were wearing, that those were the easiest to control even when they might be too excited to sleep on the plane.  If you're ordering food at a restaurant, don't wait until the kids are ravenous to find a place and order, careful planning and leaving really early for lunches and dinners can make a big difference.

5. This is not your honeymoon.  Have realistic expectations!  Oh, and bring the grandparents so you can go out to a nice dinner ;)

Los Calmos Cafe


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