This past Christmas, we wanted to spend it with my husband’s family. They haven’t met our toddler yet and we’ve been spending Christmases with my family ever since we’ve graduated from college. My husband’s family live in another country, which is primarily why we haven’t done it often, but I wanted them to meet our son before he turned two.
We decided to turn the trip into a family vacation with my brother-in-law’s family. When we planned this we were just thinking about the trip logistics and finances, but not really what it’s going to take to travel with our toddler. In hindsight, we should have focused more on what it would be like traveling with our toddler over finding the cheapest flight options.
We made several mistakes during our trip that I’d like to tell you so you want make them on yours. It almost felt like a series of unfortunate events for us.
Our biggest mistake was taking a flight plan from our first location to our second with a layover instead of flying into a major airport and driving a few hours. Our layover was four hours and the flight was delayed, making it close to six hours of waiting. Then, they lost a couple of our luggage (one being the car seat) when we finally made it to the second location. The whole situation with that flight was not ideal and our toddler was straight miserable while we waited and when we landed at midnight. We’re never flying that airline, again or going to either airports.
I also made mistakes while packing for our flight. Like I mentioned, we did have two destinations. I mainly packed for the first one and planned on doing laundry at the next. What I forgot was that there would be two different climates and one would be a lot colder than the other. To top it off, our laundry was in the bag that got lost (for a few days). Luckily, I packed extra warm clothes for my toddler but not so much for my husband I. My big packing mistake was leaving all of our snacks I bought for the trip… at home.
We also left my iPad that was loaded up with all of my toddler’s favorite shows in my parents’ car when they dropped us off. As we were taking off my husband and I were frantically downloading as many episodes as we could before we were forced to put our phones on airplane mode.
And lastly, we unfortunately got sick halfway through our vacation. My toddler and I suffered the most and had to take a couple of days to recover. Luckily, we recovered by Christmas Eve/Day and was able to attend the gatherings and be healthy enough for the flight home.
Despite all the setbacks, everything with the toddler went a lot smoother than I anticipated. My kiddo napped at appropriate times of the day. There were some meltdowns, but that was quickly handled with the help of family. I also have to say that my toddler was well behaved during the actual flights and the majority of our vacation. Even while sick. He was a rockstar at the resort. He did well on outings. He was in good spirits, even with us being out and eating way past his bedtime.
The only thing I had to worry about during the vacation was whether he had enough to eat or if we could find something he would eat (cue me crying about not bringing the snacks!). Fortunately, we were within walking distance from a major supermarket and were able to find snacks.
I’m going to list what I wish we would have done differently or would want to keep the same for the next trip.
- DO pick the cheapest flight plan that will work with toddler’s schedule. Fly during naps. Make sure to leave time for LUNCH and DINNER.
- DO arrive at least 2 hours ahead for your flights to allow for TSA, bathroom breaks, and water bottle fill ups.
- DO double check weather and pack accordingly, and PACK LESS.
- DO put any extra snacks/food in the suitcase!
- DO buy diapers at your destination. Pack enough to get you to your hotel and for the next day before you can head to the store.
- DON’T bring a ton of toys — there’s plenty of things to occupy them and we don’t need to bring a bag full of cars.
- DO pack a lot of snacks for the duration of the flights and layovers.
- DO throw screen time limits out the window during travel. Also, don’t forget to pack your tablets.
- DO keep any important things in the carry on luggage.
- Did I mention to try to pack as light as possible? If you can pack the toddlers belongings in the carry-on DO it and DON’T check it... EVER.
- If you can do laundry at your destination only bring one or two extra days worth of clothing. My toddler didn’t wear everything I packed and it was such a waste of space.
- DON’T check your car seat until you get to the gate OR use it on the plane (safer option).
NOTE: If your toddler is old enough and meets the requirements, I recommend looking into car seat alternatives for international travel. Car seats are always the best AND SAFEST option to bring with you but if you cannot bring one with you, check out RideSafer Vest. If you want to bring a car seat I recommend buying the Cosco Scenera Next. We used it on our trip and it was the easiest and lightest car seat to lug around.
- DO remember to bring enough cash with you so you can exchange money.
- DON’T think you have to do all the adventures.
- DO bring a comfortable stroller or baby-wearing carrier AND bring a safety harness with a tether if you are worried about a wandering toddler.
- Oh, and BREATHE.
Don’t be discouraged if you end up not doing anything during your vacation with your toddler. When I look back on the pictures I realized he was happiest when we were on the resort’s playground, pool side, or exploring without being confined. Whenever we had to keep him in the stroller or carry him, he wasn’t very happy and would throw the biggest tantrums over it.
Overall, I’m happy we took the vacation. He still talks about the things we saw while on vacation. I know he won’t remember everything when he’s older, but it makes me happy to hear him now telling me stories about the birds he saw or the beach we played on.
I hope we can do more trips/vacations, but we will definitely be changing up how we travel the next time.