Travelling With A Baby Or Toddler

The stress, anxiety, and just basic wear-me-down of parenting gets to you in the first year, which was why we thought going on a family vacation with my mom and siblings was something we both wanted to do. We worked the cost into our budget and decided it was worth the money to escape the daily routine of parenting.

Sometimes for your mental health and overall wellbeing, it’s important to step out of the rat-race of your life and have someone else cook your meals, lay on a beach, and not have to think about every little thing and moment of your day.

This was not our first trip with our daughter, we had taken ReeRo on a plane when she was barely two months old so we could go and visit my husband’s family in Nova Scotia. This vacation was very different. When we went to the East Coast to see his family, there was little stress around the packing process, because we knew that if we forgot anything, we could always run to the store and pick it up.

This destination was different. We were going to Santa Maria, Cuba and I would be able to run to the store and grab diapers, wipes, and other baby necessities if I had been so careless as to forget.

Packing, to say the very least, was quite stressful. She basically has a small carryon case and half of a larger suitcase all to herself. It was packed with diapers, wipes, baby wash, teething medication, bug sprays, lotions, toiletries, snacks, toys, I had to anticipate her every need for the upcoming week and make sure we were prepared for it. A destination like Cuba meant I knew she couldn’t eat a lot of their food options that had come in contact with their water, and she also couldn’t have any of their dairy. Goldfish crackers, Gerber Puffs and Cheesies, and breastmilk were her main diet for the week, despite me trying to get her to eat things there, she just wasn’t having it.

One thing I will say is I did anticipate her diet when travelling. Cuba is a bright and colourful place and I knew she would be overwhelmed with it all. She left our Canadian winter and was suddenly in the sun, free to explore the entirety of our resort on foot. Usually, when something changes in our routine, she gives me a hard time when it comes to eating, so I did arrive there knowing full well she would want to breastfeed more than anything else. I wasn’t prepared for her to not want any other food.

The only thing she would ever eat was their pancakes and bread.

What also made this trip very different is my baby girl was no longer the baby she was. She was this little person who got bored and had her own routine she liked to stick to. She was stubborn, and she more often than not, let you know if something wasn’t exactly how she wanted it.

She started to walk around the beginning of November, thank goodness. Her finally walking meant that there was no need to pack a stroller, and it also meant that a sense of independence would result in less tantrum and more exploration.

The fact that she was walking made the airport a breeze. She wanted to walk the length of the big windows, watching all the planes and other vehicles on the tarmac. With her new explorative side, I was worried she wouldn’t want to sit still on the actual flight.

Our last flight she was so small, she breastfed the whole short flight and I don’t think she knew we weren’t just as home sitting on the couch. This was very different, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well she did.

I packed her little princess backpack (that she could carry herself had she wanted to, of course, she didn’t want to) with two of her favourite books Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, some snacks, and of course the iPad with some interactive games and a few videos that we knew she liked and would keep her busy. We brought her noise-cancelling headphones because they have been said to help with the air pressure on take-off and landing. She did her own thing for most of the flight and did take a small nap on both the way there and the way back.

There seemed to be a lot of kids on our flight and she seemed to be amongst the best behaved, so I definitely felt good leaving the plane knowing how well she did.

I think whenever you travel with one of your littles, it’s important to just prepare. Over prepare! If you even think maybe you need something, pack it. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I think a lot of parents, especially new parents worry that travelling with your children may take away from the feeling of it being a vacation. Sure, it’s not as relaxing and you are never really off-duty, but there is this different feeling of bliss watching your child(ren) experience things for the first time. That sense of wonder is really so special.

I loved watching her see lizards scurry across the grass or the walls. Watching different, more colourful birds fly around and watching her try and walk up to a frog. We went on an excursion and swam with the dolphins after seeing a dolphin show, which I wasn’t sure if she would be okay with. She only had a small freak out when it swam by and her fingers grazed the underbelly (even though she had touched it’s back several times and was completely okay and even excited about it).

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I prepared. I made sure she had more than enough for the weather, and to keep her busy and I am so happy we decided to take the trip.

If you’re a parent and you just aren’t sure, it’s a good time to test out travelling. Why? Because usually children under a certain age stay free and all you have to pay for is their tourist visa which costs under $30CAD in Cuba. And you DESERVE it!

Travelling With a Newborn

For any Canadians that follow my blog, or for those who pop in for a read but don’t necessarily follow, you know how ridiculously expensive it is to fly across The Great White North. Considering you can get across Europe for fractions of the price, it seems ridiculous to spend $500+ on plane tickets just to get us a few provinces over… IN THE SAME COUNTRY! However, my husband’s family lives on the East Coast, so we made the trip.

When booking our plane tickets out, we tried to co-ordinate with my husband’s brother as he was flying over to Nova Scotia from Alberta the same day and we were all planning on taking the two hour drive from Halifax airport to my in-laws together. His flight was landing in Nova Scotia at 7:00am I think, so we tried to get an early flight so he wouldn’t be waiting as long. The earliest we could get was a 7:40am flight out of Toronto Pearson Airport.

For those of you who don’t know, and haven’t flown in or out of Pearson, it’s a nightmare. There is a tram connecting three giant terminals. Each terminal is usually packed with people with lines that take forever to go through.

Just to set the mood for you guys, I was travelling with my newborn who was five weeks at the time. We were also travelling with our moody dog and a butt-load of luggage to last us the two weeks visit.

Babies need a lot of stuff. Bottle warmers, breast pumps, creams, receiving blankets… it all takes up a lot of space. Because of this, we couldn’t just take a regular cab to the airport, we had to take a van cab at 5:00am in the morning. Doesn’t seem too hard, right? Well, I forgot to mention that in Toronto, there aren’t as many van cabs on duty, particularly this early in the morning. Not to mention, there are a lot of drivers that refuse to take pets, even if they are in a travel kennel.

I had called our cab company the day before to ask if I needed to book a van cab in advance. The cab company said no, just call when you need the cab despite me telling them my need for a van and a pet-friendly driver.

This, of course did not work out for us on the day. We had to call three other companies before getting our van cab which put us forty-five minutes behind schedule.

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Arriving at the airport, we had two large suitcases that needed to be checked. WestJet used to give each passenger one free bag to check, but they recently changed it and now it is a $30 charge per bag. Then we each had a carry on. I had a small suitcase that had all the necessities I couldn’t go without for our daughter during the trip, my husband had a back pack and we also had the diaper bag. Not to mention my daughter in her travel system, and Toby in his kennel.

Checking in took a bit of time as Toby, the two pieces of the travel system, and the two checked bags needed their own tags. The woman checking us in was nice, but very slow and didn’t show any reason to hurry despite the growing line behind us. Normally I wouldn’t care about something like this because we got to the airport with what we thought was enough time to go through all the motions, however we were wrong.

After being checked in, we should have hurried right over to the oversized baggage section and put Toby in so they could load him onto the plane. However she didn’t tell us this and told us to proceed to check out regular luggage and then move on to oversize.

With all the lines, we ended up missing out flight!

It was early, I was a little stressed and it didn’t take long for my frustration to kick in. We were bumped from our flight because they refused to check Toby in. It was past their pet check in time. Which, now, I completely get, but having been at the airport for as long as we were, going through all the lines, and waiting for that woman to check us in at a painfully slow pace, I was internally fuming.

All of those annoyances aside, I think it’s important to note that even though we did have to pay for our checked bags, WestJet will gate-check two pieces of infant equipment for free. Which was great because that meant I could use my stroller all through the airport until I got to the doors of the plane and then I could hand it off. The flight attendants are very helpful when you are travelling with an infant.

Our Sunshine was great on the flight. She slept the whole way there, breastfeeding on the way up to ease any discomfort caused by cabin pressure changes.

She didn’t sleep the whole way back, but was still better than I would have expected.

What I will say is that flying with a baby at the newborn stage is the best time to do it. Feeding them always quiets them, you can scoop them up and bring them wherever you want without much fuss or debate, and they sleep a lot. I imagine travelling with a toddler is a different ballgame.

Travelling with a toddler may require a little less equipment, especially if they can walk and you can go without the stroller all together, but honestly, the stroller is a big help moving through the airport, and since they check it for free at the gate, I would bring one along even with a toddler.

All in all, it was not as difficult as I imagined it would be and if I could afford it, I would travel as much as I could with her at this age.