Travelling with Toddlers // Not a Vacation

We travelled SO MUCH as a family in 2017, it was crazy. With toddlers, travel is a completely different thing… they aren’t tiny enough to be thrown in a sling while we hike, and not old enough for their little legs to carry them incredibly far. Attention span is short, so small adventures with zero expectations and lots of snacks and water is the key. Or so we learned.
Our first travel was with extended family to an all-inclusive where we hoped to relax in shifts, reading and swimming while the other parent took the kids for walks on the beach or played in the sand. On the plane there, one of our 2yr old twins started sniffling and ended up with a fever. We arrived on empty stomachs and attempted a quick run at the dinner buffet before settling into our rooms.
Lesson #1. Don’t assume things will go well. Always have a back up plan. 
Crying, screaming, melt downs. The kids all lost it at the same moment. The entire dining room looked at us, sweaty and disheveled with suitcases stuffed under the table and panic on our faces. We wrapped up some pizza in napkins and tried to carry two toddlers while dragging our suitcases and encouraging our 5 yr old who just wanted to be picked up.
The rest of the week went much more smoothly, thankfully. We chose to sit in the outdoor dining area where it was easy to leave and wander along the beach for a few minutes before returning to the table when needed. We also collected food in shifts, one parent getting all the food for the kids and then themselves before switching out. We always took extra fruit and snacks that we kept wrapped up for later on the beach. We also carried Tylenol with us everywhere as the fever worked it’s way through each child and then Dave 🙁  We chose shaded areas to camp out on the beach so the sickly ones could nap without getting cooked and had a little pop-up play tent that provided shade for those kids awake. Working in shifts is great, its something we do at home every day so we’re used to that system and so are the kids. We took turns staying in the room in the evening, camping out with books and movies and room service while the other joined family for card games and drinks in the main bar. It was wonderful. Not a relaxing vacation like some would imagine an all inclusive to be, but hey, no dishes to do and lovely warm weather in February!
Lesson #2 Don’t let your kids fall asleep on you near the end of the flight!! Make sure they are in positions where you can put on their seatbelt!
Come June, we ventured out to Newfoundland. We got up bright and early to get to the airport for 7am. I felt so prepared, I even had multiple checklists. The flight went well aside from two sleeping toddlers being forced awake and out of my lap for the decent. They lost it! We were those people…  Other than that, all good. We landed and hailed a cab to take us to the port.
Lesson #3. Always prepare for car rides! I know it sounds obvious :/
So, we didn’t bring car seats. Yup. Didn’t even think about it. Didn’t even cross my mind. Newfoundland has very strict rules about this and it took a few phone calls and some time waiting in the airport for a cab company to send a van with enough seats. Its a 5 min drive. I was honestly fine with just throwing the kids in seat belts but the horrified looks on the driver’s faces told me I was clearly a horrible and negligent parent for making such a suggestion! yikes.
The company, Adventure Canada takes small groups of about 150 passengers all along Canada’s eastern and northern coasts as well as all over the world. My husband has been lucky enough to travel with them multiple times as Artist in Residence, teaching drawing and entertaining guests with his artistic prowess and musical talents. This past year we were able to take the whole fam on the Newfoundland Circumnavigation and it was amazing! Kids travel free with Adventure Canada and an opportunity to came up so we jumped at it. We both had pictured long hikes, great food, and evenings in the lounge listening to music… all with the kids… haha. The first few days were a staggering reminder that little kids crash plans. But we had a little experience with that already, so we were quick to adjust to the kids’ needs and timeline. Breakfast was at 7am and dinner was at 7pm. Our kids are usually sleeping during BOTH of these time slots, so shifting their bed times and embracing mid-afternoon naps was part of our routine and provided us with some down time on the boat before dinner. Every day we ventured to shore, and rather than going on hikes, we stayed at the water’s edge, playing with stones and finding treasure. It was not what we imagined as we watched the group wandering on grand adventures, but we listened to our kids and they had grand adventures of their own.
Lesson #4 Baby monitors don’t work in large boats. 
 We also didn’t want to miss any more music nights so we abandoned bed time all together, brought the kids to the lounge every evening in their pyjamas, ordered a drink and sat down with them to watch that night’s musical performance. The kids ran around, played hide and seek, flirted with the passengers and eventually crashed at some point, falling asleep on our laps on a couch. We’d scoop them up in the middle of the night and make our way into the belly on the ship where we lay our heads down for the night. This was all under the encouragement of the company CEO, Cedar Swan who, with her husband has two little ones herself and usually has them with her on multiple trips throughout the summer. She gave us lots of tips and provided us with a hard drive full of kids movies when we admitted we didn’t bring any.
Lesson #5 Bring a laptop or iPad with some movies stored on it. No guaranteed internet access when you travel, but letting them zone out now and then can be great… for everyone!
Camping. We did it. And it was AMAZING!!! I cheated though. We rented a yurt in the Bruce Peninsula Nation Park on Grace Lake for two nights, so it was all set up and fully stocked with a bbq, beds, fire container etc. It was also steps from the lake so we had a great time. No tenting, easy to cook, great for hanging out indoors when it started raining and simple to put the kids down. I highly recommend this easy introduction to camping with toddlers… especially with multiple children!!
Strange opportunities arise sometimes, strange and unexpected. Florida, let alone Disney World, are not on my radar for travel… not even a little bit. My kids don’t watch Disney movies, they have no idea what princesses are or any Disney characters. But….. five families whom we are good friends with were all travelling down there and staying in a massive house on the dime of one of our friends going there on a business trip. Hmmm… well, OK. Its November and the cold is just starting to set in. The house comes with a pool and hot tub and there are going to be 10 kids, nearly all of them similar ages. We did Disney one day and Universal another. It was so hot and the 45min line ups in the ‘off-season’ made us question the appeal of such a costly destination… But in the end it was fun. And I never want to go back. The rest of the week, we soaked up the sun, made glorious meals that we shared at a huge table with all 22 of us, and spent countless hours playing in the pool. Disney is not for the faint of heart… its a major commitment, so don’t underestimate it. I ordered some hot dogs and juice for a small group of us and it was $75. Line ups are staggering and so is the heat. And most rides are 2min long. But, it was an experience and we decided to embrace it, so we did. We had a great time on a few of the rides and spent the rest of the day wandering around with our rented double stroller. And ate way too many snacks :/

Now our kids are all of 3yrs and 6yrs!! Yay! I’m excited to see what 2018 looks like, travelling with these little rugrats. I think this year will involve more ‘camping’ and a road trip or two. May be we’ll rent a house for a couple weeks on the east coast and chill out with the ocean breeze and some fresh sea food. We’ll keep an open mind, make lots of tentative plans and be ready to change them all if needed… without frustration 🙂

 

Best of luck and feel free to comment below with your suggestions and lessons learned!!

 

Photos below all from our amazing trip with Adventure Canada <3

 

 

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