I was nervous, overwhelmed, excited and so much more. I planned for months to travel with my 2 year old on a plane for the first time; her very first airplane trip and the very first time I traveled with her solo. I couldn’t wait for this trip as we were going on vacation to my favourite place on earth: Lima, Peru.
Travelling With A Toddler
As I mentioned, I planned and planned for this trip. We were going to Peru for three weeks to spend the holiday season with family. ZoZo was going to meet her great-grandparents among other family, we were escaping the Canadian cold, and she was going to experience a visit to mommy and daddy’s birthplace. This trip had A LOT of firsts and many new experiences for her, so I wanted to make everything as smooth and as fun as possible.
“We’re going on an adventure!”
I would repeat the above sentence over and over. I wanted her to know how exciting this was, and also not sense that I was a little nervous about it. I knew that travelling with a toddler would not be an easy task, especially when it’s an 8 hour long flight.
If you’re planning a first trip with your little ones, you may be asking yourself the same questions I asked myself:
- How will I keep her entertained this long?
- What if she has a melt down on the plane?
- What do I bring?
- Am I allowed to take snacks with me? Milk? Juice?
- What if we miss a flight?
- What if she runs away?
The list of questions you ask yourself is endless, along with the list of concerns that come to mind. I took it step by step, and by sharing my experience with you I hope it brings you a little easy of mind and helps you plan for your future trips.
I started by thinking about my experiences travelling; what made me restless, bored, hungry, annoyed, etc. Then I thought about how those experiences were gong to be much tougher on a little one. I knew I had to be prepared. I started with the flights. I looked for direct flight options, times of the flights, and luggage restrictions. In the case of going from Toronto (YYZ) to Lima (LIM), I traveled with Air Canada as they had a direct flight option which was 8 hours long. I wanted to avoid any stops if possible to make the trip as quick as possible. I also looked at the time of day that the flights left/arrived and tried to plan around ZoZo sleeping for most of the flights; which she did. I also looked at, and consulted, about luggage as I would have to travel with her carseat and possibly a stroller. That’s a lot to carry for anyone!
We left Toronto in the evening and arrive in Lima early morning, which meant I had to keep ZoZo up for most of the day so that she was super ready to sleep when we got on the flight. When we left Lima to come back home, there were delays because of a snow storm that was brewing in Canada. I didn’t plan for this, so I was beyond exhausted on the way back. Our flight was supposed to leave around midnight and be home by late morning, however it was delayed a bunch of hours. Delays are something you can’t really plan for, but be as flexible as you can if they do happen.
While We Wait
As you may know, for international flights you have to be at the airport 3 hours prior to departure, which means you have to wait a while before boarding the plane. How do you even begin to entertain your kids in a waiting room full of people for a few hours. You bring every activity you can, plenty of snacks and a tablet, that’s how! I’ll talk about that in more detail in the next section of this post, I promise!
On our way to the gate I took my time with her. We had plenty of it, so I let her stop and discover the airport, especially since it was her first time there. She stopped to take a picture with a CIBC penguin, experience the echo that is created on some huge monument in Terminal 1, and sit on random spots along the way. As soon as we approached our gate, I got her some snacks. I let her pick them and even pay for them (with my money of course!). This was the beginning of her adventure and I wanted her to know it was hers to experience.
Finally, we got to our gate. There are certain areas of the airport that are set to simply to sit and chill, however the gate we had to wait at has stations set up for pay-as-you-use ipads. If you’re a teen or older, this is great. However, if you are travelling with a little one it can get tricky as they want to touch everything. We made the best of it, and even ended up learning how to count in a few languages using the interac machine set up to pay for the ipad use. I sent her up on my tablet. I pulled out of her suitcase a brand new pair of Frozen headphones I got for her just for the trip. She was delighted! I find that getting something shiny and new goes a long way for keeping them more engaged then usual.
On our way back from Peru, she was passed out as it was dead smack in the middle of the night, so she slept the whole wait prior to boarding the plane. I had to do very little to keep her entertained. However, I was still prepared with plenty of goodies, just like on the way there.
What To Bring
I wanted this trip to be super exciting for her. I got her a few items to add an extra sparkle to the journey. I do recognize that I purchased more things than anyone should, but I really wanted to go the extra mile for her. I tend to go the extra mile with gifts. I love giving gifts!
ZoZo has had her Skip Hop Zoo Safety Harness for some time now. Shes never been a fan of a stroller, so we knew we had to get her one of these. On one of my many trips to Snuggle Bugz, I saw the matching Skip Hop Zoo Kids Rolling Luggage and lost my mind. I needed to get it! It was an investment after all, as this would not be the only time she would be using it. I filled the rolling luggage with the following items:
- change of clothes: pants, shirt, socks, underwear, sweater
- extra diapers and diaper change items (wipes, cream, scented diaper bag for disposal)
- snacks and a drink: water in her water bottle and other on-the-go snacks.
- colouring book
- soft friends: small stuffed animals
- charger for tablet
The items like playdough, crayons and colouring book, I bought at the dollar store. The soft friends, which she loves and collects, were the TY Beenie Boos, which are the perfect size for the little ones to carry around. I didn’t show her any of these items prior to getting on the plane. My plan was to keep her entertained by pulling out all the exciting new things.
What did I bring for myself to help? Well, I had a backpack with the following:
- chargers for laptop and cellphone
- nursing cover
- Flight documents
I have to mention that I was planning to breastfeed ZoZo on the flight. Yes, she still nurses. I thought it would help on keeping her comfortable, putting her to sleep, and for take offs and landing as that tends to affect our ears. My personal preference is to cover up when I do nurse in public, so the Honest Nursing Scarf came in so handy! I was able to wear it as a scarf but turn it into a nursing cover in two seconds. When I did arrive to he perfect warm weather of Peru, I threw it in my backpack without any issues.
I’ve put a quick list together of things I recommend doing or considering when traveling with a wee one:
Give Them Space
Let them adventure around and discover. This doesn’t just apply to the travel parts but the whole trip. Below you can see how I let Zoey know I’m there to help if needed, but I’m also giving her a sense of space and independence:
Have Your Documents Ready
You may need to have your partner sign documents confirming that your child is allowed to leave the country without them. We were never asked for the documentation, however we had it handy if we needed it.
I was also required to have her birth certificate with me in case I needed it. Once again, I was never asked for it but was happy to be prepared.
I also brought with me her vaccination records, which brings me to the next point….
Visit Your Doctor
Before our trip, I visited my family doctor for ZoZo’s 2 year check-up. During this visit I let him know of our travel plans and asked if there were any vaccinations ZoZo needed. Since we weren’t planning anything too crazy, like visiting the Amazon, during our trip, he recommended we get her vaccinated for Hep A. I opted for better safe than sorry and had her vaccinated.
I wanted to carry on as little as possible, but also felt like I needed all the things. I definitely had to take her carseat because in Peru it is required that she be in one when in a car (Tip: Always good to check these laws in the country you’re traveling to). With that said, let me tell you a little about her car seat:
We have the Diono Radian RXT, which is by far one of the beat car seats in the market. We got it for safety, but were so happy to find that the seat folds right in half for travel. I bought the Diono Car Seat Travel Bag and were so set. I checked the car seat inside the bag as regular piece of luggage. It was a dream to travel with his seat. While in Peru, she was super safe in her seat, had a little comfort from home, and no laws were broken.
As ZoZo is not a huge fan of a stroller, I opted not to travel with one and rely on her Skip Hop Harness instead. In total, we had her tiny harness backpack, which carried her blankie, her rolling bag and my backpack.
Go With The Flow
You try to plan, plan and plan. Truth is, not everything will go the way you want it. I was so not expecting a delayed flight but storms happen. Take a deep breath and let it be. It’s all part of the adventure so make the best of it.
Like I mentioned, my plan was to keep her up for as long as possible prior to the flight, but she was ssoooo tired she passed right out while we waited to board the plane. Once we got on the flight, I had to wake her up to put her seat belt on, which is what caused her to get super upset (see middle image below). Of course, I calmed her right down with her “lechita” (milk), which she can’t get enough of. It wasn’t the most comfortable for me, but since she is two she had her own seat, so I made sure she was comfortable and I twisted over to nurse her as the plane took off.
Once the flight took of she was very curious as to what was going on. I had her look outside the window so she could watch us go into the clouds, and she loved that! Once I sensed that she was getting bored or restless, I would switch tasks – from watching a movie on her tablet to playing with playdough or colouring.
I recommend getting your hands on a tablet in these situations. I know some parents prefer to limit screen time for their kids, and I do set limits, however in this case I feel that a movie can help pass time on super long flights. We traveled with a Samsung Galaxy Tab A ; it’s not too fancy and at a fair price which makes it perfect for her tiny hands. I got an external MicroSD card so I could download and save her favourite movies through Google Play Movies & TV.
Once we arrived in Lima, she was sooooo excited as I pumped her up by letting her know she was going to see our family. She was very eager to carry her own bags and even wanted to “help mommy” by holding our passports. I let her (see image above), as it gave me the opportunity to teach her about important documents and how you have to be very careful. It’s all about embracing teaching opportunities.
You may also noticed I changed her to more comfortable clothing on the plane, which I think makes a difference when travelling. Since she was arriving at a crazy hour, I wanted her to also be ready to go straight to bed once we arrived.
The fight to return home was fairly similar, except she slept a lot more as she was exhausted as a result of the delay we experienced. It felt like that flight went by much faster than the one on the way to Lima; mainly cause I slept most of it too. Truth be told, she nursed most of the flights. Sometimes I wonder how mamas who don’t nurse do it as I was able to keep her cozy through comfort. So hats off to you mamas, and all mamas that travel solo with their babies!
I would do this trip again with her 1000 times. ZoZo was so brave and she was such a pleasure to travel with. The best piece of advice I can give mamas is:
Remember the trip is theirs to experience too. Give them the opportunity to make their own memories, discover new things and explore the world.
Above is a picture of her very first visit to the ocean. She LOVED it! She was covered in sand, but oh so happy. It was supposed to be a quick stop, but she didn’t want to leave. How can we deny our little ones those pleasures?!
I leave you with the picture above, of ZoZo sitting in one of my favourite posts in this whole world: At the Costa Verde looking over at the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets. the views are breathtaking!
No matter how busy your travel plans get, or how on schedule you want to stay, remember to take your time. You will only get that experience once. Your kids will never be the same age, they won’t have the exact same sense of discovery or they won’t see the little things the same way. Enjoy all that while it’s here. Draw with them, stop to take a picture with a penguin, or roll around in the sand. Have fun!