25 Oct Toting A Toddler, Traveling with My Little Girl
This trip came as a surprise last-minute booking last September. Having had a difficult first trimester to a part of my second trim, I wasn’t expecting to travel anymore this year. But some light shone bright at the end of the tunnel and suddenly I was feeling better. I grabbed the opportunity to take one last trip before giving birth, with the decision to tote my toddler along as a bonding trip before she becomes a big sister.
Comments like “Crazy! You’ll have hard time and you wont enjoy. You’re pregnant!” came my way together with encouragement and excitement from others. I just went with what I felt and as a whole, the trip was lots of fun and I enjoyed every minute with my little girl. She was a trooper all the way. Yes there were challenging moments, but it was generally manageable and we were able to keep “sane” throughout the trip. I came back feeling motivated and she came back a little more independent amidst her “terrible 3’s”.
Here are some thoughts on going on a trip alone with a toddler:
Before anything else, the most important would be to SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. The usual things that go through my head when I’m about to travel are the idealistic goals and the dream of a perfect vacation with pretty pics and a bunch of activities to tick off on a list. Ofcourse these things don’t follow through accordingly. However, setting your expectations straight even before leaving will allow you flexibility both mentally and physically. “Expect the worst but hope for the best” can be a motto to keep in mind too. By setting realistic expectiations, you will come out of the trip feeling fulfilled rather than defeated.
PREPARE CLOTHES BEFOREHAND. Packing light because you don’t want to be carrying around too many luggages with your hands full could come as a challenge, especially when you have the weather to think about. For my kids, I like to put their outfits together before hand, pairing their OOTDs to avoid over-packing and also to make sure their outfits are in-sync. You can come up with color palettes, matchy outfits and be creative with accessories. I personally just choose from what they already have in their closets. Ofcourse BabySteps was part of our OOTDs for this trip! We alternated between 3 pairs but I chose loafers for the plane because of it’s ‘easy to slip-on-and-off’ function during security check and plane ride bathroom trips.
* I find the Beabi organizers the best when it comes to packing. They have several sizes that fit perfectly in standard luggage sizes. All these outfits plus her thick jacket and coat go into one large organizer that can easily be taken out of the luggage at our destination and the luggage can be set aside. It’s also practical when there is a need to share luggage space.
STROLLER IS MY ESSENTIAL. I bring a stroller everywhere. It is key to making vacations as relaxing as possible, most especially when moving around alone with a child. It is most useful when toting a sleepy or sleeping child and the last thing you’d want is to have to carry him/her together with all the other stuff—most especially while pregnant. During this trip, our layover was only 1 hour and we had to fly across the HK airport to get to our gate on time. Some airports provide stroller carts which we had to use on the last leg of our trip, but I find it most convenient to just bring the stroller along instead of depositing it at the check in counter. *Some local airlines require strollers to be cabin approved so always check before leaving. You might get to the gate with the stroller only to be sent back to the check-in counter.
BACKPACKS ARE PRACTICAL. I’m not so much a “back pack” traveller. But this time, it was the most practical and efficient choice because it left my hands free and I was also able to keep it under the seat (economy traveler). Anytime I needed something, it was easy to just pull stuff out of the bag. In my bag I had my laptop, iPad, jacket, toiletry kit, extra change of clothing for both of us, extra milk, charger and kiddie headphones and camera. My daughter had a little backpack that contained her bottles, milk, wipes and some small toys, a little Peppa Pig stuffed toy and coloring materials. My rule was, if it didn’t fit in the bag, we weren’t going to bring it. I also had a small shoulder bag for my wallet, passports, tickets and other valuables.
FEEDING TIME. At home, admittedly, yaya has the patience to feed the little one. When traveling, I go by “they will eat or ask for food when hungry”. Milk is also a good alternative. I keep snacks like crackers in the bag for emergencies.
DEALING WITH TANTRUMS. These situations can’t be helped. It does happen and with a mix of jetlag, the new environment, tiredness from the commute, cough & colds, allergies, etc., it’s inevitable that a tantrum would come up– but it can be managed. This is why, for me, the stroller or carrier is important to have. When a tantrum occurs, consider first that the child is either sleepy, tired or hungry. Whenever Zoya show signs of grumpiness, I prepare immediately a bottle of milk or bring out the snacks and I put her in her stroller. Two things usually come out of it, either she becomes instantly energetic and happy again or she falls asleep.
EATING IN RESTAURANTS. This is a bit tricky, especially if it comes to boys vs girls. Boys have a tendency to be more ‘magulo’ while girls can sit for longer periods. A trick would be to choose to eat during naptime. It will give some peace, enough for mama to enjoy a quiet meal or an undisturbed conversation. Zoya doesn’t mind falling asleep in her stroller so she’s usually by my side. If it’s a scheduled lunch, I have in the bag coloring materials, some small toys and my phone (YouTube kids) as a last resort to keep her entertained. Sometimes, playing with their food while eating keeps them busy enough, although messy. Always bring a pack of wipes– this is another essential. I just clean up after because any form of entertainment to keep them from walking or running around is always welcome.
WIFI or DATA. This is a must-have! Either apply for a pre-paid sim for data or rent a pocket wifi but it’s super handy for navigation and for entertainment reasons stated above.
PLAY IN PARKS. I love and appreciate how other countries have parks or gardens everywhere. This free play is a joy to kids and a place to expend their energy while exploring nature. Pack some snacks, water, extra clothes and your day is set for a picnic. The joy of running and picking up sticks or stones while you sit on a bench or blanket quietly or with company will outweigh all other plans. We had lots of kiddie museums on our list, but in the end the parks won. It’s free and kids love it.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER.
- Time of year of travel – Check the weather to make sure you pack right.
- Age of child – 3 years old is a good age to start. By this age, the child could be reasoned with and they’re already a bit more independent.
- Location – stroller friendly elevators and metro trains, child friendly attractions, staying with relatives vs. staying in a hotel, the country’s car seat requirements, etc.
- Medicines – Ask your pedia for the important meds to take with you. Different countries have different brands so for the sake of convenience and familiarity, bring what you might need. For us, we always bring antihistamine on the plane. Zoya always coughs for some reason and I have to make sure she takes this or we can expect vomiting.
After all that’s said and done, I go back to setting expectations as the most important because it allows for flexibility. This will make all the difference. Traveling with a toddler or kids doesn’t have to be daunting, just go with the flow and pace of your child / children because the most valuable outcome of the trip is the ultimate bonding experience and quality time you have together. This is what makes it all the more memorable for them and for you as well.
* Zoya’s playmates throughout the trip were the @thekettkids and twinning was their thing. Zoya (3yrs) and Bailey (4yrs) Teo (1 yr)
Gin Panlilio Samson @ginsamson . Mom of 2 boys and a little girl + 1 on the way . Entrepreneur / Interior Designer
It was a total of 18 days travel period. The weather was a mix of warm-cold-warm-cold. We visited relatives and went from Brooklyn to Connecticut to Massachusetts to Connecticut to Brooklyn back to Connecticut then back to Brooklyn before flying home. Trains were our main mode of transportation to and from.
If traveling pregnant, always get travel clearance from your doctor. Airlines ask to see a clearance letter from the doctor from the 28th week of pregnancy onward. But it would be best to bring one at any stage of pregnancy.
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