Sorry for my hiatus, but I just got back from a Disney cruise, and it definitely takes a little more time to get back into the swing of things with a busy toddler. The Disney trip was my third trip traveling with my daughter. In the span of eight months we traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Denver, Colorado, and back to Florida for the Disney Cruise. She was 6.5 months, 9 months, and 14 months respectively for those trips. With three round trip flights, a 7 hour round trip drive in and out of the mountains of Colorado, and navigating the ocean on our cruise, I definitely have some takeaways for those of you considering taking a trip with your little one.
Flying with a baby or toddler is hit or miss. You are either getting an angel that sleeps the entire flight or a miserable monster that’s ready to tear your face off 1 hour into the flight. The best flights for my daughter was when she was 6.5 months. She was still young enough where she could be easily rocked to sleep, be calmed with a bottle or breast, and is generally easier to carry around. She slept through both flights to and from Fort Lauderdale. That actually made me overconfident causing me to assume she was a rockstar traveler. Yeah… not so much.
Flying at 9 months was hard. Getting her down to sleep was much harder in flight. By this time she was sleeping in the crib, no longer required rocking to sleep, and she was becoming a bit more mobile. She cried for some time on both flights before I got her to sleep for about 45 minutes to an hour of the flight.
The hardest flight was for our cruise. On the way to Florida she refused to sleep. She was all over the place, attempting to escape my lap, wanting to be put down, yelling, and crawling over people. Ugh! It was exhausting. On the way back, I was provided a miracle and, after much fighting and crying, I got her to sleep for 90% of the flight. Assume that was a fluke.
What to expect on your trip
When you get to you destination, you might be thinking about all the awesome things you want to do while vacationing. Well throw that insane idea out the window because you won’t be doing much on your vacation. At 6.5 months, we stayed in the hotel room most of the time, since napping and feeding were still pretty regular. We were able to go to the pool or the beach for an hour at a time. My daughter had her fill of the heat and sun very quickly. She also didn’t like the water. It’s not surprising that her expectations of comfort demanded a cool, humid free, and air conditioned room. We didn’t do much on that trip.
In Colorado, we were able to go out a bit more for longer periods. But, her max was a 2 hour trip. We decided to drive up to Steamboats Springs, which is a 3.5 hour drive from my sister-in-law’s house outside of Denver. That was a huge mistake. She slept for maybe an hour and half of that drive. The rest of the drive consisted of long bouts of crying and yelling to be released from her car seat prison. Also, we were on a 2 hour time difference with mountain time. My daughter did not adjust well to the difference. Actually, she never adjusted. This made for very early mornings, since she was regularly getting up at 7-8 Michigan time. It was tough navigating her schedule.
For our Disney cruise, she could do the most. She is walking now and very keen on exploring. We could go out with her for a few hours at a time. But, it was essential that we maintained her nap schedule. Not napping resulted in a botched day. Surprisingly, she handled the boat fairly well. No motion sickness, and she’s at the age where she can be preoccupied for a bit with her surroundings. At this age, she loved the water and tolerated the beach too. That made for some nice needed breaks for a couple hours at the pool and beach. Going to events on the boat was very tough. We tried to go to BINGO one afternoon. Ten minutes in and she was ready to run around, scream, and generally not be there. Don’t count on a well-behaved toddler for pre-planned shows or events. My advice: skip them.
The best time to take flight was when my daughter was at the 6 month mark. The caveat to that is that you are more likely spending time in your hotel room than outside at the beach, if you are taking a vacation to a warm getaway. My daughter was more accepting of going out and doing things when she was toddler age. But, the caveat to that is there were bigger meltdowns, more time chasing and distracting, and more exhaustion. DO NOT go on a trip with a time change or a requirement that you are stuck in a car for a few hours. Unless, you are renting a mega RV, road trips are tough on babies, and I know if we tried to do that now with my daughter it would be even worse.
If you are going to travel, think about inviting your parents or in-laws. Seriously. On my trip to Colorado, we were with my in-laws, and they were a godsend in giving us a couple nights off for a date night. On my Disney cruise, my parents were there, and they watched my daughter a few times to give us a break. It makes the vacation much more enjoyable. If you don’t like your parents or in-laws, consider a babysitter. Or if you have a 17 year old cousin or sibling that wants a free trip, consider bringing him or her along.
Finally, go into a trip with your baby or toddler with low expectations and prepare for the worst. Vacations are totally different with a kid, and any change can really throw off the day. Attempt to maintain your child’s schedule as best you can. Don’t skip naps. EVER! If you are going to fly with a toddler, bring lots of food. If you can’t get her to sleep, then distract with snacks. It will help a lot. Also, buy a reclining umbrella stroller. We missed our flight to Florida for our Disney cruise. My mom brought her reclining umbrella stroller, and that stroller was one of the biggest reasons me and my sister-in-law were able to get our kids down for naps while waiting for the next flight. You’ll thank me later.