Our trip to Boston and Cape Cod was the first time we’ve gone anywhere just as the three of us — we weren’t visiting family, and we therefore were staying in a hotel instead of someone’s house. Here are some miscellaneous “traveling with a toddler” thoughts…
1) The airplane flight. Emma’s flown four times now — to Charlotte when she was 8 months old, to Charlotte again at 14 months, to Seattle in May at 21 months, and to Boston at 25 months. The two trips to Charlotte were great, but the 4-hour flights to and from Seattle both featured a 20-30 minute period of full-on crying, writhing toddler meltdown. I was therefore understandably nervous about the 4-hour flight to Boston…but it went really, really well!
Emma had her own seat for the first time, and although having to buy that third ticket is an adjustment financially, it was obviously great to have a full row to ourselves. She sat by the window and enjoyed looking out occasionally, and spent the rest of the time watching videos or playing with kid apps on the iPad. I honestly thought she would get bored — she usually moves on from the iPad after a while at home — but it turns out she can indeed play on the iPad for basically 4 hours straight. I definitely felt some mom guilt about that…but it was VERY nice that she was able to stay entertained without having to run up and down the aisle. Jose and I were even able to read our own books while she watched her shows!
2. Naps. When traveling, it’s really hard to stick to Emma’s usual nap time. Instead of trying to force it, or restricting ourselves to being in the hotel between 12-2 (which just wasn’t realistic given the activities we had planned), we just let her nap where she could. On the first day, this meant napping in the stroller in late afternoon. On two other days, it meant napping in the car in mid-afternoon as we drove out to Cape Cod. And on the day pictured above, when she fell asleep in the car after dropping Jose off for groomsman duty, it meant me sitting in the car in the parking lot for a while until she woke up and we had to get ready for the wedding.
Napping in the stroller and car is consistent with what we did during our trip to Seattle, and it worked then so I had confidence it would work this time. While it’s probably not ideal, I feel like it’s acceptable for the short period of time we’re on vacation. Overall Emma doesn’t get as much sleep as she would at home…but in our experience, she adjusts well to the temporary change and so it doesn’t have major consequences for us.
3. Sleeping. Naps are one thing, but sleeping at night is a different story obviously. The only other time we had stayed in a hotel was when we spent a week in Port Aransas last year. Emma was only 10 months old at the time and still slept in a pack-and-play. We also had a suite then, which meant she could sleep in the bedroom while we hung out in the living room. (We also drove to Port A, which meant we could take a ton of stuff.)
Emma has been sleeping on a cot for naptime at daycare for a year now, so I bought a portable toddler cot with the thought that we could use that for travel. We tried it out for the first time at Jen and Gavin’s house the weekend before we left, and everything went great — she took to the cot right away since she’s used to the concept from daycare. I packed her quilt from home, and the cot worked great in the hotels too. The one big downside is that it had to be packed, obviously. I ended up taking my large suitcase, which was definitely overkill, but it was the only one large enough to fit the cot inside it.
In terms of bedtime, my philosophy was pretty similar to naps — bedtime was a lot more flexible than it is at home. She usually goes to bed between 8:00-8:15 but on vacations, it often ends up being closer to 9:00 or even 9:30. Again, not ideal, but Emma adjusts well to it and it’s nice to be able to be a little more flexible.
(I should also mention that I did consider just having Emma sleep in the bed with us. That would certainly be logistically easier than bringing the cot! But we have never co-slept, and I wasn’t really in love with the idea of trying to do that for the first time on this trip.)
4. Meals. This is SO MUCH EASIER with a toddler than it was when she was a baby. I still remember packing all the stuff for Port Aransas last year — formula, bottles, baby food, etc. This time around, we were obviously able to order off the menu for Emma each time we ate. (The photo above is a kid’s breakfast plate. Whoa. So much food.) I did take a few snacks (animal crackers and Go Go Squeez) for the plane flight, and we picked up some more Go Go Squeez at a grocery store in Boston. To keep her clothes clean, I picked up some disposable bibs and put several of those in my diaper bag. I hadn’t used them much before, but they worked like a charm.
5. Activities. The biggest difference between traveling alone vs. traveling with a toddler is simply what you do! We didn’t bother trying to see any tourist attractions (although since we had both been to Boston before, attractions were less of a draw than they might have been otherwise). Instead, we walked around with plenty of stops for Emma to run around or play on a playground.
We also thought hard about what toys to take along, wanting to have a few options for her but not wanting to load ourselves down too much. We ended up taking the iPad (obviously), 4 of her current favorite books, a few of her Little People princesses (another current favorite), and her Old Maid cards (which she likes to organize and look at). That turned out to be more than enough. We never even took out the cards, and only needed a single princess figure.
All in all, Emma was a trooper throughout and we really had a great trip. I’m excited to take more family vacations in the future!