Well, I knew our luck was bound to run out some time, and it appears that this trip was the end of the line. We’ve been fortunate to travel both internationally and domestically with both kids pretty much from birth, so that means over two years now. Hazelle, our eldest, has always been an excellent traveller. We’ve never had any horror plane rides, no major meltdowns and most importantly no sickness or complications when overseas. For the past year we have travelled with both kids and you may remembered that it was only a few months ago that we did a trip around the world, visiting 4 countires in 40 days with two kids under two, and again zero complications. I learned a whole heap of tips and tricks for travelling with kids over this time but to be honest, we really have had it very easy.
But what happens though when they don’t travel well? Well, I can now tell you about this too. As this trip approached, I could tell that it was not going to be as straight forward as our previous travels. I knew that at the very least, the plane ride was going to be a challenge. Why? Well, quite simply because Alexander has just turned one and he is a very different baby to Hazelle. Always on the move, rarely content for more than 10 minutes before he gets hungry, tired or bored. He is not interested in TV or the iPad, won’t take a dummy, and although he loves his food, he gets fidgety and restless very easily. So when the reality of a 24 hour plane ride set in, I began to get worried.
Fast forward through the plane trip, adding in an extra 6 hour delay in Los Angeles, and I can tell you that the journey was exactly as expected. He got bored, he got restless, he got cranky. He cried and cried and then screamed. Wouldn’t settle, got overtired etc. And we did what any parents can only do in this situation. We dealt with it. We shushed him, we comforted him, we passed him back and forth. We drank wine and we avoided eye contact with everyone sitting around us.
What has really thrown me for a loop however is that neither of the kids have been able to adjust very well to the time difference here. Jet lag is something that we are familiar with once back home at the end of the trip but not on the ground.
Hazelle who although only 2 and a bit, had well and truly dropped her day time sleeps at home, is now napping without fail mid morning every day and both kids are ready for bed by 6pm and fast asleep by 6:10pm. That is where the positives end though. Alexander is then up every two hours from about 9:30pm and then they are both up for the day anytime between 3 and 4am. Needless to say, the days feel looooooooong.
So! What do you do if you are on holidays and your little babe hasn’t travelled well? Simple, first things first is to SLOW DOWN. Let the kids set the pace for a few days. Only plan one activity for each day and take your time enjoying that then make sure you are back at your hotel with plenty of time to do a (semi) normal bed and bath time routine.
Whether your kids travel like champs or not, it is important to realise that holidaying with kids with never be the same as travelling without them. The sooner you realise this and let go of what you think a holiday *should* be (aka heaps of relaxation time or cramming in every single museum, monument and landmark), the sooner you’ll be able to just enjoy time as a family and make memories together in a new place.
Secondly, try to get into a semi routine as quickly as possible. I know its hard to keep a toddler awake when they really want to sleep but after a day or two of catch up sleep it’s really important that you try to help them get onto the right timezone. Whether that means waking them up at the same time each day or pushing out an afternoon nap, do the best you can to help THEM get into a groove. It may take a few days, especially with a baby, but it will mean peace of mind for everyone when there is a loose schedule set in place.
Lastly, try to laugh and take it all in your stride. So you were the parents with the screaming baby on the plane? So everyone is dressed and ready to go out for the day but at 10am both kids are dead asleep on the couch and you miss that bus tour? Just try to take it all in and don’t forget to keep taking photos regardless. Just because you toddler sleeps all the way through that fun day trip or your baby won’t stop screaming in your fancy hotel room, take pictures anyway. These are all memories to look back on and enjoy, not all holiday snaps need to be a perfectly posed family with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Whether they travel well or not, my number one piece of advice overall is to just do it! I can’t tell you how many people we have met who have commended us on travelling so much with the kids and who usually follow up their remarks with sentiments of regret for not travelling with their own kids. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or even international but travelling and exploring together will create some of the best memories you can have as a family.