Friday, July 20, 2012

Traveling with an up-and-coming toddler

To say traveling with a small child is challenging could be an understatement. I can see why once babies start moving around (i.e. crawling quickly, walking, etc.) parents stay close to home. 

I think we are in the midst of the really difficult travel stage right now. I thought it was challenging before to fly with Crosby over her first year, but actually it seems fairly easy in hindsight. (always the way right??). For goodness sake, Crosby took 20 flights in her first year of life! Although by no means were we pros at traveling with an infant, but it was manageable.

We decided to travel to Barcelona at the beginning of May over the first Bank Holiday weekend for a short break. Barcelona been on our "list" of places we have wanted to see within Europe and so we decided we would go this year. My sister Carrie came over from the US for a visit to see us in early May so we decided it would be fun for all of us to go together to Barcelona for a long weekend. Perhaps after Carrie's time with us in Barcelona she is rethinking ever vacationing with us again for now though! 

The pros to the travel for this trip were: The flight was fairly short and it was direct. Plus we flew out of our local airport (20 minutes away) rather than having to drive to London first. The con of flying now is that Crosby has no desire to stay still or seated for that matter. She was 14 1/2 months old for this trip. She wanted to see everyone and everything that was going on. And she has a short attention span like most up-and-coming toddlers, so watching a DVD or ipad was not of much interest for more than about 5 minutes at a time. Additionally, she does not nap well outside of her crib so there was no nap on this travel day. This combination of such toddler-isms created one very crabby and slightly unhappy travel companion for our flight! I have known it is difficult to entertain a small child as I am with her every day, but this flight brought new challenges in hopes of occupying her. 
Standing on Dad's lap was fun for a while, but we were trying to be mindful of those passengers seated in front of us, so we didn't let Crosby stay there very long. 
Once up in the air, I pulled out the ipad and we tried to take self portraits with silly faces. As you can see, Crosby did not find this very amusing....
We tried x-ray vision photos for something different.
And the halo effect which didn't seem to phase her.
Double time! Two Moms and Crosby in a strange form too.
Meanwhile across the aisle, Aunt Carrie caught up on some zz's since Crosby wouldn't stay on her lap for very long. 
On the flight home, more self portraits, this time Crosby playing peek-a-boo with my iphone cover. Anything to keep her occupied....because of course the myriad of toys I had stuffed in my carry on bag were of no interest to her...

So, once we survived the flight and arrived in Barcelona we were looking forward to exploring the city. We made some changes on this trip from how we had been traveling pre-child. First, we rented an apartment. Finding multi-bedroom hotel rooms or suites with separate sleeping areas is really quite costly and since hotel rooms within Europe tend to be small to begin with, an apartment is a nice option. My only [small] complaint about an apartment or flat is that they tend to be self-catering and I end up having to fix breakfast. When on vacation, I do enjoy a break from cooking for everyone but at this point, having space to relax after Crosby goes to sleep or when she takes a nap is more important, especially for short breaks. We ended up renting a fantastic apartment in a very nice area of Barcelona so that worked out quite well. We all had space to spread out and most importantly Crosby had her space to sleep so the three of us didn't have to tip-toe around her crib for the evening after she went to bed. 

The other change we made was we rather quickly abandoned public transport to and from the airport. Although we may have initially tried to take public transport, hauling our suitcases, a stroller, a tired child, and three adults did not gel with the train as the best way of transport. So, we opted for a taxi and after a bit of traffic, the nice driver dropped us right around the corner from our apartment. 

Having not taken a holiday with Crosby since our trip back to the US at Christmas time, we have not traveled with her since she has been onto full solid meals three times a day. There are pros and cons to both sides of the milk only vs. food spectrum when traveling with a child but it is nice to be able to just hand her an apple slice or a cracker instead of having to stop and feed her along the way as we did before when she was not eating solid foods. 
Interestingly enough, we would always ask the restaurant if it were ok to bring a child in with us and they always happily welcomed Crosby into the restaurant but only a few restaurants actually had high chairs available! 
Luckily we packed our small collapsible high chair to bring along with us on this trip and we used it at almost every restaurant along the trip. Another item I had packed and gladly used along the way was a stash of Ella's Kitchen vegetable packets. Since we were unsure about how many vegetables and fruits we might be able to find at every meal, I packed a supply of the packets for Crosby to eat daily and they were perfect. 

Another note about traveling with a small child in Spain. Timing was an issue. Many restaurants do not open until 8 or 9 pm for dinner and that is well past Crosby's bed time, let alone her dinner time! We could not wait that long each evening to feed her. So we went the tapas route most nights. We went to a tapas bar, had lots of small plates and then later on in the evening we had snacks if were still hungry, that we had purchased from the local grocery store and kept in our kitchen at the apartment. This type of dining was a noticeable change in how we used to do our vacations but it worked alright for this trip. 

And then there was the element of sightseeing within the city. First, getting around the city was a bit of a challenge. We had a small child in a stroller and Barcelona, although modern in some ways, is old. Europe is old for that matter. Public transport is not stroller friendly. Therefore, we climbed a lot of stairs where one adult would hold the baby, and the other adult would carry the stroller. Our arms were tired after doing this multiple times each day up and down stairwells. 
Scott was able to manage sometimes on his own...
 And then sometimes Aunt Carrie was there to help too...and I carried extra bags. 
 But then as any time wore on, Crosby would wiggle her way out of her stroller straps, basically proclaiming she no longer wanted to sit in the stroller. Scott would carry her around the streets of Barcelona over his shoulder! 
We wanted Crosby to stay in her stroller as we walked into the main area of Parc Guell and she wanted none of it! Actually, this type of outburst happened quite a few times over the weekend....she would start to get very upset and then in true tantrum style, would yank her hair bow out of her hair and throw it out of the pram. 
I would notice about 5 minutes too late that her hair bow was gone. Luckily while at Parc Guell I retraced my steps and found the bow along the dirt path! It felt like I was doing a lot of back tracking to ensure we had everything with us at all times.

So, the moral of this trip was quickly breaks with an up-and-coming toddler are not going to be our cup of tea for the moment. It's a tough lesson learned since Scott & I have enjoyed a LOT of traveling since moving abroad. We suspect a pool/beach/more relaxed type holiday will be our speed for a bit. The next trip on our books will be a week in France doing just as described - a week by the pool relaxing and perhaps some very small and quick market trips in nearby towns.  We want to be able to still take advantage of having Europe on our doorstep but we know our days of exploring as we used to are gone for the moment. Perhaps when Crosby is a bit older such city breaks will be more enjoyable for all involved, but for right now they are not fun for her and consequently they are not enjoyable for us either! Travel in general just seems tough with a young one at this age so we are hopeful that with a different speed of a holiday we will still be able to get away to someplace new, relax and enjoy time together as a family. 

1 comment:

andrea said...

We found 14-20 months or so the hardest age to travel with our son, and now with our daughter. It gets easier once they will watch dvds/shows (all rules go out the window on a flight!) and can sit in their own seat for longer. It does get better, I promise!