Canada has a way of encouraging you to spend time outside no matter what. We are only based in Canada for one year, so we set out to explore as much of Canada as we could via car, and also by plane! We take a road trip almost every other week and have recently taken 4 flights, seen the aurora borealis in freezing temperatures and even gone dog sledding!
Traveling with young children can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be a challenge. With a little preparation and planning, however, it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone. Here’s how we did it with a 5-month-old and a 2-year-old toddler in tow:
We are always asked if we bring strollers, baby carriers or cribs when we travel. Depending on our destination, we usually bring our stroller for our toddler, baby carrier for our infant and MiniMeis shoulder carrier if we’re planning on hiking or going somewhere with rough terrain. We don’t want to damage our stroller wheels! We bring the stroller with us and leave it at the gate of the aircraft – be sure to tell the agent at the counter and ask for a tag if required!
Lookout point at Stanley Park, Vancouver
We don’t bring a crib – our toddler sleeps independently in her own bed and our infant either sleeps in the same bed as us (king-sized bed preferred) or in a separate crib. It’s just too much to take on flights. If we’re driving, we may bring along a sleep lounger or small mattress.
In Canada and the USA, car seats are a must, even in private Taxis. They can be rented, but we have 2 car seats that weigh less than 5kg each, so we bring them and check them in as oversized baggage (usually free!). The airline usually provides a giant plastic bag to put the car seats in and there have also been several occasions where I have stuffed in some dangling outer jackets (nothing valuable) onto the car seat as well – when you’re desperate, every little bit helps!
Car seat as oversized baggage - we put in outer jackets inside too!
3. Always be early
Pants with pockets can be a lifesaver! Not only does it help you keep your hands free, but you can also easily access your essentials like your phone, passport and boarding pass quickly.
The changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing can be painful for young children, so it's important to be prepared. Encourage them to swallow or chew during takeoff and landing to help relieve the pressure. Pack snacks that are easy to eat and not too messy/crumbly, such as blackberries, blueberries, cheese sticks or crackers, to help encourage swallowing. Be sure to time it well though! You don’t want them to finish the snacks before the takeoff! I try to play a game of “guess which hand has the blueberry” to slow my toddler down and offer in 2 -3 small servings instead of offering everything at once. For infants, prepare to latch, give milk bottle or pacifier.
For long car rides and plane rides, pack their favourite entertainment! Since we don’t offer screen time, we let our toddler pack her favourite toys and books in her own backpack. She gets to carry her own backpack, too! We also like to sing her favourite songs together in the car. Singing the same song over and over again together is better than whining and crying! I get the toddler to sing and describe what she did at school, where we went. It's interesting to find out what's going on in her head. I also tell her how long the car or plane ride will be, where we are going and what we are going to do.
It may be a good idea to bring some basic medications when traveling with young children. Pack some fever and flu medications, as well as any other prescription medications your child may need. You never know when someone might get sick, and it's better to be prepared.
Traveling with young children can be unpredictable, so it's important to be flexible. Plan 1- 2 activities per day and be open to changing your plans if necessary. Don't try to pack too many activities into one day, as this can lead to stress and exhaustion for both parents and kids.