In early April, our family decided to venture outside of Canada for our very first vacation as a family of four. My biggest advice is to take the trip! If you are or have been debating it - go ahead and book it. The memories outweigh the stress, and everything always works out! We decided to take our girls to Florida (Tampa/Sarasota area). We are familiar with this location, and knew how beautiful the beach areas were from our previous visit to this location last year!
Thoughts about driving did cross our minds when booking the trip - but we quickly changed our minds and booked the flights (best decision). Florida is a 24 hour drive for us, and we felt like it would be a lot for our babes. Some babies would tolerate this very well - and if your little ones are used to long car rides, and seem to handle them well - you may find driving works for you! The plus would be to have your own vehicle with your own car seats. For us, flying was a great choice. We rented a hotel room the night before our flight that was very close to Pearson Airport. It had an airport shuttle, and hotel parking which was very convenient. For those of you familiar with Toronto we stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton - Dixon Road. We booked a suite - which was the best, being able to have our girls sleep in separate rooms, since our 4 month old still wakes in the night. We requested two cribs for the girls, and set up our Slumberpods overtop of the cribs with their sound machines, fans, and Nanit cams inside. Our night before the flight went very well! We were up at 5am, and caught the airport shuttle by 6am, and everything went very smoothly. I know a lot of parents love the idea of a carrier for their infants going through the airport, but for me I much prefer bringing our stroller. We have the Uppa baby Vista stroller, and the bottom base holds SO much. We just put our infant car seat base in the bottom of the stroller, so we have it with us at all times (reducing the risk of it getting lost in checked luggage). When you get to the airport an attendant will give you tags for all of your stroller items (car seat base included). You are able to take your stroller and all attachments right to the gate, and just before you get on the plane they will take your items from you before boarding, and the items are there waiting for you as soon as you get off the plane, which is so handy! (We flew with West Jet). We rented a vehicle with a toddler car seat in Tampa, and made sure the rental place was right in the airport for easy access! Everything went very smoothly!
Naps & Food:
Our two year old is on a one nap schedule, and has been sleep trained since about 5.5 months of age. She is an amazing sleeper, so I really didn’t have many concerns for her, other than the fact she would most likely be very overtired by bedtime on travel day! It is important to remember that it is only one day, and toddlers (especially sleep trained toddlers) are so adaptable, and adjust well to change. With her 5am wake-up she was ready to crash around 11am, and she did just that on the plane while watching peppa on her ipad. We covered her up with a blanket and let her sleep for as long as she would. This lasted about an hour, and it was much longer than I had expected. It is so important to note that if you are against ipads or screen time - you may want to make an exception for your travel day…It is a lifesaver! Snacky snacks for your toddler are also super important. We all know a hangry toddler during a travel day could lead to chaos. We packed fresh fruit, goldfish, cheese, ritz crackers, and her 360 water cup - which were all allowed through security. Entertainment for our toddler came naturally, and we didn’t worry too much about this prior to traveling, because a new environment is actually a bonus for toddlers, and they usually do very well with all of the distractions going on around them. We watched the planes out of the window at the airport, and let her run free prior to boarding. When it was time to board we put her in the stroller until we got to the plane door. Once we were on the plane we kept her in the window seat so she could see what was going on outside of the plane. During the flight (when the seatbelt sign was off) we let her play, standing up in front of the seat, and she used the seat as her play area. (Lysol wipes are a must have). Potty trained toddlers - we potty trained our daughter about a month before our vacation, and she did very well. We used the Big Little Feelings potty training course, and I can’t say enough good things. A big tip is to bring post-it notes to stick over the automatic flush sensors in the airport!! Our daughter was terrified of the flushing toilets :(. She did very well though, and the course has so many tips on navigating through challenges like this one.
Our four month old did very well also, and exceeded our sleep expectations drastically. It is so important that you put your sleep worries aside during travel days. I can't stress this enough! Waking at 5am is going to throw your little ones' schedules off regardless, but if you are consistent in following your current wake-windows and feeding schedules you’ll be golden! For naps we would just rock her to sleep in our stroller, and on the plane she slept in my arms. We did have some moments of crying on the airplane, but everyone around us was very understanding - and it helped that there were several families going to Florida at the same time, going through the same thing! I had recently finished pumping before we left, and had successfully switched our infant over to formula - so there was no worry of having to pump in the airport, and on the plane. However, if you are still pumping, nursing - do not let this stop you from traveling! Every airport has a nursing/family station where you are able to comfortably feed your baby in private, and on the airplane you just do what you have to do. Luckily our daughter takes her bottle at room temperature, so mixing bottles was very simple. We made sure to have bottled water with us (which they allow you to take through security when you have infants/toddlers) and we also carried a travel container of formula with a scoop to make mixing super easy! I recommend packing an extra bag of formula in your carry on - just in case your luggage gets lost, or your plane is delayed. If you are a pumping mama I recommend bringing an insulated cup to pour your fresh milk in - as well as a travel bottle warmer. (you can find all of my recommended travel products at my amazon storefront which I will list at the end of this blog). It is also located at the link in my instagram bio. For sterilization you can buy those microwavable sterilization bags for all of your bottle and pump parts. We lucked out and had friends down in Florida who lent us their bottle sterilizer for the 2 weeks we were there! Marketplace is always super handy for last minute finds if you are traveling to the states, and this is where we found our jolly jumper!
We decided to rent a house on Airbnb, over renting a hotel for our time in Florida. The length of stay, and finding a house that was fully equipped with everything we needed including a pool, was a game changer when traveling with an infant and toddler. When searching for a home on Airbnb, we made sure that it came with a highchair, playpen, and kids toys - we also wanted the neighborhood to be safe, and within close proximity to everything we needed. (stores, beaches, grocery). We had family & friends visiting throughout the time we were there (coming and going at different times of the weeks), so we booked a house with 4 bedrooms to accommodate this. Due to our infant waking in the night, we still needed the girls to be in separate rooms - so the Slumberpods continued to come in handy! The Slumberpods fit right over top of the playpens, and our girls slept so great in them our whole vacation! For daytime outings, we made sure to get up bright and early, so we could be back to the house for our toddlers nap time at 1pm. We usually spent the afternoons by the pool. Our 4 month old slept so well in the car or stroller - maintaining our normal wake-window schedule. I made sure she had one or two solid naps in the house every single day to ensure she was getting the rest she needed. When searching for homes on Airbnb you can also request homes with cribs - which would be super handy!
Days spent at the beach with babies can be super fun, but also very worrisome. My biggest fear is having one of my children get a sunburn while out - so I made sure that every 30 minutes - one hour we were there, I was applying sunscreen to my toddler. Having an infant out in the heat can also cause a lot of stress for parents. We decided to plan our beach days for the mornings, or late afternoons. Our friends who were already down in Florida let us borrow a great UV protected Tent for babies and toddlers. We were able to keep our infant under this tent while sleeping, and while she was awake we put her in the Jolly Jumper that was shaded by an umbrella! Best tip for infants at the beach - bring the jolly jumper!! ( you can find our must-have beach items on the amazon store front) UV bathing suits are a must have for your children, and one of our favourite canadian brands is Luca James Swim - they come with neck to feet coverage!
Overview on naps and sleep:
I touched base a little bit about how our travel days went with sleep, but I will go into depth a little more on how we managed with wake-windows and such. For an infant who is on 2-4 naps a day it is important to maintain your current wake windows when traveling. If their appropriate wake window is 2.5-3 hours between naps, you will follow this same schedule regardless of the time you had to wake up that day, and regardless of nap length. For our travel day, as I mentioned above we were up at 5am. So your first nap would be around 7:30 AM. At this time you would rock them to sleep in your arms or cover up their stroller, with the sound machine on (mimicking your sleep environment at home) and rock the stroller until your little one achieves sleep. Keep on your normal feeding schedule, and try offering feeds 30 mins earlier than you normally would to avoid a cranky baby. It is normal to expect shorter naps on travel days, so an earlier bedtime is expected. Try to keep your bedtime between 6:30 PM & 8:00 PM. The day after travel you will want to wake your baby at their regular time, and continue on with their normal schedule as much as you can! For toddlers who are on a one nap schedule - it is very common that they may not sleep on your travel day. This is ok, but if they don’t end up sleeping at all, you will want to put them to bed as early as 6:30 PM. You will want to make sure they are up at their normal time the next day, and continue with their regular schedule if you can! For naps on the go during vacation - try to aim for naps in the car or in the stroller. The same strategy applies if naps are shorter - you will do an earlier bedtime. It is important to try and have 1-2 naps in their playpen or crib if possible, but if this is not doable based on your travel plans, don’t stress and continue with the plan for naps on the go! The biggest tip is to mimic the environment you have at home - wherever you go. You may need to be very creative, but it is easy to do in almost any environment. (Travel sleep products listed in our amazon store front) The Slumberpod is a lifesaver, honestly. It is breathable, convenient, easy to set up, and compact for travel. There is a spot for your baby monitor in the top, a spot for a small fan in the bottom, and we set up our sound machine right outside of the pod. It will fit over most cribs, and playpens, and can even be used over a toddler cot/mattress on the floor. From May 12-16th/2023 use the code theslumbernest_MOM to save on their mother’s day sale, and for any other time you can use theslumbernest$20 .
Try not to overthink your travel plans. Focus on keeping your kiddos happy by maintaining their regular feeding, and sleep schedules and you will have the best vacation! Enjoy the precious memories, and travel safely!
- Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant