Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tips for Travelling with a Two Year-Old

Lac La Biche

We pretty much blew our travel budget for the next couple of years during our mat leave so we decided to lay low this summer and play closer to home. Thanks to Alberta Provincial Parks and Air BnB, we found some cool spots to relax at, while also getting the chance to explore parts of the province we hadn't seen before.

During an 11-day stretch, we ventured up to Edmonton, Lac La Biche, back through Edmonton, then down to Stettler. So four different accommodations in under two weeks. Although Adventure Baby is a fantastic sleeper, this definitely put some stress on her. Ways we kept this trip as calm as possible are listed below. We hope you'll find some of our tips helpful for your own getaway!

The Hi-Level Streetcar in Edmonton was a huge hit!
How to Prepare
Our daughter is very verbal and she likes to know the plan ahead of time. So we started talking about our road trip the week before. We used vocabulary she could understood and laid out the plan for her a day in advance while travelling so she knew what to expect. We'd say things like, "Today we're going to play at the playground, pack up the car, then do a big car ride. It will be a sleep in the car day. Then after nap, we'll get to ____ house. We'll set up your bed, and the potty, and have a snack." She knows how to count sleeps so we'd keep track of how many sleeps until we moved on to another location or until it was a "big car ride" day. We gave each place we stayed an easy name for her to use, such as "Lake House" or "Farm House."

If you're travelling by plane, we'd recommend showing your child the TSA video on Youtube. It prepares them for the different phases of airplane travel such as checking in your bags, going through security, and then finding your plane.

Watching the harvest in Stettler

Car Rides
We kept our driving days to a maximum of 2.5 hours. We always left at her usual nap time, put on our sleep sounds app, and were off. Adventure Baby has never been a big sleeper in cars but she slept every time for roughly an hour (not great, considering she normally sleeps 1 hour 45 min, but it was manageable). Then we had some activities on-hand in case she got antsy once awake, such as Water Wows, tablet games, and CDs with kid songs.

By contacting the hosts ahead of time, we were able to have late check-outs and early check-ins to work around her nap schedule/our driving time as best as possible. Hosts were super accommodating when they knew we had a small child. Upon arriving at each place, we immediately set up the potty and show her where that is, find her room and set it up with the pack-n-play, her owl (sleep sounds), the monitor, and lay out her books and clothes on her bed. Then, we show her where our room is and that is enough to settler her in. We try to find places with two bedrooms so she has her own sleeping space and where we can have nice views to enjoy after bedtime. Lac La Biche and Stettler were both great for this!

The great thing about a road trip is that you have the space to bring a cooler in the car. We pre-made most of our meals at home and brought them along with us frozen in the cooler. That really helped cut down on the time we spent on vacation grocery shopping, preparing food, and cleaning up so instead, we could just enjoy the location! It also meant that we were confident we'd have food on hand that Adventure Baby would eat. For us, that meant spaghetti and meat sauce, ramen, chili, corn on the cob...all easy-to-cook items that are kid-friendly. A little comfort food on the road can go a long way.

We also packed some of her favourite snacks to have when we were out-and-about in each city. She learned the words "special treat" pretty quickly on this trip and some crackers, a granola bar, or a pouch became a bit of an expectation. But for us, we've found that it can make transitions back into the car or stroller a lot easier!

Since we had the space in the car to pack a few toys, we brought whatever we could that was compact and had longevity in terms of entertainment. The magna-blocks turned out to be a great hit and really helped keep her occupied when we were packing up our bags. Colouring supplies with lots of new stickers went a long way. We let Adventure Baby choose one stuffed animal to bring, along with her doll, and those plus a few diapers are always a big hit.

Lastly, make sure you trade off and plan some time to yourself. Living out of a suitcase can be stressful and kids pick up on that. By giving yourself a break, you'll be more relaxed and so will your child. I don't think we could have managed a trip that was longer than 12 days at the pace we were going, so we know for the future that three nights is what we need in one location if we're going to be on the road for a while. Happy Travelling, Everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tips for Travelling With a Baby (18-24 Months)

This is it. Our last set of free flights with Adventure Baby. We really maximized our opportunities over the past two years and are staggered by the numbers she's accumulated:

Flights: 28
Airports: 19
Countries: 8
Continents: 4

Thank goodness we didn't have to pay for any of those!

Our Thanksgiving trip this year, coming in a month before her second birthday, was quick and filled with good-quality family time. There are only a few things we wanted to share that may be helpful if you're travelling with a little one who falls in this age gap.

Before Your Trip
We spent a fair bit of time in the two weeks leading up to our trip talking about planes. We enthusiastically pointed them out in the sky, we read books about planes, and we talked through exactly what would happen on our trip from leaving our house to arriving at Erin's parents' place. This book: Hello, Airplane! by Martha Day Zschock was especially helpful. We talked about how Baby would have her own backpack that would go through the security scanner like a train (choo choo!) including Bunny. We even described the exact snacks she'd have on the plane...She was super prepped for the experience. The airport was an absolute breeze. It was the first time we didn't take a stroller. She wore her own backpack and walked herself to the gate. Craig boarded first with our bags and Erin and Baby waited until the very end, running around, watching the planes, and significantly cutting down the time aboard waiting before the plane took off (what we always find is the worst part of the journey).

During the Flight
We found this to be the EASIEST flight we've taken so far with Baby. She was so much easier to entertain and she understood that us being on the plane was a temporary situation. She also understood that we were going on the plane to see Grandma, Grandpa, and her cousins, so that really motivated her through the journey. Having her on our laps was no problem at all. One of the biggest challenges we find with a lap infant is how difficult it is to access your stuff. But at 22 months, Baby could hop down, crawl under the seat and pull out things we asked for. It was super handy!

We did a short play when we first got on before the plane started to move, then watched out the window for take-off and said "up, up, up!" as we rose into the air, which she loved. We had a snack with lots of food that takes a while to eat like Cheerios and blueberries. Then she played some more with her toys. This was the first time we had downloaded a couple of tv shows on our tablet so we cuddled and watched a bit of t.v. Then we changed her into her pj's at her normal bedtime, read a few stories and told her she'd have a short sleep on the plane before we got there. There was a little protesting but she eventually got to sleep for about 45 minutes before landing. We used our usual Sleep Sounds app to help her fall asleep.

What We Took
Her backpack held:
- Bunny
- 2 small board books and 2 small bath books
- Munch Mitt bag filled with tiny Robert Munsch stories
- Paper and washable crayons
- Buckle Toy
- 2 small bath toys (on the way home she also had the 3 Boon ducks her cousins had given her)

We also had a couple of games downloaded on our tablet which she played on the flight home instead of watching t.v.

The quality family time we got was priceless. We're so glad that we were able to squeeze in this last trip "home" before we have to start paying for Baby's seats. We'll see you all on the "other side."

Quebec City

We had little in the way of goals for our three days in Quebec City other than to wander and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere. We strolled the streets, lingered over delicious French meals, and lounged in parks while Baby played. Each day had an outing with purpose and one without, and below are our highlights.

Les Chutes Montmorency
Erin had visited the falls on a few occasions, but never with the opportunity to climb up to the top. This worked well as a goal this time around because the easiest way to get there on public transportation was a direct bus to the subdivision just upstream from the falls. An easy walk through a park brought us to its summit, and we were able to enjoy viewpoints beside the falls, as well as the bridge across the top, all easily with Baby in the stroller. There was even a playground right beside the top of the falls where Baby could play. Time constraints stopped us from riding the gondola and walking around to the base of the falls as planned, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable outing.

This babe has no fear!
The Quebec City-Levis Ferry & Rue du Petit-Champlain
Someone was pretty stoked about the ferry ride
a.k.a. "water train...choo choo!"
Craig hoped to get the iconic water view of Quebec but we hesitated to spend the time and money on a boat tour. Instead, we crossed the river on the ferry, which provided similar views for a fraction of the time and price. The moody skies highlighted the hills in the distance, and made the gorgeous Chateau Frontenac look all the more impressive.

On our walk down to the docks, we loved having Rue du Petit-Champlain to ourselves. Most of the shops and restaurants were still closed up tight and the early morning quietness was intoxicating. Baby showed off her skills climbing down stairs, and we took the Funicular back up, another first for Erin.

La Grande Allée
No visit to Quebec is complete without walking La Grande Allée. The city was in the midst of setting up for its St Jean Baptiste celebrations, so the best section was closed to traffic and we were able to fully enjoy the tree-lined street with gorgeous stone walk-ups, and festive atmosphere. (Baby's favourite part was watching the horse and carriage rides clip-clop past us).

We bid Quebec goodbye with happy hearts and full bellies and look forward to our next chance to visit in the future!

Tips for Travelling with a Baby (18 Months Short-Haul)

We've been around the world and back with our daughter but it's time for a trip a little closer to home. For our 17-day trip to Eastern Canada, we decided to fly with only carry-on items, so we felt it was worth a post to share our packing list and any tips we accumulated as we went. As half of this trip included a stay with family, we opted to bring limited clothes and toys, and did laundry every 5 days.

For more information on our long-haul flight with a 12-18 month old, click here.

Packing List
The great thing about packing for this trip was that we could look at the 14 day forecast and have a really good idea of the weather we were going to get. In all four of our destinations, it was looking hot! hot! hot! So we planned for sunshine and brought a couple of layers just in case. In the end, we had just enough space to pack some comfort foods for our week of travel in Quebec. That saved us from having to leave the touristy area to find a proper supermarket or drug store. Ditto for diapers.

Enjoying a Mom-and-Daughter
Crepe Date!
3 short-sleeved onesies, 1 tshirt
2 long-sleeved onesies
1 sweater
1 rain coat
3 pairs of pants of varying weights
1 dress, 1 romper, 2 skirts
3 pairs of socks
1 pair of runners, 1 pair of soft soled sandals
1 sunhat

1 washable Kushies bib
4 wash cloths
2 sheets for the pack n play
1 change pad
1 travel wipes container
35 diapers (this got us to Erin's parents' place so we didn't have to find her size while travelling in Quebec)
Pack n Play
Stroller (which we also used as a high chair)
Hand sanitizer
2 cloth cooler bags
1 small baby bowl, 1 spoon, 1 fork
1 stainless steel milk cup, 1 water cup
Medical supplies (D-drops, Baby Tylenol, nail clippers, saline drops, baby Polysporn, etc)

7 pouches in varying flavours (1 for each day of travel in Quebec)
1/2 bag of Love Child Ducks
1 tiny tupperware full of Love Child Owlies, 1 of Toodle O's
7 Love Child Oaty Chomps in varying flavours
5 Mum Mums

With such little space and time planned in the AirBnB, we brought only toys that could be used as entertainment on the plane and train. In Quebec, we supplemented by everyday household items like coasters, a travel toothbrush holder, tupperware containers, and the occassional Youtube video of trains on our tablet, as well as watching for dogs and buses out the window. :)

2 small board books, 1 small bath book
2 Little People
1 buckle toy
1 Munch Mitt bag filled with 6 tiny books
and yes, the Valentine's Day card from Gram that has now travelled to Asia and back with us!

There isn't much new to say about where we stayed. We continue to enjoy AirBnBs for their separate sleeping space for Baby and kitchen facilities. What absolutely amazes us is how quickly our daughter adjusts to new living situations. Within less than 24 hours, she knows the geography of our neighbourhood and can identify our building and unit as "home." She knows which room is hers and where Mama and Dada sleep (tours upon arrival of a new accommodation continue to be very important in establishing comfort and an understanding of where we will be while she's sleeping).  It's comforting to realize that babies adjust quickly, and adapt to their surroundings. Hopefully that helps quell some reservations of the dreaded "change in routine."

We will reiterate once again that timing is of upmost importance to our child when planning a travel day. It all comes down to her nap (yes, we are FINALLY on a one-nap schedule, folks!). We left for the Quebec City airport hours before we needed to be there because that's what worked best with her routine. We arrived, checked in early, got through security, and played in their Family Zone. We had enough time to attempt a nap in the stroller at her usual time before boarding, which meant that we could use food and toys as entertainment on the plane. Much better than us trying to convince her to nap on our way here! You know your child best so work with your regular daily routine as much as you can to make it a smooth travel day.

As always, our favourite part of travelling is the time we get to spend as a family. This trip included sharing some old memories but also building new ones together. All the feels here!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Quebec Has a Piece of My Heart

At 18, I graduated high school, packed a bag, and headed to Quebec City for the summer. It was my first taste of independence and I was scared out of my mind. As my parents turned around to leave, I signed a contract saying that I would speak only French for the next six weeks, which seemed like an impossible task with the few words I knew. Always a homebody, this was a huge step for me. It was a "love it or hate it" moment for sure. It turned into one of the best experiences of my life. Some of the girls I met are still those I call best friends. And after countless visits in the few following years (some great, some terrible), it is still my favourite city on the planet. Here's why:

* It's Gorgeous
The architecture is beautiful, as are the narrow, winding streets lined with mature trees. In the distance, beyond the river, you can see the forested hills and Jacques Cartier National Park where I've been rafting and kayaking. The Chateau-Frontenac stands stoically at the precipice of the cliff down to the Basse-Ville. ...I could go on and on.

* The People are so warm and welcoming
Montreal has a lot of positives but as someone who is always trying to improve her French skills, it is not the place to be. One look is all a salesperson needs to decide if you are French or English and there's usually no going back, no matter how much you persevere and try to respond in French. Our first morning in Quebec City demonstrated exactly what I like about the people here. Our waitress started with French, switched to English when she heard us talking to each other in English, then switched back to French when we continued with it, aiding us with hand gestures, repetitions, or clarifying words if needed. The accent is rounder and lovely, and the pace is relaxing.

* The Food
Of course you're going to get amazing French cuisine in Quebec. But what I love about Quebec City is that it's a blend of cosmopolitan and farm. You can find fresh moose burgers or foraged mushrooms on the menu, along with the delicious staples of crepes and cheese.

* The Size
Like Calgary, it's so accessible. Quebec city is pedestrian-friendly and small to get around. The main bus terminal and train station are centrally located meaning you could do your whole visit on foot if you like.

I was so excited to share my favourite city with Craig and Baby. I knew it would mean seeing it from a different perspective and experiencing it in a different way. And it did not disappoint!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Montréal à Grande Vitesse

With Erin heading back to work in the near future, our maternity leave travel opportunities were drawing to a close. Not ready to call it quits yet, we tacked on a week in Quebec to our biannual trip to Ontario to see friends and family.

We planned a whirlwind tour of Montreal, a city we've each spent some time in, which is not nearly enough time to do this great city justice. With less than 24 hours in our pockets, we spent a good chunk of it visiting family and feasting with our gracious hosts in their backyard.

Adventure Baby felt that we really needed to make the most of our one morning of sight-seeing so she awoke the entire house at 5 am (which felt like 3 am thanks to the time change), and off we went. We wandered Erin's favourite neighbourhood, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, which didn't quite have its same feel thanks to the early hour of the day. Its desertedness was especially ironic after warnings from friends that we shouldn't head to the city during one of its most popular weekends: Formula One. Disappointment bubbled up when standing in front of the boutique Erin was excited to visit as we were over an hour earlier than its opening time.

Battling those Formula One crowds on St-Laurent...

With an understandably cranky baby, we continued on for a walk along Montreal's Old Port. The serenity of the location and time of day was interrupted occasionally by the sounds of race cars driving past on the nearby island.

A delicious lunch and great company awaited us back at Erin's Aunt's house, which brightened our weary spirits. A diaper explosion, closed rental car office, and tight transfer time to the train had us stressed to the max, but with moments to spare, we made it on board and were off on schedule to Quebec City. We'll look forward to our next visit when we can hopefully have more time to explore our favourite places Montreal has to offer. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Japan Days 26 & 27: Hello From Tomorrow

Our good luck nearly lasted to the end of the trip. We got just over a day of stunning Fuji views from our Hakone residence before it slipped behind a thick curtain of clouds and didn't show its face again. We departed a little disappointed on our last full day in Japan, but this made us appreciate the fact that we'd had one good day of viewing all the more.

In an effort to avoid Tokyo traffic (as its airport is actually quite far outside of the city), we wove our way around the metropolis and enjoyed a lunchtime stop in Yokohama. This romantic city sits right on the ocean and is known for its boardwalk, Ferris wheel, and nighttime lights. It's been a featured spot more than once on Terrace House (if we haven't convinced you yet, you should seriously watch this show!) as a place where many Japanese couples become "official." (There is quite a different and interesting dating culture here from our Western views that's worth learning more about).

We strolled the shoreline and enjoyed the colourful flower gardens that looked ready to fully burst with blooms within a couple of weeks. Baby chased pigeons, watched the boats go by, and climbed benches. We marveled at the huge bridge that leads out of the city, then hopped in our car to take it. Even more impressive (and slightly daunting) was the 24km long Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line that came next. It took us from the edge of land, underwater, out the other end in the middle of the bay, and up onto another humongous bridge.

We sailed into Narita just after 3 pm and settled in for the night at a quaint guesthouse surrounded by rice paddies and hillsides covered in bamboo. With mixed emotions, we organized our bags and prepared for our long journey the next day.