We travelled long-haul with a baby and a toddler. Yep, we flew from London to Vancouver with a nine-month old baby and a two year old toddler.
Flying With a Baby and a Toddler
The thought of flying with a baby terrifies some people, but our trip with two little ones was actually pretty good. So good that we even flew back with both of them and our marriage in tact.
Joking aside, if you’re thinking of travelling long-haul with two children don’t panic. It really isn’t as scary or as bad as you’re probably thinking it will be. This post isn’t about my tips and tricks for travelling with two children, as I think each child is different, as is each trip. It’s just a recount of my experience on this occasion, as I enjoy reading these sorts of things in the lead up to my various ‘first’ moments. If you’re more interested in the destination than the journey, skip straight to the posts on Vancouver, Tofino and Whistler.
I feel like I should start by saying that no, I’m not one of those lucky ones who has placid, laidback children. Kit had colic for the first half of her life, which basically means that she cried a lot. The running joke is that I don’t have babies. I just have instant toddlers or threenangers. My two mini-explorers aren’t cuddly, sit quietly type and instead have a fierce need for independence and a thirst to learn as much as possible. They’re active and wriggly, especially my youngest, Kit. Nova doesn’t nap at home and Kit is a reluctant sleeper, so it takes some perseverance.
We adore travel and so as much as family travel is obviously harder than travelling as a couple, a life without exciting trips just isn’t an option for us. And so we went back to our love, Canada!
We had an evening flight, so we didn’t bother staying at the airport the night before. If we’re travelling with the kids we always get to the airport three hours before the flight because by the time we’ve checked the luggage in, dropped off the baby equipment at the separate oversized luggage desk and had a loo/snack/entertainment (likely all three) pitstop we find that we don’t actually have any spare time.
As usual, we parked in the closest onsite airport car park, so the kids went straight into the double stroller and we pushed the luggage straight to the check-in desk. Doing this is so convenient and makes family travel that little bit easier.
We travelled with British Airways because they offered a direct flight and they were the cheapest option. BA seem to get a lot of negative press lately and I often hear people saying they’re more like a budget airline, but we didn’t find this to be the case at all.
Check-in was a total dream. There was no queue and no issue about any of the baby equipment (two car seats, one double buggy and one travel cot) we took with us. We knew one of our cases was slightly over the weight limit, but nothing was said and we were ushered through with a smile.
We’d pre-booked our seats online, as we needed a bassinet for Kit. It’s basically like a clip-on cot that the staff secure to the front wall, so you need to ensure that you have a seat in one of the select rows. If you’re sat with a row in front of you there’s nothing to attach it to or enough room. Kit is a good size and at nine-months old it’s fair to say she filled the bassinet and she won’t be able to use one again.
During the Flight
Once on board BA offered us the chance to have a car seat style bassinet or a flat one. We opted for the latter as we knew if Kit was sat up she’d be distracted by the other passengers and we’d have no chance of her sleeping.
Obviously a bassinet is great because it’s somewhere for your little one to nap (rather than on you), but the best perk is that you end up with more leg room. We all sat together in a row of three – Nova had his own seat because he’s over the age of two. It felt like we had our own private space and not too dissimilar to premium economy. We had been eyeing up booking that option, but it was quite a bit more money so we were pleased when we clocked our seats.
To start with we popped some toys and a blanket on the floor for Kit so that she could crawl about, but we were soon told that once the flight is in motion you’re not allowed to do that. Nova was given a little drawstring rucksack that had a thin colouring book and a few crayons in it, but in all honesty, it seemed a bit excessive; a big bag that seemed exciting, but actually didn’t have much in it and was a bit of a let down. Ah well, it makes a handy swim bag now!
We’d pre-loaded our new iPad with all of Nova’s favourite episodes and films, so he was desperate to watch them before we’d even taken off. At home he’s normally allowed to watch the TV first thing and in the evening just before bed, so I guess it must have seemed like a treat for him. He shunned the plane screen for his iPad and was quite happy listening to it using his kid headphones (they have an inbuilt max volume so he can’t damage his ears), though every now and then he’d pull them off and just watch. I spose he’s not used to having something on his head and for the sound to be so close, if that makes sense.
We didn’t realise that we were supposed to order Nova a kid’s meal. We wrongly assumed that as they knew his age he’d get one, so for the first leg of our trip he had an adult dinner. He ate a few bits of it, but as he’d already eaten and it was past his bedtime he wasn’t fussed. For the return trip we pre-booked his kid’s meal through the online portal.
Nova normally sleeps at around 7.30pm, but he didn’t give in until about 10.30pm. In the lead up to that he snacked, watched the iPad and we went on a little walk round the plane. He fell asleep in his seat, but kept stirring because it wasn’t super comfy for him. Reclining the seat didn’t do too much for him because you don’t really reap the benefit unless you’re head is at the top of the chair.
Kit also slept for quite a few hours. We had to help her nod off by playing white noise for her (we have a downloaded playlist on Spotify that we can use via our mobile phones) and we gave her a few little taps if she stirred.
Jay had a snooze and I did the most sensible thing I could think of – ordered a glass of wine and watched The Greatest Showman! I’m not going to lie, I felt super smug as I looked at my sleeping family, wine in hand and had a little excited seat dance at the realisation we were returning to one of my favourite countries with my two babas.
The combo of wine, altitude and such a feel good movie made me have a little cry though and I’m not even much of a crier (well, I wasn’t pre-kids anyway!). I felt so emotional as I watched Nova and Kit, knowing that some day they won’t want to travel with me or be snuggled into the nook of my arm. I just wanted to preserve the moment forever. It’s hard to explain, but I was overcome with such a fierce love and I guess a moment of gratitude for my perfect mini-explorers.
Anyway, they woke after a few hours and I pulled myself together. We had a few more snacks and a couple of tired grizzles, but before we knew it we were landing and wow, that part was gorgeous. Vancouver just looked incredible; lots of little inlets, tall trees, all the blues and greens and I was just beyond excited.
All of our luggage arrived – hurrah – and we clambered into our hire car for the short drive to our Airbnb in Vancouver. It was early evening when we arrived so the plan was to stay awake until bedtime and to try to minimise any jet lag.
We walked down to the local park in Kitsilano so Nova could run about and play, whilst Kit could crawl on the grass. We picked up some snacks and then Jay took Kit back to put her to sleep, whilst Nova and I watched the sunset on the beach. It was another emotional moment for me, but maybe I can blame that on the tiredness. Just like when I was pregnant the first time round and told I’d never travel again, people had said I wouldn’t travel with two kids, especially long-haul. I felt so proud and happy sitting on that beach, watching the sun twinkling in the water whilst Nova danced about in the sand and tried to skim stones. I just felt entirely content and as though the sunbeams could have been from me.
That’s not to say the next few nights were a breeze. Jet lag had both of the kids waking up super early. I think on the fourth night we got back on track and it was about the same length of time when we got back home.
During the days we stuck to our usual loose schedule, so although we’d be out all day we’d try to time drives with Kit’s nap times or put her in the carrier/buggy at her nap times to help her drift off. We also made sure we ate lunch and dinner at our normal times where possible. We ate out quite a bit, but we do that at home so Nova and Kit are quite good in restaurants and will try most things.
I’ve written about what we got up to in Vancouver, Tofino and Whistler so have a read of those if you’re interested. All that leaves me to say is Canada well and truly has my heart now. Our first trip there (to Jasper National Park) when Nova was six-months old is still my all time favourite, but I have no doubts that we will be back to explore more of Canada and I cannot wait. X
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