We’ve done a fair bit of travelling with our now 2 year old son. We’ve taken 3 hour road trips interstate, numerous short plane trips to Melbourne, we took him for to America for his first birthday, New Zealand shortly after and for his second birthday we went on a cruise to the Pacific.
Anyone with children will agree, any kind of travel combined with kids is complicated. You suddenly need to consider things like extra luggage allowance, how to manage car seats, prams and portacots, how to get around in a foreign country with a child, how to feed your child healthily abroad, additional travel costs, entertaining a child in a confined space etc. It can become a nightmare.
For us, the 13 hour flight to LA with an 11 month old wasn’t actually that bad. He refused to sleep in the on board bassinet, but was happy enough to sit on my lap, eat and cuddle. It meant no sleep for me, but hey, who actually sleeps on planes anyway right? About three months later the 3 hour flight to New Zealand with a 1 year old was a different story. He was more active, didn’t want to sit on anyone’s lap and just wanted to be on the move. The short flights that we have taken to and from Melbourne are also getting harder as he gets older. Our last flight was when he was about 18 months old, and it was rough. No longer was I packing useless baby items like lotions, portable sterilisers, blankets and millions of spare outfits (for both of us). It was now a smorgasbord of snacks, colouring in books, Ipad, toys and a prayer. Luckily for us, we had a spare seat beside us in each direction so he got his very own bit of space to jump for 2.5 hours. Have you ever been that guy that was unlucky enough to sit in front of some turd child that kicks your seat and screams the entire flight? Well, I’ve now been the mum of that turd child, more than once. Apologies in advance.
When we went to America, we travelled in country using taxis, Uber, buses, trains and we hired a car to drive to Vegas. We didn’t take a car seat with us so managing getting around was lighter but tricky. What we did do was a LOT of walking. We walked for hours through LA, ventured into Hollywood and walked hours back to our AirBnB. Luckily at this age our son was happy to stay put in the pram or a wrap. In New Zealand we hired a car for the entire trip, and this definitely made the holiday a lot more simple. We didn’t have to be anywhere at any set time, or try and figure out timetables and schedules and decipher maps to places we couldn’t pronounce. Hiring a car definitely provides you with a level of freedom public transport doesn’t, though that said, random conversations with Uber drivers and endless train rides up and down the west coast of America made our trip memorable.
Closer to home, we’ve finally cracked how to cure tantrums on a road trip. We invested in a car DVD player that has The Wiggles on repeat and we have not had an issue ever since. I prepare snacks beforehand and have them upfront to throw back at him every time he cries like I’m rewarding a performing dolphin with some fish. Probably not instilling good long-term behavioural responses there but I can always deal with that later.
Our most recent trip with him however, was a 7 night family cruise to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and this by far was the most simple, stress-free vacation we have ever taken. We pulled up at the car park near the terminal, checked our luggage and the rest was taken care of for us. We piled on to the ship, the bar was open, the kitchen was open, our room ready and baggage on its way to our door. We were so confused at first. We felt like we should be doing more. Surely it was not this easy? But it was. As soon as you are on board, your holiday begins and you do nothing. You are in your hotel, which conveniently delivers you to your destination while also offering all day bottomless dining and drinking, there are activities for the adults and the kids all day, there is a day care available all day and into the night if you want kid free time or to make the most of the day spa, there are constant shows on to go watch with the kids, movies on the big screen by the pool, kids channels in the room if you want to chill out. Our boat, the Pacific Dawn, had just been refurbished and there was an amazing children’s water park on the top deck which was full of screaming and laughing kids all day. Our biggest stress was trying to figure out how we would get around in country once we reached our destination. Luckily, this too was simple and the shore tours we did allowed us to seat our son on our lap and we were off. Travel with children could not be easier than with cruising. In fact, we loved it so much that we booked another while we were still on board! So come April, we are off again, this time to do all of Vanuatu and the islands around it.
We really enjoyed the short time we spent in Vila. Our goal is to expose our son to as much of the world and the diverse cultures within in, and he was able to experience just a touch of this on our trip. We went to a tiny village in Vila that is without running water or electricity, and there we gave gifts to the children. We had purchased colourful picture books that make sounds, Frisbees, balls, colouring in books and pencils and we happily gave them to the children after they had performed a traditional welcome dance for us. It was a beautiful, reciprocal exchange of gifts that I hope got the cogs in our son’s heads spinning in thought.
We definitely plan on doing more trips of all kinds in the not too distant future. We really want to fly to Japan, we want to visit the south island of New Zealand, we definitely want to trek around America some more, perhaps this time hiring a Winnebago so we can drive and see a lot more than just the west coast and then there’s the rest of the world to take on. I love that our son can say he has ridden a bike up the Santa Monica Pier and along Venice Beach, saw the Haka performed in Rotorua, gave presents to children in Port Vila, took a train ride through Noumea and waved at the kids breakdancing in the park, watched Cirque De Soleil in Las Vegas where he gave his McDonalds to a homeless man, slept through most of Disneyland, picked strawberries and hand fed lambs somewhere in the middle of NZ and was a zookeeper for a day at the San Diego Zoo, (he has visited every major aquarium and zoo in almost each country we have been to) and he is only 2 years old. I am grateful we have the means to give our son these experiences that will hopefully help mould him into an open and accepting person with a thirst for knowledge.