When we traveled to Mexico for 5 days earlier this year, it was our first trip as a family of four. To be quite honest, I was a bit nervous about traveling with a four-month-old and a two-year-old. We’ve traveled quite a bit with Adina before - you can read my blog posts about Miami and Grand Cayman Islands. I also have a post with Tips for Traveling with a Baby. But it had been a year since her last flight and it was Noa’s first flight ever. The flight was direct from New York to Cancun and was just under four hours. I worried and wondered - would Adina throw a tantrum on the plane? Would Noa cry the whole flight? In this post, I’m sharing what we did to prepare for the trip as well as tips we learned along the way that helped us travel smoothly with a toddler and a baby.
Preparing for the Trip
I did a bunch of research and asked friends for advice in preparation for the trip. Rather than driving to the airport ourselves and paying for airport parking, we opted to get picked up by a car service. We requested to have a convertible car seat in advance and we brought along Noa’s infant car seat. It was so easy to have this door-to-door service and saved us a lot of stress. We decided to bring two single strollers (a lightweight foldable stroller for Adina and a car seat with the snap-and-go caddy stroller for Noa) instead of one double stroller. I liked having two singles for a few reasons:
It was one less car seat to think about. Since we were driven to and from the airport on both ends of our trip, we knew we would need car seats for both girls. Most car services (in the U.S. and in Mexico) have no shortage of convertible car seats, but infant car seats are another story. We didn’t want to risk the company not having one, so we just brought our own.
Since we stayed at an all-inclusive resort, we knew it would be easy to walk everywhere. The girls were on such different schedules, so having single strollers gave us more flexibility. While Michael and Adina were swimming in the pool, I could stay back with Noa so she could nap in the shade. We brought the stroller to all of our meals and I always brought a swaddle blanket, our portable white noise machine, and a bottle no matter what time we ate. Noa would often fall asleep in her stroller while we were at the restaurant.
The stroller cady folds up very easily but when it’s unfolded, there is tons of space under the car seat. I just threw whatever we needed for the day (towels, sunscreen, diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, etc.) in the bottom of the stroller so I didn’t have to worry about going back and forth to our room.
Michael took Adina in her stroller and I took Noa in her stroller through security. We had to fold both strollers and put them on the conveyor belt as we went through. We took the strollers all the way through the airport and gate checked them. (I wore Noa on the plane itself in the baby carrier.) Have two strollers made our airport experience very smooth because each of us could take one kid - for example, Michael took Adina to get snacks at the airport convenience store and I took Noa to the bathroom for a diaper change and each of us had a stroller.
If your baby is small enough, I think babywearing is the way to go when traveling! Although we had strollers for both girls, I brought two baby carriers for Noa: this stretchy baby wrap that was perfect for traveling in the airport and wearing her on the plane itself (she did not have her own seat, she had a lap infant ticket) and this ultra-compact carrier that was perfect for our time in Mexico. The ultra-compact carrier I brought is extremely lightweight and happens to be waterproof so I loved it for wearing her in the pool and on the beach, when I couldn’t use the stroller (strollers and sand do not mix well!)
Packing for the Plane Ride
I packed a bag full of things to keep Adina entertained during the plane ride and in the airport. Although we didn’t end up using half the stuff I brought, it gave me peace of mind. This bag included a bunch of busy toys that I put in different zipper pouches, coloring books with crayons and magic markers, a puffy sticker book, a reusable sticker book with 400 stickers, a post-it-note pad, and LOTS of snacks (granola bars, nuts, fruit, pouches, goldfish, Bamba.) We also got Adina her own headphone set and pre loaded the iPad with a bunch of videos and kid friendly apps including Planes, Shapes, YT Kids and Sesame Street App. (Sesame Street has its own app with tons of videos and games. I HIGHLY recommend this one for toddlers! Note: you need to be connected to WiFi to access it)
Toddler Plane Ride Activity Items
The Plane Ride:
We tried to book a flight that coincided with Adina’s nap time. While it may not always be possible to do that, I’ve found that if we time the flight when she would normally be sleeping, she’ll eventually fall asleep at some point. Adina and Michael spent some time looking out the window at the planes on the runway and we played some games at the airport to help get some of Adina’s energy out before we took off. Once we boarded, we played with some of the toys I packed for Adina and she watched some Disney show on the plane with her headphones. I sat in the window seat wearing Noa in the baby carrier, Adina sat in the middle seat, and Michael in the aisle. Both girls slept on the flight! Adina slept for over 2 hours (it was a 3.5 hour flight) and I even got to close my eyes for a little bit!
We Made it to Mexico!
Everything had been going pretty smoothly up until this point. Once we got to the airport in Cancun, we made our way to the customs and immigration and saw the longest lines I have ever seen in my life! There were no joke hundreds and hundreds of people waiting in line to get their passports stamped. At this point, I was so happy that I had a bag full of toys and games and snacks to keep Adina entertained. We ended up waiting in line for over an hour! And somehow, we managed to make it through without any baby or toddler meltdowns! I couldn’t believe it! For the first 20 to 30 minutes, Michael waited in a line with our bags and I stayed on the side of the large hallway that we were in with the girls. Adina found some other children and despite the fact that we all came from different places and some other spell different languages, we managed to sing songs and play games together. The kids played Simon Says, Ring around the Rosie, and Red Light Green Light. Adina did not really understand how to play, but she was just happy to be included. The other moms and I were relieved to be going through this together. We went to find Michael in line since he was getting closer to the front. At this point, I busted out some granola bars, Bamba snacks, and trail mix. I also pulled out the big guns – our giant sticker book! Behind us in line, there was another young girl who was definitely losing it and starting to cry. Very sweetly, Adina offered her some of her stickers and she cheered right up. So grateful for stickers!
We had arranged transportation through our resort to get to and from the airport. We made sure to request a car seat for Adina in advance and our driver gave us a bit of a tour on our way to the hotel. We called the hotel in advance to request a crib in our room. In the past, we have brought our travel crib if we’re staying somewhere without a crib, but this saved us a lot of space and hassle (we tried to pack as lightly as possible and just took two carry-on size bags.) We brought along the Snuggle Me Organic lounger that Noa was used to sleeping in at home - it was lightweight and hardly took up any space. I share some more sleep tips in my blog post about our Miami trip last year (including having separate spaces for you and your children, even when you’re sharing a hotel room.) We also stayed at an all-inclusive resort so we did not have to think about meals while we were there. We decided to order room service for breakfast and eat in the room most days - a much more relaxed experience than bringing the kids to the restaurants! I highly recommend doing this if you have the option. I made sure that our room had a refrigerator so we could store snacks on hand and keep Noa’s bottles fresh. You can read more about how we approached meals on this trip in the full Mexico Trip Recap post.
Bring more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need
Bring plastic bags for dirty diapers, change of clothes etc
Pack a change of clothes for your kids and for yourself
Have your toddler run around the airport before you board your flight (depending on the time) to get some energy out
The most important lesson for us was to be able to go with the flow - not everything will go according to plan. Your flight might get delayed. There might be huge lines at the airport. Being in a new environment can be tough for toddlers and babies who are used to their routines. Try your best to be flexible.
The transportation on our way home went pretty smoothly. We packed some food from the resort with us, since we did not know what the options would be like in the airport. Both girls fell asleep again on the flight, which was a relief. It was a wonderful feeling to get back home and gave Michael and the confidence that we could travel as a family of four!
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