So, as I wrote in the previous blog post, we had 5 legs to get to Cochabamba. It was a lot of plane and airport time, as well as super long lay-overs.
Here are some of my tips. (Note: I read a LOT from a lot of other travel moms, and I am not as organized or detailed as most people.)
What we packed:
2 large suitcases (the kind with 4 wheels! I got an amazing deal on them at Costco… 2 suitcases and matching carry-ons.)
A stroller (that we never even opened)- to be fair, Leo’s brother asked us to bring a stroller to them in Colombia, and we weren’t sure if we would ever use it.
Two 4-wheel carry-ons (that matched the big ones… one was filled with books/toys for the airport and plane, and the other was filled with clothes for all three of us in case a suitcase didn’t make it)
A guitar with a soft travel case
The diaper bag
Another backpack with the laptop/iPad and other things that we had to shove in last-minute because the suitcases were too heavy. (We always save space in the carry-ons for this very reason).
On the way down, Elias was still 1, so we made the most out of only checking what we could and carrying the rest.
1) The radio flyer collapsible wagon with tailgate thingy was the BEST investment ever. We took a stroller down for Leo’s brother’s family, and thought we might end up using it, but didn’t even open it once. All we needed was the wagon!
Immersion Hand Blender, Utalent… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D4CQ23G?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
Here’s the deal: we aren’t the people who have an immovable schedule, or who make sure Elias always and only ever sleeps in his bed. So, when we ordered the wagon, it came about a week before the trip. We took him for walks in it, had it open in the living room so he could get used to getting in and out of it, and even had him take a few naps in it.
Truly, every nap he took in Bolivia was in this wagon. We would be out at church or at the conference, and he would simply say “tent”, and would crawl in the wagon and lay down. I would cover it with the blanket and he would be OUT!
We DID have to battle a bit with the airline every blessed trip because we also had the stroller, but we simply explained (over and over) that it would collapse smaller than a carry-on, and that we could gate-check it. By the grace of Jesus (and after doing demonstration collapsing, which included sometimes taking the sleeping toddler out of it), they let us take it without paying.
The wagon also provided a TON of fun for other kids wherever we were… I can’t say enough about it!
2) I filled one carry-on with various new, simple toys, and would bring something new out on each flight.
Thankfully, Elias has no issues with flying, and normally falls asleep, but the late flight into Santa Cruz took him a little longer than normal. I busted out some glow-in-the-dark bracelets that a friend gave me, and he LOVED them! I tried to save a few for another late flight, but he wanted all 10 of them. Bless. He had so much fun!
We also had scented play-doh, cars, and magnetic animals.
The awesome thing about flying Avianca was all the food came on plastic trays that were PERFECT for putting all the play-doh and toys on. They even let me keep our trays when they saw how Elias liked putting everything on them.
3) We made sure that the airports were fun places to explore, even when we were exhausted.
So many people were understanding of us traveling with a toddler, and we didn’t get many dirty looks about our little guy running around playing.
Moving sidewalks with papá? So fun! Open space to run and play? Absolutely! Gift shops with all the textures and sensory input? An absolute blast!
In Lima, they had these adorable little fuzzy llamas in the gift shop, and we had a 5 hour lay-over… so, we played and played. Elias loved gathering them all up, and then we’d sing “5 little llamas jumping on the bed” and when one “fell off”, it would go back in the basket. Then, when they were all in the basket, we said “goodbye” and left them. Lol!
We talked to people and noticed things out loud together. I know… we are an extroverted family, but this was great for Elias to see… that in the huge seas of people, we could make friends.
He loved greeting people, giving other kids high-fives, and saying “bye” when we would leave a store or even pass through to the gate.
As we would walk around, we’d point out colors, words, animals, paintings, lights, etc. The airports and planes became like living museums for Elias, and he LOVED exploring.
4) We packed snacks, but also made sure to eat meals when we had long lay-overs.
Eating at a restaurant with a toddler is never easy, let alone at an airport restaurant. But, we made the most of it! This is when we would bust out the magnetic toys. We would do puppet shows with the magnets on silverware, play matching (especially with the Noah’s ark set), draw, color, read books and let him try new foods.
Note: Elias is an awesome eater, and we never really make him his own food… he usually just eats what we eat, unless it’s super spicy. So, he not only ate from his kids menu, but would also try food off of our plates. He loves new flavors and texture (I know… we are blessed).
5) We would switch off, tapping out as needed.
Here’s the deal: it was really hard. Leo pulled an all-nighter the night before we left, so he was exhausted. I held Elias while he slept most of the flights, which meant that I didn’t sleep much on the flights, on top of my body being sore from holding him. We arrived to each destination worn out, just from the energy it took to travel there.
But, we did our best to work as a team and give each other a break so that we could give our best to Elias.
I did a lot of deep breathing/breath prayers. “Jesus help me” was my go-to.
The flights to Ecuador were the hardest, mostly because we were all sick from something we ate. The turbulence and crazy travel times (and overnight in the airport) didn’t help, either. Elias threw up on 3 of the 4 flights. I learned quickly that he gags about twice, and then throws up.. so I had time to get the bags out.
Avianca’s flight staff was mostly accommodating, making sure that we had what we needed. The only real issue was when they wouldn’t let me hold him on my lap on the flights after he turned 2. After he screamed for about 10 minutes, they finally let me hold him and all was well.
So, to close, travel is fun and hard and takes every level of creativity you have at the same time… pretty much like all the other parts of parenting. Lol!