Somebody previously asked me to mention about my experience traveling with a toddler. Alhamdolillah, we’ve done A LOT of traveling with Eesa. In fact, Imran’s cousin jokes that MashaAllah Eesa has travelled more in two years than he himself has in his lifetime.
Here’s Eesa’s itinerary for the past two years.
In the last two years, we’ve gone to Montreal four times (with Eesa and once more without him – almost 6 hrs of driving each way), Ottawa once (without going to Montreal – almost 4 hours of driving each way), New York/New jersey thrice ( 10 -12 hours of driving each way), Washington once (from New York almost 5 hours of driving each way), once to Pakistan for 2months (18 hours of flying each way) and then onwards to India for a month (1.5 hours of flying each way)– and I may as well add Mississauga (because for most people living on either side of Toronto, that is a road trip as well – even though its only about 45kms away) which we go to at least once a week for one night at least.
I think one of the biggest factor behind this traveling is the fact that Imran, Eesa and I are very flexible and adventurous. To begin with, we don’t travel on a schedule (yes maryam, I hear you groaning). We plan our trips at the spur of the moment and leave with the mindset that whatever we do, we will enjoy without stressing. Alhamdolillah, we’ve never been disappointed because our aim is to have fun and spend some quality bonding time – and that we do. And I’d say 99% of the fun we have on our road trips is based on the feeling of being free and letting our spirits run wild and taking things as they come.
During our trips, we plan stuff for the next day a night earlier, but remain extremely flexible with it. For example, on Thursday, we had planned to leave by 9 pm but were unable to, because of Imran having to stay in at work longer, until midnight. Yea it pushed back our arrival time by three hours, but so what? The world wont stop existing because we’ll reach my cousins place three hours late. It’s all about looking for the positive in each situation.
Another example, on Saturday, Imran wanted to hang out with friends so we planned to leave New jersey later in the morning, at around 9am (as opposed to after fajr) on Sunday so we could be back by 9 pm, before work on Monday. However, on Sunday morning we decided to leave at 9pm after Imran’s fantasy league draft – that was a real sudden change of plan but Alhamdolillah we were both very receptive to it. Yea it did require for us to drive throughout the night but we took naps in the afternoon and were able to enjoy the best of both worlds – be able to reach on time to work in TO and be able to participate in Imran’s draft as well.
We also mostly travel at night. This gives us less stress and more bonding. Usually because there’s less traffic and Eesa is sleeping at this time, it’s easier to drive right through. We take advantage of this time to poke fun at each other or talk and bond. We miss out on the scenery but we usually do some country side driving during the day in our trips where we get to enjoy nature. I love water so we make it a point to find rivers, springs or waterfalls to stop by every trip. Infact, this summer we drove up half an hour north a few times to enjoy hiking through nature – we even saw ships climb mountains!!! All with dear Eesa – I wish he could remember all this when he grows older. =(
Another trick is to pack a lot of junkies and new toys from dollarama. We bought Eesa a set of cars from dollarama before we left, whenever he’d wake up, we’d pull out a car and hand it over to him. This kept him excited while he was awake and then soon he’d get tired and fall asleep. Ofcourse, every 3-5 hours we’d get him out of the car and force him to run. This increased his circulation and eased out any muscle aches that he may be feeling. Even during our airplane ride to Pakistan, I would make him run to the airplane kitchen every few hours – ofcourse much to the chagrin of the air stewardess.
On the way to Pak, I had all three window seats to myself, so it was pretty ok. Plus we flew mostly through the night so it worked out perfect. Whenever he woke up, I’d let him do his running. On the way back, we flew during daytime in Pakistan. I packed up a lot of snacks and toys and weird entertaining things like a lock and a key, shoe polishing brush, a small basketball, mints (they excited him like ANYTHING!), random keys, board books and snacks. Basically pack anything and everything to keep him busy and entertained. thost 18 hours went by really well alhamdolillah, despite the fact that both of us were squished onto one seat in between two other passengers.
If you’re travelling by plane, travel as lightly as possible. I know, being desis, its tough but put as much as u can into your checked inluggage. Don’t try to carry an entire medical kit in ur handbag… just some first aid remedies like tylenol, one bandaid, a nose bulb. If your baby can go with lotion and no powder, don’t carry the powder in your handbag. Just a babywash and lotion will do. carry the least amount of baby wipes and diapers you can make do with – TRUST me, it all adds up. Yea our instinct says, what if! trust me, it only makes things worse if you’re tired from tugging a heavy baby bag, purse, stroller and perhaps a carry on. on most of my flight travelling, i did carry a baby bag but placed my purse inside it and then hung it on the stroller. I didnt need my car seat in india/pak, so i used my dingy $14 stroller from walmart. (if you have a bjorn, definitely take it. )
Also, be warned the airline crew takes away your stroller and car seat just before you enter the plane and you cant get them back on your stopovers!!! during my flight from india to pak, my father placed the stroller behind the stewardess’ seat so it was easy for me to have it right when i got off board – i didnt have to carry eesa in my arms along with the baby bag all the way to the baggage collection and through customs/immigration. i requested the same when i was flying from khi to tor, and they let me keep it behind her seat again. but when we stopped over in london, they didnt let me board back with it. So i had to carry eesa in my arms all the way through customs and baggage collection in toronto(at most destinations, u get the stroller at baggage collection). however, once i picked up the stroller, i hung it over the baggage trolley and made eesa sit in the trolley itself. that way he was right next to me all the time and i had only one cart to push/take care of. during khi – tor, he fell asleep in the trolley seat – he was over a year but fit in snuggly with a blanket but had his legs over the seat.
During my flight from India to karachi, my mum was travelling with us and the three of us were the only people in the upper deck so alhamdolillah it was really relaxed. But my mum was reallly stressed abt what i’d do from khi to toronto. The trick here is not to stress abt what ure not going through right now. It;s not like we dont have enough to worry abt right now. Just take measures but don’t stress on what-if’s. They say neccessity is the mother of all inventions, when it happens, you’ll pull through it – believe me!
A few things I always pack when traveling with him: Infant’s Tylenol, Gerber’s mentholated baby wash, nose bulb, motrin’s cold drops, (vitamin D drops before he started solids), nasal saline solution, wipes (alcohol ones which act as disinfectant or butt wipes as needed usually found in the form of makeup removing wipes at dollarama), his safety kit (it has a thermometer, medicine drops, nail clipper and a nose bulb, I’ve added my own nail file too) and spare plastic bags (25 scented sheets in a palm sized roll for a buck at dollarama). I also keep an emergency kit, a tiny one from dollarama with bandaids etc. Do note, don’t try to carry all this in ur handbag. Check non essentials in if you can or place in a suitcase in ur trunk if you can.