A long overdue trip to the wonderful County of Mayo was on the cards for my birthday weekend (21st of May). It was an opportunity to visit my aunts, uncles and cousins and well... essentially show off Erin. As a result of Covid, weddings, it being a big drive (have ya seen the price of diesel) and other commitments it's taken over a year to make the trip up West. So I thought I'd share, for all those that may be interested, what Travelling with a Toddler is like.
It might come in handy as people are heading on their holidays in the coming weeks.
Plan, Plan, Plan when travelling with a toddler
Right regardless of where in the world you plan on travelling or holidaying to. I can't stress enough the need to plan ahead when travelling with a toddler. Just a bit of prep work will help a lot in the long run.
As I mentioned we were travelling to Mayo which anyway you swing it, is the bones of 3.5 - 4 hours depending on traffic from Cork. (The Cork to Limerick road continues to be a pain in the hole). So, once you know your rough travel time to your destination, choose a departure time that coincides with your toddler's nap time.
(Having spoken to a few people who have flown with a baby/toddler. They did the same. They wanted them to sleep on the plane so pushed out their nap time. Also, on the topic of ears popping because a baby doesn't know how to pop their ears. Put them on a bottle, or breast or give them a drink regularly. This will pop their ears so I'm told due to the sucking action).
Now, where was I?
Ah yes. I know if I put Erin into the car seat for a spin around her nap time. She'll be conked before we even take the first turn onto the main road.
The benefit of them having their first nap while you drive... well it's so they don't wreck your head as they're not happy about being in the car seat. Plus it's a long journey and it's a lot to ask a toddler to sit still for that period of time. Especially one with as much energy as Erin.
But more that they don't wreck your head.
We had a halfway point marked off (which I recommend doing) to stop at to stretch the legs, grab some food and get some fresh air before getting on the road again. We picked Bunratty as it was on the other side of Limerick and essentially we'd be back on the motorway all the way to Tuam afterwards.
It was a good thing we picked Bunratty because as soon as I stopped the car to pay the toll, which I did as quietly as I could. Erin woke up. The pitstop was the right call and when we put Erin back in the car seat, there was no drama and to make sure we didn't have to stop again, Ruth sat in the back to keep her company & entertained.
Now, I could have potentially stayed with one of my aunts but there hasn't been a baby in their respective houses in I'd say 30 odd years. Also, we wanted our own space to relax once Erin went to bed.
Initially, I booked a Hotel for us all. Right after I booked it, I just felt it wouldn't work for us, regardless of how nice it was etc.
We'd have to share a room with Erin, which meant once she went to sleep we'd have to be quiet so as not to stir her. We'd also have to turn off the lights, no tv or toasting a glass of wine for my birthday. So, onto Airbnb to see if I could find anything better.
Low and behold I found a lovely little stay about 5 mins further down the road. It had a separate room where we could set up Erin's travel cot, changing area etc. And once we closed the door it was pitch black for sleeping.
The main living area was open plan, had a bed for myself & Ruth and it was a cosy space to relax in. I can't speak highly enough of the place and it was also something like €250 cheaper. So, win-win.
My advice is to make sure whatever accommodation you book suits your current sleeping arrangement with your toddler or even baby. As much as you'll think, "ah sure it's only for a few days", you're little one won't think the same and kick up an almighty stink.
Even with all our prep and trying to keep to Erin's sleep routine etc. We had one night when she went nuclear.
What did we pack?
Like any parent, I'm getting better at what not to pack when travelling with a little one. At the start, I had the whole house in the back of the jeep along with a plethora of "just in cases". In saying that, we're still not travelling light.
We had the pram, baby backpack, travel cot, high chair, monitors, nappies, formula, clothes, wipes, Calpol, toys, food etc which left little space for a bag for myself and Ruth.
One thing I like to do, as I'm the one who packs up the car. When I'm getting Erin's stuff together I get a washing basket. In that, I put the wipes, pads, nappies, sudocrem, Calpol, snot sucker, monitor, night light, extra sleeping bag, formula, her snacks etc. The reason for this is that when you arrive at your accommodation.
It's boom out with the basket first thing so when Ruth & Erin are getting settled, they have everything they need and it's all in the one place. While I make multiple trips to unload the car.
It does kill me a bit inside I can't empty the entire car in one trip.
Toddler Food or Weaning while travelling
Now we booked a place with a small kitchen in it. So, after I unloaded the car I made a quick spin to Aldi to pick up some food. The accommodation was self-catering obviously but it was so we could have breakfast and give Erin what she normally has while also preparing some food for the day sightseeing around Achill & Westport. (The last time we were in Achill & Westport, Ruth was pregnant which is mental.)
In saying that, we did eat out and at this stage, we know what Erin will eat, won't eat and can't eat. You'll probably be the same with your little one.
However, if you're stuck or want to give them more than a biscotti or something. One thing you might not know is most places will do what's called a Baby Bowl. Generally, it's not on the menu but it's essentially mashed potatoes mixed with whatever the soup of the day is and costs like €2.
Thought it was handy to know if you were ever stuck in a restaurant or pub wondering what I can give your little one to eat.
So, while we were in Mayo. Our first spin was out to Achill where we went and visited Keem Bay. If you've never been. Make it a priority. It's stunning. We went from there to the lough and onto the Aquarium in Achill.
Now, I was expecting an aquarium in Achill to be something that wouldn't be lost in an episode of Father Ted. But I have to say it was a fantastic experience. The aquarium isn't massive but the tour guide was brilliant and really made it.
Then we made our way back to Newport for some lunch and to burn off some energy in the playground.
We also decided to walk from Westport to Croagh Patrick. There is a walkway which begins at a playground right on the edge of Westport for anyone that's interested. It's a decent walk but has stunning views and you can see Croagh Patrick the whole way. We were stuck for time so didn't make it all the way as we had to bear in mind we needed time to walk back and make a birthday lunch with my family.
The next time we're up, we're definitely doing the whole walk.
The Next Trip
As I write this blog it's only 10 days until our holidays. We're heading to West Cork and have a lovely place booked right on the beach. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get some nice weather and we can all spend our days outside and on the beach.
Right, that means it's about time for me to head out to the shed and pull out the roof box. A two week holiday with Indie in tow will require that bit more space for bringing things.
Finally, remember for travelling with a toddler, plan the trip around their nap time. Book accommodation with a separate room for them to sleep in, washing basket tip is perfect to have the essentials for quick transfer from car to accommodation, have somewhere you can prep food and don't forget about Baby bowls.