The Joys Of Travelling With A Toddler: A Journey To Remember

Disclaimer: This is not a post to put off people traveling with their child. This is just simply a story that I wish to remember and was part of my personal journey as a first time mum and is a bit tongue in cheek. I also want to be able to retell it to my cheeky daughter once she is old enough. This story also makes me look back and laugh a bit, as well as making me think, ahhhh, that was tough!! But, I got through it and feel that bit stronger for it.

As mentioned in my previous posts, I did a lot of traveling by plane with my first born, when she was a baby and then a toddler. This was also mostly on my own, for various reasons and it was generally between Geneva, and England. There were good and successful trips and also really tough trips, with various tantrums, illnesses etc… however, now we are back in England and I don’t need to travel with my kids on my own, (Hurrah!) I can look back and think ‘Wow, how the hell did I even do that!? and maybe even feel a little bit proud of myself!

This particular sequence of events that I wish to remember was in September 2015. My daughter was 18 months old and was very active and cheeky (Like most toddlers) and kept me very busy! Looking back now, 18 months was the toughest age for me as a parent, as she was constantly on the move, had a strong mind but wasn’t able to properly communicate yet.

It all began when my hubby was away in Russia for work for 10 days, so I had been solo parenting, where I was living in Geneva. It went well, but as many of you know, it was hard work and felt like forever. I kept myself very busy, but without family to help, I did find it extremely full on. But, as mentioned in another post, I did feel that being able to make my lifework and feel normal, gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment and success.

After the 10 days of him being away, myself and my daughter, were due to travel to Liverpool in England for my brothers wedding. The plan was for my hubby to fly into London from Russia and travel up by train and meet us in Liverpool the day before the wedding. This meant that I would be travelling to Liverpool on my own. As mentioned before, I had travelled solo with my daughter before, but this trip just seemed bigger to me and there just felt like there were lots of hurdles to get through.

First thing was first: PACKING! Now we all know how much time and effort it takes to pack for a baby/young child. Top this off with having a toddler who was just awful at napping and still wasn’t sleeping through the night, so the time to actually pack without distraction, just wasn’t there. I remember that I started to put things to the side around a week before we were set to leave and I had lists galore!! As we all know, you need to be ready for all kinds of eventualities with a toddler. I had a good idea of what my daughter may need at the airport and then on the plane and I felt pretty sorted about that. However, I remember that I hadn’t figured out how I would actually get to the airport with a toddler in a buggy and suitcases! But my friends hubby offered to drive us there and help at checkin, which was a lifesaver!

The only flight that I was able to get directly into Liverpool, was at 10pm with a budget airline. This time was obviously not ideal but I kept telling myself that my daughter would be tired and sleep and it would be fine. (Oh how naive I was!) It won’t surprise you that she didn’t sleep. Instead she was so overtired and to make matters worse the plane was also delayed! This was also before my daughter could really appreciate the iPad. I had downloaded so many fun and ‘educational’ apps that she could go on, but to be honest they held her attention for a very short  period of time. Of course now, I have to limit her screen time!

By the time we got onto the plane, she was overtired and just didn’t want to sit still. I remember lugging on all of my things and literally squeezing us both into the window seat. It was so cramped, that once I had put my bags on the floor by my feet, I couldn’t actually bend down to really retrieve what I needed to get out. So, my bag which was crammed with all the things that could maybe keep my toddler entertained, were unretrievable.

When it was time to put our seatbelt on, my daughter was just not having any of it. I had a belt for her that attached onto my own seatbelt, but she went crazy whenever I tried to hold her in one place. I literally couldn’t put the clasp in, as she was screaming and was so wriggly! She was so loud and I could actually hear passengers tutting etc. I remember just wanting to scream at those people and say, ‘do you think I am doing this intentionally’? An air hostess eventually came over to me and said that I had to strap her in and I remember just thinking what an impossible task this was and I literally just broke down into tears. It was embarrassing, as I was sobbing! I had felt like I was doing a good job of holding myself together up to this point. The air hostess was very kind and helped me out and succeeded putting the belt on, but that obviously just made my very overtired toddler very angry and she carried on screaming. I tried to feed her milk from her bottle and that went everywhere!

As it was a night flight, the lights were very low and it was very obvious that my fellow passengers wanted to sleep, just knowing this, fed my anxiety. In the end  my daughter just lay on top of me and somehow, probably out of pure exhaustion, she fell asleep. I was so relieved, but then I could feel my heart racing and I now know that I was probably having a panic attack. I suddenly felt extremely claustrophobic and panicky. I tried to breathe and it seemed to take ages to calm down. The flight was only one and a half hours, but it truly felt like forever and I was just desperate to get off that plane.

Once off the flight my daughter did wake up but she was definitely a lot calmer and I managed to successfully get us off the plane, collect the buggy and luggage and find the airport hotel. By now, it was just after midnight and I was in desperate need of just getting into the hotel room, and putting my daughter and myself to bed. However, I have never seen a longer queue for checkin. (Typical!) Once in our room, I soon realised that we were in fact in a disabled bedroom with no cot. (So NOT the bedroom that I had booked) With a phone call down to reception and a change of bedroom and one last request for a baby cot, we managed to get to sleep by 1.30am. But, I did it! One bit of the travel hurdle was successful. (Hurrah!)

The next morning we got up and we went down to breakfast. My plan was to fill my daughter up with as much food as possible and then get into a taxi to where my brother and family were. Breakfast was successful. My daughter actually sat nicely and ate all of her toast and scrambled egg. It was almost relaxing! Afterwards, we got all of our bits together and went downstairs and hopped into a taxi. The taxi driver was so lovely. He talked to me the whole time. He was just bit older than me and he was telling me all about the city of Liverpool and was pointing out landmarks to me and then talked about his wife and small child, and how he worked all weekends to support them etc….. I was enjoying the conversation and then I turned around to my daughter and yes, you may have guessed it, my daughter who had been sitting ever so nicely, was sick absolutely everywhere!!! I was so shocked and yes, it did look like scrambled egg!! When I say everywhere, it really was everywhere. The look on the drivers face said it all. I could tell that he was so mad, but he was so lovely about it. He stopped the car and I tried to clean up my daughter and the seat as much as I could. He carried on and I couldn’t apologise enough! However, I now knew that this lovely man, who had been telling me how much he appreciates weekend work, as he needs to provide for his family, now he couldn’t work for the rest of the weekend, as his car would need to have a deep clean. He said that the charge would normally be 50 pounds, but explained he felt awful to charge me that. I felt so awful that by the time that we reached our destination and after apologising to him a million times, I handed him over the money with the extra 50 pounds. I saw no way around it. It was the most expensive taxi journey ever, but how could I not pay him? He now couldn’t work the rest of the weekend! I saw my family and I literally burst into tears. I think it was the fact of just seeing them and all of that happening. That was one rough journey, but I was there and that was the main thing.

The wedding weekend itself, was beautiful and lots of fun. It was also nice to finally be reunited with the hubby, after not seeing him for ages.

I had planned to stay down in London with my parents after the weekend, as my hubby had to travel somewhere else for work and I didn’t really fancy being on my own again. The few days we spent in London were lovely, bar the second night there, as my daughter picked up some sort of bug and was sick throughout the day and night. Fun times! and without my hubby there, it was exhausting!! My family helped as much as they could, but as many of you readers will know, its just not the same.

By the time it was time to travel back to Geneva a few days later, my daughter was better and in all honesty, I was ready to just get back home to Geneva. The morning we were leaving, I felt so anxious and sick to the stomach. I told my mum and she said that it was no doubt nerves and to not worry, as my journey back,  and I quote, ’Couldn’t possibly be as bad as the journey to Liverpool and all of the incidents in between.’ But, as I now know, yes it can!!

Once at the airport, I had a sleeping toddler (Success) so I decided to buy a sandwich and just chill. Suddenly I felt very odd and sick, but I still just put it down to nerves and anxiety. I am very rarely ill, so I really wasn’t ready for what was to come… At the gate I saw another mother with a child the same age as mine, who was struggling with her daughter. We both looked at each other (The way parents do to each other) and had a brief conversation and wished each other luck. I didn’t really think much of this encounter and I also wasn’t too nervous about the journey. I felt sorted for this trip, all the toys, magazines, crayons you name it! Plus, we were flying with a ‘better’ airline, so more room etc…..

My Mum was right I remember thinking, it was going to be fine.

Once on the plane, with a now very wide awake toddler, I was so relieved to see that we had three seats to ourselves, so plenty of room. I can do this I thought! However, twenty minutes into the journey, I suddenly felt the urge to be sick and I panicked. This cant be true, I suddenly felt awful, head throbbing etc… meanwhile my toddler was being so well behaved looking out of the window. I called an air hostess over and I told her how I felt and she gave me a ginger beer as that apparently helps. Well it didn’t for me! Next thing I knew, I was literally running with my toddler to the toilet, passed her to the air hostess and yes you guessed it, I was sick everywhere!! I felt awful and I could just hear my daughter screaming just outside the toilet door.

Once out I was still feeling awful, I mumbled a sorry to the air hostess, who actually seemed very unsympathetic. All I wanted was to be at home in my bed. Luckily, we were now very near to Geneva and I told myself ‘you can do it, well you have to do it’! The rest of the journey felt like such a long time.

Once off the plane, the mother that I had bumped into before with the child, asked  me how the journey was and I explained that it was awful and I had been sick. She was shocked and asked if I needed anything. At this point, I know that I should have asked if she could help, but something stopped me.

Once at baggage control, after visiting the toilets once more and still waiting for the buggy to arrive, I had a toddler who was running around everywhere. This is a bad thing about Geneva Airport; you have no option to collect the buggy at the gate and this is tough with any aged child under 5! I just remember passports and bags going everywhere, whilst trying to run after my daughter. It was awful! I remember feeling very weak and my head was spinning!

I don’t think that I have ever felt more relieved to see my daughters buggy. By the time I had my daughter buckled securely in her buggy and had retrieved my huge suitcase, I felt awful. I saw the lovely mother again and she asked if I was okay and this time I said that I felt faint and I didn’t think I could actually muster the energy to get into a cab!! I just broke down into tears. I was so embarrassed. This was the last hurdle of the journey and I needed to get home.

The lovely mother said to me that she was so sorry that she couldn’t take me home herself, which I thought was such a kind gesture! She said that she would personally put us in a taxi. She helped me weave in and out of the people in the busy airport and she managed to get us a taxi, explained to the driver in french that I was feeling awful. The driver was absolutely lovely and opened the window and didn’t drive too fast. I got home in one piece and once at home, I have never been so relieved. I just lay down on the sofa and put the tv on for my daughter and thankfully my hubby would be back just an hour later.

Once he was home, he was able to take over the reins and that whole night I was  very sick. I feel very lucky that he was back in time to help as I do not know how I would have managed on my own. (My hat seriously goes off for all those single parents out there)

I now look back and think wow! That was a stressful trip and one that I will always remember. I continued to travel after this but I was lucky that I never had to travel alone with my toddler on my own again! (Although I think that I may have refused)

The main thing that struck me about this whole trip and something that I will never forget, was how lovely the other mother was. She really went out of her way to help me and check that I was okay. I won’t ever forget that. It would have been a very different story otherwise. It is just something that I really appreciate and something that I hope I would do too.

I often see Mums /Dads/Parents, travelling with children and struggling. I think by either offering to help them, or offering a nice and supportive comment, or a sympathetic look and smile; it can really change the situation for that person. At the end of the day, we are all trying our best and we are doing a fab job trying! In the meantime, I can’t say that I miss the part of expat life, of having to travel with a toddler. However, on the plus side, I have learnt an awful lot from doing it and I now have a very amusing story to tell my daughter when she is older.

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