Travelling with a Toddler – The Carry On List

Now that our first little one is bigger and can eat everything (and I mean everything), you’d think travel would be easier. No bottles to pack, no sippy cups, no pacifiers, etc. Wrong. I still find that you need a full blown strategy to survive even the shortest flights with a toddler. Our little guy (2.5 years) has strong opinions, a big appetite and an allotment of energy meant for a marathon runner. Here is how I set us up for success on flights (short and long haul).

  1. Snacks. Goes without saying but honestly you can’t have enough. Airline food is typically BLAH, overpriced and if you are on Rouge or Air Canada Economy where you have the option to buy it you better hope you are in the first couple of rows. We have been on countless flights where everything has been sold out by the middle of the aircraft. I pack pouches (for the lack of mess factor). Typically I get apple sauce pouches from Costco and fruit and veggie ones from the grocery store. I also pack Made Good bars and bites. If you haven’t tried them they are ridiculously good (and relatively healthy) granola bar based snacks. Some have chocolate but most have dried fruit. My kid LOVES them. I pack extra as the hubs tends to dig in too. Another  thing I do is I usually stop at the stores after security and grab some yogurt, maybe a muffin or a bagel and some fruit. We also typically go into the lounge as hubs has status and I grab bananas or other fruit pieces there. I know we aren’t supposed to take them but I do anyways. Whoops!
  2. iPad + headphones. Yeah, obvious right? But a couple of tips. One, I usually stop allowing TV or any shows at all leading up to travel days. This makes it extra special for the trip and makes it exciting. Two, get wireless earphones. I honestly swear by ours. LilGadgets Untangled Pro is the model. We charge them (you can also plug them in when in use) and that way the cords don’t get in the way of a fidgety toddler. They connect by bluetooth to the iPad. Three, Netflix. Download everything you possibly can so that it can be watched without wifi. Netflix literally saves my life.
  3. Stickers. Not your average stickers. Source out reusable stickers from dollar stores or walmart or target. Wherever. I honestly can’t tell you how many hours have been wasted sticking and resticking dump truck stickers to plane windows and fold down tables. They also come with a surface for all of the germaphobes. I keep telling myself my kids are going to have the best immune system going.
  4. Dollar Store Stuff. Literally, before a trip I drop a bunch of cash on stuff I really don’t care about that is small that we can fit in our bags. Think, tiny plastic dinosaurs, toy cars, etc. I don’t care if we lose one under a seat and typically we loose more than one. I hide them until the flight and then slowly introduce them as needed. I also buy the invisible ink markers that come with themed colouring books (they come in a mini size at the stores near me). Usually Paw Patrol based. this works for at least 20 minutes of fun.

I also pack a ziplock bag with one diaper for every 1.5 hour of flight time (you never know when one might break, or a poosplosion might happen). Delays also get you and you might be limited in size options at an airport. I bring one pack of wipes to share between both kids. Usually one extra pair of clothes. Typically the lightest I can find. Often a pair of PJs.

Hope this helps! I will follow up with a post on what I pack for my 4 month old!

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Bahama-MAMAs

Bahama-MAMAs

IMG_7702We are lucky that we have a family that we are not only incredibly close friends with but that are willing to humour us in our crazy travel ideas and occasionally join us. This past July we booked a trip to Bahamas on a whim for a long weekend. I suggested Atlantis on Paradise Island as I went there as a kid and it has a reputation for being “the spot” in family travel in Bahamas. Hubs was on board as it has been taken over as a Marriott property too so we could utilize points + cash and also be comfortable to know that our status would be recognized and all the perks that go along with it.

That’s the background. Now let’s get into the experience.

We flew Air Canada Rouge and it wasn’t too bad. I typically hate Rouge (the seats are actually unbearably small on the north american routes) but I was excited about the destination and with a toddler having his own seat we get significantly more room. Flight time was at an un-godly hour but we managed and it did mean we got the whole day at the resort.

We were picked up by a car service that included a grocery store stop and a liquor store stop. It was a bit of a cluster finding the guy and it didn’t go as smoothly as it should for the price that our friend’s paid for it. The guy was a GEM and I loved him instantly so that made the disorganization disappear. We didn’t go to the grocery store as we literally had no room to move with 4 kids, two double strollers, 6 suitcases, 4 adults in an Excursion. BUT, we did stop for booze. #Priorities

Sketchy liquor store stop…was down to a bit of a science…we were hooked up with a “guy” who would get what we need. I’m sure there is a whole incentive program for our driver. Whatever. It got the job done.

We arrived at Atlantis safe and sound. We selected the Coral Tower as we read it was the most family friendly. It was definitely filled with kids and was situated in a very accessible location. Beside the marina and next to the Royal Towers so it was logistically great. Our rooms weren’t ready so we headed to the bathrooms and changed. Bell Room team let us come in and out of the luggage storage room to grab stuff. etc. While this was convenient, I am not sure it is the most secure place ever. Day one was a bit challenging as we didn’t have room keys and everything needs to be charged to the room. We got it figured out but you’d think a resort of this size and age would have it down to a simple process. Maybe not?

Hubs upgraded our room upon check in to get an ocean view. While it was definitely visible, it wasn’t exactly what I would call ocean view. We also got a very detailed view of the air conditioning units, etc. (MORE ON THAT LATER). It was so-so. Room was renovated. Washroom was pretty blah. But we were in Bahamas so a lot of this slides. Our platinum amenity was being sent to our room (a bottle of wine).

The first night we went to the Marina village where there are a bunch of restaurants at many price points. Overall, really loved being so close to that part of the resort. We went to Frankie Gone Bananas. They were accommodating with our two double strollers and four hungry kids. Got into our first round of Sands beer (the local beer). Very refreshing. Reservations are highly recommended in the restaurants on the property and for good reason. People were waiting at basically every single restaurant for a table.

We did Starbucks every morning for breakfast. It worked. Lines were sometimes a tad long but reasonable. Be aware, menu is very different from Canada/USA Starbucks. Still lots of options but if you had your heart set on a Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast sandwich prepare yourself to be disappointed! There were several locations on property. We hit up the Marina location and the one in Coral Towers daily.

We spent the majority of the time beside the beach at the River Pool. It was connected to the Lazy River and literally a hop skip and a jump to the gorgeous sandy beaches. It was a great pool for kids as it is zero entry meaning they can just wade in. Every pool has lifejackets beside it for use during your stay which was awesome with a toddler. I felt so much better about deciding not to squeeze his puddle jumper in our overpacked suitcase.

Still waiting on that bottle of wine amenity. Hubs followed up and they assured us it was on the way.

We did food by the pool and basically ordered a bunch of stuff and shared it. Food was good, portions were huge and great for sharing. My friend and I packed a ton of snacks for the kids so they munched on granola bars, pouches, etc throughout the day too. We brought our own booze to the pool but also ordered a couple of buckets of beer. No one seemed to care either way which was nice and a great way to save a few dollars. Highly highly recommend the Corkcicle (a really unique thermos from Williams Sonoma). It holds up to two bottles of wine or other beverages and keeps them cold for 24+ hours. Even in July in Bahamas which was HOT.

Speaking of hot. That evening I noticed our room was pretty toasty. I kept turning down the A/C but it was still hot. Turns out the A/C was down in the entire Coral Tower complex. Hey, stuff happens. However, it was so hot that everyone on our floor of the hotel literally left their doors open all night long to try to get air into their rooms. It was desperate times. At the price point you’d think the hotel would work to solve the problem quicker. The lines at the front desk were extensive. Everyone pleading to be moved. We have a premature infant and he has some respiratory challenges. I expressed my concerns and was told to stick it out until 3:30pm the next day at which point they would begin relocation to other towers. It was ridiculous. Eventually the A/C was fixed and a resort credit was put on the account but it could have been handled better.

Bottle of wine is still on it’s way?

The second night we were there we did pizza take out from Marina Pizzeria which was good. Took quite a long time to get it as the lines were huge but pizza was good and the kids were thrilled. We took the kids to the aquariums after and they absolutely loved it. Later that night my friend and her two kids got trapped in an elevator in the Coral Tower. Hotel staff were slow to respond and her husband was desperately trying to stress the urgency. There seemed to be little concern that she was trapped with two very small children at 10:30 at night. It was over an hour before they were let out. Reluctantly the hotel gave a small token resort credit but it was really disappointing on all fronts to witness.

True to form, the mamas needed to let loose the next day. We decided to take down the water slides. Atlantis is known for the most incredible water park attractions and it was admittedly really fun. They call the aqua area the “Aquaventure”. Cute. We did the Serpent Slide in tandom a few times which was extra awesome because the kids could watch their moms fly through the clear tube amongst the sharks. Gave us extra street cred! We also took the kids to the Splashers water area. It is a splash pad on steroids. Lets just say EVERYONE WAS CRYING. I don’t recommend this for anyone with kids under 5. Slightly traumatic.

Hubs asked again about the wine. “Don’t worry, it’s on the way”.

We gave up.

The final night that our friends were staying we hit up the famous Carmines in the Marina Village. Staff were awesome. We waited about 45 minutes for a table but that is kind of the norm at the resort restaurants if you don’t have a reservation. If you live in the US you may have heard of a chain called Maggianos.  I would compare it to that. Portion sizes are meant to be shared. There was literally enough food for a small army. It was a bit insane. We had a great leftover stock pile for lunches the next few days.

After our friends left we had a few extra days as a family unit. I love our friends so much but I also love time just the four of us doing our thing. We hired a babysitter through the concierge for both nights that we were on our own and we ended up with the sweetest lady. She has worked at the hotel for over 20 years and has 5 kids of her own. She was great with our special boys and they were both sound asleep when we returned to our room each night.

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Hubs and I checked out NOBU at the resort. We have been several times in New York and Vegas but it was nice to check out this location. We had great service and it was a really nice night. The second date night we hit up a steakhouse called Seafire Steakhouse in the Marina Village. It was delicious and once again the service was great. Honestly, the people in Bahamas are incredible. We had such a lovely time chatting with various bartenders and servers and they were all so welcoming and friendly. Post dinner both nights we walked around the properties and just enjoyed the wonderful weather.

During the day when it was just the four of us we stumbled upon a pool that was more my style. The Coral Pool is new and while it doesn’t have direct beach access it does have a swim up bar, a more sophisticated vibe and a great poolside menu. The River Pool had a good location but I must say that it seemed a bit run down. There were large cracks in the walls and the facilities seemed like they needed a refresh (even a coat of paint would help). The Coral Pool could have used a coat of paint on the stone deck but otherwise seemed more modern and more suited to the reputation of a luxury hotel. One issue they had was they seemed to out of towels all day both days. I consistently went to the towel hut and they kept apologizing. I just don’t understand  how a towel hut is out of towels all day. Seemed a bit crazy and an easy fix? IMG_7697

Hubs, the kids and I did a lot of exploring during the afternoon. We walked all over the property. I fell in love with The Cove, another tower meant for a more adult crowd. I definitely want to stay there sometime. Much more glamorous vibe. Really beautifully designed. We also checked out the Dolphin Cay where they do various interactive experiences with Dolphins. Our boys are too young for the price point but if we were to come back when they are older I’d love to take them. Looked amazing.

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Overall, Atlantis is a magical place. It is a huge property with something for everyone. You need to know what you are getting into. We asked one staff member how many people work there and he said thousands It is a big big big operation. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it complicates things that should be simple. Was it the standard you would expect? I would probably say no. I think many of the facilities needs serious money put into them to get them up to what the expectations are at the price point you are paying. I think that more could be done to make it guest friendly. It was not very accessible with strollers so we spent a lot of time looking for various wheelchair elevators (several of which were out of service) and did a lot of carrying strollers down flights of stairs. It wasn’t ideal but you needed strollers with little ones. It does have a  lot going for it. The aquariums are so unique and impressive. The kids loved seeing animals at every corner (turtles in pools, sharks under bridges and stingrays!). If you are staying there as a platinum or gold Marriott member don’t expect any special treatment. It is not acknowledged at all. All this being said, we had a great little break and I was glad to check it out again as an adult with my own children.

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