(And how we overcame them)
We had the BEST holiday to Mexico, and in hindsight it was perfect timing. We landed back the day before Boris told everyone to stay home. A week later schools were closed and all non-essential travel cancelled. We feel incredibly lucky to have avoided all the initial craziness, and to have enjoyed a holiday when so many others were missing out!But any holiday with two small children can cause difficulties, and we faced some challenges we hadn’t considered. James (9 months) had started to crawl the week before we left – not so perfect timing- and Jess had just turned four, so thinks she’s now a ‘big girl’ but hasn’t even started school yet. We had heard a lot about TUI Sensatori being really child friendly, so stayed at their Mexican offering: the Azul Beach Resort. It definitely was child-friendly, but could certainly do more. Full review here.Anyway, this post is about the challenges, so here’s what they are, and what you can do.
10 hours on a flight. Aaaaagggghhhh. The first problem was that our flight out was actually over 11 hours; after pushing back from the gate we lost our slot. So had to sit for an hour in our seats (seatbelt signs on). Unfortunately (or stupidly) we’d put the bag of snacks in the overhead lockers, thinking we’d get them in the air. James cried and Jessica whinged every minute of that first hour. It wasn’t a great start.
Things did thankfully improve though. We were flying on a TUI Dreamliner, the seats were comfortable and we absolutely loved the coloured lighting. We all survived, and despite the initial crying, our neighbours commented how amazing the kids were. Jess watched the inflight entertainment or played the games pretty much the whole way there, and James mixed sleeping with eating. Here are the key things to consider;
- The food and drink situation for yourself. Having James on my knee meant that I couldn’t get the tray table down when the meal arrived. One time I was standing anyway with the carrier, so just had it when I sat down. Well actually with a sleeping James in my arms hubby fed it to me! Otherwise the stewards were happy to keep it warm, and brought it over when hubby had finished his and could hold James. Make sure you have a rubbish bag to help keep things tidy. Obviously Jess wanted the table up as soon as she’d finished, so hubby had three food trays plus drinks stacked up.
- The children’s meals might not be what they want! On a TUI flight you get ONE proper meal and then a snacky meal. The main pasta meal was fine, but the sandwiches were cheese and onion, so we had to revert to our own snacks. And infants don’t get food provided. Also remember if like us your flight is delayed, you may need more than the allotted time.
- Make sure you have enough food and drink for airport arrivals. We queued for an HOUR waiting to get through immigration. Luckily we had the carrier for James but Jess was wrecked and hungry. A packet of sweets helped see her through.
- Take a baby carrier. I’ve written about the benefits of this previously here. But it frees up hands to carry luggage (or hold another child’s hand), it’s great if you have to queue, it keeps babies contained, easier getting on and off a plane with steps, and for us, gets him to sleep faster.
Luckily, none of us really experienced Jet Lag on the flight there; the first night we had a few wake-ups but on the whole it went well. The way back was a killer though… leaving 4pm Mexico time and arriving the next morning at 6am with only a few hours sleep. Don’t make any plans for that day! We arrived on a Sunday so had the rest of the day to recover before work on Monday. We slept until lunchtime and then stayed up until normal bedtime. It definitely took the children a few days to readjust, and they were sleeping in past nine for the following few days (absolutely not a problem for me ha).
Lack of baby-proofed rooms
Yikes, we really hadn’t thought about this. Jess was never a big ‘explorer’ as a baby… but James is. Big time. And with the new excitement of crawling and pulling himself up to stand you needed eyes on him at all times. The room was all tiled and sharp corners, there wasn’t many places we could put him. It also had some low level lighting which he was obviously fascinated by (and we were unaware to their existence until he pulled out the lightbulb and wires!!!!! Luckily off at the time). So if they have a travel cot, make sure you take enough toys to put him in there and let him entertain himself whilst you get dressed. Our balcony was also one of the best places to put him down for us; nothing sharp for him and no gaps to fall out of!
Being outdoors with a baby
Unless you’re sitting by a splash park, it’s really difficult to put babies and toddlers down where they aren’t going to eat sand or crawl into a swimming pool. We took a sun shade, similar to this one; Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter with UV Guard – Blue/White (affiliate link). It was great to have somewhere to put him where he was sheltered and could play without me having to balance him on a sun bed. And being the sun worshipper that I am, meant that I could still sit outside of the tent in the sunshine! Jess loved it too, when she wasn’t in the pool, she enjoyed making it her shop.
Packing for four
We had a lovely big luggage allowance from TUI, but that doesn’t help with the logistics of getting all the cases-and two children- in and out the airport! Transporting the luggage is one of the key things to think about (as well as getting it all-and you- in the car to the airport)! Some suggestions;
- Nappies. These were the biggest space stealer! Unfortunately they were pretty pricey to buy them from the resort shop, so they were essential! Only take what’s necessary. It might be easier to take them out the bag and spread them… but remember they’re packed nice and tight in the packaging so it might be best to leave them in there!
- Baby milk. Because we were fine on weight and James has dropped the number of feeds, we were able to fit his milk quite easily into the checked luggage. But if you have a younger baby and you aren’t breastfeeding, you might want to consider pre-ordering from the departure lounge. Just remember to take a bag to carry them easily in! More on this previous post.
- Buggy issues. You can keep a buggy with you until you board a flight, but remember you don’t always get them immediately when you disembark, and it might be a long walk to the terminal/ baggage hall to get them. As well as a long wait through immigration. Think about how much hand luggage you have, and if you will have the capacity to carry a small child if needed. We borrowed one from the hotel.
- Hand luggage. Our four pieces of hand luggage were as follows; Me- I had the change bag. As well as the usual nappies, wipes and bags etc, I took PJs, a blanket for James and change of clothes. Hubby- our bits, electronics, and the important stuff. Passports, tickets, phones, camera, iPad, headphones, kindle (yes that was ridiculously optimistic). Jess- her own ‘holiday bag’ of toys and games for her holiday and flight. I mean she did think bringing her Elsa shoes was essential, but otherwise she chose a good selection of stuff. I also brought along some new sticker and activity books. She actually played very little with all this on the flight, preferring the entertainment. James’s piece was the food and drink bag. As described before lots of snacks and an extra meal for children. Pouches and snacks for James.
Sharing one room
We had two double beds and a cot in our room. The balcony meant we could sit outside once they’d fallen asleep. We made sure we slept in the middle so they couldn’t see each other as they fell asleep. In the mornings when James woke up at the crack of dawn, I’d take him to play out on the balcony to leave Jess to sleep a little longer. Make sure to use the blackout curtains.
Staying awake for evening entertainment
On holiday we make a deal with Jess, she’s only allowed to stay up late if she has an afternoon nap. Clearly the thought of that is so exciting she agrees. Although some afternoons I’d take the two children back to the room for a nap (so I could wash my hair), we tried to get Jess to nap outside. One day at a theme park, she napped in James’s buggy whilst he was in the carrier. Other days we used a Bali bed. It was a good piece of time for us to relax, have a drink and enjoy the sunshine.
I think that’s all the main ones! I’d love to know any more advice or suggestions that you might have!