My husband and I recently went on a cruise with our toddler, who just turned two. We had taken her on a cruise before, but when she was younger and pretty much just hung out with us and didn’t really have an opinion on anything. Husband and I looked at each other and declared that vacationing with little ones was not so bad, we scoffed at our friends with older children who told us how hard it could be.
Ha! Not us!
Yeah, well, turns out they were right!
Vacation with a two year old is pretty much just like being at home with a two year old, just with better scenery.
I didn’t know why I thought a cruise and the beautiful beaches of Bermuda would transform my moody two year old into a compliant little darling, after all, it always worked for me!
I have to say that Miss Lex DID enjoy the cruise and the beaches, but for mommy and daddy it was a very different cruise/vacation than we had ever been on.
So, for fellow travelers with toddlers this summer, here’s some things we learned:
1. Always bring more diapers than you think you need. And then bring some more.
Miss Lex had a bout of constipation the first few days so husband and I decided to give her some diluted prune juice. Holy cow is that stuff powerful! Within twenty-four hours we had a happily pooping princess…every hour. A new diaper every hour for three days left us, on the second to last day, with one diaper left. On a boat. In the middle of the Atlantic. We decided to save this last diaper for that night, our last night and used swim diapers for the rest of that day and the next. Now swim diapers will hold a bowel movement, but usually don’t hold urine, they are not made for that. So, we just watched her carefully, didn’t put her on any expensive furniture and spent a lot of time in the pool.
2. Give up the idea of gourmet meals-chicken nuggets and hot dogs are the new Beef Wellington.
Unless you bring a grandparent or nanny with you, you will be eating every meal with your little one. And unless your toddler is a gourmand, you know how picky toddlers can be when it comes to food. It doesn’t matter that there are restaurants serving 5 course meals with some of your favorite, can’t make at home, gourmet dinners. It doesn’t matter that the service staff is lovely and its wonderful to sit there over a leisurely dinner watching the Atlantic roll by. Here’s what matters: do they serve dinner as early as 5:00 and do they have chicken nuggets, hot dogs or peanut butter and jelly on the menu? Some other matters to consider: will there be other diners around you who might be a bit off put by a small wee one singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at the top of her lungs while she swings her spoon full of mashed potatoes all over? Will the wait staff understand if, once your dinner comes, you ask to have it all wrapped up because a certain someone needs a new diaper (see #1 above) or is just so done with sitting in the high chair? Do they even have high chairs?
3. The vacation is pretty much home in a new place, schedule wise.
Miss Lexi still takes a substantial afternoon nap without which we get Miss Cranky Pants. Her nap is usually between 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Which means any plans we had made had to revolve around that. Want to go to the beach? Ok, make sure you can get there with enough time to swim, build sand castles and relax and still get back to your boat or hotel in time for a lunch (see #2 above), a post beach bath and nap. Ditto for the afternoon/evening. Whatever your and your partner plan will have to revolve around an early bed time. Night life? Concert in the swanky cocktail bar? Hilarious Second City comedy show? Not if it’s after 8:00 p.m. and isn’t child friendly! Husband and I took turns having our nights out while the other one stayed in the cabin with the sleeping toddler. Vacation with a toddler is really all about the toddler, not you and your partner relaxing, spending time together, seeing the sights and sleeping late.
4. Bring toys….as in a whole suitcase of them.
Yeah, you read that right. We actually brought an entire (small) suitcase of just toys. After all, your hotel room/cabin is not going to have them. Toddlers often need some “down time” to just play, like at home. We’d spread the toys around the cabin and let her play. Her favorite game? Lining up her plastic zoo animals on the balcony and then knocking them down (well, she also really enjoyed throwing Cheerios overboard while saying “come and get it, fishies”, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue). My husband and I used to travel light, one suitcase a piece. Now we had a suitcase of toys, a suitcase of baby toiletries (diapers, shampoo, bath soap, wipes….) and a suitcase of baby clothes. Who knew traveling with such a small one would require an entourage of luggage! And if you are traveling out of the country, keep some toys on hand in the stroller or diaper bag in case of long waits at Customs….which there will inevitably be.
5. A snorkeling catamaran boat tour is not exactly toddler friendly. Nor is leisurely shopping at cute little boutiques.
Just like your meals and schedule, your vacation adventures will have to be of the kid friendly variety. My husband and I enjoy snorkeling, tourist shopping and touring historic sites. My daughter enjoys running around, swimming and playing in warm, shallow water, zoos, playgrounds and throwing things off balconies (see #4 above). Guess whose adventure choices won out? I can tell you that Bermuda has a very nice, very fun zoo and aquarium for children. I can’t tell you how beautiful the Crystal Caves are because as we descended down into them, with Miss Lex in a carrier on my back, she let out this blood curdling scream and started crying, “no like the dark, NO LIKE THE DARK.” To avoid the pitying stares of my fellow tourists and tour guide, husband and I just skedaddled right back on up and out of the cave, without seeing anything but the dreaded dark. After paying for the tour. Which was non -refundable.
6. Even with all of the above, watching your toddler discover new places is still the best fun out there.
As difficult as some parts of the travel were, I wouldn’t change a thing about my daughter. Sure, sleeping till noon, lounging by the pool and eating dinner at 9 p.m. were things my husband and I enjoyed before, but that seems so empty now compared to enjoying life with Miss Lex. She is the light of our lives and while going to Bermuda with a two year old is much different than we thought, it was still better than going alone. We did learn, though, that our vacation ideas might have to be revised, at least until Miss Lex is older.
When my parents picked us up at the terminal, we said two things to them:
“Next time, a Disney cruise since it’s catered to children”
“Next time, you guys want to come with us for free babysitting?”
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by JerseyFresh, aka Annie, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Book A Cruis Ship.