Travel with a Toddler

This blog is a follow up to Flying with a Toddler.  Hopefully there will be a few tips in here that you’ll find useful…

1. Car seat.  You can check the car seat in (usually for free, check with the airline) so you don’t have to rent one the other end.  I’ve rented before and I found the car seat to be quite unsafe and so I’m much happier lugging mine around.

2. I pack my car seat in a couple of large bin bags and duct tape them secure because I don’t have a fancy travel seat bag, it does the job.  It also allows you to pack a few things in the seat – like a couple of sleeves of nappies!  Sneaky Sneaky.

3. Car.  If you’re a fan of having your own wheels while abroad then make sure you book a 4-door.  I’ve been caught with a 2-door before and was luckily upgraded at no extra cost, but I don’t want to be in that situ again.  So check your booking.

4. When you’re booking your flights, pay the extra for pre booked seats (if the airline requires you pay, like easy jet).  Its worth it.  You don’t want to be rushing to sit on the plane for any longer than you need to with a toddler jumping up and down on your lap.

5. You get priority boarding anyway which I turn down, again, I don’t want to sit on the plane any longer than absolutely necessary. 

6. Pre-game.  Let your toddler run around before you get on the flight and change their nappy just before you board.  Save any food / milk / water for the flight, anything to shut them up.

7. The child gets a carry on.  Whether this is a baby bag or a Thomas the Tank Engine rucksack filled with toys.. make sure you load up on activities.  And you can still carry on your handbag / travel bag, all for free.

8. Suitcase.  The last few trips I’ve done, I’ve taken a suitcase with me, whether its free or not, its so much easier checking all your stuff in rather than dealing with it on the plane as well as all the inflight entertainment for the child.

9. Buggy.  I usually take the buggy to the gate because its easier to negotiate the airport quickly, however I learnt from my friends who I travelled to Portugal with that you can let them run around to knacker them out, and just pop them on Dads shoulders when they get tired.  So I checked in the buggy at the gate and let Ethan run riot – needless to say he was much better behaved on the plane.

10. New toys.  Buy them a new toy and bust it out on the plane, but don’t reveal your hand to early, keep it for when you’re about to reach for the vino, (which is impossible to drink with an active toddler on your lap).

I hope some of the parents out there find this useful!  Feel free to comment your helpful tips, the more the merrier! 

Sleep Training

IMG_6705 - Version 2I thought I’d write about the sleep training I did with baby Ethan as people ask me how he sleeps 12 hours a night and two hours in the day, (I’m aware that ALL babies are different and some need more sleep than others – I have a friend who’s baby only sleeps for two 30mins naps a day).  As a new mum and one of the first of my friends to have a baby, I was screwed, I had no idea what I was doing and how to add any form of structure to this little being’s life.

Ethan had colic (or so we think – he cried every afternoon / evening for four months), and the only way we could shut him up and/or get him to sleep was by us holding him and bouncing on a Swiss ball.  This, of course, built a lovely little rod for our backs as he would only go to sleep while being rocked, which as you can imagine, was soooo fun. 

Also by eight months we still hadn’t managed to drop the 4am wake up for a bottle, it was like clockwork and it was horrible.  He had slept through a couple of times between six – eight months so I knew he was capable.  We also clocked on (slow I know) that he’d received all the milk / food he needed in the day and so the night feed was a habit, which we then had to break.

We tried a few different methods, the soothing with the ‘shhh-ing’, the sound machine, lights, and even the let him cry it out which was horrible.  My mum mentioned a programme was on called Bedtime Live which we proceeded to watch, actually I recorded the series in case I needed a revisor.  They focussed on three different families per week who all had issues getting their children to bed and sleeping through the night, from babies through to older kids.  So I watched the series and then when I was ready and felt mentally up for it, I did it.

They used the slow or gradual retreat method on a baby and so I went for that method. Its about having a set bedtime routine and then eventually the baby will go to sleep in their cot on their own.  Here it goes:

1. Wind them down whether it be a story or bedtime tv about 30mins before you put them down.  We start at 6:30pm with a bath, 7pm milk and baby bedtime tv, 7:30pm in cot. Every night.

2. Put them in cot and if they cry place hand on chest until they stop, avoiding eye contact.  Then remove hand, when cry again, put hand back on chest – keep repeating, the settle time between each cry should get longer and longer over time.  The first night you might have to keep your hand on them until they’re asleep!  Or possibly sleep on the floor.

3. Gradually you will be able to step away a bit further each time, and going back and putting your hand on their chest to settle when they cry.

4. Over the nights you will be able to get closer and closer to the door and eventually outside the bedroom door, and pulling it to.  But each time they cry head back in to settle.  If you’ve made it to outside the door, they cry to test that you’re still there, and show them that you are by putting your head round the door, but no eye contact. 

5. When I got to outside the door phase and Ethan was still awake I would sniff or clear my throat so he could hear that I was still there without seeing me.  This took about four nights to accomplish.

6. I used this method for two weeks really sticking to it and not giving in to picking him up, sound machines etc and just settling with a hand on the chest.  By the end of the two weeks, I could put him in his cot, kiss him goodnight and walk out and leave him.  I wouldn’t hear a peep, he would be asleep within 20mins, on his own with no crying. Hallelujah!

7. Tackling the 4am wake up call.  I used the same method of hand on the the chest and settling his cry.  If it was going on for longer than I wanted I would offer water instead of milk.  But again, by sticking to method and not giving into milk or picking up, after the two weeks he didn’t wake up and would sleep through.

8. The waking up at 6am.  This was tackled a few weeks later, but every morning we would leave him a little bit longer, like 10mins a morning until we would get him up.  We left soft toys in his cot to play with as well.  So over the week we went from a 6am wake up to a 7am wake up.

9. Sticking to it is key.  When they have a bad night assess what the issue is.  If its teeth then medicate accordingly, if its nightmares, hand on chest and sooth them.  But the next night, get back to the routine so they know its not changing because they will test the boundaries. 

10. Now Ethan goes to sleep on his own, we put him down at 7:30pm and he wakes up between 7am – 7:30am.  He goes down in the day for two hours and easily because of the sleep training.

So after eight months of struggling to get him to sleep and broken nights, we saw the light and did the sleep training and its the best thing I’ve done.  We get our evenings and eight hours of sleep.  Sleep makes for a happy household.

Spanner in the works – We’re moving Ethan into a bed in the new year and so the sleep training is going to start all over again when he realises he can get out of bed himself and come into our room at any time.  The Bedtime Live programme covered this so I was sure to take notes.  I’ll report back when I’m in the thick of it…


SONY DSCSo I thought I’d write up a little surf trip summary.  We only headed out to Portugal for a week this time and we took our friends with us who have a little girl (nine months older than Ethan).  We rented a three bedroom house with a view of three different breaks which was awesome as we didn’t even need to leave our pad to surf check, major bonus when the rain was hammering down sideways.  The weather sucked most of the time, a bit of rain and a lot of wind (between 15 – 30mph) as its quite late in the year, but there was plenty of swell around so we were happy.  Actually some days, the swell was too big so we had to find sheltered breaks where the swell had to wrap around a point or headland… so we did just fine.

It was great having friends with us because we had buddies to surf with.  Usually, Jon and I take it in turns while the other one looks after Ethan, and sometimes its cool to surf alone but when its busy and everyones hassling, I like to have a wingman with me.  Also they’re long boarders and no one gets in the way of a long boarder… their board is bigger and hurts when it hits you, (they also must have caught about a million waves in the eight days we were there).  Also, Ethan had a buddy to play with and they kept each other amused most of the time which was great.  They played on the beach, in the house, in the cars, watched cartoons, ate meals together… they had loads of fun 🙂

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we went to Nazare and saw Garrett McNamara and team tow-in surfing which was crazy!  I have no idea what size the waves were but Magic Sea Weed was reading 18-28ft with only 4mph winds… whatever size they actually were, they were friggin huge.  Major surf trip highlight.

The food and drink was great, we cooked up lasagnas, chillies, seafood dishes, all washed down with Portugal’s finest beer, Sagres, and local Port.  Delishhhh.  We ate once the kiddies were in bed so we could eat, drink and be merry in peace.  We even had date nights!


The surf was good.  We were really lucky and had some really great waves.  Jon and I had one surf out in the middle of the bay – no idea what the break’s called but its always bigger there than the other ends of the beach.  You surf check it from up on the dunes so it always looks smaller than it actually is.  It looked clean and plenty of a-frames so we paddled out.  I’ve had many different experiences here because its so open, the rips are all over the place, the impact zones are horrible and the waves are powerful (well, I think so).  This time we paddled out and there was only one other guy out.  I got a couple of lush rights, nice, chunky and powerful and way over my head on the bottom turn, epic rides.  On my third wave I cocked it up and ended up straightening out so I got stuck in the lovely impact zone which seemed as wide as a football field.  After a few waves on the head, I duck dived another one, the board hit me in the face (got a nice shiner on my cheek), bent me in half backwards then my board got ripped from my hands, I had no idea which way was up.  I opened my eyes to see which way was lightest shade of green and started swimming.  I was done after even more waves on the head, and aimed my board towards the beach and clung onto it as a wall of white water hit me.  Gotta love a good beating!!  Its the oceans way of telling you not to f**k up and also to let you know she’s still boss.

Overall it was a great trip, filled with loads of food, drink, laughter, surf and sleep, we all wish we had gone for longer.  Roll on next year Portugal!