Traveling to Jamaica w/ a Toddler
It has certainly been a while since my last blog post, but a couple of weeks ago I promised a some ladies on Instagram that I would come back and give you all some new content! Because I consider myself to be a woman of my word, here I am getting ready to drop some gems on traveling with a toddler. In May of 2017, Barrett and I booked a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica but I was completely bummed when I became pregnant and could no longer make the trip. My doctor advised me not to go because of Zika virus, so we ended up in San Diego that year for vacation. Fast forward to this past Christmas, under the tree Barrett had wrapped a box with a trip confirmation to Negril, Jamaica inside. I was stoked! I felt like I could finally make up for lost time. Though I was excited, Barrett and I had a decision to make. “Are we bringing Blake?”
Whether or not we were bringing our son on our first real family vacation wasn’t even of question to me. It was a different story for Barrett. He wanted to relive the days where it was just he and I on trips with not a care in the world, but the fact of the matter is that we now have a 3rd member of our family who deserves to be included in our family plans, no matter how small. Ultimately, we decided to bring him with us. Our trip to Negril turned out to be much better than expected! Blake is such an easy baby that he pretty much just went with the flow the entire trip. I’ll start with answering the most frequently asked questions first.
How do you make the airline aware you’re traveling with a toddler when purchasing your ticket?
Because Barrett booked the trip, I knew I needed to follow up to make sure that we had all of our ducks in a row. He booked the trip on bookit.com, and although Blake’s name was on the Bookit itinerary, he did not actually have a ticket. You will need to call the airline to get a ticket. Traveling in US is free for children under 2, but that is not always the case for traveling internationally. I called American Airlines 3 days before our trip, and they didn’t have ANY information saying that Blake would be traveling with us. We got it squared away, but also had to pay $36 for his round trip ticket. Not bad, but I would have liked to have taken care of it prior to the week of our trip.
Are babies free? Do they have to sit on your lap, or are you allowed to bring a car seat?
Babies are free in the US. There is usually a small fee associated with international travel. It’s nowhere near the cost of an adult plane ticket. Yes, they have to sit on your lap, unless you purchase a seat for them. You can bring a car seat, but my advice would be to check it with the rest of your luggage. You would need to purchase another seat to have a place for your car seat on the plane. Even then, you will need to check with the airline because they may not allow it.
Which resort did you go to?
We stayed at the Royalton Negril. It was amazing, to say the least. The staff was super accommodating and helped us every step of the way. Blake spiked a 104 fever the day we arrive and a staff member called our room every day we were there to see how he was doing. It’s kid friendly, and we didn’t have any issues finding food that Blake would eat. They had a kids club for children aged 4-12, and a kiddie pool that Blake LOVED. The only negative thing we experienced was having to sit through a time share presentation that took up 2 ½ hours of our time. Not ideal for a 1 year old, and if you already know that you don’t want to buy it, it’s not worth sitting through just for a gift basket. I still haven’t eaten our Jamaican rum cake.
Was hard getting through the airport with a stroller and luggage?
No, it wasn’t because we checked all of our luggage. Barrett and I both carried backpacks. We purchased the Baby Jogger City Tour stroller for the trip because we wanted something that we could fold and pop open with one hand. It was perfect for travel. We were able to push the stroller all the way to the gate. Once we got there, they put a luggage tag on it and put it on the bottom of the plane. Once we landed, they gave it right back to us. We were able to use it during our layover, so it was a lifesaver not having to carry Blake the entire time.
Did having snacks on the plane work/keep Blake happy?
Yes! I carried more snacks than toys and added games to my iPad for additional entertainment. You have to think about the fact that you could be in midair during your child’s feeding times. We arrived at the airport at 5:30 AM, so it was time for breakfast as we were getting ready to board the plane. I packed instant oatmeal and grabbed hot water from a coffee shop. I also had a banana. Voila! Oatmeal and bananas for breakfast! You have to get a little creative, but it works. Also, don’t forget snacks for yourself! Traveling with a toddler is hard enough. The last thing you want to be is hungry while trying to tame a restless toddler. When Blake got antsy on the plane, I let him munch on goldfish and animal cookies. These aren’t usual snacks for us, but I considered them a “treat” for doing so well during travel time.
How’s the passport process for a baby/toddler?
We didn’t have any issues. I’d suggest getting your child a passport now, even if you don’t have a trip planned. It’s better to be prepared than to deal with rush fees. I got Blake’s picture done at FedEx. That was probably the most difficult part because he was super smiley, and wouldn’t sit still long enough to take the photo. It took us about 30 minutes to get it done. Also, both parents have to be present when applying for a passport regardless of whether or not you’re married, unless there are special arrangements made. Other than that, a child’s process is the same as an adult. The only difference is that you have to renew theirs every 5 years vs. 10.
How did you get Blake entertained on the plane?
I didn’t have to work very hard. Because he wasn’t feeling well on the way there, he slept the entire flight from CLT (layover city) to Jamaica. It was a little different on the way back because he wanted to play. I packed his favorite book, a couple of brand new toys, and the iPad with a couple of downloaded episodes of Word Party. I know a lot of parents try to stray away from screen time, but this worked for us in the moment. There’s also a game called Smart Shapes that allowed him to match shapes and colors that was a hit. Next time, I probably won’t pack as many toys. He had more fun shaking a half empty water bottle.
1. It’s better to over pack than to not pack enough. Barrett complained that I was packing way too much, but it turned out to be just enough. I packed extra diapers, and every form of medicine you can think of. We had Tylenol and Motrin. It would’ve been $18 if we had to buy it from the resort!
2. If you don’t co-sleep, call your hotel or resort beforehand to see if they have something for your child to sleep in. Because I didn’t know what size the resort’s crib would be, I packed a pack n’ play and full sized crib sheet. We ended up with a full sized crib that Blake slept peacefully in every night. I packed Clorox wipes to wipe the crib down before we used it.
3. Get over the fear of strangers judging you because your child is acting out. At the end of the day, babies cry and toddlers throw tantrums. It’s normal. Don’t worry about it, get past the moment and try to enjoy the rest of the trip.
All in all, it was an amazing trip. Yes, there were some stressful, even scary moments, but the memories we created were priceless. Blake won’t remember the trip, but Barrett and I will. Someday, we’ll be able to show him the pictures and tell him all about how he loved the ocean, pool, and showed his behind in the airport by throwing a tantrum and running away from us while we were trying the board the plane. It’ll give us a good laugh!