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Toddler Travels – Part II – Long Haul Travel; Jet Lag and Navigating a New City

So, we survived the long-haul night flight. Now it was time to hit the ground running and accept the fact that we have shot forward in time 7 hours. Try telling that to a toddler. Our flight left Denver at 7 pm. Our daughter was asleep on the airplane by about 10.30 pm Denver time, and then we landed at 11 am London time, which was only 4 am Denver time. That means she only had about 5.5 hours of sleep for the night. Totally not enough. We tried to have her nap that day in London at roughly the same time we always do, but it was under the local time, so we were technically 7 hours behind schedule. This isn’t sounding good…

Now, in my mind, when you get to your destination oversees you must accept the local time as fact. Do not keep doing the math or you will never acclimate. You need to be awake during the day and asleep at night, period. For a toddler, that thinking does not work. Their body is so much more hardwired, and they don’t have a rational part of their brain that helps them talk themselves into things, like time travel.

Nap time on day one went smashingly well because she was exhausted but that night, around 2 am local time, she woke up crying saying she wanted to watch movies and that she wasn’t tired. Then she started saying that she wanted to go home, and she missed our dogs. It was brutal. It was about 4 hours of movies and crying before she finally passed out.

The next day we had a 2 pm flight from London to Rome. On the way to Heathrow airport our worst nightmare happened; she got car sick and threw up ALL over herself and the car seat. It was only a 20-minute ride but that was enough to push her tired body over the edge. I had mentioned in the earlier post about using child safe Dramamine on the plane. I wished I would have used it on this fateful day. Once we arrived to the airport, I took an entire package of wipes from the diaper bag and proceeded to scoop puke out of the car seat, scrubbing the seat as best I could, all the while apologizing profusely to our driver. I gave her and myself a “wipe bath”, changed her clothes, and then off we went. I still wonder if that car seat was left at the passenger drop off by the trash cans.

The most important travel tip I have is to ALWAYS have a full pack of wipes and a change of clothing for both mom, dad, and any kiddos in tow. Standing in line for the ticket counter, I told my husband that we smelled like puke. I found the smelly culprit in my hair and on the collar of my jacket once we found our seats on the airplane. My daughter had it in the folds of her neck. Rookie move, I should know better that smells hide in neck folds. We were a mess, and we were exhausted. Thankfully, after we pumped up her trusty sleeping cushion (see part I), she slept almost the entire 2.5-hour flight. We had wine.

Another large hurdle we had to consider when planning the trip was; how do we get from point A to point B without dragging a car seat with us? Many blogs I read talked about bringing a car seat across the ocean only to have the majority of cab drivers refuse to use them. They also had issues with getting the seat secure, so they had to jury-rig them which is just about as safe as holding the child in a death grip on your lap. Some cabs don’t even have seat-belts. I was not about to add another large and cumbersome item to our carry list if we would not be able to use it. I scoured the internet for collapsible seats, booster seats, strollers that convert to car seats for toddlers. Nothing. Infants are much easier to travel with because of the car seats that attach to stroller bases. There is a market out there for a toddler version of this if an entrepreneur with deep pockets is reading.

Rules in Europe are a bit looser than in the US. In my opinion, it’s each parent’s right to decide what is best for their family. For us, we wanted to be as safe as possible, whenever possible, so we arranged transport services with car seats for most of our trip. We had one instance where we had to take a cab about 20 miles round trip, and we hung on to her for dear life in our laps and asked the driver to be extra cautious. He was a grandfather and was very sweet and careful. We could never forgive ourselves if anything happened to her, so we only risked it one time when the options were very limited.

These are two car services that were extremely easy to book and had wonderful email correspondence, follow up and follow through. Family Transfers in London didn’t even charge us for the puke! I thought for sure we would get a cleaning fee. Further evidence that the seat was likely left beside a trash can at passenger drop off. If you’re taking a cruise, Rome Cabs has a wonderful shuttle with car seats that takes you directly to the ship port and they pick you up upon your return to port. Completely worth the money spent.

Once we arrived in Rome, after a very full day and no sleep the night before, we had a lovely transport from the airport, an amazing Italian meal, and a successful slumber. In our no-sleep-the-night-before-zombie-haze, this is when we left our shoulder bag in baggage claim which was full of diapers and toys (honorable mentioned in Part I). Thankfully, on our return trip, we were able to track down the bag. Had we never lost the bag, my husband wouldn’t have the fond memory of trying to navigate self-checkout in Italian when we ran out of diapers and wipes. Nor would I have the fond memory of navigating the lost and found in the belly of a warehouse outside the Rome Airport. It’s all part of the journey!

When we returned home, I googled what to do for toddler jet lag and found that there isn’t much you can do to prevent what happened. Maybe we should have skipped the nap or at least made it a much shorter one. Once we can travel again, we’ll try it a little differently and see what happens. I will certainly pass along any tips!

Thanks again for reading!


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