Traveling (on a Plane!) with a 6 month old
Last year we were lucky enough to go on two warm weather vacations. I wanted to fully take advantage of the 1 year mat leave us Lucky Canadians are entitled to. Thomas was just over 6 months old for the first one & 10 for the second, but that's a post for another day.
Deciding where to go
My husband doesn’t want a lot of input on vacation planning, he's more concerned about cost (not that I blame him). I on the other hand love to plan vacations and if I thought could make decent money doing it I'd be a travel agent for sure! For now, I'll have to settle for planning my own, and sometimes my friends vacations too.
I wanted to go somewhere we'd never been, somewhere warm and somewhere we could kite. Many of the best kiting spots in the world are in desert type places (Northern Peru, Coche in Venezuela, Baja of Mexico....) and in my experience if you're going to get sick traveling, it’s going to be somewhere the water isn't clean. It’s hard to keep water clean when its scarce… so I ruled out desert locations. My husband and I got more sick in Northern Peru than I had since I was backpacking India in my 20s - I didn't want to go through that with a baby. But, I also wanted to go somewhere beautiful and avoid tourists for at least part of the time.
Eventually we settled on St. Lucia. From what I understand the best way to kite the Caribbean islands is from a boat, and when we win the lottery (and Thomas is a good swimmer) we'll do that for sure. For now, we're stuck to land. St. Lucia is a beautiful and hilly Island in the Caribbean. Like many of the other Caribbean islands, St. Lucia gets lots of cruise ship traffic. The most scenic part of the Island is the West side, that's also where most of the tourists hang out. The kiting is on the other side, where its flat and where a lot of locals live. This side is also WAY cheaper.. we had a good time on both parts of the Island.
St. Lucia is far from Victoria and it has about a 4 hour time change. Rather than flying for 12 hours straight (plus connections) I opted to spend the night in Toronto. This meant two 6 hours flights on the way there, and the same for the way back. It also gave us an opportunity to visit relatives for dinner near the Toronto airport. Thomas was a champ at dinner, even after the long flight. Like any new parent, I was nervous about the long flight. I had heard and read all the typical advice: “make sure you nurse them on take-off and landing (for their ears)”, “don’t worry he’ll sleep the whole way”, “bring toys” (for a 6 month old?!). Thomas was (and still is) a terrible napper. But, lucky for us he does nurse himself to sleep and it’s a “habit” I’ve never discouraged. So, we managed to get a hour or two of nap time on each flight. Other ways we killed time included: changing diapers, walking up and down the aisle, peekaboo with neighbours and carefully rationed mum mums. A full airplane sized Pringles container was also a big hit.
On the flight down we sat next to woman from St. Lucia who adored Thomas. She has awesome braids in her hair and lots of colourful jewelry. Thomas adored her too and she let him play with her accessories... I’m sure she helped kill another 2 hours for us!
Tips for flying with a 6.5 month old.
- Bring mum mums (and lots of them)
- Limit the toys, Thomas’ favorite toy for the entire trip was a water bottle, he didn’t have a brand preference.
- Don’t bother with a book or any entertainment for yourself, you won’t have time and its more stuff to carry
- You’re allowed to carry formula (even pre-made) on to the plane
- Baby food is also okay to carry on!
- Bring a pillow to make nursing & baby sleeping more comfortable (skip the toys, bring a pillow!)
Flying with a baby isn’t as relaxing as traveling used to be, but I think most of us knew that’s what we were signing up for when we became parents! It’s not that bad though, and the time goes by quickly. The second flight was a harder not because of Thomas, but just because we were tired of traveling and had a poor night’s sleep in a very mediocre airport hotel. Maybe that's my last tip, book a decent hotel for your layover.
Driving on St. Lucia
I had arranged a car from a local rental company (to save money). It was this little SUV thing with questionable tires (I can’t believe we didn’t get a flat). The company was a little difficult to deal with, but the price was good so we went with it. If I was to rent from them again, I’d ask for newer tires…
We brought our own car seat with us, and would recommend doing so. You’re allowed to bring it on the plane for free and although I know technically car seats which have flown are considered “damaged” I still think it’s better than some random seat that you don’t know where it’s been and you’ve paid way too much for.
Driving on St. Lucia is insane. It really is. It’s a different insane than somewhere like Vietnam where there is TONS of traffic.... it’s more like you see a car every 30 seconds to a few minutes but they are driving so fast you can't even tell what side of the road their on.To make it worse, the roads are so narrow sometimes there is only one side! The roads are so crazy windy and hilly that many of these cars just miss the turns all together, there are a lot of rusty cars sitting on the side of the road in St. Lucia. I think a scrap metal company picks them up every few months. Fortunately my husband is good at driving in ridiculous places, and seems to of enjoy it (even though he says he doesn’t). We did get tired of driving the windy road though, so only took those routes a few times!
deciding where to stay
We split our vacation into two parts, one week on the touristy side, and one week on the much less popular (and windy) side. I wanted a kitchen in both locations to make food for Thomas and of course save money. The first week we stayed in Marigot bay, which is popular amongst private yachts and caters to them. Its also super beautiful and had a nice (yet very small) beach for swimming! Here is a photo of Marigot bay we took at dinner one night.
This is where I made my first big mistake...
Somehow I missed that you had to TAKE A FERRY to get to the hotel, and didn't learn this until we arrived at like 8pm (with a baby). Fortunately I have a super mellow and understanding husband and we figured it out - where to park the car, and how to deal with our insane amount of luggage & kiting gear. Turns out the ferry was only 5 minutes and the regular ferry guy was super cool and became friends with Thomas over the week. This Picture is Thomas on our first ferry ride, surrounded by our gear!
Sadly the hotel we chose was mediocre. The kitchen was barely useable, the restaurant was insanely expensive (and of course the only place with wireless internet). But, we managed and the location couldn't have been better for us (except the ferry bit).
For the second part of the trip I booked a small family run guest house and we had our own large apartment that had two rooms. Great for adults who want to stay up after their baby has gone to bed :) The guest house had a very nice restaurant with reasonable prices open for dinner and breakfast. They also had a well kept swimming pool so Thomas was happy. Here is a picture of the Fox Grove Inn pool...
I’m a new mom, and will likely always feel that way. When Thomas was only 6.5 months old he almost never got anything pre-packaged. How could I feed my baby packaged food? The horror! The only packaged food he ever got was all organic and only what I considered to be the healthiest choices. I planned on continuing this throughout our trip, so I packed the baby bullet to make my own baby food. Keep in mind that we are kite surfers and we already have a LOT of luggage even before baby gear. What was I thinking?! St. Lucia has a different socket system than we do in Canada, I also brought an adapter. The first time I tried to use it (with our baby monitor) It blew up. Seriously, smoke and all. I killed the monitor’s power system (but fortunately it still works on batteries, which is key for our camper). I never even tried the baby bullet, if I couldn’t power a monitor I knew I was out of luck with our mini green blender.
But – still determined to make my own baby food I bought a ton of yams and tried to boil them and mash them in a kitchen with only a cheap hotplate, one pot and two cheap & bendy forks. By day 3 Thomas was eating local baby food and whatever we could order for him that was suitable – fish, eggs etc. I felt like a failure for most of the trip, but now I think is pretty funny.
Tips for feeding a 7 month old on Vacation
- Get something like a Tot Seat, they work great for this age and take up almost no room
- bring a little bit of food from home if you can, just to get through the first few days
- try and be flexible, and order food for yourself that easy to share with your baby
- If you are traveling in a hot country be sure to give your baby way more water than normal, this is really important... your breast milk will not adjust that quickly!
I think we got really lucky on St. Lucia, we had a week of kiting planned and we got wind for about 6 days... the best part about kiting on St. Lucia was the awesome & cheap local restaurant right at the spot. Its popular amongst kiters, locals and some tourists (with local knowledge) stop by before their flights home. Thomas loved the fish fingers (home made) and we loved the curry... and maybe the Pina Coladas too! Kiting was okay, decent wind, choppy water. Standard stuff. Here are Neil and Thomas after Lunch.
There is one all inclusive resort within walking distance to the kite spot (I think about 5 minutes). There is a more advanced kiting spot just upwind of this resort with more waves - there wasn't any wind the day we drove up there, but we did find an access point for those not staying at the resort. From the few kiters we talked to staying there the resort was okay, with acceptable but not great food.
Considering we couldn't stay right at the kite spot, it was a still a good place to go. There was lots of shade and as we ate there every day, the restaurant owners didn't mind us hanging out. The restaurant there does have a handful of very basic (and cheap) rooms - but by basic I mean a hut with no attached bathroom. Not great for a baby!
I've been rambling for a while, and its taken me so long to write this post. All I can say is if you're tempted, and you want to travel with your baby, then go!! I think the easiest time to go away is just before 6 months. They are old enough to engage people & play but not yet on solid foods. But then again, solid foods do offer a good distraction on long flights. Once kids start to walk they become way more restless and I think this trip would have been a lot harder.
The next blog, before this is way too long... is traveling with a 10 month old