A few days into the New Year I took Lolapop back to my hometown to spend some belated holidays with the family and attend our friends’ wedding. There’s nothing like a family and friend reunion and a wedding celebration to kick-off the year!
It was also the first time I had travelled solo with Lola, who is now 13 months old, almost-but-not-quite walking and a kicking, squealing energetic blur of busy-ness. I do love a challenge!
And actually, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be – despite having to take a bus and train to Schiphol Airport, followed by a flight, then two trains from Manchester to Barrow. What could have been a bit of a logistical nightmare, was pretty straightforward, with a bit of planning.
Top Travel Tips for Going Tatas with Toddlers!
– Buy a few new toys for the flights, don’t let the lal one see them beforehand and wrap them up. The unwrapping and excitement of new toys is a wicked distraction for the flight.
– Make sure you both get plenty of rest before setting off. There’s nothing worse than a mother kicking and screaming in the middle of the airport on one of those airport programmes whilst her small charge looks on, aghast.
– Bring a favourite blankie or teddy for comfort and reassurance in unfamiliar places. Your child might also benefit from this.
– Pack different types of snacks – food fights boredom and impatience (again, also works for the kids)!
– If flying, take only one suitcase with clothes for both you and baby to check-in and a nappy bag for the plane (containing purse, passport, flight details, new fiddly toys, spare change of clothes, bib, diapers, lots of different snacks and pack of wipes). The kitchen sink won’t fit in the baggage gauge and the extra charges just aren’t worth it.
– If you don’t need a car seat to travel with on the other side, take an umbrella stroller, which folds right up and can be sometimes stored in the overhead locker.
**Unless, of course, you’re travelling with EasyJet, in which case you can conveniently take it right up to the plane you are boarding, only to have to walk for 20 minutes at the other end whilst carrying a tired toddler and hand luggage to pick handy foldaway stroller up from the baggage conveyor belt.
– If you have an iphone or Android, download some apps to entertain toddlers and older kids during those “waiting moments”.
– If flying, have a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, water or diluted juice for take-off and landing to help with the pressure on little ears.
For the flight I made sure Lola was drinking from her bottle during take-off and once we were cruising at whatever altitude the pilot mumbled it was, I took out the first “present”. She loved unwrapping her new book and by the time she was finished with it, it was time for a snack and the hand puppet I had cunningly created using one of the sick bags. Tip: If possible, try to make sure the bag is unused first.
– Stickers: can be stuck to the back of plane seats, the window, the window blind, your eyelids…and then peeled off…and put back on again…and peeled off again. Kids get the hang of this pretty quickly and it can mount up to minutes of sheer bliss.
– Wrapped up presents: the paper is as fun as the toy it covers and provides something else that can be ripped to shreds and thrown to the floor, much to the delight of your fellow passengers and cabin crew.
– Finger/hand puppets – but be prepared for the awkward glances when you start taking the voices of your creations just that bit too seriously.
– Flashcards/small books. They won’t really be read, but are quite handy, colourful chew toys for teething tots.
– Wear a cheap watch and bracelets – great for babies to fiddle with and can also be used as stress relievers – simply pull and let go to redirect your source of pain.
– When all else fails and help is needed, Rescue Remedy can work wonders for child and parent and although the alcohol component in this is a harmless preservative, it tastes enough like a strong liquor to take the edge off.
I have to say that I found fellow passengers to be really understanding and helpful when they realised I was travelling alone with a toddler. People waited while I got us both ready to leave the plane, helped us get on and off trains and it definitely gave me renewed faith in society!
The train from Manchester to Lancaster was pretty spacious and, as we were travelling mid-morning, not so full. The inspector advised us to travel in the disabled section, which was empty and Lola could have a crawl about and burned off enough energy to sleep in her stroller without being disturbed, which meant I got some quiet time to read I, Partridge – back of the net!
Gateway to The Lakes, My @rse!
Unfortunately the train journey from Lancaster to Barrow wasn’t as relaxed. The
shit heap two-carriage wonder that awaited us had seen better days – back in the 80s it had seen better days.
We got on board, with Lola still in the stroller, to find that there was no room to manoeuvre into the gangway. I couldn’t turn the stroller around, nor did I have space to be able to take Lola out and collapse the thing and store it so we could sit in a seat. Plus, baggage took up all the space reserved for strollers.
Thus, we spent 60 long minutes trapped between the driver’s cabin and the exit. At each stop, the assistant opened the cabin door, tutted loudly at our presence and opened the ancient train door manually to let people in and out, waking Lola up every time and grinding on my final, frayed nerve.
I did ask how I could get out of her way, whilst also making use of the seats I had paid 35 quid for (yes, with that amount of sarcasm). Unfortunately she couldn’t come up with a solution either, which made me feel superior in a bizarrely misguided way.
I love visiting Barrow and I’ll promote the area and its people to all who will listen, but help me out a bit Transpennine “Express”..a less depressing mode of transport would offer a slightly warmer welcome to returning family members and those sought-after tourists.
Oh and do all trains going to Barrow have to stop every 3 minutes at each retirement village on the way? And, last but not least, how about changing the recorded announcement about arriving at Rrrreeusss. It’s Roose. And if you’re from the area, it’s pronounced Roooooooooose. Ta very much.
And after these small adjustments, we can just relax and gawp at stunning views like this as we make our way back home…
* A nice reminder that I live in an International Village happened at Schiphol Airport when I bumped into a girl I’d “virtually” met a couple of weeks ago on Facebook through the Amsterdam Mamas. She turns out to be a colleague of one of my best friends in Amsterdam and was also flying solo with, not one, but TWO children – hero! She blogs over at Amsterdam Mummy, so if you have time, pop by there and say hiya!