We decided to take a trip to Jamaica with the kids after discovering Southwest was flying there now (we went the first day!) and finding an all-inclusive resort that was very child-friendly. We got these little guys passports and packed our bags using our new Evatex Packing Cubes. We decided to plan our trip on our anniversary (we actually honeymooned in Jamaica) so we went the first week in July 2014. I’ve got a couple blog posts going on about our trip because it was all too much to share in one post. I wanted to cover the traveling piece in this post, especially in relation to traveling with two children.
- Passports: This is international travel if you live in the USA (or outside of Jamaica, ha). Everybody– including children- needs a passport. We went to the post office to get the kids’ pictures taken for the passport and gave ourselves a 2 month gap to get everything situated so we didn’t need to pay huge fees to expedite it. You can take your own passport photos of kids if it will be easier. Pick a time when they’re grouchy because apparently they don’t want smiles on the photos- the immigration officers want to see what you’ll really look like after a long flight. Hah. My friend suggested that for babies, you can lay a white sheet on the ground and lay them down on it. We did the post office and they had us take it against a wall by holding Kaden’s hands out to the side. I think the floor would’ve been a lot easier. Maybe I’m wrong.
- Snacks/Food/Drink: Pack a lot of them. I also suggest picking up Subway or some type of sandwich to eat on the plane. Or pack your own sandwiches. You can carry sippy cups and empty water bottles through security, then fill them once inside with water. Once you get to Jamaica, you don’t get a great chance to get kids food until you get to the resort. When we went on our honeymoon the bus stopped half way at this place- I think a bag of Cheese Puffs cost us $10USA, no joke. We actually still laugh about that amazing bag of cheese puffs. Honestly, we were starved and everything tastes amazing when starved. This time we packed fruit snacks and granola bars. On the way back we packed the rest of those AND got an actual meal food (the Montego Bay airport terminal has some restaurants- we got Dairy Queen). That was smarter. We didn’t starve. For some reason, no amount of snacks ever fills me up. Snack foods are very very expensive to purchase in Jamaica. Refill water before you leave the airport if you can. The bus ride isn’t short.
- Bring a Change of Clothes: On the off chance your child has a diaper explosion or wets through, you’ll want a change of shirt/pants for everyone. I put those in my carry on (the one with wheels), along with a wet bag in case there’s poop on the clothes and I need to keep them someplace I can’t smell them. In the front pocket of my carry on, I put wipes and diapers for both kids. Just 6 each.
- Pack a Purse/Diaper Bag: My purse (which I use as a diaper bag) is packed strategically and my husband carries a backpack. These are what we slide under the seat in front of us. Wallets and passports go in these, snacks, sippy cups, and our water bottles. I also carry a burp cloth (that I use to cover up if I’m breast feeding because it’s a good dual use item). Then we put in toys for the kids- stuff that’s super appealing but not easy to lose or forget. Mostly we do electronics- iPad was a lifesaver. iPhones. Kindle Fire. Before we leave, we download some free or cheap games that the kids haven’t played before. Our baby (8 months) actually enjoyed some Fruit Ninja on the way home, even though he’s young for games. It bought us the extra 30 minutes of flight time we had left once he woke from napping.
- Money and Tips: The people at the airport, the bus driver, etc. all are going to grab your belongings to help, even though you don’t need help to get a short distance (or maybe you do, depending on how your kids are acting at this point). It’s a good idea to get your bills split into $5s and $1s before you leave. You can use American dollars. I do not get my money exchanged because it adds to confusion of how much to tip if you get Jamaican money. DO NOT WAIT until you get to Jamaica to get bills split. We didn’t want to wait at exchange to see if they’d do that- and I’m not sure they will, unless you want to convert money over. Also, keep your money separated. Don’t flash all the bills you’ve got saved for your trip in cash. There’s a lot of poverty and consequently crime so it’s probably bad “luck” to flash $500 in cash while trying to find those $1s. We split up cash between us, and placed cash in different areas so it was easily accessible. We would get out a small amount of tip money when we knew it was expected… ie. carrying $10 in tips because we knew $5 to bus driver, then $1/per luggage for the people helping carry our stuff.
- Baby Carrier: We brought a cheap umbrella stroller that was helpful once we got to the resort, but the really important key is the baby carrier. Strap that baby onto your chest or back and it makes getting through the airport and security a lot easier. In the USA they let me go through with the baby in the carrier, but in Jamaica I needed to remove him from the carrier and carry him through. Of course, in Jamaica the security scanner beeped for EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. who went through so both me and the baby ended up with a pat down. Whatever. They were probably being optimistic to think I wouldn’t go off if the carrier didn’t go through with me. We have an Ergobaby Performance Carrier
(if you buy via the link then you help support this blog) which I love. But I really want the new Ergo360… which are currently sold out from what I can tell. Boo. Anyhow my 2.5 year old can still be carried in our performance so it would’ve worked for him if we’d needed it. We really need a second Ergo to make this sort of thing happen, but baby takes priority in the carrier at this point.
- Customs: This took us quite some time to get through. I’d power walk like crazy to be the first people in line. Do not stop to pee. No joke. Wear an adult diaper if needed people. Haha. An hour or two in the customs line with two kids is not enjoyable. But honestly, having a water and a snack for everyone would make it a bit easier. In case power walking doesn’t work out for you. Oh and the Jamaica airport didn’t have any place to shop or buy stuff from when you get off airplane until you get through customs that I could see.
EDIT TO UPDATE: I’ve heard good things about arriving via the (affiliate link, thanks for supporting my blog!) MoBay Club… apparently there are lounges that you can wait in with food and beverages available until it’s your turn to go through customs. There’s an area for families with toys so we will definitely try this next time. It looks like a great idea and worth the money.
- Time Change: Jamaica is one hour behind Eastern Time. I didn’t realize when we left. So look up to make sure you account for time change.
- Packing: We packed two big bags. My husband and son in one, me and my other son in the other. We roll up our adult clothes so they’ll be smaller and organize them. On the way home, all the dirty clothes go in one big suitcase and the clean clothes, souvenirs, etc. go in the other. This works really well for us. We had a bag that we put all our shoes in so they didn’t make our clothes smell.
Leaving BWI (Baltimore Washington International) went fairly smoothly, although customer service for Southwest- after two VERY LONG wait times on hold- told me we’d leave from the international section of airport. Brandon dropped me off and I got stuck dragging Kaden in the Ergo and three bags all the way to the other end of the airport to the domestic travel area of Southwest. Hopefully they are better informed for future travelers. It seemed like the process for traveling internationally through the domestic side was a bit overly complicated (lots of checking documentation at various areas). It was manageable though, especially considering it was Day 1 flying to Jamaica for Southwest.
We made it to Jamaica with a smooth flight at 1:05pm Jamaica-time. We used restrooms inside and then sat in a reaaaallly long line at customs. With two tired whiney kids. Eh. The line wasn’t bad for our honeymoon so I think the trick is to power walk and be towards the front of line of people exiting your plane. Go to the bathroom before you land.
Once we got through customs, we waited for a bus to take us to the resort. It was a long wait to get enough people on for the bus driver to feel the bus was full enough and then it was a one hour ride. I read some reviews that suggested using a transportation service… At least on the way to hotel. I’d agree that this might make things easier, even if it costs a bit of money to do so. I’ve heard one of the services even has car seats which I think is nice.
The bus ride was fine once it commenced and we got to hotel around 4:30/5pm which meant we didn’t get to meet our nanny until the next day. More on the nanny and hotel in my next blog post about our trip. The kids were hungry and overtired at this point so expect for an early evening if your timing works out like ours did.
Return Trip—As for the way back, it went more smoothly because we’d worked out some of the kinks that we experienced on the way. We left our hotel at 8am on the bus and got to MJB around 9 (I believe). Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12pm. I HIGHLY recommend giving yourself equally as much time… although the all-inclusive hotels tend to set it all up for you with that timing because they know how it is.
Check in at MBJ sucked. Sucked so bad. Apparently the AirTran flight from the day before had been canceled so all those people were trying to get rescheduled… and Southwest now owns them so the check-in area was combined- but the employees couldn’t log into both the Southwest and AirTran systems at the same time so they were trying to figure out the best lines for everyone to be in. Sucked. But honestly it wasn’t too bad considering. We had enough time to get some food at the airport to take with us, do some diaper changes, walk around, visit the eight or so shops on our side of the airport (no high pressure sales, and comparable price to a USA airport). There was a Dairy Queen on our side of the airport (we left out of Gate 2). The flight went fine and we power walked to customs so we were towards the beginning of the line… it got us through fairly fast, but the luggage was still ready once we got to that part. Overall, it went much smoother on the way home. I’m happy to say the traveling piece, while tiring, was definitely manageable!