Our big trip during the month of October was a week-long trip to the south. It started off as a great deal to Montevideo, Uruguay on Copa Airlines. Since Copa hubs in Panama City, it is cheap to add a stopover there. As my husband and I are both engineers and total geeks, we jumped at the chance to see the Panama Canal. The trip report, which tells about what all we did and how it all went down it over at the Travelpod log. This trip report will reflect on how it went from a “travel with kids” perspective.
This was our first trip since early July and our first international trip since we went to Norway in April. The large gap was due to waiting out the summer high season, coupled with the fact that this year was heavily frontloaded in the mileage-earning arena with two trips to Asia. The last time we did long haul travel, we had a newly minted two-year-old and a breastfeeding, nightwaking 10 month old. On this trip we had a near-two-and-a-half year old and a 16 month old – talk about a night and day difference.
We spent a night down in Denver at a hotel – a staycation to earn a Hyatt status-qualifying night – in August. A 2nd order motive for spending that night was to “practice” for our hotel stays on this trip. This practice paid big dividends. We learned that for staying in the same room, Clara will fall asleep in about ten minutes if she has the room to herself, but she can’t settle if Andrew’s in there with her, even if he’s being quiet. This led to a routine where Andrew goes for a walk with Daddy around the hotel, while Clara falls asleep with Mama monitoring. When Andrew comes back, he “sneaks” in to bed and is able to settle himself while the parents hideout and have some computer time. Once we got the hang of this, it was surprisingly efficient. Of course, getting upgraded to suites in most of our hotels also helped with the sleep arrangements and routine.
Our big boo boo for this trip was that I forgot to bring pullups for Andrew. He is fully daytime potty trained, but still wears the pullup at night, and I just blanked on the packing. Forgetting the pullups led to a semi-breakthough: we told him that he needed to stay dry all night and he did. It wasn’t a total disaster – we had time in New York to run to the drug store for pullups before we left the country. For the rest of the trip (and to this day back at home) I offer the pullup or ask if he wants to go without. He chooses to go without about half the time, and has only had a couple accidents. I was sort of dreading how nighttime potty training would go (even though the daytime part went well), and this helped me get over that out of necessity.
Most of the flights were daytime flights, which was nice for such a long trip. We did take several delays that pushed our flights into the range of “late,” and we ended up with overtired kids several times. Clara, who usually puts herself to sleep without issue, had a ton of trouble on Panama City – Montevideo and screamed for a good 10 minutes in the first class cabin before she was able to settle.
For the redeye flight, we talked to them, particularly Andrew about how we were going to go to sleep on the airplane. Our last redeye, on the Norway trip, was disastrous, with no one sleeping at all. This time it worked amazingly well, and I’m really seeing the benefits of kids who are open to suggestion. Andrew did want to get down and lay on the floor once the seatbelt sign went off. Thankfully we had a smooth flight (until the end) so he could stay there. The huge delay we took at the end of the redeye (sat on the tarmac for an additional 6 hours on top of the original 7.5 hour flight due to weather) went as well as could possibly be expected thanks to having well-rested kids.
We rented cars in both locations. In Panama City, this was absolutely the right call. We drove up to the Miraflores Locks, and had the freedom of coming and going (and not having to uninstall and reinstall car seats) as we pleased. In Montevideo, it was a dubious choice. Our hotel was a downtown property, so once there, we walked everywhere. The car turned out to be a storage device for the car seats for a couple of days. A cab probably would have been the better answer in this case.
Andrew was really entranced by both the locks at the Panama Canal and the port at Montevideo. Seeing the cranes and other operations at the port just reinforced what he had seen and learned at the Panama Canal. He is still talking about how the locks work and what the ships do and how boxes are loaded and unloaded… and he is only two and a half! I am so excited that he has started to demonstrably “get something out of it”!
All in all, I think Panama City was a fantastic destination. It was easy to be there and there were fun things to see. I wouldn’t mind going back to see some more. Montevideo doesn’t have much in the way of “sights,” but it was certainly a fun place to hang out for a few days.