Travelling with a toddler is pretty daunting. Not only do you have to survive the flight (12 hours to South Africa in our case) but for a small person they sure pack big.
The items we’d earmarked as essential for our visit to the in-laws were car seat, buggy, travel cot and high chair. We bought a spare car seat (a Group 123 special) that we could leave in South Africa for future visits and borrowed a stroller buggy from my sister – not the smoothest of rides but it took up a lot less space in the boot than our travel system pushchair, now fondly called the limo.
The travel cot was proving harder to sort. We needed one for both the Johannesburg and Cape Town legs of our trip, but the internal airline would only let you check in 2 out of the 3 toddler necessities of car seat, buggy and travel cot. Most travel cots also weigh a not-so-easy-to-travel with amount and can be quite an effort to put up and down.
The solution was the Koo-di Sun & Sleep Pop-up Travel Cot. At only 2.5kg it was super light, plus it folded up into a bag small enough to fit into my husband’s suitcase (not mine – I need all the shoe space I can get). It’s extremely simple to set up; the cot pops open and you slide in the support rods so it keeps its shape. Then pop in the mattress, which stays in place thanks to Velcro at either end, and you are done. The mattress is quite thin, though comfortable enough provided the cot isn’t on a hard floor. You can buy an inflatable mattress if you want something thicker, or you can do what we did and put something padded underneath. Without a spot of origami it was hard to get a normal sheet on the mattress and not cover the Velcro, but you can buy special fitted sheets, which presumably have holes in the appropriate positions.
As soon as we got the travel cot up, my son Ethan dived in. He loved the fact he could get in and out easily (not such a good thing at 4am when he decides he’d rather be in our bed). But unlike normal cots he was quite content to play in the Koo-di and went to sleep with a lot less coercing than normal. It quickly became known as the “tent” and our South African friends and family were very impressed by both the integrated mosquito nets and blackout blinds. However, it did get quite warm in there so we often left the side open for better ventilation. The best seal of approval came from Ethan – on his very first night in his tent he slept right through!
The last item on our list was a highchair. I asked on twitter for recommendations and the pocket highchair came up trumps. We got the wipe clean Pocket Highchair and it certainly ticked all the boxes: we used it on a variety of chairs; it kept Ethan in place but allowed him to feel part of the action sitting at the table; and it wiped clean, perfect for a toddler who insists on feeding himself and hasn’t quite got the hang of using his spoon the right way up. Plus it folds up into its own pouch and weighs next to nothing.
As for the 12-hour flight with a toddler? Amazingly, once the cabin lights went out, Ethan managed to sleep for most of it. Unfortunately there was a teething baby on board, a woman fainted near our row and had to get oxygen, plus some drunken passengers were arguing loudly so I didn’t get much myself…