For the last three years, I have attended the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo first pregnant, then with a baby, and then with a young toddler and an infant. And I don’t mean we pop in for a couple hours one day. We are fans of multiple franchises, and we spend multiple days at the Expo, stand in long lines for autographs, watch panels and enjoy the many awesome artist booths. And I’m here to tell you that with some planning, it IS POSSIBLE with babies and young toddlers! Here are my top tips:

1) Leave the stroller at home.

Last year, we went all four days to Expo, and after taking the stroller on the Thursday evening, we decided to ditch it for the rest of the time. Strollers or wagons makes it difficult to navigate the booths, bathrooms and busy lineups, and you are more limited with seating options in panels.

2) Instead, WEAR ALL THE BABIES. Babywearing for the win!

I have used a variety of carriers at the Expo. And the best part is that you can NERD OUT with your carriers! My first nerdy carrier was an Avengers Ring Sling (made by Indigos In Motion), which was fantastic when my kids were younger babies and nursing often. Here we are with Ming Na Wen from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Disney’s Mulan fame!

I also have a custom-made TOS soft-structured carrier (backpack style that can be worn front or back) that a seamstress in my local babywearing group made for me (thanks Raven). And I made it even more awesome by getting William Shatner to sign it in 2016! It counts if my baby is doing the cosplay for me, right?

Lately, we have also been sporting a toddler sized soft structured carrier for my now almost three year old daughter, custom converted by Little Green Wolf from a Natibaby Friendly Lion woven wrap (Wizard of Oz theme). I adore this carrier! It is comfortable even with a heavier child! We have hiked up mountains with it, so using it at the Expo won’t be a problem.

Other benefits I’ve found to babywearing are:

– It makes breastfeeding easier (I usually nurse during panels to help keep the babe quiet!)

– You don’t need to take up as many seats in panels since children are attached to you. This also means they can wreak less havoc!

– Babies and young toddlers often sleep in carriers.

– Your littles will be less overwhelmed by all the lights, sounds and sights because they are right up next to you.

– Media guests will think your child is adorable (at least that has been my experience).

But if you don’t bring a stroller, how do you carry all your stuff?

If necessary, I’ve worn a baby on the front and a backpack on the back. Or if you just have one baby plus a spouse, one of you wears the backpack and one wears the child. I recommend a bag that you don’t mind going on the floor and can wash after the weekend. When we stood in autograph lineups, I just put the bag on the ground and pushed it along with us (I’m just being real here). If you have a toddler old enough to walk confidently, you can also part-time babywear (like when your toddler is ready for that nap). I have the owl Skip Hop backpack with a “harness”(leash) for when my daughter walks, just to make sure we don’t lose her in the crowded halls.

How do I find a baby carrier if I don’t have one already?

You have a few options! Just make sure you know how to safely use whichever carrier you choose.

Buy one! Both Babes in Arms or Baby and Me in Calgary have tonnes of knowledge, and you can try on carriers before you buy while learning about babywearing safety. (Though, if their awesome staff spend lots of time with you helping you try carriers on, don’t just leave and try to find a better deal elsewhere! We want to support our small local businesses!)

Borrow one or get it second hand. Find your local babywearing group on facebook, which probably has a lending library. At the very least, you can probably find a solid carrier second hand, plus ask all the questions you have! Or borrow from another parent friend and let them show you how to use it.

3) Lighten your load where possible. 

For being so small, babies need a stupid amount of stuff don’t they? Here are some ways to pack lighter, though it might mean adding a bit to your budget for the weekend.

-Don’t pack full lunches. Believe me, your toddler’s sandwhich will NOT cut it when she sees others eating Coco Brooks Pizza.

-Keep snacks less bulky by packing them in baggies, not plastic containers.

-Use carabiners to hang things like sippy cups or kids toys you want to be easily accessible off of the bag or baby carrier.

-If you normally cloth diaper, do disposables for the day. It pains me to say this, as I believe it is absolutely feasible to full time cloth diaper even when on the go, but for the sake keeping things simple and light, give yourself a cloth vacay. I still put my nerdy diaper covers over disposables, so  the other moms in the washroom can see how COMMITTED we truly are to our sci-fi nerd game (plus I’m paranoid about disposables leaking while I’m babywearing).

-You may end up standing in lineups outside so will need to factor in possible cold or wet weather, so try to have thin warm layers (think hiking layers) that can roll up easily and don’t take up a bunch of room in a bag.

-I often get warm inside though. So make sure you can easily remove layers too!

-There are babywearing coats and water resistant carrier covers that work with multiple carrier brands. If you have a zip coat, you can even just buy a panel to zip into your coat to make it wide enough for front wearing babies to be safely in the coat with you. In the past I have gotten away with using a larger rain coat that I could partially zip over my baby when front carrying. It’s small enough I can roll it up and put in the outside elastic part of my backpack too.

4) Go for multiple days.

We actually went all four days last year, which worked out because we could just go for a few hours at a time instead of doing one marathon day. It is hard for little children to be going all day, so we tried to take breaks mid-day or just go for half days.

5) THIS IS KEY. If you are going multiple days, book an “adults only” day.

The last couple years, we have left our children with grandparents on the Saturday, which is usually the busiest Expo day. This way, we can focus on each other and all the sweet things we want to see and do without scheduling it around diapers, feedings and naps. Plus, our children get a day to recharge and have a normal schedule again.

6) Some other tips:

-Have lots of packable snacks and drinks available for during the panels and lineups. This is when your child will get restless, and will need distraction. Sticker books are great too!

-Do diaper changes during long autograph/photo-op lineups. I always ask the volunteer first if it is ok to step out while my husband holds our spot so I can change my child’s diaper, and I have never had them say no. It’s a good way to help them not get restless either.

-Let your children “chat” with others in the line. I know as a mom battling anxiety it can be really hard to let strangers interact with your children sometimes, but it makes the line ups so much easier! You’ll find you naturally start chatting with your neighbours, and they will often give your children funny faces to try to make them giggle, etc.

-If the weather is nice, take fresh air breaks. Your children will have fun watching sword battles, Quidditch or the Sons of Fenrir demonstrations, and it will give them a break from the stimulation inside.

-I know I said pack light, but bring some deoderant with you for longer days. I sweat when I babywear while speedwalking from one end of the Stampede Grounds to the other! Veggiewitch will be on site again this year. Watch for my review next month of her awesome all natural (but super effective) cream deoderant!

-And this is obvious I know, but listen to your child’s cues. I have found it is ok to push my kids to some extent, but not so far that they are miserable. Have realistic expectations. If you push your children too far, you will ALL be feeling burnt out by the end of the weekend. It’s just not worth it!

-This is in no way a complete list on how to stay sane with babies at the Expo, but I hope it gives you some ideas on how “To Boldly Go” with your littles in tow!

What have you found worked when taking children to an expo or a similar event?