Once you become a mum, your kids are going to be travelling with you (regardless of whether you like it or not) unless you are one of those fortunate mums with a fantastic support network that allows you to drop them off when you feel like zooming off on a vacation.
With children, buying a plane ticket, hoping on the plane and flying off somewhere to enjoy, on a whim, is a thing of the past. Travelling with kids is serious business and requires careful planning way before the actual trip. Over the years, I have come up with my top 5 tips for a successful family vacation without sweat, tears and blood. (No kidding)
Book all accommodations in advance
- Choosing the right accommodation plays a big part in determining if your trip is going to be an enjoyable one or not. Since I have 2 kids, I generally give traditional hotels a miss because finding a room that can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children is challenging, to say the least. I have learnt from experience that in the event that the hotel actually has a room that accommodates all of us, the room is normally packaged as a “suite” and exorbitant prices are charged. As such, my preference is for serviced apartments provided by chains such as Ascott, Adina, etc. From my point of view, these apartments offer the advantage of space (for the kids to play), a fully equipped kitchen (for washing of milk bottles, water bottles and other baby cutlery. It also allows for mums to prepare food that your toddler and baby can consume. I am not sure about other mums, but in my years of travelling with young kids, finding cooked food suitable for young children has always been difficult) and a washing machine/ dryer for washing the endless loads of clothes that young children seem to be able to generate every day is a huge plus.
Bring all the children’s medications along
- Call me a freak, but I always prefer to plan for the worst possible situation when it comes to kids possibly falling sick during a trip. Always visit a pediatrician prior to a vacation and get the medications needed for fever (top priority), probiotics (for upset tummy), flu, ulcers, etc. Some parents might insist that you can always find a pharmacy, clinic, hospital in the place that you are visiting so there is no necessity in bringing all these extra stuff along. But, trust me, when you are in a foreign land, the last situation you want to find yourself in, is one where you are trying to find your bearings with a screaming, unwell kid in your arms while looking for a doctor. I have tried this before and it sucks big time!
The Formula Milk – Lug it no matter how heavy or bulky you find it
- I breastfed both my kids till they hit 1. However, I have always supplemented their diet with formula milk. Both my children continued to drink formula milk way beyond their first birthday. As such, we had always to lug 2 to 3 big tins worth of formula for all our vacations. For parents whose children are also used to drinking formula, several times a day, I would advise that you bring the formula milk from your home country, no matter how cumbersome you find it. Again, I am speaking from experience here.
- While on a 2-week family vacation in California, I had the incredible luck of running out of formula milk (despite bring 3 huge tins from my home country) and trying to find a replacement for my son. After driving to every supermarket, convenience store, and mall in the vicinity and spending a bomb of various brands of formula milk (each of which, the son tried and declared as “smelly”, “weird”, “yucky”, etc.), we realized that we were simply not going to find one, with a taste that the toddler was used to, and would approve. Without his comfort food, we were stuck with a grumpy toddler (prone to meltdowns) for the rest of the trip.
Plan on how you want to carry your baby or toddler around
- If you are travelling with a baby or toddler, it is extremely important to decide on a way that you plan to move or carry them around while sightseeing. Choose a mode that you are most comfortable, taking into consideration the availability of escalators, lifts, pavement conditions (paved, gravel, etc.) of the place you are visiting. My personal preference is to carry my son/daughter in a baby sling. This way, both my hands remain free and I do not have to consider if the place I am going to is pram friendly or not. Also, it works as a good place for the baby to nap when full-day traveling is needed. After trying a couple of different carriers, my verdict for all-time favorite sling is the Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier One which is not only comfortable for both baby and mum, but also extremely durable.
Air travel with below twos – How to survive it
- My kids are terrible on flights. Period. Below 2 years of age, flying with them required extreme endurance and determination. Frankly, if air travel was not free for below 2s, I would not have ventured beyond their first terror flight. Below are some pointers that I picked up over the years for travel with below 2s:
- Always see if you can get an extra seat for the baby. This might not be possible for a really full flight. However, it never hurts to try. In the really crammed economy seats, you will be surprised by how much wonder this additional space can do.
- Try to get the bassinet seats. Call early to reserve if possible. I know this sounds silly. (at least, to me) However, some airlines do not actually block the bassinet seats for families with babies.
- Bring the baby’s comfort blanket, pillow, pacifier, whatever. Trust me, you will need it.
- Bring a lot of servings of milk and baby food. Please do not count on the airlines to provide any of this.
- Make sure that you arrange to sit near your partner so that both of you can take turns to go to the toilet and have your meals. Chances are, even with the bassinet, your baby is going to be sleeping on you most of the time. Do not try to move an inch if the baby is asleep. Again, trust me on this, if you have miraculously made the baby sleep, let him/her sleep. A sleeping baby is much easier to entertain than an awoken baby.
So, there you have it. These are some of the tips that I have to share with all of you. Enjoy and have fun.