The year end is here and it’s time for a well deserved break! Whether you are bringing junior on his first trip to winter wonderland or taking baby for a beach holiday, the following travel tips offered by several experienced mums may help you to have a fuss-free and enjoyable holiday.
1. Planning The Trip
Choosing The Location
If you are travelling with a baby or toddler for the first time, going to a nearby location can help you gauge how well your child travels and better prepare for future trips. Mrs Y. Goh, 45, an accountant, started travelling with her two children when they were aged two and five. She recalls “I only brought them to Sentosa and a beach resort in Thailand. I travelled near, ‘parked’ at one place with a pool and sand, and just enjoyed family time with the kids.” Now that her children are older, she ventures further with them to Australia and Japan.
Since young children need to nap and stop for diaper changes, it may be more relaxing to go free-and-easy rather than on a package tour. Mrs P. Goh, 33, a homemaker, recalls, “When we took our then 18-month-old son on a tour to Vietnam, it was very tiring to wake up early, be on the road for the whole day and carry him while he napped. We also had to rush him through his meals to keep up with the schedule.”
While “all roads lead to Rome”, not all may be equally comfortable. It may be worthwhile to spend a little more for comfort and convenience. For example, a first-class coach to Malaysia offers more space (than a regular coach) for you to juggle a diaper bag and a baby on your lap. Better suspension systems also ensure a smoother ride and reduce the chances of junior throwing up because of motion sickness.
When deciding between a budget airline and a national carrier, Mrs S. Bosman, a homemaker in her thirties, chose the latter because the baggage restrictions imposed by the budget airline would not allow her to bring her six-month old’s pram and other necessities without incurring additional cost.
If you are travelling to developing countries, check with your paediatrician about the recommended vaccines, such as meningitis or flu jabs. Be sure to vaccinate your child at least 10 days before travelling to give the vaccine time to take effect.
Packing For The Trip
As you pack for the trip, mentally go through a typical day and take note of items that you cannot do without. Baby’s favourite bolster or junior’s bedtime teddy is a must, to give the child some sense of familiarity and comfort. Bringing along your toddler’s potty seat or a small tub for bathing baby in can also help to ease the stress of adjusting to different bathroom facilities.
Do remember to bring a steam or chemical steriliser if your baby is bottle-fed. If you are breastfeeding, a nursing cover is useful for nursing on the go. This is especially so if you are going to a country which is less open to mothers breastfeeding publicly.
If your child is taking solids, consider bringing sufficient cereals, biscuits or baby jar food to last the whole trip, as foreign food may not agree with your child. However, do check your host country’s restrictions on food which can be brought in.
To save the trouble of lugging heavy prams, travel cots or car seats along with you, you may prefer to rent these equipment. The English Speaking Member’s Department of YWCA, Bali Baby and Hire For Baby provide rental services in Hong Kong, Bali and Australia respectively.
2. Getting There
Choosing Airline Seats
Some airlines allow you to choose your seats prior to travelling. If you are flying with a baby, you may request for a front row seat as this can fit a bassinet. However, do note that the arm rests cannot be raised as the tables are stored in them. Thus, if you have a toddler who prefers to lie across two seats, it is better to sit in other rows, where the arm rests can be raised. While window seats may give a baby something to watch, aisle seats will save you the inconvenience of climbing over your neighbour each time your toddler decides to go exploring. Seatguru provides seating plans of most aircraft and can help you to make an informed choice.
Dealing With Air Pressure
Air pressure build-up in the ears during take-offs and landings can cause considerable pain for young children. This may be mitigated by encouraging the child to drink and swallow. Mrs L. Ng, a realtor in her thirties, has an unusual method which she uses to ease her 14-month-old’s distress. “The air stewardess placed a ring of warm, moist tissue inside a paper cup, at its base. I covered my son’s ears with two of such cups (one for each ear), and it seemed to help”.
Surviving Long Flights
Mrs J. Foo, 37, an ex-banker, travels twice a year with her children, aged one and three. Having brought her then 13-month old daughter to Amsterdam and San Francisco, she shares, “Choose a night flight, so that they can sleep through, and dress them in their usual pyjamas” as this gives them their sleep cues. For young children flying long-distance for the first time, she suggests breaking up long-haul flights and stopping over in the transiting country. To keep the children occupied during the trip, Mrs Foo has a supply of snacks. She doesn’t bring along toys, though, as “the environment is enough to distract them”.
If it is your child’s first road trip, pack motion sickness pills and plastic bags, and try not to offer food during the ride. While it may be tempting to let your toddler play with handphone apps or watch a show on a portable DVD player, trying to focus on a small screen during a bumpy ride may cause the child to get a headache or feel nauseous. Mrs P. Goh tries to direct her four-year-old’s attention to the scenery outside instead. “I play ‘I spy’ with him and point out interesting landmarks. We also count the number of different coloured cars that pass us by and guess which colour is the most popular,” she shares.
3. Upon Arrival
If you’re expecting to see or do much during your trip, you may end up feeling tied down by a baby who needs numerous feeds and diaper changes, or a toddler who takes an hour for each meal. Putting on and taking off layers of winter wear can also be time-consuming and tedious. Once you are prepared for delays, you will be able to take them in your stride when they occur, and can better enjoy your holiday.
If you are travelling with other family members, take turns handling the kids. This gives you some space to enjoy your holiday and get a rest from looking after the children. While travelling with young children can be demanding, just being in a new environment and having a break from routine can be refreshing in itself. Having done all your pre-travel preparations, now is the time to just relax and enjoy your holiday!