Could you imagine travelling with Baby on a work trip that involves a pre-wedding photoshoot 8,500km and a long-haul flight away from home? That’s all in a day’s work for Angeline Phang of Raymond Phang Photography and her “mini boss” Adora!
Angeline Phang, 32, is studio manager at Raymond Phang Photography (he’s her husband!) and mum to 17-month-old Adora, who follows the couple on photoshoots in Singapore and overseas. Affectionately known as En En, the cherubic little one is the “Mini Boss” of the company, her mum says. We caught up with the family over email recently when they were in New Zealand for an epic 28-day “half-work, half-creative retreat” to find out what it’s like to travel with Baby on a work trip.
Is this Adora’s first overseas trip?
No, we brought her to Australia when she was five months old. In January, she came with us to Hong Kong where Raymond a guest speaker for the Asia Wedding Photographers Association. However, this is our longest overseas trip together! After this, we’ll be going to Zurich for a wedding ceremony shoot, then back to Hong Kong (as Raymond has been invited by Canon Hong Kong to speak) before returning to Singapore for a conceptualised pre-wedding shoot.
What does Adora do during the shoots?
She stays in our BabyTula (soft structured baby carrier) if I’m carrying her. Raymond wears her in our Manduca Baby Carrier (as in the picture above). We make sure she’s well fed and she’ll observe what we’re doing. So far she’s been extremely cooperative and all our clients have praised her for being so well behaved.
Did you have any doubts about bringing Adora along?
Yes, since we’re flying straight to Zurich a day after we touch down in Singapore from New Zealand. In addition to the flight hours, timing, and time differences, her previous traumatic flight experience to Hong Kong was a concern. However we decided to take a gamble with this one.
Oh dear, what made the flight a traumatic one?
Adora fights sleep and usually sleeps at about 3 or 4am in the morning. The flight to Hong Kong took place during her ‘awake’ timing so she was cranky and kept pressing the call button. We had to inform the air crew to ignore our calls. She then started to reach for the remote of the passenger seated next to us — a stranger who didn’t seem to like kids.
When the plane descended, Adora couldn’t take the ear pressure and started crying. It didn’t help that she did not want milk and we didn’t have anything for her to munch on. We had water, which she tried to drink, and we thought “thank goodness, that’s a life saver!” But then the pilot had to do a sudden last-minute manoeuvre to pull up and circle again.
The second descent did not go well. She cried inconsolably, and her tiny hands kept pointing to her ears for what felt like forever! We were totally helpless as neither more water nor distractions helped.
Just thinking about it and remembering the look in her eyes at that time makes me want to cry. From then on, I made it a point to be fully prepared and to prep things for future flights.
Good idea! What kinds of things?
For this trip I prepared an entire duffel bag of things to keep her busy. I got materials like pipe cleaners, felt, egg-shaped containers, buttons, pill containers, stickers and so on. On our flight here the flight attendant gave her a colouring book and a plush toy and those kept her busy.
Did you have to pay extra for luggage?
We brought two 32″ luggage bags, and two duffel bags for hand carry. We didn’t have to pay extra. Firstly, for two adults we have 60kg of luggage allowance. Secondly, we kept our own stuff to the bare minimum. Finally, most of it was Adora’s stuff in case the things she uses are not available in New Zealand.
Baby’s stuff took up one 32″ luggage and two duffel bags. The bags had her thermal flask, her sweater, windbreaker, hats, her favourite plush toy, her bolster, milk powder dispenser, milk bottles, water bottle, puffs, toys… The luggage was filled with diapers, clothes, heat packs, a small pot to cook her meals, a thermal food flask, food scissors, milk powder, medications, baby toiletries, bottle detergents and so on.
Best things about travelling with Baby?
You get to experience things with your baby and witness their firsts. It was Adora’s first time touching plants of different textures, tree barks of different colours, pebbles, soil, and dirt. It was also her first time encountering snow. We made a small snowball for her and she really enjoyed holding it.
Sometimes having a baby around also helps to lighten the mood. Couples are not born models. Usually for the first half of the photoshoot session they’re quite nervous and self conscious. But when the baby smiles or chuckles, it’s an instant icebreaker. She makes everyone laugh.
Worst things about travelling with Baby?
Meltdowns! Adora had one (not during a shoot, thankfully) when we were driving in complete darkness on a winding road at night, rushing to check into our Airbnb. It was cold and rainy, she didn’t nap at all during the day, and she was cranky. In addition to that, milk, food, snacks, and toys couldn’t pacify her. Then suddenly her cries changed, like she was in pain.
It turned out she had a tummy ache and wanted to poop, and she was straining so hard she bled. I had to ask Raymond to find a safe spot to stop the car and change her in the backseat. It such a struggle because she refused to lie down, and consequently, I ended up with poop on my hands.
Any Tips for Parents on Travelling with Babies?
1. Overpack. Pack more than enough snacks and plane/car entertainment. Keep the toys/materials out of their sight few days before the trip and rotate them so that they’re “new”. Pack a pillow or a bolster to help them settle in the new environment.
2. Be prepared to entertain. If, like us, you’re not an advocate of entertaining Baby with devices, be prepared to provide DIY entertainment especially when you’re eating out. Pack some small toys or washable colouring materials for them to play with.
3. Do your research. Find and note down locations of local paediatric clinics. Also pack your own medication and First Aid kit for Baby.
4. Layer and un-layer. If you are going to cold places, don’t overheat the baby! Dress in layers. If it’s too cold, add another layer and if too hot, remove layer by layer. The sudden temperature change from indoors to outdoors can cause them to fall sick.
5. Bring a portable playpen. If your baby can sleep in a cot, request for one at the accommodation that you’re booking. If not, bring a travel-sized playpen where Baby can play on their own while you get chores done.
6. Wear your baby. Not all places are stroller-friendly (Eg: Hong Kong with its tight spaces), so prepare to carry baby or use a carrier.
7. Always bring a changing mat. Don’t expect baby diaper changing rooms to be readily available. You might have to end up changing on a cold basin top, or on your lap.
8. Check your rental car seat. If you’re renting a car with a baby car seat, make sure it’s the right size. Bring your own head support cushion/padding just in case. The one we rented in NZ did not fit Adora well, and we ended up using soft toys to support her head.
9. Bring tape on the flight. On the plane, black tape the lights on the remote controller because babies love to press the call button!
10. Bring enough for Baby to drink and snack on from lift-off to touchdown. Give Baby something to eat or drink when the plane starts to descend, and have something to occupy Baby as a form of distraction from the ear pressure. Not all babies are able to self equalise and it can be painful for them.
11. Get a window seat. Get one with a bassinet and if possible, fly direct as Baby probably won’t be able to handle the multiple landings and take-offs.
12. Keep an open mind. In Australia we made plans to leave our apartment by 10am, but only left around noon because of last minute hiccups: Baby had to poo, Baby got hungry, Baby wanted to nap. Furthermore, the delay caused us to change our travel schedule for the day.
13. Be prepared. There will be hiccups and you have to accept that things won’t always happen the way you want them to. Hence, always buffer lots of time if you have an important appointment.
Great tips, Angeline! Thank you for sharing, and happy wanderlusting with your adorable “Mini Boss”!