Tips for Traveling with a Little One!
Having a child turns your life around completely, bringing lots of changes and adjustments. We all obviously embrace and cherish all the moments, but a lot of the times, in certain situations, we step back and think, can we do this with a baby? How would it work out? Isn’t it better to just forget about it.
However, having an addition to your family doesn’t stop life from going on, including traveling with them!
My first trip with our son ‘U’ (who is now 5), was to India when he was 7 months old. Ever since then, we’ve made countless more journeys- including two more in that first year! And while travelling a few times with one child does not make me any kind of expert on the situation, I would still like to share some tips that I found useful and would hope that they would be helpful to others, as well.
First of all, PLAN! Start making a checklist of things you may need, about two weeks in advance (giving you enough time to keep adding things that you might forget). I write down even the most obvious things, such as diapers! You never know when mommy brain might attack!
- This is most important, as you need a comfortable place to stay in you need a comfortable place to stay in, provided you are not going back to your hometown! In one of our trips (to Istanbul, Turkey) we opted to stay in an apartment for our 6 days there. It turned out to be a good decision as we got a lot of space and a little kitchenette, making it easy to wash baby U’s bottles and organise his food. If you plan to stay in a hotel, make sure to request for a crib or, if you co-sleep, ensure that the bed is big enough (if queen size may not seem sufficient). You will need space to keep the stroller as well (some places provide space in or near the lobby for this). Moreover, you may also need to request some things such as an electric kettle for sterilisation (you don’t need a steriliser all the time). Many apartments come with a washing machine- super-convenient with a reflux baby or a messy toddler (or simply for a laundry-obsessed mother like me!)Hendry-obsessed mother like me!)TRAVELLING IN AN AIRCRAFT.
- Reserve your seat in advance. If your baby is less than 10 kgs (different airlines have different weight limits; enquire beforehand), you can get a bassinet, but the number of bassinets are limited and only available in the front row of every cabin. Worried about air pressure? If your baby uses a pacifier, no worries. Otherwise, you can nurse or bottle-feed them just at take-off/landing time. Most likely, your baby will fall asleep on their own… there’s something about an aircraft which lulls babies to sleep! Never hesitate to take the assistance of the onboard crew. They’re usually more than helpful; and if you’re travelling alone, do a request for on-ground assistance, especially for luggage issues.CLOTHES. Depending on the weather and kind of trip you’re making, I would recommend keeping about two outfits per day (if it’s a short- say, a one-week trip). If your child has started walking, then at least two pairs of footwear (in case one gets wet/damaged/misplaced). All hotels and even furnished apartments provide clean, extra towels, but if you’re more comfortable carrying baby’s own, go for a smaller one. Blankets for babies are a must, especially an extra one, in case one gets soiled. Receiving blankets had been my absolute favourites since the day I had started using them for my newborn U. They can be used as a light covering, a sun shield, a burp cloth, a bib, and to keep on a stroller or car seat if it’s hot- their polyester material can make your baby sweat unnecessarily. Even if the weather doesn’t call for them, carrying a couple of extra pairs of socks won’t hurt. If you have a baby girl, I would advise against carrying unnecessary hairbands, clips etc. Why risk getting them lost? A sunhat or cap is another must-carry. One thing I would point out is to be prepared for all eventualities, weather wise. For instance, if you’re going in a cooler climate, note that there may be a possibility it may get sunny and therefore, hot in the daytime. Similarly, evenings on a hot day can get cold or windy. Be especially careful about taking something warm if you have a daytime cruise planned, along with extra bibs, washcloths etc. There are disposable bibs available too, but I never felt the need to use them. It seemed easy enough to rinse out the regular ones.DIAPERS & TOILETRIES.
- Count how many diapers you use everyday, and keep at least one per day extra. If you’re 100% sure that you’ll easily be able to buy your brand where you’re going, then keep enough for at least two days, just in case. Have enough wipes at hand as well. Even if your baby isn’t prone to nappy rash, keeping a rash cream is advisable. Some, like Sudocrem, are pretty multipurpose and can be used to treat any kind of rash, insect bites, burns etc. You can ask your paediatrician for a sample size. Don’t forget a hand sanitizer and some antibacterial wipes, to wipe highchairs or other surfaces. If you’re travelling just for a few days, try to keep other toiletries to a minimum. Shampoo, baby oil, conditioner, soap, moisturiser etc. don’t all need to be carried. Most babies do not require frequent shampooing, or you can even try something like Johnson’s Top to Toe wash. If your baby is a bit older and hasn’t shown any allergies or skin sensitivity, you can use your own moisturiser for them (or you can use theirs, to avoid carrying one extra bottle!). The same applies for sunscreen as well. This is a very important thing to keep, especially if you plan on staying outdoors a lot. I use a very mild, herbal one for myself that I’ve always used for U. Remember to carry it around with you and re-apply every 4-5 hours, or sooner if needed. Do carry some extra disposal bags to stash soiled clothes, and dirty diapers, if you can’t find a disposal.FOOD AND SUCH
- If you’re nursing, do find out if NIP (Nursing In Public) is acceptable where you’re going. Some countries are surprisingly liberal or surprisingly narrow-minded when it comes to breastfeeding or NIP. Remember to carry a nursing cover. If bottle-feeding, having enough bottles goes without saying. I ordered Playtex Drop-Ins from Amazon- they’re the best thing to use when travelling. They come with disposable inserts and you just need to wash/sterilise the teats. Don’t forget to carry your cleaning brush and a tiny bottle of the cleaning detergent you use.How much formula would you carry? NEVER underestimate. I learned this the hard way. Before our 6 day trip to Istanbul, I calculated how much U would drink, and it came to just under one regular tin of his formula. Simple enough, right? Wrong! Turns out the change of schedule, moving around etc. made him not want to eat his solids, he ended up drinking more milk than usual, and on our fourth night there, I came to the startling realisation that we will run out of his formula Very Soon! And surprisingly, in the tourist area, we could not find ONE supermarket! People did not even know what ‘baby milk’ meant. All pharmacies were closed for TWO DAYS (what country does that?!) due to Eid celebrations. We walked and walked and walked…. my panicky mommy brain refused to accept that, worst case scenario, our 9-month-old could have whole milk in an emergency. Anyhow, the following day, we did manage to find ONE store downtown, that sold over 10 varieties of baby food, but only one of the formula suitable for U’s stage. Enough said. Lesson learnt. Also carry baby’s favourite foods (teething biscuits, jarred foods- which I do NOT promote but are helpful for emergencies; cereal etc), favourite bowls and cutlery. If your hotel provides breakfast, do not hesitate to ask the manager if you can take some fruit or bread for your little one. EQUIPMENT
- Strollers. The most important of all. If you know you’ll be walking a lot, and baby isn’t too used to a stroller, plan ahead and start using one before hand. I even started using one at home when I would be doing chores, just to get U used to his. What are the best strollers to take with you? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Umbrella strollers are more suitable for older babies, babies who do not nap frequently anymore. They’re very convenient as they’re lightweight, fold up very well, and are easy to manoeuvre. Many of them do not come with a sunshade; however, you can buy one in most brands. If you’re using one, make sure it has a storage basket. Larger prams may be bulky to carry around, but ours (Graco Quattro) was a godsend for most trips. Although a bit annoying to lug around everywhere, U was extremely comfortable in it, and when he would fall asleep, it could be reclined way down to lying position. It’s big basket was sturdy enough to hold both Hubby and my backpacks. Moreover, it’s very rugged and heavy-duty. In our Morocco trip, U suddenly refused to spend that much time in the pram, so it ended up carrying everyone’s bags (which wasn’t such a bad thing, either!). Most prams have very good waterproof sunshades as well that go nearly all the way down. Make sure to check ahead if your airline will return the stroller at the aircraft gate, or on the conveyor belt (different airlines have different policies, and they often work on request, too).Slings/Carriers.
- If you’re already into babywearing, excellent! If you’re not, start it way in advance. There’s no guarantee baby (or your back) will take to it right away.Car seat.
- It’s a compulsory requirement in most countries. You can yours, or take it with you in the aircraft and actually use it (but you’ll have to pay for the extra seat it will take up), or ask ahead and see if your/acquaintance/rental car company can arrange for one for your trip. Feeding chair
- . If your child is one who can NOT eat anywhere other than being strapped up, you can request your to hotel provide your room with a high chair, or you can use a good old stroller!Baby bag
- In all of my travels since U, I’ve preferred using a backpack. It has tons of space and more importantly, keeps my hands-free. If you choose to use one, make sure it has enough pockets and compartments, as well as side compartments to keep bottle, sanitizer etc. at an easy reach. Remember to keep extra of everything for the flight, a little more than you anticipate the baby will need. Never underestimate. Babies pee a lot in cold aeroplanes/airports! TOYS.
- Keep a few- some familiar, some new; however, a small baby or a toddler can spend hours with your keys, or a remote control, a menu card, a straw cover, or any other random item. If your baby has a favourite teether that suits them though, don’t forget to keep those!MEDICINES.
- Very important. You don’t want to take any chance and be prepared for all eventualities, all the while praying, of course, that baby doesn’t fall ill. Always carry basic medicines, such as something for fever, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, an anti-allergy- oral and/or topical. Of course definitely pay a visit to your paediatrician about a week before travelling to get the best advice, information and prescription from them. Get all vaccinations out of the way much before, or save them for after, you travel. Also, remember to keep your baby’s preferred medicine dispenser and thermometer! BE FLEXIBLE AND ACCOMMODATING.
- Remember that things are different now. There may be setbacks, you may not be able to smoothly catch every bus or meet every deadline, or make it to every item on your agenda. Instead of fretting over trying to visiting every site in your itinerary, or going for every activity recommended, focus more on making the most out of the places you CAN visit. After all, you’re there to enjoy and relax, not add to the stress that our daily lives are full of. Don’t forget to capture all the beautiful moments with a good camera, and make sure you have enough memory in the memory card and the appropriate plug attachment for the charger. So these are some of the tips I can think of, off the top of my head! If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment!
Written by Sana Arabi
Edited by Hummi