All you need is the right preparation and mindset!
BY NINA PHICHITSINGH
The topic of travelling with a newborn or toddler often stirs up anxiety and panic amongst many new parents. Thoughts such as, “it’s a hassle,” “there’s so much to bring,” or “they’re too young to remember anything anyway,” will cross their minds. However, research shows exposure to new places and positive, enriching memories do have an uplifting impact on a developing child’s life. So, it may just be worth the challenge! Masala interviewed four super-mothers who recently travelled with their babies or toddlers, and they share their cherished experiences, along with helpful tips for those who are about to embark on their first plus (little) one journey!
Product Marketing Manager
Mama to a 3-year-old and 7-year-old
I usually talk about the trip ahead of time to build up excitement. My daughter was two-and-a-half when she took her first long-haul flight from Bangkok to Canada. I was so nervous about how we’d manage and hoped that she’d be comfortable, wouldn’t cry, run around, or have earaches. Thankfully, she sat in her seat most of the time, played with a few toys, slept like a champ when needed, and was overall happy about being on the airplane.
My most recent trip was to the beach with the kids. When they were very young, I preferred to take them close by (1-2 hours away) as babies require a whole different level of packing and preparation. As they are older now, we get more adventurous and venture further away. It’s important to stay active as kids have a different idea of fun than us parents do. However, keep in mind that if you head to the beach with kids, with the mindset that you will sit and relax, you’re in for a surprise! I save that thought to motivate myself for a short, adults-only trip later.
Preparation for Flights (and a Must-Read Book!)
Prep them before by telling them how flying is fun. I recommend Airport, a storybook by Byron Barton. It is engaging for toddlers: from the excitement of travel to the wonder of taking off. It’s a picture book that captures moments at the airport from arrival at the airport, to checking in, boarding the flight, watching the clouds, and making it all feel magical.
Preparation for Long Car Rides and the Beach
For long car rides out of the city, a couple of things that help me along the journey are snacks, stickers, a few familiar books, games and fun music! Don’t go overboard packing entertainment for kids because the beach is pretty entertaining in and of itself. Involvement is key. I let the kids pack their own backpacks and beach toys to build up the excitement. My son loves cars, so he’s always distracted looking out of the window. Lately, he likes to get involved by navigating. He feels happy to choose the car colours on Google Maps and repeat the directions for us.
Be Strategic With Timing and Hotel Choice
Keep them hydrated, because with a change of location and so much playing, they do lose track of time and can get over-exhausted. The best times at the beach are mornings and early evenings, when the heat is less intense, leaving the afternoons perfect for a nap or wind-down time, which can literally and figuratively help in avoiding meltdowns! We aim to pick hotels that have a kids’ club so there’s something to do in case it rains or the heat is too intense.
I try to go with the flow and not overstress. Kids won’t remember that you forgot the organic sunscreen and had to use normal ones instead. They also won’t mind if meal times move around a bit, as long as they’re being fed and get to make sand castles, pick seashells, slide in the pool, and splash in the water with you. Those are the best memories.
SUJANI DOOWA SRIKUREJA
Senior Executive at Asiya Life
Mama to a 7-Month-Old
We decided to take our son Aaryan on his first trip to the Maldives, as we wanted to go somewhere to relax and wind down. The Maldives is the perfect place for a baby as you are in just one place. There are no requirements to hop in a cab or jump on a train. The baby gets to explore the ocean, listen to the sound of the waves, put his toes in the cool and soft sand, and spend quality time with mum and dad.
On my son’s first flight I was nervous, especially about the take-off and landing. I did not know what to expect. However, it was overall a great experience. He was very comfortable on the flight as long as he was fed, changed, had his toys, pacifier, and security blanket.
Packing and Preparing
I made a list with all the essentials my baby would need. The list made me feel prepared and I did not have to worry about forgetting anything. Take a travel stroller with you and gate check the stroller. Let the hotel know that you will be needing a crib, so the hotel can prepare accordingly. Pack the essentials in your diaper bag for the flight: milk, diapers, bibs, clothes, socks, toys, blanket, pacifier, books, wet wipes, and hand sanitiser.
Remember to be flexible and don’t worry too much about having a routine during the travel journey. When the baby is hungry, feed. When the baby is sleepy, put them to sleep.
As for their bedtime routine at the final destination, try to replicate your baby’s nighttime surroundings: bring your bedtime routine essentials such as the sound machine, pacifier, books, swaddles, or sleep sack.
Usually, infants and children can board the plane first but my husband and I wanted our son to spend the least amount of time in the plane, so we decided to board the plane last.
Request for a row with empty seats so your baby can stretch and have his own space. My son does not like to be carried for long periods of time, so we were lucky to have the middle seat available for him.
Fly during nap time if possible. Pack a first-aid kit in case of any emergency. Feed during take-off and landing to prevent ear pain from air pressure changes.
If possible, taking a nanny really makes a world of a difference. That’s someone who can watch your baby when he or she is sleeping. You can go for dinner, enjoy during the day, and truly rest and relax.
Sixth Grade Teacher
Mama to a 1.5-year-old
I think everyone knows by now that I live in Botswana or knows me as “the one who moved to Africa,” making long flights an inevitable part of my life – baby or no baby. With baby, however, long-haul flights are another story of their own. No more being excited for the trip, no more prepping for your own needs for the journey, it is all about baby and making sure they are comfortable, so that you are comfortable too.
When you are living abroad and are coming to visit your family, you try and maximise your stay. This means that hubs cannot always travel with you or stay as long as you can, due to work or other reasons. Thus, both flights, or at least one of them, may be just with you and baby. Here are some of the tips I can offer if you’re travelling alone with baby:
Take medication for fever, coughs, and colds. You don’t want your child burning up on the plane and think, “I wish I brought the Panadol.” I asked my doctor what I could give my baby to help with air pressure changes and to help my baby sleep on the plane. She suggested nose drops every six hours and said that I could give him some Panadol to help relax him. Speak to your doctor about various options depending on your comfort level with medication, which is different for everyone. Don’t forget to prepare your own medication, and take it when needed. You can’t take care of baby if you are not well or get nauseous on the plane.
Routines for Eating and Naps
Try and keep to your child’s routine as much as possible. Feed him/her when you would usually. Encourage a nap when you would usually. For example, I prepared and brought food that he was used to eating, and I brought his security blanket to help him sleep (I would have needed it for my trip anyway).
I encouraged my baby to have foods that are easy to prepare and travel with as soon as I could. This way, when I did travel, I knew that he would have no issues with Cerelac, bananas and other easily-prepared or packed foods. If he ate well, he would sleep well, and when he sleeps well, that’s when I can eat and rest too.
I travelled a lot during COVID times. I made sure all his vaccinations were up to date, including the flu vaccine to help him battle against all infections.
Talk to the Flight Attendants
The flight attendant may not offer assistance on their own, but do not hesitate to ask one of them to watch over your sleeping baby while you go to the toilet. Ask them to serve you food when your baby is asleep, they are usually accommodating.
Mama to a 1-year-old
As a first-time mum to my sweet little boy and a frequent traveller, I had to learn how to travel with a baby through trial and error. Many people prefer not to travel with babies because of many different reasons, but I have a feeling our experiences together are affecting him in many positive ways. I’ve found that when we travel together as a family, we can better focus on sharing our curious and exciting world with him.
We have taken several domestic trips with him this past year to places such as Khao Yai, Rayong, Phuket and our most recent trip to Chiang Rai to celebrate his first birthday (welcome to toddlerhood!) To tell you the truth, there were many unexpected bumps along the way. The good news is you get better every time!
Packing and Practicing
Yes, you have permission to take everything you can carry the first time (and maybe even the second time) you head off on a trip with your baby. But on the third trip, leave behind all the items you did not use on the first two trips. Test out all your gear beforehand: from strollers to car seats to diaper bags. You will want to travel with the gear that makes you and your baby most comfortable. Most importantly, you need to know where everything is, and be able to access it quickly when blowouts happen or when your baby needs his favourite toy.
When travelling by air, people always tell me to board as soon as possible. Carriers normally offer early boarding for families, but for me, I love to board last. That gives me time to stroll around the terminal gate area longer, which is helpful when traveling with a toddler. Your toddler would rather be running or strolling around in the open area for the longest time rather than be trapped in the airplane seat waiting for the rest of the passengers to board. Instead, send your travel partner to board first so he/she will be able to store everything in the overhead compartment nearest to your designated seats. Later when you board the flight with your baby, all will be settled and you are ready to go!
And finally, my dear mamas and papas, there is no right or wrong way. You know what works best for your family. No manual in the world can say what is right for you. I now look at travel in a whole new way. I see it as an opportunity to bond as a family, give my son new experiences and help him grow into a flexible, excited young traveller.