Disclaimer: This post might come across as condescending or even rude, I apologise for that. I’ve been asked / seen plenty of jaw-droppingly
stupid senseless questions, I seriously wonder how some of these people could have kids! And I know that not many people are blessed enough to have travelled a fair bit before and with child, so I still welcome any questions on travelling.
Having been on 18 flights (9 sets of return flights), the longest being 22 hours (I kid you not; October NY snowstorm remember?) with a baby, I guess it gives me the licence to write a travel tips post.
1. Use common sense
We’ve all gotta start somewhere and travelling with a baby scares many (if not all), but please for the life of me use some common sense! Unless you are heading to non-traditional vacation spots (like India, Bhutan, Madagscar; places whereI personally wouldn’t take a baby), most things (food, diapers) are available at the destination countries. And when in doubt BRING IT WITH. Between 2 adults and a baby, you get at least 40kg (usually 50 or more) of baggage allowance (checked in; plus another 14kg carry on). And this does not include the stroller!
In the grand scheme of things, a few days of the baby drinking mineral water (distilled is better but…) is not going to kill her. A few days of eating seasoned food isn’t going to do irreparable damage to her kidney / liver either; just feed more water. A few days of using a different brand of diaper isn’t going to hurt your baby’s bottom.
Other than the 2 trips where I knew we weren’t leaving the resort, I didn’t bother bringing more than a small travel pack of diapers (6-12 pieces).
2. Bring a baby carrier (include in your carry on)
It doesn’t matter how good the roads are or how much the baby loves her pram, I find that a baby carrier is a lifesaver. Nothing calms them down faster in a foreign (as in new to them) environment faster. C has slept in hers, ate in hers; I breastfed her in it while walking to the Colosseum in Rome. There are just days it’s easier with carrying them than dealing with a pram.
3. Pre-trip prep – flight times, supermarkets, transfers and hotels
These are the most important items on my pre-travel to-do list. Travelling with a bub is different from DINK trips; gone are the days of spontaneity and cup noodles (well technically bread can replace the latter). Planning ahead is an understatement.
Flight timing – Choosing the correct flight is the difference between an okay flight versus a nightmare. The idea of a night flight seems a surewin, in reality it doesn’t quite work. We’ve worked out with C any flight after 8pm is a sure die. She gets all wide-eyed with all the airport admin (check-in, immigration, boarding, etc) and will not settle even if it’s way past her bedtime (7pm usually). Then she crashes and we die; we learned it the hard way (HK to Rome). Day flight or early evening flight works because we get onboard, she plays a little, feed a little and then sleeps (cycle repeats during day flight before a longer stretch of sleep).
Supermarket – like I mentioned above, I don’t bring much diapers or food, so the first thing we do when we get to our destination is to hit a supermarket. I usually have a general idea of how easy it is to get to one before I leave for my trip.
Airport transfer – This piece of information is easily available by googling or asking people who have been. Don’t try to save money and do a train transfer (unless maybe in Tokyo). Book a car, take a taxi; whichever is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to the hotel. After a flight with a baby, no matter how short, all I wanted to do was to get somewhere comfy and chill out.
Hotels – forget slumming it (not that we did
any much before child) . I am not saying choose a top end hotel; many 4* or higher hotels will provide baby equipment. Since C was fully breastfed (latched) for the first 11 months of her life (well she is still latching 80% of the time), we had no need for sterilizer or warmer, etc; we usually need only a cot and maybe a highchair (if the hotel has a restaurant they will have a highchair). When in doubt, phone/email to ask if the hotel has whatever you may require.
Next up, things to bring on a flight – long and short hauls.