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Before having kids, the decision to travel could be a spur of the moment whether going to the North Coast on a weekend, or driving overnight on a trip to Sharm El Sheikh carrying just a backpack with the most necessary belongings.
Even touring Europe with a busy sightseeing schedule or flying to the Caribbean for an extended vacation was almost hassle-free. Comparing this “wherever I may roam” attitude of freedom to the amount of planning and equipment needed for taking the baby out to the club or a friends’ house such as the stroller, car seat, toys and the about-to-explode changing bag, emphasizes the fact that life is not the same anymore. However, this does not mean at all that parents cannot travel unless their children become grownups who can depend on themselves. On the contrary, traveling with children is important, as it gives you the chance to spend time together in different surroundings, which provides another aspect of bonding and helps maintain family unity in addition to the endless learning opportunities. It just requires a lot of planning and catering to the needs of the little one(s), simply because unhappy babies and toddlers can turn their parents’ trip into a nightmare.
“Traveling with children is important, as it gives you the chance to spend time together in different surroundings, which provides another aspect of bonding and helps maintain family unity in addition to the endless learning opportunities.”
The more time you take planning ahead your vacation with your children, the easier it would be for you to enjoy a comfortable trip avoiding the feeling of being too stressed out.
A destination that offers entertainment possibilities for kids would be best, such as the beach, parks, the zoo, amusement parks, etc.
“Do not plan a trip with too much moving around from one city or place to another.”
Limited Itinerary and Sightseeing
Do not plan a trip with too much moving around from one city or place to another. If you intend to do some sightseeing, then do not aspire to see everything there in a short time, because your child can become tired and hence cranky. Instead try to limit it to short visits that you undertake during naptime. If the baby is going to be awake, then do not over-schedule. A toddler imprisoned in a stroller all day seeing nothing of interest to him/her while having to keep quiet would not let you enjoy anything. Try to have some free time and spend some time together on the beach or in an amusement park. In case you have a jammed day, try to at least have breakfast and/or dinner at the hotel to have some downtime for your child and to avoid the stress of eating out and moving from one place to another. In addition, it would kind of personalize the hotel room, making it feel more like home.
Papers and Passports
Update your passport and add your child’s name in it, if you still haven’t done that already. If you need to apply for a visa or validate your health insurance, then do so early enough in order to avoid unnecessary delays and stress.
Ask in advance whether or not the hotel, apartment or camp that you will be staying in can provide a baby bed. Some hotels do not offer that service. In that case you should bring along a traveling cot or choose another place to stay that would be more accommodating to your children’s need.
Schedule a checkup with your pediatrician to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your child’s health. Make sure that your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. Some foreign countries also require extra special immunizations. It is of great importance to ask your doctor to prescribe a decongestant and an antihistamine, especially if your child gets frequent colds or has any allergy in the upper respiratory system. If you are traveling by plane, a stuffy nose combined with ear pain associated with landing and takeoff can constitute a big problem. Another precaution is to let the doctor prescribe a medicine for diarrhea just in case the child’s tummy gets upset when introduced to new types of food or when catching any virus. Taking along an oral rehydration solution might be of benefit. “We planned a trip to Germany for 6 days. My son got the Rota-Virus on the day of our arrival. We spent half of the trip in the hotel, as the diarrhea wouldn’t stop. We had to resort to diapers, although he was potty trained, and yet it was a disaster. It was not the best experience in my life, as we ran to the hospital at two o’clock in the morning, because we were afraid of dehydration”, says Hadia, mother of two. This brings us to the next point, which is to check the name of the hospital and pediatrician that are closest to your destination. In case your child takes medication for allergy or any chronic disease, make sure you take along enough for the trip and get an extra prescription in case it gets spilled, lost or damaged en route.
“Schedule a checkup with your pediatrician to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your child’s health. Make sure that your child’s immunizations are up-to-date.”
No Drastic Changes
Being in unfamiliar surroundings is stressful enough to a baby or toddler. That is why it is not wise to introduce any major changes in the routine adding to even greater stress right before or during your trip. Do not think of weaning your baby or starting to let him/her cry it out to sleep through the night or potty training your toddler.
You can prepare a check list for all the items and equipment that you need to take along. This helps you not forget anything that you might need and it would serve as a guideline for further trips.
This aims at finding good hotel rooms in case it is a high season. In case you are traveling by plane, it would give you the possibility of reserving front seats, allowing you to have more room to move around. Some airlines provide a carrycot to be put in front of you.
Packing, Packing, Packing
What you put in your bag largely depends on how many days you will be away and whether or not the items of which you might run out would be available at your destination. Try to limit the number of bags you are carrying to have your arms free to hold the hand of a running toddler or take out the tickets out of your pocket. A huge backpack or mailman’s bag that serves as a changing bag as well as your personal carry-all is a must. In general, the following list is definitely helpful.
“Being in unfamiliar surroundings is stressful enough to a baby or toddler. That is why it is not wise to introduce any major changes in the routine adding to even greater stress right before or during your trip.”
The Changing Bag:
- Diapers, potty or toilet seat, depending on the stage that your baby has reached
- Diaper rash ointment
- Changing mat
- Change(s) of clothes and underwear
- Re-sealable bags (for soiled diapers, dirty clothes…etc.)
- Disinfectant, e.g. Dettol wipes or disinfecting hand gel
- Healthy snacks, baby food and/or formula
- Water and juice
- Sterilized bottles
- Medical kit containing prescription medication and first aid utensils
- Comfort objects, such as pacifiers or favorite toys
- A small blanket
- A light jacket or sweater, in case it gets a bit chilly in the car or on the plane
- Means of Entertainment such as
- Something old, something new: old toys for the feeling of familiarity and new toys to keep the baby busy.
- Music (put the favorite songs on an iPod or a CD)
- Portable DVD player and favorite films
- Books: story books or coloring books
- Light, easily foldable stroller
- A baby sling gives your hands the freedom to push a toddler in the stroller, hold a bag or push the luggage cart.
- A car seat is indispensable in case you are traveling by car. If you could afford an extra seat on a plane, a car seat can provide an extra means of safety.
Tips for Travelers
Traveling by plane:
When traveling at off-peak times, the planes are usually not that crowded and you can use an extra seat if your baby is sleeping. Giving the child a lot to drink is a must, as the air on a plane is rather dry. Coordinating feedings for babies during takeoff and landing would help relieve the ear pain resulting from changes in the air pressure. You might also need a lollipop or chewing gum for your toddler for the same reason. In case you were traveling alone, you can make use of the flight attendant by making him/her warm bottles or jars of baby food or hold the baby when you go to the lavatory. Do not deplane early so that you have a lot of time to take all your belongings and to avoid being squeezed by rushing passengers.
“Giving the child a lot to drink is a must, as the air on a plane is rather dry. Coordinating feedings for babies during takeoff and landing would help relieve the ear pain resulting from changes in the air pressure.”
Traveling by train
In case you are traveling alone, take the baby along with you in a sling or hold your toddler’s hand if you want to use the lavatory. Never ever let anyone, whom you do not know well, take care of the children until you come back, especially that in a train, you can easily move from one wagon to another! Moreover, the train often makes several stops at different stations. Again when detraining, never let anyone hold you child! You may only accept help with the luggage when a pressing need arises.
Traveling by car
If you have a long trip, try to make several stops so that your child can get some fresh air, take a snack and freshen up. Never leave a baby in a parked car in hot weather. Do not renounce on safety procedures such as activating the child’s lock, locking the rear windows and using the seat belt for everyone. Of utmost importance is the car seat. Make sure that it is safely secured on the base and that the safety belt is well fastened through the base.
“Do not let anything get to you and remember that you want to have fun with your kids. Hence, do not let a tamper tantrum at a five-star restaurant bring you down.”
Keep expectations low, patience high and maintain a good sense of humor no matter what happens, in order for everyone to have fun. Your getaway would never be as restful as it used to be when there were still no kids. Do not let anything get to you and remember that you want to have fun with your kids. Hence, do not let a tamper tantrum at a five-star restaurant bring you down. It is expected that a child would simply act as a child! Even if your child becomes sick, do not be discouraged and try to have fun. Eman, mother of three, proudly tells “We were traveling abroad. As soon as we arrived, my daughter’s fever shot to 40 degrees. I decided not to let this get to me. Either we try to enjoy it or we ruin it. As the doctor confirmed that it was merely a virus with no sign of infection, I gave her the anti-pyretic and went down to the city. I didn’t let her crankiness get to me. At the end, all of us had a beautiful, unforgettable holiday despite what happened. How you take it, is what makes it enjoyable”.
Eisenbrg, Arlene, Murkoff, Heidi E. and Sandee E, Hathaway. What to Expect the First Year. pp. 225-240. Simon & Schuster.
Eisenbrg, Arlene, Murkoff, Heidi E. and Sandee E, Hathaway. What to Expect the Toddler Years. pp. 389-398. Pocket Books as imprint of Simon & Schuster.
El Shayeb, Salma. “Baby on Board”. Mother and Child. May/June 2008, pp 13-14.