We recently went on our first vacation abroad with our toddler to Thailand. Was it fun? Hmmm... Yeah. Was it stressful? Hell yeah! But in retrospective, we learnt a great deal about how to travel with a toddler. So here I am sharing those tips so that you too don't end up feelings no wasted after blowing a few thousand dollars on your first trip abroad with your little one.
1-Plan your first trip when your baby is still breastfeeding
We planned our first trip as a celebration of weaning our 22-month-old son. That backfired as my son fell sick the very first day of landing in Thailand. Now, when I look back, I should have weaned my son only after the trip, as breastfeeding would have given him the necessary immunity to ward off any infection. Also, breasts are the best way to put a baby to sleep. My son was quite restless and unable to sleep well in the flight. Had he been still breastfeeding, I could have put him to sleep in a flash (pun intended).
If you find it uncomfortable to breastfeed in flight, it would be a good idea to pump and store sufficient milk for the flight.
2-Avoid night flight if possible
We opted for a night flight thinking it would be easier as our son would be asleep. That backfired big time. He fell asleep as soon as we left home for the airport in a cab and woke up as soon as we reached the airport. He then refused to sleep and would have slept for just another 2 hours during the flight. Though he slept on the way from airport to hotel, overall he would have had just around 5-6 hours sleep that night. You can imagine what happens when an almost 2 year old has a poor sleep. Yes. A messy day filled with tears was waiting for us ahead. When I now think about it, we could have opted for a daytime flight. We could have kept him entertained with some videos or games and managed somehow so that he gets good rest at night in a hotel.
3-Carry loads of toys and download a lot of videos
Keeping toddlers engaged could be hard in flights and at hotel rooms. So, for peace of mind, throw away your parenting principles for a while and download a lot of cartoons and videos and carry a lot of toys. We found it especially handy while waiting at the hotel lobby for checkout, which took unusually long thanks to a 100 people strong group checking out.
4-Ensure that the hotel check is in sync with your flight arrival time
Most hotels have 12 noon check in. If your flight is scheduled to arrive early morning, get in touch with the hotel well in advance and arrange for an early check-in. It is even worth it you have to shell out something extra for an early check-in because after a tiring flight, you just want to get to your room and rest. At that time hanging around in the hotel lobby with a tired toddler might not be something your really want to do during your vacation.
5-Carry ready to eat food
Our son simply did not like Thai food. In fact he did not like any of the food we had at restaurants in Thailand. I think it might be because he was sick. It was 7/11 and their instant rice porridge that came to our rescue. We stocked up on it and that was what sustained him on most part of the journey.
6-Plan daily activities according to your regular routine
My son usually goes to bed by around 11pm and wakes up only by 9am. But our tour operator arranged early morning activities that required us to be ready by 7 am. It upset his daily schedule and made him cranky on most of the days. That's why it would be better to arrange things around your children's schedule. After all, you are going on a vacation to enjoy and relax. So why spoil it trying to teach your little ones to adapt, which they eventually will learn later.
7-Don't try to do it all
Isn't the whole purpose of a vacation to relax and enjoy some quality family time together? At any location there will be a plethora of activities and site seeing to indulge in. But, if you try to do it all in a limited span of 5-10 days, it might end up being too stressful for you. Rather choose a few must-see locations and devote enough time to rest and enjoy some peaceful family time.
8-Don't expect perfection
There will be tantrums, missing socks, fussiness and a lot of imperfections in your journey. So, rather than stressing on those little things, focus only on enjoying your time together exploring a new culture with your family.
9-Take baby carrier
In your trip, you will definitely have to carry your baby a lot. So, taking a baby carrier or sling would be of great help to you. However, you might want to get used to carrying baby in a carrier well in advance because your baby will need some time adjusting to the new arrangement. If your baby is used to being on strollers, that too is a good option.
10-Carry your baby's favourite snack to eat during take off and landing
You know that children might experience ear pain during take off and landing. If you are still breastfeeding your little one, then nurse him during take off and landing. If not, carry those snacks that your little one finds it hard to refuse. My best bet is chocolates!
If your kids have trouble often during take off and landing, then it would be a good idea to apply nasal spray/ saline drops 30 minutes prior to the take off.
11-Reserve seat with sufficient leg space
When traveling with kids, you will have to take things from the hand baggage you carry. So, you will have to keep the bag under the seat instead of stowing it over the top cabin during the flight. That's why you will need a seat with ample leg space. However, please check with the airlines if you are booking special seat within the economy section as infants and kids are not permitted to be seated in certain seats closer to the exit which have bigger leg space.
12-Carry essential medication
When you travel to a non-English speaking country especially, you might have a tough time translating the medicine names and finding local alternatives. So, carry essential medications always.
If baby doesn't have any particular medical condition, ibuprofen, nasal drops would be sufficient.
Thank you to Parvathy Pothan for writing this great guest post. She is a blogger at http://madoverbaby.com/