My daughter is an explorer and an adventurer but before all of that, she’s a dramatic and active four year old. I’ve traveled with her since she was an infant; her first road trip at two months old, first domestic flight at five months old, and first international flight at two years old. In that time, she has made flying a new test for me and one that required some time to figure out how to do without going through the seven stages of grief.
From crying to pooping, you just never know what might happen. Let me share with you some invaluable advice to make seeing the world a breeze when you’ve got a kid on your arm.
Your instincts will tell you to overpack…but don’t.
Just getting to your destination becomes a whole new challenge with a child in tow, so as obvious as it sounds I started by trying to make a list of “needed” and “not needed” items. At first, in my paranoid-first-time-mom instincts, I ended up throwing everything into the “needed” pile as a precautionary measure. This was a horrible idea. The first time I flew a domestic flight to my hometown of Chicago, I had two full size luggages, a full stroller, a carseat, a backpack, a diaper bag, and a baby bjorn. It was like I carried her whole world with me to Chicago. It was ridiculous.
The solution was obvious: I needed to re-evaluate what I take with me. Some of the things could’ve just been borrowed from a family member back in Chicago, like a stroller and car seat. Other items, I could have just left at home or exchanged for something more packable, like the large rattling stuffed octopus that she likes versus a more compact rattle. At five months old, did she really have a preference?
You aren’t a bad mom if you don’t pack her 6 favourite stuffed animals.
Don’t repeat my mistakes. Instead, make a list of what to bring and then cut that list in half. Make a new list and then take one final look through it to confirm the items are needs and not wants. A good indicator is to always ask yourself if them item is relevant to where you are going and how long you are there. Do your research on what is available at that place and what is acceptable in that culture.
Research, research, research!
At three and a half, we took my daughter on her first trip to the Philippines where it’s common for kids to ride on motorcycles without any helmets, let alone sit in car seats. Unsurprisingly most vehicles didn’t even have the metal connections required to secure a car seat. Upon learning this, I decided to leave the heavy seat at home which saved me a world of trouble. Basic research really does pay off!
There has been a couple tricks that I’ve learned along the way that make a huge difference for my family. Here some tips on what I think will help make travelling easier for you and your child.
1. Bring an umbrella stroller instead of the full-sized stroller, or even better just bring a bjorn carrier for a hands-free (and hassle free) experience
2. I recommend buying Madela’s Quick Clean Micro-Steam Sterilizing Bags. These things are so much easier than carrying a plug-in bottle sterilizer, and are so much easier to pack. While my daughter still on bottles and I was still pumping, this was the fastest way to clean everything quickly so you are able to enjoy the destination without a screaming, hungry baby. Just be sure there is an accessible microwave in the vicinity.
3. If you’re staying in one place for a while, get your child’s favourite baby foods directly shipped to the destination. This way you don’t have to pack as much, and it really eases the whole experience.
4. Pack chewy foods like fruit leathers and gummy bears in your carry-on luggage to ease the painful popping in your child’s ears during elevation changes. If your kid is too young for chewables: a bottle or breastfeeding will work too. By making sure their jaw is active, they don’t seem to notice the discomfort as much.
5. Travelling on bumpy roads? Pack some hard candy or suckers to alleviate car sickness. This one I learned from my mom and my constantly motion-sick sister. Try not to embark on the journey after a big meal and watch the little one for cues. Not crying? Not talking? Staring out the window? Better break out the candy.
6. Bring an iPad or tablet (but only for flights and airport time). While I’m not a big fan of keeping your child in front of electronics, it did help a lot on long flights. To be frank, after hours on a flight or in an airport, I am just not in the mood to be in mommy-mode. A small break from all the activity of travel can be a great reward for everyone.
Give yourself a break!
And finally, just remember to be patient. Whittling down travel items is a constant evolution and changes with your child’s age and travel destinations, so be patient with yourself to determine what works best for you. Once you start to really evaluate that “need” list, you’ll find that having more flexibility to be present with your little one(s) is all you ever really needed to have the vacation of a lifetime.