I do not enjoy travelling with my kids. Sometimes the vacation is worth the pain and suffering we go through to get to the destination, and sometimes it’s not. It has definitely become easier over the years as we have gained more experience, so here is what we have learned so far.
PICKING THE RIGHT LOCATION
The number one advice is to pick the right location that is age appropriate. Make sure the destination is kid friendly and activities don’t include long treks outside of your hotel during which you end up with cranky, whiny children. We limit sight-seeing to half-days only, after which we return to our hotel to rest. We once took our three children to Disneyland and it was an absolute disaster. They were simply too young to enjoy the experience and our time in the magical kingdom was mostly spent queuing for toilets and changing nappies. Our travel destinations are now easy spots where our hotel is the key part of our vacation. If either my husband or I have a great desire to explore the outside world and do something more adventurous than splashing in a baby pool, we simply take turns, one of us exploring while the other looks after the children.
TIPS FOR PACKING
I am a very minimal packer. I don’t panic if I forget anything because I can purchase it once I arrive. Our travels are usually to warm destinations where most of our time is spent in bathing suits, so even these tiny items count as outfits. I also like to bring old clothes for our vacation. Those holey undies and socks that are on their last legs go on vacation with us and I throw them away at the end of the trip. This allows for more space in our suitcases for shopping and also cuts out the worry of trying to keep our clothes clean. I am more relaxed (and lazy) on vacation and my kids will get grubbier than usual, so old clothes are ideal.
Two days’ worth of nappies and light snacks including UTH milk. This cuts out the inconvenience of searching for these items upon arrival. I like to bring enough snacks to last until we arrive at the hotel, such as cereal and bananas. They are a great finger food or substitute dinner, just in case you arrive late and are too tired to go out. I also like to pack our own bowls and spoons because they are not usually provided in hotel rooms. Reusable containers for snacks such as pancakes and croissants offered at the hotel buffet breakfast is also handy.
Pack a small first aid kit to carry with you everywhere, including sticking plasters, bandages, sterile water and disinfectant cream. Bring a thermometer, pain and fever relief medicine, anti-diarrhoea medications, electrolyte powder, tiger balm, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and tea tree oil for mosquito bites.
TIPS FOR FLYING
Travelling with kids is not the time to be glamorous and I will always choose practicality over everything else. I like to wear pants with pockets to hold everything I need within quick reach. I bring a lightweight pram on board the plane as carry-on luggage. This very useful device fits through the aisle of the plane and folds up into a small bundle for the overhead compartment. Using this pram, a baby carrier, and a backpack, I have managed to fly with three kids on my own.
To avoid tantrums, I always carry small packs of biscuits and 100ml cartons of milk and juice. Along with some crayons, colouring books and any small toys that won’t be missed if we lose them. I know it’s cute seeing young children carry their own suitcases, but unless they are over the age of six it’s just another thing for you to worry about. Instead, I pack all their things with ours in one big backpack allowing me to keep my hands free.
When my children were babies and needed formula, I used a container that allowed us to pre-portion the correct amount of formula per feed and I simply used bottled water to mix the solution. Most airlines will allow you to bring your own liquids onboard if you are travelling with children (especially Asian airlines). When I was breast feeding I wore a chewable nursing necklace to keep my babies occupied and this also helped equalise the pressure in their ears during take-off and landing. I also preferred to use a light, cotton scarf instead of a nursing cover to feed on planes because a scarf has many more uses and feeding in an aeroplane seat is very discreet anyway.
Separate your family. My kids always seem to gravitate towards me on a flight even when their father is readily available, so my husband and I sit apart. I sit with my youngest child and our two older children sit with their father. Our children respond really well to this seating strategy and are better behaved because they don’t need to fight for my attention. This also works for one child where one parent can take the child while the other one rests.
I don’t recommend using time on flights to practice the “crying it out” method, or strict parenting rules. Just do whatever you have to do to get through the flight, even if it means giving them an ipad and snacks as an incentive to behave.
TIPS FOR ACCOMMODATION
We stay in family friendly hotels with a kitchenette, kids club and children’s facilities. Hot, boiling water from the kettle can be used to sterilise bottles and I like to bring my own bottle cleaning brush and dishwashing detergent. I use a portable clothesline for washing and hanging wet bathing suits outside on the balcony. I also bring laundry detergent in a small bag.
Quick Tip: Small beach toys can be used as bath toys. Bring old toys and toss them out at the end of the trip.
I am going to give you one final tip that could revolutionise your family vacations; consider bringing your nanny. This is a luxury of living in Indonesia and you should take advantage of it if you can.
This article was originally published in Expat Indonesia at http://indonesiaexpat.biz/travel/tips-travelling-young-family/