Things do change when you start traveling with a baby or toddler (of age group 6 months – 3 years). You have to plan meticulously and think ahead. You have to select your place of stay wisely. There are numerous other things, which if thought through, would make your travel with your little one a breeze. We learnt these slowly, some through our own experiences, some through other experts in the area. Here goes our list:
Start with road trips & weekend getaways
- Keep the travel duration short with breaks possible. Prefer destinations accessible by a road trip of max 6 hours using your own vehicle or a hired cab, wherein you can stop in between to take snack breaks or just stroll around getting out of the vehicle. Road trips have these big benefit that you can stop where you want. If your child is becoming too wary because of confinement in the car, you can take a short stop anywhere. You are your own boss – you control the temperature, speed, and the entire atmosphere of your vehicle, you can adjust it as per your child’s comfort.
- Start with shorter trips of 2-3 days duration, that would cause less disruption in your kid’s routine, even if he or she is upset about the change, not eating or sleeping properly, it can be manageable for 2-3 days.
- The smaller the kids are, the more is the luggage that you have to pack with them. A road trip on your own vehicle or a hired vehicle gives the flexibility of carrying more luggage than you would were you flying to a distant place.
Choose shortest possible means of communication
- If it’s a farther destination, prefer flights than trains if possible. They would be of short duration. In a maximum of 3 hours flight you can reach to most parts of your country. And, here’s some tips for flying with a toddler that will come very handy for you if you are planning to.
- You should try to reach ahead for checking in and other formalities, that would give you and the baby adequate time to rest, relax and nurse if required, before on boarding. When we fly to our native, there is only one direct flight that takes 4 hrs and is scheduled at 6 in the morning. This means we have to reach quiet early at the airport, we have to carry our baby while she is still asleep. So, we prefer to reach early and check-in. Then, when she wakes up, we get plenty of time to get her freshened up and fed before the flight.
Stock up on baby food and snacks
- If the baby is formula fed, keep a good stock of the formula (we would keep some extra), just in case you don’t find it at your destination – babies have a great sense of taste and they might not like an alternative to the formula they are used to.
- If the child is between age group 1-2 years, carry some ready to eat organic food that you can mix with hot water and feed on the fly, anywhere, anytime. At 2+, you can give them a portion of anything healthy that you choose for yourself, as long as you are sure of the hygiene.
- You would easily get fruits, curd, bread etc. at your destination. Buy some fresh stock when you reach, cut pieces of fruits and pack in tiny tupperware when you head out to a day long trip. Carry some ready to eat small portions of curd and use it as a dip or feed it directly. When we went to Goa with our daughter, she was recovering from a stomach flu. On her ped’s suggestion, we stocked up lots of packaged curd & buttermilk. We bought bananas on reaching Goa. The resort had bread in breakfast and rice available in lunch & dinner time, it made for her perfect BRAT diet.
- Carry a hot water thermos with you and keep it replenished all the time, it would help prepare formula, ready to eat food or even wash the tupperware.
Keep the diaper bag & changing set handy all the time
- Keep adequate supply of diapers, wet wipes, rash creams and other toiletries that the baby uses on a regular basis. So, you need not carry your whole luggage to the washroom or baby care unit each time you have to wash and clean the baby. It also helps keep organized. We pack a small organizer bag with baby diaper, wipe and a small towel. It helps a lot.
- Whenever on the drive, keep 1-2 set of changing dresses ready for your child, accessible without having to open the whole luggage. This time we went to Mysore, we had kept 2 extra set of dress for her in our backpack. By the time we reached back home from the tour, she had ended up wearing all the dresses. She spoilt the one she was wearing when having lunch. She soiled the second one in Brindavan Gardens. Then she threw up on our way back and we finally changed her in the third one.
Don’t forget the vitamins and medicines
- Most important : pack all the essential medicines for the baby , even if it’s a very short trip. it will keep you relieved in case a sudden bout of cold or stomach upset hits the baby due to weather change. Also keep your pediatric’s number handy and couple of recent prescriptions with you, just in case you would need to contact them.
Choose kid friendly stay options
- Say no no to tree houses, jungle lodges etc. until they are properly equipped with mosquito repellants, and treated free of germs and insects. I won’t take the risk until my child grows a little. Keep a herbal mosquito repellant cream with you. For beach destinations, keep herbal sunscreen for the baby.
- Make sure basic amenities like electric kettle are present in the room you have chosen to stay in. If not, ask the hotel if they would be able to provide for adequate supply of hot water for the baby’s needs. Also ask for the facility to wash baby milk bottles or dishes. It’s great if they can let you in the kitchen to do the same. Some resorts and hotels might as well let you cook special meals for your baby or do the same as per your instructions, its a great relief to find such places. You can as well choose a homestay with equipped kitchen. We chose a homestay on our trip to Shimla. The host actually allowed us to use his kitchen and prepare special meals for our baby. Now we feel we would prefer a homestay when we travel with her next.
- If your child is 18 months or more, look for places of stay that have adequate space for him or her to explore the grounds. A big lawn, a children’s play area or a small zoo or pet corner in the hotel premises would add to their excitement. This was our reason to choose Beleza by the beach in Goa where they had a lawn, a children’t play area, private access to beach and a toddler’s swimming pool – all under their premises.
- Make ahead a list of baby travel essentials and pack everything including their water sipper, milk bottles or any lunch boxes that they are specially fond of, for a little older one you can keep a couple of their favorite toys and bedtime books with you. They are moody and temperamental, their favorites keep changing as well as their habits every few months. When we were flying with our girl to Shimla, she was very fond of her doll, she carried it all through the journey. She won’t sleep without her. So, despite a good amount of luggage, we had no choice but to carry her dolly with us. However, now she has outgrown that doll. Had we gone on that trip leaving the doll behind, we all would have been miserable each day and night!!
- It looks lucrative to go for guided tours or readymade packaged tours, particularly when traveling with a small one. You already have so much on your hands with the baby’s huge packing list and other everyday things. It would be great if someone else took care of the travel arrangements. Yes, you can go for one, but ensure that it is flexible. Don’t go for a travel package that is hectic, wherein you need to keep running from one site to another all through the day, or which requires day long site seeing. Add a buffer of at least 30% time to what you would have allocated for your travel, were you not going with a toddler. When we went to Kodaikanal, we could have easily covered the whole place in max 2 days. But we had a baby with us so we rather chose to stay for 3 days and take things slow. We started early morning and drove for 6+ hours. She slept through most part of the journey but still a car is not a crib, she was definitely tired by the time we reached our resort. So, we decided to have lunch and rest for the day. She had a good amount of rest and was better prepared for the next day of site seeing.
Let them be
- Kids do understand the needs of their body (perhaps better than we do). A journey is a change for them as much as it is for us. Don’t expect them to immediately fall into a routine or follow the same eating, sleeping and playing patterns that they are used to at home. They might eat less when they are traveling long distances – it happens with us too. We kept feeding our little one on one day trip until she threw up at night because her stomach couldn’t digest as usual. The journey had slowed down the digestion. We regretted not being able to read the signs. Sometimes they might not sleep as usual, particularly the day you travel and have reached the destination. Let them be. They will slowly adopt to the change.
- Kids and babies this age often require lots of things on a daily basis and most of them are essentials which means you can’t leave them behind even if you are traveling for a couple of days. As such, your best bet is to be organized with your packing. Digging through your bag to get hold of that tiny dress (or socks!) every time is the last thing that you would want to do. Travel organizers have helped us tremendously in traveling with our little one. While we are talking about packing efficiently for the kid, here’s an article on packing list for Africa with kids, which we are sure, will be of help to you. Many of these packing tips are applicable for other destinations as well.
Choose the destination wisely
- Toddlers love it when they have lots of space to play. Stay at a place which has considerable lawn space for your toddler to stroll. Head to a beach destination where the climate is not too hot, they would love to dig into the sand even if left to do so all through the day. Also, beach destinations require lighter packing of cloths.
- Don’t choose extreme destinations. We put our Leh & Laddakh trip on hold, because it is at so much altitude, it might be difficult for baby to breathe in the lack of oxygen. Similarly, at this stage, we don’t consider destinations too remote so that medical facilities or other amenities that the kid would need are way too far. Avoid extreme climatic conditions – too hot? too cold? too much rains? May not be suitable for the baby. Choose moderate climate and you all would be happy with the baby.
Choose kid friendly sites
- When making a note of what grounds you want to cover once you are at your destination, do prefer your kid’s choice. Earlier, we never used to include zoo in our site seeing list. But now, it almost tops the list. In fact, we went to Mysore (~3 hrs drive from Bangalore) so that our kid would enjoy into the Mysore zoo. Spend more time in places where you see them enjoying. It can be as simple as a small open field or the beach.
Babies this age are normally happy as long as they are surrounded by people they know and they get what they want. Until they are really uncomfortable – the weather doesn’t suit or the food is a complete disaster, they would welcome and enjoy their trip…so get ready for your next journey with your little one…exposing them to the whole new world out there…
- Start with destinations that are not too far off and don’t require too long a journey
- Start with shorter duration trip, preferably 2-3 days
- Prefer road trips to start with, they provide lots of flexibility
- Choose shortest possible means of communication
- For flights, reach early, check-in early and settle down before the flight
- Carry hot water thermos for the really little ones
- For formula fed babies, keep a stock of the formula
- Pack some ready to eat organic food, or their favorite snacks with you
- Choose healthy options like packaged curd, fresh fruits etc. for the baby
- Keep a ready to use diaper bag
- Keep a few sets of changing cloths for the baby readily available
- Don’t forget to pack all their essential medicines
- Don’t get over-adventurous on the stay options, primarily look for hygiene
- Prefer an accommodation with kid’s friendliness like play area, small zoo or pet animals etc.
- Check for the availability of basic amenities in the room you book
- Pack their favorite toys – one or two
- Be flexible with your itinerary and keep at least 30% buffer
- Give them time to fall into their routine
- Use travel organizers to pack small essentials of your baby like pairs of socks, caps, scarves etc.
- Choose kids friendly travel destination
- Don’t choose extreme destinations like high mountain peaks that would lack oxygen
- Choose kid’s friendly sites to see at your destination like a zoo, beach, farms that have farm animals etc.