As our family’s summer travel for this year came to a close, I found myself settling in to the familiar living room sofa with a sigh of relief, a smile of satisfaction and a deep sense of gratitude for the conclusion of a trip from which we all came back in one piece with memories to cherish for a lifetime. This summer we tackled the farthest destination we had been to with our 3 yr. old toddler and 17 yr. old teenager. It was a multi-destination trip to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, where we spoke none of the local languages and involved us driving ourselves around and riding camels through the dessert. And I wondered, how did these kids become such savvy travelers?
My husband and I had always enjoyed travelling, often including adventurous destinations such as backpacking the Inca trails to Machu Picchu, skiing the Alps, volcano trekking in Guatemala, 29-hr flights to snorkel the Gili islands of Indonesia, and on it goes. With the birth of our son, we feared all this was over and we’d now be limited to safer and closer destinations. And so it was at the beginning, but gradually we found ourselves pushing the boundaries. I prepared meticulously for each trip, applying advice from others who had travelled with young kids and lived to tell the tale. From diseases to temper tantrums risks and discouraging experiences abound, the fear is real. However, before we knew it, our 3 yr. old had visited 14 different countries. I am thankful to all those other parents who took the time to share their travel do’s and don’ts helping me create healthy and enriching travel experiences for my family all the while maintaining my sanity. What follows, are snippets of the advice I applied and the discoveries I made of things that worked for us, in the hope that other diligent wanderlust parents will keep travelling even after kids. Do note, I found these tips to be as applicable for short destination travel as for visits to faraway lands, be it plane bound, road tripping or cruising.
1. A few weeks in advance visit the pharmacy or travel clinic and consult for vaccines and travel medication.
It may seem like overkill or cliché but trust me, you’ll feel like a Supermom when you can immediately pull out traveler’s probiotics or eye drops to deal with spontaneous diarrhea or itchy eye. Not to mention the gained peace of mind from knowing you gave your child that Hepatitis A vaccine which is not part of the Quebec Immunisation schedule until they are in fourth grade (read more about that here, and the government’s new website here). I’ve lost precious trip time before, looking for a pharmacy, even more challenging when you are somewhere you don’t speak the language or where you don’t recognize the brands.
2. Pack a couple of days in advance like if you were leaving the next day.
You’ll be happy you discovered the box of disposable bottle liners in your cupboard is actually empty, or the Tylenol is actually expired with enough time to go shop for some. Same goes for sunblock, repellent and clean clothes! By the way, yes you can buy repellent and sunblock at the destination BUT why pay triple for a brand you don’t even like? (Especially, if you are particular about the kind of sunblock you put on your baby’s skin). And on that note, disposable bottles and liners and microwave sterilizing bags do make feeding bottle diners on-the-go, a cinch! From baby well into the toddler years.
3. Prepare a compact yet diverse activity bag for use in the plane.
Try to include new items your child has never seen or played with before. I like to keep the travel activity bag very compact. To do so, think about items that can be used in multiple ways like a shape cutter for play dough, can also be used for tracing patterns on paper. I prefer to put my son’s activity bag, inside my own travel backpack, that way I can keep track of it and ensure contents won’t be accidentally spilled everywhere. See the image below with my hand sized one and its contents from one of our trips. Here’s another clever resource, I found useful.
4. Sign up for the airline’s kids club.
Be sure to read the rules, as each airline’s program is different, some will let you pre-order children’s meals which feature “kid friendly” options, other airlines will mail you a kids club badge that the child will be required to wear on them to get the plane perks that go with it such as toys and treats.
5. Plan the plane outfit (yours and your kids).
The outfits should be loose, comfortable, soft and layered. To my outfit selection I also add: pockets and no metal belts or jewelry, this helps speed up the process through security freeing me up faster to manage the kids and the travel. I also like to include something light and compact that can serve multiple purposes: as a blanket, as a pillow or a shade cover (to build a cocoon to shield from lights and distractions) my favorite is a long and wide cotton scarf or pashmina.
Stay tuned for part 2...the flight!
Fanny - Passionate Mom, Stepmom, Godmother
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