Toddler Tales: Traveling with a baby and a toddler. Part 1 — The Planning
We felt homesick. It had been several years since we had been to India, and met our family and friends. Our parents had been to the US to be with us, and with a new baby in the offing, we stayed put, dreaming of the day we could make a trip to the land we grew up in.
It was a daunting task. To even think of taking a 20 hour flight, layovers and airport time extra, with two little boys in tow, seemed like mission impossible. To add to that, we had to make sure that we met most of our scattered family members and visited some places we personally wanted to. This required careful planning. So we sat down, with pen and paper, and a smartphone, because nothing these days happens without a smartphone. We had to make the trip comfortable for our family, including our 3 and a half year old and our eight month old. What came out of arduous planning and execution was a lovely trip, memorable and comfortable. There were obviously a few factors like flight delays which made things difficult, but we survived through that.
These are a few tips that can help you while you travel with your babies and toddlers. If possible, try to travel during good weather months, especially to minimize falling sick and to have convenient travels in your destination country. I know that is dependent on a lot of factors like work and vacation, but weather can be a significant factor. In any case, make the most of your situation. Also, if it is your first trip with a child, grow some thick skin. Because kids will cry and kids will make noise. You may be lucky to have patient and understanding passengers around you, or not so lucky and end up with uptight, rigid ones. Regardless, being prepared will reduce the number of times the babies will cry, and equip you with some quick solutions on the flight. Tweak these for your own, according to your personal choices and preferences.
Plan, Plan, Plan
My dad often quotes the old army adage,
‘When you sweat more in peace, you bleed less in war!’
Have everything on paper or on your laptop/smartphone. Make an excel sheet if you need. Some questions you may ask yourself, and discuss with your spouse:
- Passports and/or visas for kids.
- Make your international travel reservations. Try to get a direct flight if possible. Flights with layovers run the risk of delay, with a possibility of missing the connection. It can all go well too, but with young kids, you may want the shortest, direct route possible.
Our return Etihad flight was delayed by over 6 hours. This made us miss our connection from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco. The ground staff was apathetic and rude. The kids were tired beyond words, and we could barely keep our eyes open. A journey that should have taken 24 hours, stretched to almost 45. If we weren’t prepared with basic necessities in our hand-baggages, it would have been worse.
- What is your international and intra-country schedule? Write down your arrival and departure dates, and flights if you want.
- What travel reservations do you need to make at your destination? Do you need them done beforehand? What about staying arrangements?
- Are you staying put at one place or traveling further? What all places do you want to cover? Don’t be scared to travel with kids, but don’t be over-ambitious either.
- Are there people who need to travel, make reservations and come to meet you?
- What essential baby and toddler items do you need to carry and which of these do you need to buy? I am going to post a list of flight essentials in my next blog.
- Who all do you need gifts for? Include gift ideas you might already have. Carry some extra chocolate bags or tiny gifts, just in case. They come in very handy when you meet people you didn’t expect to run into, or visits from extended family members.
- Make a complete packing list. You may not list each clothing item, but maybe just mention the number you’ll need. Pack ample for kids. If required, you may be able to buy some things at your destination. Remember to keep room for all your shopping!
- How is the weather going to be at the destination? Are jackets needed?
- Do you need to book a bassinet on the flight? If yes, call ahead. You might have to reach the airport early to book it. Usually bassinets are great for kids up to 6 or 7 months, depending on height and weight. They might give you a much needed break during the flight. Bassinet seats usually have much more leg space too.
- Do you need a stroller till the aircraft? Umbrella strollers are generally a good idea for navigating within the airport, and keeping kids in one place.
- Do you need a baby carrier? While this is a personal preference, this can really save the day on-the-go. Choose one with the appropriate age and weight range, if you do.
When you make lists, you have a way to cover maximum ground. You can check off things as you complete your tasks and pack your bags. While there are many factors that you may not be able to control, there are a lot that you can. We had a great time back home, and our older one formed some great memories. Surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, new travels and old lanes, it was a trip to remember!
Watch out my next blog on Packing and On-flight Essentials!