Over our date night I shared with Daddy Joe one of my many unfulfilled dreams to kick start our much delayed backpack travelling to see other parts of the world, starting from where we are, at Asia, then Australia and if the piggy should so kindly have some leftover, we would advance to the Europe, the Americas and if I lived long enough, even Africa and the Antarctica.
“When the kids grow up, right?” He mumbled nonchalantly while taking a big bite off the last piece of Bruschetta. Oh God, my man has an uncanny accuracy about my maternal obsession and had just burst my dream with reality check. He knew it was all about the kids NOW, that I would not be able to leave my kids with our family and just go on a trip with him as a couple without filling our luggage with an overload of GUILT and WORRIES. I’d miss them before I even leave the door step.
While this remains an unchecked item on my Must-Do-Before-Age-40 List shamelessly year on year, we have done fairly well fulfilling our love for travel by packing our kids with us on many local and low budget overseas trips rather seamlessly. We have conquered caving, picnic, waterfall, jungle trekking, few island and overseas trips and attended many weddings and covered even more hometown road trips quite successfully even when our kids had barely turned 7-8 weeks old. As an outdoorsy couple, our motto for relaxation is quite simply, Have Kids Will Travel!
There is definitely a way to make family trips with your baby (and/or kids) a pleasant one with these travel essentials:
1) Muslin / Nappy Cloth. I was going to be a hard core earth mama when I gave birth to Cheeky Koko 11 years ago. I bought so many of these square muslin cloth nappies that I could have diapered all the baby bums in the neighbourhood. I dedicated the next few years to using them creatively and have found them to be just as useful to be clamped to the car windows as a sunshade, a blanket (just sew two pieces together for a bigger baby), a towel to wipe down the wet messy baby who is starting to self-feed, a nap mat on the beach, a diaper change mat while in the car or even as a puke soak-up cloth (ewww…).
2) Baby / Kids Car Seat.
Invest in one that can recline fairly well because then baby can sleep longer and more comfortably on a road trip. Baby B uses one that is cushy, reclines almost 160 degree and comes with a sun canopy, love it.
3) A Baby Carrier. The metal framed backpack style carrier is heavier to carry especially if you are carrying a heavy baby like Baby B but is more comfortable and airy to be in for the baby especially in hot humid weather. My only advice: Do your own heavy weight lifting to buff up those shoulder muscles months before the trip!
On the other hand, a soft structured baby carrier would be ideal if your destination was fairly cool, such as malls, museums or one that involved many sightseeing or leisure strolls. I truly think this is one parenting gem to invest in as it is also a safety measure to keep your child always close to you (haven’t we heard enough of cases of kids that went missing in a crowded place?) and your gentle body movement would lull the baby to sleep easily. A good one makes carrying your baby a really comfortable experience especially if it is well constructed with thick good padding around the waist and shoulder straps.
4) A light umbrella stroller if you are travelling to modern cities and lugging all the victorious conquest from Prada store the whole baby nursery with you. But do Google a little on the city that you are travelling to if it was child friendly. Some cafes and shops in Hong Kong, for example, have such tight, narrow walking space between the tables that you would not be able to manoeuvre through the aisle easily.
5) A battery-operated or car-powered mini fan for the car / the stroller so that you can kiss goodbye to the superhot Malaysia weather.
6) Baby’s Lovey or whatever that makes the baby feels like home. Be it the Yellow Sponge Bob Square Pants or the Neon Pink Monkey, anything that can soothe the baby cry and save some parental sanity is so coming with us on that road trip!
7) Baby snacks and food. It would be good to keep some snacks and baby food handy, as you will never know when you travel to a camping site or a third world destination that you cannot find any clean, decent baby food until the next stop at a town four hours away. You may not like the idea of feeding your baby with MSG and preservative laden processed foods served at the restaurants as well. I have travelled with a mini slow cooker to cook simple baby porridge overnight with some veges we bought from the local market. Otherwise instant baby food such as oat porridge would make an ideal nutritious baby meal. Remember to pack baby utensils, a small scissors to cut pasta, meat or noodles into smaller, digestible chunks, a feeding bowl with lid and a small jug kettle or sanitizing tablets to sanitize the baby bottles and breast pumps.
8) Sunblock and bug repellent. When we do jungle trekking with our baby, our anti-leech trick is to buy a pair of cheap lady pantyhose, cut into equal length and wear it over baby’s hands and legs (yes, not very manly looking for baby boys I would say but unless you want your baby to donate blood to this blood sucking creature) and a bug repellent such as Mosi-Guard (this is made of natural ingredients and can prevent sand flies and mozzies too) over the baby’s body and the pantyhose. We picked up this wonderful tip from http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/how-to-prevent-leech-bite/
9) A first aid kit stocked with bandages, plasters, tissues, medicine for bruise/cut (we heart Pot of Gold, an all-natural, one for all cream we got online for our kids’ eczema, cuts, wounds, and etc), baby’s regular cold, cough, fever and pain relief medicines or suppository because the last thing you want is to be stuck in the jungle and your baby started getting a fever spike at 3am on the first day of your trip.
10) Baby clothing. Daddy Joe used to freak out seeing me pack an overflowing supply of kids clothing on our trips. I have since perfected the art and developed this lean-packing formula to estimate the number of clothes for the little ones that has worked for us. Baby’s clothes = (Tops & Bottoms: No. of days x 2 sets each day) + (PJs and socks: No. of Day x 1 set each day)+(1 set of outer wear for cold weather)+(1 pair of shoes)+ 5 Diapers a day (can be a mixture of pants diapers for easy diaper change in the car)+Wet tissues.
11) Kids & Grownup Clothes = (Tops: No. of days x 1 sets each day + 1 extra set for the emergency eg. A 4D3N trip would be 4 tops + 1 extra top) + (Bottoms: No. of days divide by 2 x 1 set + 1 extra set for the emergency eg. A 4D3N trip would be 2 bottoms + 1 extra bottoms) + (Socks: No. of Day x 1 set each day)+(1 set of PJ and 1 set of outer wear for cold weather)+(1 pair of walking shoes + 1 pair of casual slippers).
12) If it’s a self-drive road trip which means I can pack my more into the car trunk, I would pack an inflatable mattress or a sleeping bag for the older kids as they are at the age whereby squeezing in with us on a king-sized mattress at the hotel will just seem too acrobatic, and paying for an extra room and extra beds will be too costly. We save where we can to squeeze more family trips out of a year’s budget. =)
13) On that note, when he was much younger, we also pack an inflatable bath tub for Baby B.
14) Swim suits and swimming floats for extra safety and fun.
15) Baby toiletries and towel. I hate the idea that the hotel towels have been used by many a hundred, even a thousand strangers before us, and although it has been washed and some sanitized, I still prefer my own kids to use their own towel. On a practical side, the hotel usually furnishes only two towels per room anyway.
Never mind that the hubby would look utterly shock over the number of luggage he has to lug around. Men, they have no idea about our stress level if we could not exactly find what the baby might need in the middle of the jungle! They are easily stressed whether you under or over-pack, aren’t they? 🙂
Of course, depending on your travel destination, some places do boast of many kids-friendly features such as access to baby food and spare disposable diapers that one does not even need to pack more than the basic necessity such as baby clothes and own medicines.
It also depends on how innovative one is. We have travelled to places with just the baby clothes and bathed the baby in the sink and even in a cooler box! We have also passed our sleepy baby from one person to the other within the family when one’s arms gotten a bit sore to save the hassle of bringing along a stroller. For easy access to our baby things, we sometimes use a recycled carton box to neatly organize all the items in the car trunk instead of using a luggage.
I hope, like me, that travelling with the little ones become the contentment of your life!