Like many of you, I love travel. I have always jumped on the opportunity to travel and see new cities.
However, three years ago, my life changed completely – I had my first baby. Becoming a mother has been overwhelmingly beautiful and a learning experience in and of itself. Overnight, I became the traveler with a crying baby, the one no one wants to be seated next to on the plane. Traveling became hard work and I wasn’t prepared.
When my son was nine months old, my husband and I went on our first family trip. The reason behind the trip was to meet up with my sister and her family. As we live oceans apart, we decided we’d meet half-way in… Portugal. I was scared the trip would be a disappointment where we’d be confined to our hotels because of the babies – my sister had a baby, too. However, that trip proved us wrong and taught me a lot about how to travel better with babies. It definitely helped that both my sister and I had kids, making it easier to cruise around the city as a group. It didn’t bother me to stop for changing nappies or feeding. Instead, we did these things together. We took bus rides, got on trains, walked to parks and enjoyed sightseeing tours.
By the end of our eight-day trip, I came to realize that I could still experience new places and create memories with my kids (now I have two!). Sure it’s a lot more work, but it has become part of the deal. For me, the beautiful feeling of stepping into a new country and walking through its streets for the first time has always been worth the trouble – after having kids, it still is!
Here are some of the tips that help make traveling with my kids enjoyable:
- Pack smart – You need to pack based on your needs and your baby’s. For instance, I never take a carry-on – just a baby bag. I keep all passports and important documents in a separate dry pocket or in a small waist purse. Unless you’re a big group and you’ve got help, I would say go without a carry-on. It makes moving around airports a lot easier. For your plane ride, make sure you have enough snacks and light toys for your baby. Now my son is two and so I always have a story, a coloring book with crayons and cookies for our plane ride.
- Take a stroller – A stroller is a must-have. Make sure you check with your airline when you need to check-in your baby stroller – at baggage check-in or when boarding. Throughout your trip, your baby will need the stroller to nap, for when you take long walks and for when you are tired from carrying him or her around. For our Portugal trip, I went with our sturdy big stroller and we used it everywhere – including buses and trains. Even if your child walks, take an umbrella stroller; kids get tired quickly and will need to be pushed around.
- Book the right room for your kids – Make sure you inform your hotel that you have a baby and request a crib. Even if your baby doesn’t fall asleep in it, you can move him into it once he does. You can also use it as a safe play area during the day when you need to get ready or pack for the start of your day.
- Plan your trip wisely – Of course traveling with a baby means there are certain places or activities that you will have to miss out on; however the key to a fun trip is to plan your schedule to accommodate everyone including your kids. On our trip to Portugal, we spent most of our time outdoors, roaming the city, trying the different delicacies, listening to street music, and talking to people. After visiting Lisbon, we made the trip to Algarve and enjoyed lots of beach time. Our babies loved it and we did too.
- Rent a car – if need be: Research your trip thoroughly. You might need a rental and so before any trip always look into your eligibility to drive in the country you’re visiting – unless it’s the resort type and you won’t be moving around much. During our time in Portugal, we used public transportation and got on buses and trains. However, we did rent a car because it was easier and faster to move around with children. Definitely worth it.
- Travel with another adult – It’s definitely important to travel with another adult when you’re traveling with kids – be it your partner, a family member or a friend. It adds to the fun and you need a helping hand with your parenting responsibilities.
- Use a checklist – here’s a list I created for my travels. I hope you find it handy.
TRAVEL CHECKLIST: FOR AIRPLANE RIDE
TRAVEL CHECKLIST: IN YOUR SUITCASE
- More formula milk and baby food
- Brush for washing baby bottles
- Lots of changing clothes
- A hat
- Travel-size baby shampoo and baby shower gel
- Travel-size detergent if you ever need to hand wash something very quickly.
- Baby pain reliever and supplies for treating minor injuries
By Samia Badih, A journalist, filmmaker and public relations advisor. She enjoys writing, photography and travel – and is always on the lookout for new places to visit. She lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband and two sons. You can also find her on Twitter @samiabadih