The top five tips to successful travel with a baby or small child.

In my previous life I was well traveled.  Both work and play led me to all continents bar South America, and I loved it.  A little over three years ago a pocket sized bundle of rambunctious energy entered my life.  While pregnant I had accepted an invitation to speak at a conference in Italy when my firstborn was three months old.  As a result, husband, baby and I jetted off optimistically on a round the world trip.  The trip wasn’t a success.  I returned home a crumpled heap of exhausted motherhood wondering if my travelling days were behind me.  Fortunately they weren’t.  Three years, another baby, and numerous road and plane flights behind me and I am enjoying travel again.  Here are my top five tips for those planning a trip with children – designed to keep the love of travel alive.  This blog contains information that will help with all five key areas.

Make health a priority

Becoming unwell while travelling is bad.  Throw in a sick child as well and you are bound to regret your decision to leave home.  While there are potential health perils involved in travelling overseas many of these can be avoided.  At least six weeks before you travel book an appointment with a general practitioner.  Your GP will tailor advice to your itinerary.  Issues to address include the need for any pre-travel vaccinations, how to avoid and treat traveller’s diarrhoea and whether there are any mosquito spread infections you need to be alert to.  Even those staying on the well beaten tourist track may warrant special health advice.  A family trip to Disneyland may be rudely interrupted for example if one of your children has asthma.  Take the time to talk to your GP about any existing medical issues you or your children have before travelling.

You will be better able to weather any nasty surprises your trip throws at you if you have purchased comprehensive travel insurance.  Even common place illnesses experienced overseas may result in expensive medical bills if you are uninsured.

Organization is the key

The need to be organized when travelling cannot be over-stated particularly when travelling with young children.  This extends to what I actually wear on a flight, the ability to weather spills and comfort being the most important criteria for an outfit.  It also encompasses how I book accommodation.  I avoid numerous trips up the stairs hauling a stroller by ensuring any accommodation we stay in has a lift.   The well organized parent will meticulously plan the contents of their carry on luggage to meet their child’s needs (a snack, toys, wipes etc).  The very well organized parent will research what child friendly options exist at an airport where a layover is planned (some airports have playgrounds).

Have realistic expectations

Just as your home and work life change when you have children your travel life does as well.  Travelling won’t be the same as it was before, but there can still be real joy, growth and fun in the experience.  Just exactly what is realistic will depend on the age and personalities of your children.  For me it means not expecting to read the in-flight magazine or watch the movie on board a plane.  It also means limiting our travel explorations to the early morning and afternoon so we can cater to nap needs.   To avoid sharing a 7.30pm bedtime we stay in self-contained accommodation rather than hotel rooms.  Making sure both partners share expectations before departing will improve family harmony.  If one partner is working out of the home or away most days, holidays with the kids and the limitations this involves may come as a rude shock.

Be the boss

One of the joys of travel can be sharing time with friends and family.  While this has its perks (think free baby-sitting) a downside can be losing the ability to have your children dance to your own tune.  This can manifest in a variety of ways.  For us it often involves desecrating the sanctity of bedtime.  If it is not lights out, asleep for our three year old by eight o’clock, sleep is just not going to happen.  There will be all manner of nocturnal toddler and parent angst and it will continue all night.  Late dinners with family, visitors who arrive at 7.45pm to see the children and uncles who think a pre-bed game of “whizzy-dizzy” are a good idea are all examples of bedtime sacrilege.   Parents of older children may find their values and discipline challenged by family members.  Ultimately, you know your children best.  You know what the consequences will be if they stay up late, eat that extra lolly or see a scary movie.  You are also the one who will have to deal with those consequences.  Even if staying under other people’s roof always try and maintain the standards you set for your children’s routine or behaviour.

Choose wisely

Chose a destination that ticks boxes for the entire family.  Accommodation with a kid’s club or baby-sitting option will allow you some well earned time-off.  Other factors to consider include the time it takes to get there, the number of layovers required and how bad the jetlag will be.  The higher each of these rate the less appealing the trip is going to be with small children.  What will the climate be like at the time of year you are planning to travel?  Booking a holiday to a tropical destination in rainy season may be cheaper however nobody will be happy if the rain leads to a bad case of cabin fever.  Ultimately some additional thought and research will enable you to plan a trip more likely to leave both yourself and the kids smiling

© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move