We are getting ready to go to Bali again this year. This will be our fourth trip in three years – two of these have already been with our daughter, who was 7 and 10 months old during our previous trips. This time she is three, so I am a lot calmer about the whole thing. I am a bad traveler myself, but luckily my husband is not, so it is not so hard.
My daughter had already been on 27 long haul flights in her first two years of life, so she is a more seasoned traveler than many adults. Since we are in Australia, any overseas trip is a long-haul flight, and by now I think we have the hang of things. When we first went to Bali with a 7-month old, I was really nervous. What about diseases? What if she gets malaria? What if she gets a stomach bug or worse? What if she ingests the water or licks her fingers? What if she touches anything?
Aside from a few mosquito bites and a bit of jet lag, though, nothing else happened. This time around I hope to be Zen enough about the whole thing and not worry so much, and importantly, not over-pack. Here are some travel tips that have kept us sane during our many cross-continental trips (most involving flights of 12 hours or more!).
- Don’t over pack. We try to always travel light, even when running day-to-day errands. But when traveling, I think it is actually more difficult when you have packed two whole suitcases of “just in case” items for the baby. Bring essentials. One or two bottles, not four or five (bring plastic microwavable sterilizing bags). Diapers for a few days, not a few weeks. A few toys, not everything. You can always get things you have overlooked at your destination. And chances are, if you overlooked it in the first place, it is probably not all that essential. We have two suitcases for the three of us – my daughter and husband share one, and I have another smaller one, because I usually go for work and need to bring nice clothes and equipment. Now that my daughter is potty trained, they will probably not even take up the suitcase between the two of them.
- Don’t bring several carry-on bags. Bring one for yourself and the child combined. Keep everything in one place and handy. That way, if you need to grab something quickly, you know where it is, and won’t need to fumble through several bags trying to remember where you put it. Plus, carrying all those bags and your child is difficult!
- Do bring your own baby food for the flight, if needed. We have never been happy with the food provided for babies and toddlers on flights.
- Don’t put squeaky shoes on your toddler (or shoes that flash lights)! Many people sneer at the sight of small children on airplanes. However, putting squeaky shoes on a child during a flight is just downright rude. We have been on a few flights where someone else’s child kept all the other children awake for 10 hours by squeaking incessantly, and nobody was happy. This is just common sense.
- If you are traveling to developing countries, you probably don’t need a stroller, since you can’t really use them anywhere. If you must, bring a cheap umbrella stroller (with a sunshade) that you don’t mind damaging. We found that carrying our daughter in an Ergo sling was the easiest option for getting around. Most airports have courtesy strollers that you can use to get from one terminal to another, and if you have a wait between flights, they are pretty handy. We always bring our stroller to Europe, though.
- Do try to book a bassinet seat. If you don’t, you will end up holding your baby for the entire flight. Keep in mind, though, that even if the baby is sleeping, you will have to take her out during turbulence, and also take off and landing. But it is better than sore arms for 12 hours. When our daughter was too big for the bassinet but still under 2, we always asked for an extra seat, and often our request was granted, allowing her to stretch out and sleep across the seats. Just ask!
- Now that our daughter is older and we need to purchase a seat for her, be bought one of those harness seat belts for the plane. I think we spent $130 on it. Not worth it! On all of the flights so far, the harness did not fit well over the seat and would end up over the tray of the person behind us. We have used it for take-off and landing, but because the seats are narrow and the child is small, the harness really doesn’t work well and ends up sliding down.
- Do time your flight around your child’s schedule if you can. Although we are lucky that our daughter is a great traveler, we still try to book night flights so that she will be tired enough to sleep for most of the flight.
- We bought a great travel high chair that we could take everywhere. It fits over the back of the chair, rolls up into a small pouch, and hardly takes up any room.
- Don’t bring a car seat to developing countries. In Indonesia, for example, most cars don’t have seat belts, so you probably won’t be able to use it. If you really need it, you can always rent a seat at your destination anyway.
Most importantly, keep calm and have a good attitude. Things will happen no matter how prepared you think you are! Go with the flow, and have a good time on your travels!
These are just a few of the tips I could think of before we embark on our journey. Check back for more travel tips and stories.
An excellent website for traveling to Bali with children: www.littlebalilove.com
Do you have any tips for traveling with small children?