WAY before Isay turned six months old, the wife and I had decided to make it special by taking her on her first airplane ride. When picking a destination, we settled on Hong Kong, so that we could take the little bunny to Disneyland.
During the course of the planning, we decided to bring the wife’s parents along for some family bonding time. Since it was the first time Isay would be on a trip, we made sure we combed through every possible situation we would face. Airplane rides, train rides, long walks, long days. Since Isay could only appreciate this trip through pictures, we wanted to make sure she would be at least comfortable the whole four days we would be in HK.
Why travel? Because we want her to get comfortable going to different places and visiting different cultures. If there is one thing we want our baby to develop, it’s a sense of adventure and discovery, the joy of traveling.
We knew that it wouldn’t be easy, though. So we pushed through with a mind-set that it would be a challenge traveling for the first time with a six-month-old baby in tow.
But allow me to cherry-pick from those sites and mix in my own tips on how to make travel with your baby smooth.
Do a test run. Before we flew, we had already taken Isay on long road trips to Gapan City in Nueva Ecija and to Batangas City to see how she reacts to long trips, what her feeding cycle looks like, what her nap patterns are and how she behaves when tucked in a car seat for a long time. Those observations would play into how we prepared her for the flight to Hong Kong (we noticed that at certain stages in a long trip, she’d get antsy and want to be carried, which we could not do inside a car but would be possible in an airplane, provided the “fasten seatbelt” sign is turned off). Homing in on her behavior prepares you for things that would crop up during flights and how to deal with them.
We also took note of things that distract her from uncomfortable situations (singing, standing her up). A trip to Baguio during the holidays helped us determine if she would have problems with ear-popping at high altitudes (none, thankfully, but we were still prepared).
Know what the weather and temperature would be where you’re going. Babies are sensitive to temperature, whether its too cold or too warm. If you go underprepared, you will end up with not just a really cranky baby but someone who could get sick, too. We knew Hong Kong was going to be peak cold in February, with temperatures going as low as 8 (celsius). So Isay had to have warm clothing with her.
Make sure part of your carry-on is a bag of her stuff. It’s the same bag you’ll be lugging along during train rides and long walks, so make it light and portable. You all know the essentials: Diapers, change of clothes, feeding bottles for some (the wife still breastfeeds so instead of bottles, we had covers and shawls that would allow her to nurse in complete privacy), powder, baby oil (great for keeping her warm while keeping her skin moisturized), cotton, your baby’s passport (always, always keep this handy wherever you go. The cable car ride requires passengers who booked tickets online to present passports before claiming the purchased tickets) and others.
You might also want to bring a plane-ready carseat just in case it isn’t a full flight and you can avail of an extra seat. The drawback though is it’s extra luggage, especially if you end up not being able to use it at all.
Strollers or baby carriers are essential. One or both but never without any. Rule of thumb.Dads! Do your share of carrying the baby. It’s fun. Really. Isay was so inquisitive the whole trip, she would intently stare at anything that caught her attention. Be prepared to explain things to your baby! I’m sure Isay will not remember or even understand everything I told her, but it keeps her neurons firing every time we talk to her. It will pay off eventually.
Vitamins. You’re going into a place where the atmosphere will be different from what the baby is used to. You need to make sure her body is strong enough to defend itself against harmful microbes. We’re lucky Isay has really strong defenses against sickness (our home came under a flu attack one day and she was the only one who didn’t catch it), but that wasn’t enough to make us complacent.
Take lots and lots of pictures. Isay isn’t going to appreciate this moment yet. This was basically a chance for us to get her to experience traveling to a different place. We don’t expect her to retain memories. We just want to get her body used to flights and all. But this would make a nice little show-and-tell during her early school years. Also, it would make her excited for the next time she goes to HK, because we’d have conversations on how she was when she first went there.
Plan around baby’s nap and feeding times. When touring foreign cities and sights, keep in mind that babies will fall asleep and get hungry every now and then. Plan your schedules around these situations. In Disneyland, we watched theater shows when we knew Isay would be wide awake and went on adult rides where she’d be on low energy or when she would feed. It paid off in more ways than one. Aside from maximizing time and making sure you don’t have an ill-tempered child while touring Disney, Isay was quite attentive in the places where we went that was meant for her. She watched intently during the Lion King and Mickey shows, absorbing all that was unfolding in front of her. During her feeding time, I was able to take my wife’s parents to rides for adults. We shopped while Isay napped and watched parades when she awoke.
Remember too that walks can be tiring also for the baby. So take time to sit and enjoy the surroundings!
Socialize! This is, after all, one of the main benefits of traveling. Your child gets to meet people of different cultures. We were so blessed that Isay attracted quite a few handshakes and smiles and we obliged each one with short chats. One foreigner even mistook her for a Chinese citizen and nearly gave her money during Chinese New Year! She received stickers from strangers at Disneyland and in long queues, mothers with children would approach us and play with Isay.
Get enough rest too. The thing with trips abroad is that you tend to try and milk every waking hour possible to get the most out of the money you spent. Well, that’s not possible with a baby around. Get back to your hotel or inn early and get some much needed sleep. Walking on foot or riding trains can be quite a tiring adventure, and you might not feel it during the day because you’re having so much fun, but if you don’t get enough rest, the next day might suffer in terms of quality wandering. You can’t put the baby in a stroller all the time so you’ll be carrying her a lot. And carrying her allows her to soak in the experience even more than if she’s tucked in a stroller. So eat well and get some rest. Recharge! Tomorrow’s another day.