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By: Lama Arrabi, a mother of two
Stepping into a plane hoping there will be an extra vacant seat, is every mother’s dream when travelling with a toddler younger than two years old.
So how about travelling across the continent with a toddler boy and a baby girl who was exclusively breastfed, both in diapers? That is something to talk about!
During the very nice spring season, my husband and I were eager to explore a new country, a new culture, so we took the chance and decided to visit Malaysia with the Kids; Ali (2.5 years) and Yasmeen (10-months), for 18 days.
As soon as we booked our flights, accommodations, and schedule, the adventure began. The trip involved 9 flights: from Home to Malaysia, internal flights, and back Home.
It started with packing. Always remember when you are packing for toddlers and babies, nothing is too much, BUT, keep it smart. Do you know that sippy cup that your kid loves and makes life much easier while at home? It will make your travels easier as well, pack it!
Circumstances and Settings are hardly under your control while travelling, so you need to be prepared:
- Sufficient change of clothes.
- Baby gear. It was much easier and more convenient to handle two single strollers than maneuvering a double stroller.
- Diapers and wet wipes. We wanted to save time and effort, so instead of looking for suitable diapers in Malaysia; we took the whole needed supply of diapers for two kids along with us. Crazy, but doable!
- Basic medications (fever, cough, allergies, diaper rash)
- A couple of favorite toys.
The first flight to Malaysia had one transit layover in Sri Lanka. And since that transit time was long, we decided to book a hotel room for the night, and try to minimize the effect of the 8-hour time difference. Fortunately, it actually worked; the kids felt energized and fresh!
Airport time, a pain! But wait, I have some tips for you, to help you survive a 12-hour travel with toddlers:
- keep your hands free! Prepare a carry-on bag with those items: light cover ups (airplanes and airports can be so cold, especially when your kid is asleep), a change of clothes (accidents happen!), diapers, wet wipes, sippy cups, favorite toy to keep them busy, breastfeeding cover up, and Snacks! You would tell me, “I can get snacks from the airport”. Well, trust me, there will come a moment when your kid is hungry and you are in a queue, or worse, the nearest shop in the airport is a good 20-minute walk away. So, a readily available snack will save you.
- Don’t over stress, you cannot control it all while you are travelling with toddlers!
They will bump into people, talk really loud, or have a tantrum when you take them off their strollers to put them through security gates, just because it is their property!!! Yes, that did happen!
Do not put much thought into what people are thinking about you and your family based on what’s going on with you. Always remember, it is not an ordinary situation for toddlers to be in airports, and hopping on and off airplanes for hours and hours, so they might as well have “not so ordinary” reactions!
We have finally arrived at our first destination, and we started our schedule, very busy and active. But, in my head, after the first two days, I was collapsing!!
When we used to travel before kids, and even with our first born, we would go explore all around and visit every interesting spot in the place. However, this time, we faced a big challenge when we tried to do the same with a toddler and a breast-fed baby. Our mind was set that we can do it the same old way, but the fact was that we needed to manage our Expectations. That was what caused my frustration; an unrealistic schedule.
So, we reacted quickly and altered our plan from visiting three places in one day, into one or two maximum.
That allowed us to enjoy the places we have been to, saved us the hassle of multiple transportation arrangements, and gave our kids some time to have peaceful naps in their strollers during the day.
That’s why, it is all about Perception; how you perceive your trip. Since you opted to take the kids along, you will have to consider their effect into your plans as they have their own needs.
But, Balance is Key. Balance your trip between kids’ friendly/oriented activities, and activities you might be interested in, so none of you would feel left out. When kids come along, it is a Family Trip, not a kid’s getaway.
This is what I learned by experience, try to satisfy all parties. So, when you go to a water park, this is a beautiful family getaway, but with two toddlers you will be mostly stuck in the kids’ friendly area. Do not worry! tomorrow is your turn to go shopping, or maybe head to the safari dream trip. Always have some slots booked for adults’ interesting stuff so you won’t get frustrated and disappointed with your trip.
Finally, travelling with toddlers for some different sorts of vacations, has left me with those take away tips for every family planning to do the same:
- Keep them fed. When a toddler is hungry, or low on sugar, things will take a bad turn! Make sure to keep them full of good healthy food and try to maintain their meal times as much as possible. This gets me to breastfeeding while travelling, which I think needs a different setting to talk about, but, in short, be confident, there is no shame in breastfeeding your toddler in public if there is no private place to do it, as long as you are covered up and comfortable.
- Naps are vital. The second worse thing after having a hungry toddler, is a sleepy one. Try your best to let them have a good nap. There is no need to go all the way back to the hotel, a stroller can do.
- Keep them involved. Toddlers can sense your frustration, and they will be frustrated as well. So, if you keep the balance and satisfy all parties, they will feel as a part of the trip and actually enjoy it. When you set some plans in the trip to satisfy your interests, and theirs, you will all end up feeling happy.
- Believe in your toddler. Toddlers have super powers you might not know about until you travel together. They are strong, they can handle some tiredness, not so familiar situations, sleep in the most un-accommodating settings, and even maybe tolerate food with some heat! So do not try to go overboard, trying to create the most comfortable and familiar settings for your toddlers during the trip, trust me, they can handle some disturbances.
- Tired but happy. Perception, again. You just need to accept it, running around the whole day between touristic activities, the needs of two toddlers, and yourself, is tiring. But it is OK. Do not let a vomiting incident, a diaper leak, or a tantrum, ruin your joy or day.
At the end of each day, and most importantly at the end of your trip, always think of the joy you had, the blessing of getting the chance to have those good times with the whole family and have your kids experience it in an early age. This is your family adventure, go ahead and enjoy it!