The past 6.5 years of traveling with Eden and, then, Clio we have had many MANY experiences in which we have learnt something from thus making future travels that little bit easier. I know Kassie & Mark intend to travel with Caroline so I put together 5 things we have learnt, through experience in the hopes that it makes their travels a little easier!
Nursing Moms: Pack Extra "Gear." For starters, if you are a nursing Mama bring WAY MORE nursing pads than you think you will use (more so if you are going to a destination where you aren’t certain if they are available or where to look for them!) When Eden was 11 weeks old we visited Belgium, it was her first international trip and we were super excited, naive, but excited! At the time she was waking once in the night for a feed, so I packed accordingly throwing in a few extra nursing pads...just in case.
The first night I woke up around her usual feeding time and waited for her to wake. When she finally did 13 hours after putting her to bed and therefore skipping her night feed, I was in agony. I also thought the full night sleep was a total fluke due to a day traveling. So I was beyond surprised and extremely uncomfortable the next night where I lay awake waiting for her to want her night feed only to sleep through, again. This continued the entire trip which turned out to be a very uncomfortable & messy vacation.
Travel light. I know it may seem impossible with the amount of stuff babies seem to have but it is and you will be so thankful for the extra set of hands. Last time I “space-a’d” to the U.S from Okinawa, I took Clio’s car seat (because not only did I need one while we were stateside but I decided I wanted it for the plane too), an umbrella stroller, a pack for all our stuff and then a day pack for the essentials; snacks, camera gear, passports & of course diapers. This was way more than I ideally wanted to take but I deemed everything essential for this particular trip. However, I purposely made sure I could carry everything myself because something I have found is you never quite know when you are going to have to do just that. When it came time to return to Okinawa there was a flight leaving California which required us to be at the terminal (on base) at 4am; a time where no shuttles were willing to collect us for a mere 2 minute drive and we were on a base that allowed no taxis.
Thankfully I already knew I could carry everything; I buckled Clio in the stroller, threw the big pack on my back, put the smaller day pack on my front, looped the straps of the car seat through one arm which I used to push the stroller allowing me a free hand to hold a tired Eden’s tiny hand as we crossed over roads and walked 15 minutes from the lodging to the terminal. Of course, if you can do without the car seat I highly recommend that; those things are bulky and heavy!
I even plan on packing lightly when we next PCS, despite it (probably) being an international move. When we moved from England to Japan we were allotted a ridiculous 12 pieces of checked baggage for our family of 4, we didn’t use anywhere near this amount but we did have 2 car seats, double stroller, 2 carry-ons and maybe 3 checked bags. Not too shabby for moving country, right?
Like I said make sure you can carry everything YOURSELF! We landed into Sea-Tac (after flying from London via Minneapolis) and went to head to the hotel which we purposely booked close to the airport knowing we had to be back there to check-in for our Japan flight very early the following morning. Unfortunately we were TOO close to the airport for taxis willing to drive us, everyone kept saying just walk it’s close, well, that wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have a bucket load of luggage and 2 young, very tired kids that needed to be carried or pushed.
We ended up paying $40 for a shuttle to take us and had to wait 40 minutes in said shuttle as they waited for it to fill up. In hindsight I should have sent Matt with some luggage while I waited with the rest and have him do a couple trips, I am sure we considered this but I can’t remember our reason for turning this option down. Regardless...travel light.
Pack the Essentials. This might sound like it is contradicting the travel light statement, but it’s not, you just have to pack with a purpose; the purpose being pack the essentials as light as possible! Medicine being an essential item, particularly if you are in a foreign speaking country; like Greece for instance. Eden developed an ear infection while in Rhodes which we ended up getting her antibiotics for, but before we realized what exactly was wrong she had a fever and just generally felt miserable. Had we had medicine on hand I know we could have made her a little more comfortable but that was not case.
Matt had to go in search of medicine and when he finally found some translating the dosage from Greek to English was definitely interesting. If you are in the U.K. I loved to travel with Calpol Sachets which are split in 5 ml doses - makes things so much easier. Now that the girls are older (and I no longer have access to the calpol sachets) we like to travel with acetaminophen and ibuprofen chewable tablets that come in yummy flavors! The girls actually think they are candy! It makes it so easy to dish out especially if you are mid-air and requires no cleaning of spoons/syringes.
Consider Accommodations with Separate Rooms. Either find hotels that have a separate bedroom or find apartments to rent (my preferred option) it took us a while to work this one out but once we did we never looked back! I remember spending Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic when Eden was 9 months old where we consumed a traditional feast of takeaway pizza...eaten on the hotel room floor because we were tired after traveling for the day, it was late and we were eager to get Eden into bed.
Once sleeping beauty was counting sheep we realized how limiting it was all being in the same room. We ended up heading to the bathroom where I got comfy in the tub while Matt found a perch on the floor and this is how we spent our evenings; talking, playing cards or cribbage, even consuming drinks and snacks (gross!) all the while being holed up in the bathroom.
When we finally decided to try renting an apartment it was total bliss, for so many reasons...we could make our own breakfast at whatever time we wanted, we would even end up cooking dinner or lunch at ‘home’ sometimes, we try to hunt out ‘kid-friendly’ apartments which usually come stocked with a few toys but my favorite reason, when the kids hit the pillow at 7pm we aren’t limited to either heading to bed or hanging out in the bathroom!
Expect the Unexpected. When I first became a Mum I wondered how would I know the difference in Eden’s cries (and then later on Clio); how would I know if she was saying “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired”, well eventually you learn (don’t ask me how, you just do!). You even start learning their pooping schedule, so when we boarded a flight home from Portugal and only had 1 wet wipe I wasn’t worried in the slightest. I KNEW Clio’s pooping schedule so well that I was totally positive that we would make the 2.5 hour flight without needing more than one wet wipe.
Obviously I was wrong, so very very wrong. Since I was a nursing Mama more often than not meant I had the joy of entertaining the girls during flights which as a result got me out of most in-flight diaper changes! When Matt returned with a freshly changed Clio I asked him how did it go with only 1 wet wipe, to which he replied “I didn’t even know it was possible to fold a wet wipe in so many ways, it was like performing a magic trick”. Phew, we survived, of course this now meant we had NO wipes until we landed and got to our car, but this time I was 110% positive we wouldn’t need any.
Imagine our horror when Clio filled her diaper AGAIN, honestly I was laughing so hard mostly because I wasn’t the one who was going to have to figure it out, that I can’t even remember how Matt managed to get her clean. So, even if you have your child’s pooping schedule worked out, never ever board a plane with only 1 wet wipe because they are sure to prove you wrong.
You will notice that most of our learning experiences feature Eden, don’t they say the oldest child is the one you practice parenting on? Well in this case it most definitely is true! We learnt so much by traveling with Eden that when Clio came along we somewhat had things worked out. If you have never traveled with children before don’t let the simple fact that you have a child be the reason you don’t travel, instead use that as a reason to travel! Having traveled before children and now with children, I can tell you how rewarding it really is and if nothing else you usually end up with a good story to have a laugh over later on!