1. Keep mobile. Prams can be a hassle even in European nations like France and Italy (think cobble stones!) and a waste of time in places without proper footpaths/sidewalks and heaving crowds. We use an Ergo carrier, but you might prefer a sling. Get your baby used to sleeping in this from an early age if you intend traveling with them.
2. Be flexible. While you may stick to ‘routines’ when at home (dinner, sleep times etc), when on the road you need an ability to adapt and to be flexible. You can always go back to routines when you return.
3. Bring play-things/entertainment. Our children have own bags with things they can play with. Sheets of little stickers keep them going for hours. Every child has a different preference. Some might like heaps of videos or learning tools uploaded onto iPhones or iPads. While away, find things to do that they like, too. Not many kids get into adult art galleries, I’m afraid. Find fairs, circuses, parks and shows.
4. Keep onto food and drink. Snacks are vital. Always have a snack supply! Nuts, muesli bars, whatever. In many countries the food can be a bit full-on for kids (masala etc) so have a back-up. Things were really easy while breastfeeding. I didn’t have to think about baby food at all! On that note, be careful not to flash boobs in ultra conservative countries!
5. Get them sleeping rough. No, only kidding! We use a ‘Port-a-cot’, preferably a very light one (Bill&Ted’s T2 is popular and the lightest on the market). Be prepared for your child to end up sleeping in your bed, though. Ah, whatever, we’ll be back home soon! If your child relies on milk to sleep and is no longer breast-feeding, remember almost everywhere in the world has fresh milk (often only available in the mornings though) and if not, Tetra Paks are a back-up if you really have to. Can you share a room? We do, but depends on how well your children sleep with noise. Our daughter, once down, will not wake up if we’re watching a movie on our laptop full-volume on our bed next to her cot, which is lucky.
6. Tolerating lower hygiene. Nappy-wipes or wet-ones are good to have with you always, of course. Handwashing wherever possible is best. But dirt on their hands is unavoidable in some countries (India, for one!). Expect your child to put the filthiest things you can imagine into their mouths while on your travels. They’ll probably survive this. Kids need to build their immunity through exposure. So in a sense, you are doing them a favour by not locking them indoors all day. There is every chance in some locations they will develop a bout of mild gastro. Keep them well hydrated during this, and seek urgent medical aid if it goes on more than 48 hours, if they develop a raging temperature or if they start acting weird/lethargic etc.
7. Share your child. Well to a degree, otherwise you’ll have a terrible time. Traveling with a baby or child as a foreigner in many Asian nations, for example, is such a novelty to the locals. Everyone wants their picture taken with your child, especially at touristy sites. They’ll kiss, pinch, pat, cuddle and sometimes simply take your baby/child from your arms. Try not to freak out too much. Freaking out rarely helps. If things get full-on, politely decline and walk away quickly and keep moving. Unless you are willing to let your child develop their social skills by interacting with locals in way-out places, don’t bother traveling in the first place.
8. Be sensible but not obsessively stupid about safety. Travel with a child is simply not advisable for parents who are highly risk-averse. This is a very contentious point. Here we will use one very obvious example that will bring this fact home; child seats for cars. Outside of high-income nations there is near-to-zero use of the ‘baby seat’ for private cars, let alone taxis. Now, we’re not advocating taking your whole family on a motorbike through central Calcutta. But, you will almost certainly be catching a taxi or rickshaw in places like this. Bearing this in mind, we believe it is up to the parents as to what level of risk they are willing to expose their kids to (within reasonable limits and the law, of course!) It is a very personal thing. But just be aware of this before you book your flights to India, for example. Even if you bring your own baby seat to countries like this, chances are they won’t have the right fittings. If you do choose, as we do, to make exceptions for the time you are overseas, be sure you always hold on to your child in transit. Another tip with an infant is to put your own seatbelt on as normal (if there is one), then place the Ergo baby carrier over yourself with baby in it. We have also heard of parents using seatbelt attachments like the ones found on planes.
9. Bath time with Iodine. Yes, some places just don’t have clean enough water for your child to splash about in. We use hotel-supplied buckets filled with tap water and Iodine solution added. Swish it about and make sure to wait around ten minutes.
10. Plan and co-ordinate. Oh, those great days of free-wheeling as backpackers! How fun and crazy! Now with our children we’re just a little more organised (not too much, though, that would be boring). We book ahead occasionally nowadays; hotels, flights, trains. It’s so easy with the internet to ‘kind of’ know what you’re going to get (the occasionl nasty surprise is part ‘n parcel). We plan long car journeys to coincide with our child’s sleep time and so on.
Well, that’s about it. Please feel free to write and tell me your stories or give me your own tips!
Bon voyage to you all.