Kaspia’s top 10 tips for travelling with children

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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.

Kaspia

Adventure Macedonia!

A 48 hour journey door-to-door? The adventure begins!

The beautiful family all came to Sydney airport for coffee and Bon Voyages. The real deal of travel with a baby starts immediately. Ben got in line with our shiny new Alstermo-Bruk suitcases – mine Rio Red and his Bermuda Green – our huge pram bag, the camera bag and a few more on top. Seeing baby Paloma, a lovely Singapore Airlines lady beckoned us to the front of the ‘special queue’ and we were checked in and off for lunch before we knew it.

After the craziness of weeks leading up to our journey, all I could think about was getting comfy on the plane, headphones on, a Singapore Sling cocktail in hand and hours of movies ahead. Flying over our home and off to far away places was the best feeling of this much anticipated adventure with Paloma. All the dreams were in motion and the wondrous new year unfolding with the unexpected.

After countless hours flying halfway across the world via Singapore and Dubai, we stopped for a few at Istanbul. The Bosporus winding through the ancient city glistened below as we swooped in to touch down. The grand city beckoned us through the little window, the ultimate destination in conjuring up exotic escapades. “Let’s live here!” we cried in unison without even exiting the airport. No doubt the enormous platters of a thousand Turkish Delight varieties laid out to sample in the Airport’s “Old Bazaar’ tourist shop had something to do with it. Paloma with her little turtle head poking out of the baby carrier added an extra element of delight to the curious looks we were given. Adding to the appeal of our caravan we propped her up in the complimentary baggage trolley and wheeled her around. The airport photographer rushed over, snapping pictures like he was her personal paparazzi, other tourists stopped us for photos and once again, as so often has been the case with us, we ended up feeling like a tourist attraction in the place we were touring.

Immediately the faces of our fellow travelers changed as we waited for the bus to transport us to the plane bound for Skopje, Macedonia. The ancient complexion of a Macedonian priest peered out from under his tall felt hat as he too waited, cloaked in black shiny robes a golden necklace hung with an enormous cross bearing a painted porcelain portrait of Mary, in one hand an iphone and the other a cup of Gloria Jean’s iced coffee. A young man in a spray-on white tee shirt printed with a picture of a denim waist coat over another tee shirt lounged in acid-wash denim jeans. Our gate opened and with it a tide of people surged forth reminicent of the queuing system in India. The oldest couple, who moments before had been sitting peacefully next to the man with a face like a side of ham had now become wild and pushing younger passengers out of the way in a bid get on the bus first. Never mind the Aussie lass strapped up with baby and two pieces of hand luggage!

From the air we followed the coast line of Turkey on our big map, imagining returning to the little secluded beaches dotting the Black Sea. Tall mountains peaked with snow rose out of the clouds as we turned in land towards Macedonia. Lush thick fields of green patchworked across the land until the plane decended low enough to see farm houses with broken tiled roofs, a man crossing a field with a large flat carton of fresh eggs and blood-red poppies contrasting brightly with the grass. Like the good old days we crossed the tarmac on foot to the dilapidated terminal of Alexander the Great Airport. Once again, our fellow passengers practically ran off the plane tripping down the stairs and over to immigration. A hot and stuffy room filled with people, smoke and fluro lights greeted us. Feeling entirely dishevled at the 46th hour of our trip we took a place in the ‘queue’ and waited. Paloma, like most babies, picked up on the tension wafting through the room. She started to cry, rather rare for her, and all heads turned. Men with mafia faces looked like they wanted to silence us for good. Old grannies covered their ears. Young Russian models rolled their eyes, happy they were single. And magically, appearing out of nowhere, our guardian angel immigration official in fake Ray Bans whisked us to through and into the land of Macedonia.