Many people considered that our last one-month trip to Mexico and Cuba has been a hard-core one. Meaning that people think that it is such an impossible journey, that many people would think many many times before actually committing into it. But I suppose traveling is so much our passion that we're willing to take risks and plan such trip. If money is not an issue, we'd like to travel all over the world!
And why are we bringing our little one? Many (Indonesian) parents would think that toddler wouldn't be strong enough to endure such travel. But we want to experience the world as a family, and we're confident that we would be sensible enough to travel with considerations of our toddler's needs and wants. We hope that Noe would be bitten by the same travel bugs that bite us.
Indi+Noe against Carribean sunset in Havana, Cuba
So, some people have asked us, how do you manage to do such a major travel with a toddler. Our answer would be one word: planning.
Well, planning our trip is a separate article altogether. We've also been sharing our travel plan spreadsheet with several people, and they agree that it is so detailed that it looks like a "persiapan perang" battle plan, as you can see in our previous entry.
The Basics for Traveling with Toddler
The first and foremost requirement to travel with toddler is simple, you have to know your toddler very very well, knowing his ability and limitations, so that you could incorporate your toddler's habits and life-cycle into the travel plan. How? Spend time with your child as much as possible, build trust between you and your child, and finally, test your child's limit by allowing him to be independent and learn from his own mistake.
Secondly, plan your trip in great detail including incorporating the toddler lifestyle into it. This includes timetable, detailed itinerary, and logistics. Having planned our trip in great details, we know that there are some limitations imposed by bringing our toddler. For example, we won't be able to go out to the night scenes. If we truly want to go to night scene, one of us would need to stay with the toddler to babysit as a compromise, for example, Indi would go to a dance club in Cuba while I watch over Noe. Also, we know that we have to constantly allocate time to buy snacks and tidbits for Noe. We would also simulate travel time by calculating distances in Google earth, so that we could allocate traveling time by car and allow rest stops so that Noe doesn't get bored in the car. In terms of logistics, we need to know what would be available or not in the destination. For example, we knew that antibiotics is difficult to get in Cuba, so we had to take our supply of children antibiotics, just in case.
Thirdly, take precautions to reduce risks. Travel insurance is a must, and we spend time comparing different schemes in order to get the cheapest but best option. Also, we talk about our plan to our pediatrician. She would then suggest us to take necessary vaccinations and prepare prescription medicine as our first aid kits. She would also brief us on first-aid basics and how to use the medicine. Lastly, we had planned to take first-aid course but didn't do it. We were lucky that we didn't have to do any first-aid measures during our trip.
Fourthly, during the trip itself, be flexible with the plan, constantly watching your toddler. During our trip to Cuba, we had to cancel our plan to go to the provinces because Noe had Roseola Infantum viral fever.
Traveling with toddler means traveling light, because you need to be prepared to carry the toddler anytime
Some Tips for Traveling with Toddler
The following are travel tips that had greatly helped to ease our trip:
- Travel light and don't overpack. You need to be able to carry stuff AND chase/carry your toddler when needed.
- Ziplock bags, the sturdy type (freezer type), are useful for many things! Mainly they're used to organize items in the backpack. Quart size to bring leftover food and on-the-road snacks, to pack medicine and toiletries. Gallon size is used to compress clothings for easy packing (Tip: Sit on the filled ziplock and zip them! This makes it into a pseudo-vacuum bag. Use this cheap option rather than getting the expensive special vacuum plastic bags). But don't throw them away hastily. Reuse them as much as possible, and recycle when disposing them.
- Breastfeeding! For me this makes traveling with toddler really easy. No bottle feeding kit to lug around. It also helped Noe to recover from his viral infection faster.
- Wash your clothes during trip. This is how we get by with only bringing a few clothes.
- Make it into a habit to sleep with lights off at night. This has been our habit before our kids were born. And this has helped the kid's transition with the timezone better. There has been very little jetlag despite traveling halfway around the globe.
- Make the most of the surroundings to entertain the toddler without toys. We're also glad that Noe doesn't need much toys. We can amuse him (and he can amuse himself) with things that are available on the spot. For example, Noe would have real fun looking at airplane pictures in the seat pocket. Anyways, the airline would most likely be giving toddler toy kit also. So, we didn't bring too much toys. I think we only brought one Elmo doll, that's it.
Breastfeeding really make things become more convenient
The following are things we should've done or should've bring
- Toilet training (we truly are a failure in this aspect, even up to now. HELP!). This causes us to have to bring disposable diapers, and to buy disposable diapers in the destination. And we make the earth a dirtier place because of it :( Unhappy.
- First aid course. This can be handy not just for vacation. Should take this sooner or later
- Dog tag pendant necklace or anklet for Noe. Just in case if he goes missing (knock on wood), this would help. Even better, if we could put signal-emitting implants on Noe body that can be tracked using GPS. Just in case, you know. Thank God we've managed our trip without having to put these things.
The following are godsend items that had really helped:
- Lightweight sturdy umbrella stroller. Lightweight is very important.
- Baby Bjorn baby-toddler carrier (for toddler under 12 kg) or a sling. Carrying my toddler using this had freed our hands to do other things.
- Ziplock bags, the sturdy type (freezer type). As mentioned above.
- Waterless hand cleaner solution like Purell
- Baby wet wipes. I know, this is not eco-friendly. But convenient nevertheless. Probably during the next trip we would change this with small lightweight microfiber towels.
- Pacsafe Waist Bag. Safe secure and provide additional space in the packing system.
- Pacsafe bag protector and steel wire security lock. Although people think that this is not useful, the pacsafe protector has provided us with the peace of mind. For example, we protected our bags by putting pacsafe on it and tying it onto solid column, while we spend time chasing Noe around the waiting room in Manila airport..
This is typical carry-on-bag situation on the airplane. The big backpacks are checked in. BTW Noe never had his own seat
because he's under 2 year and we want the air tickets to be cheap. Another reason to travel light.
What To Bring for the Toddler: Our List
What did we bring for our toddler for one month? We try to travel as light as possible. Sometimes we were tempted to bring more stuff than we need, but we kept reminding ourselves that we need to travel light. And if we actually need more stuff, we could try to buy the thing once we arrive in our destination. However, this is rarely the case. So far, what we have brought for the trip has been enough (note that we need to allocate time to wash clothes every other night).
The list is actually quite simple
- 6 trousers
- 2 pajama pants
- 3 socks
- 2 shoes / sandal
- 6 shirts / tshirts
- 1 jacket
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 hat
- 1 Kiddy toothbrush
- 1 Kiddy toothpaste
- 1 Kiddy bath liquid, also for his hair, the no-tear type
- 1 Waterless hand cleaner
- 1 Baby powder
- Baby wipes, buy one pack containing 80 pieces every 10 days (should think of a more eco friendly strategy)
- Disposable diapers, medium size, buy every 10 days (should've toilet trained him and use cloth diaper instead)
First aid kit for Noe
- Malaria pills
- Children's amoxillin (antibiotics)
- Cough medicine
- Insect repellent
- Zambuk for itch and insect bites
- Vicks vaporub
- 3 Syringe to give medicine when needed
- Sippy bottle for Noe's water
- Spoon, fork, knife, just in case
- 10 piece gallon ziplock
- 30 piece quart ziplock
- Ikea clip to secure food bags or plastic bags
- Flash light
- Book with static stickers, sticker book
- Small toys for Noe (as little as necessary): Elmo doll, a few metal toycar
- Our PDA phones with Sesame Street videos for Noe and also our laptop with some videos in the harddisk (rarely need to use these though, but just in case)
- Pacsafe waist bag and pacsafe bag protector
You can imagine that the above consists mostly of small items and all can fit into tiny backpack. We could do better by eliminating the disposables (diapers and baby wipes). Maybe next time.
YOU can do it too!