If you're following our instagram, you might have seen that we're on holiday at the moment, taking in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand with our two children. While I'm certainly no expert at travelling (or parenting!) I have found a few things that have helped make the trip a little easier or more enjoyable. Here are my top 10.
OK I know I go on about the Mutsy Nexo all the time, but the thing is it's such a great little stroller! Not only is it easy to push, manoeuvre, and fold, but it also has a roomy seat with a generous recline making it great for sleeping in. Our four year old is probably getting beyond needing a stroller, but it's so handy to have one for her to climb into and go to sleep when we're out and about.
Lots of people have messaged me to ask what we do with the Nexo at the airport, so here's how we do it. When we check in for the flight the check-in staff give us a tag for the stroller. Then we use the stroller all the way through the airport until we get to the gate, usually they call people with young children to board the plane second (after business class, frequent flyers etc) after we hand over our boarding passes for scanning there is usually a pile of strollers to the left or right, it's the sort of thing that you probably wouldn't notice if you don't have kids, but it's there! The ground staff then take the strollers and put them in the hold. After the flight there is usually a 'stroller collection point' sign on the air bridge or inside the airport, and the parents waiting for prams wait there. I've never waited more than five minutes and the whole process is very easy.
We travelled the Singapore- Malaysia legs of the trip with my mother in law, then the Thailand leg with my parents. It's so good to have the extra sets of hands, but it's also great to for us to spend time with our parents, and for our children to have special experiences with their grandparents. After my husband's dad passed away suddenly last year, we know all too well how fragile life is, and the experience has made us both want to spend more time with our parents. It turns out that my MIL is a baby whisperer and can get Remi to sleep anywhere, even in a busy cafe inside Singapore Airport!
Side note: Adjoining hotel rooms are really cool and worth requesting. We just had an agreement that we would keep the door closed until we wanted to see the grandparents, and they would keep theirs closed until they wanted to see us. Easy.
It goes without saying that we wanted to stay in kid-friendly hotels. Turning up at a pool full of blissed out honeymooners with my children in tow is not my idea of fun. I googled 'child friendly hotels' in the locations that we were travelling, then checked the hotels on Trip Advisor before booking. I found that when I tried to book the hotel online, and I entered that we had two children, the rates went up hugely, even though the baby is only four months old. I ended up contacting the hotels directly and booking through them- they all waived the extra fee for the baby.
Another of my tricks is to look up the hotel on instagram, not just on their account (of course those photos will be lovely) but also using #theirhotelname and the geo tag for the hotel (the places tab up the top). That way you can see current customer photos, you'll see if the place is run-down, and get an idea of the vibe, the weather, if there are lots of families, and the busyness of the pool.
This is a cool new product that we're stocking at Global Baby, from Micro, the brand that make the awesome scooters. It's a little suitcase, small enough to carry on to the plane, but it has wheels that pull out, with a foot rest and a handle for the child. It's stable for our four year old to ride on, and a comfy place for her to sit in those annoying airport queues. I found it really easy to pull and steer. This was my first time travelling with the Lazy Luggage and I'm a total convert, I can see that we will take it on trips with us for the next few years.
Car seats aren't required by law in any of the countries that we're travelling to, and in NZ they're not required in taxis either. As a child restraint technician myself I always recommend travelling with car seats (or hiring them once you're there) firstly it's so much safer, and secondly it's more comfortable for the child (and you!). Travelling with car seats isn't as painful as you might think, you just need a box or bag to put the seat in, here's how it works.
- Box/ bag the car seats when you get to the airport. You're allowed an extra piece of luggage when you travel with children, and this is it. Ask for some fragile stickers.
- When you arrive at your destination the car seats will probably be with the other oversized things, like surfboards and bikes, in the luggage claim area.
- Install them in the taxi for the ride to your hotel.
- Stash them away in your hotel room, in a cupboard or a corner until it's time to use them again.
You can take some car seats on the plane with you, there'll be a sticker on it if it's airline approved. This'll mean you get to skip the whole checking-in step, and you won't run the risk of the airline damaging your seat, but you can only do it if you've booked a seat for your child, so probably only for over 2 year olds.
Last year when we went to Malaysia and Bali we all got sick. We were away for 20 days and we went to the pharmacy on 19 of them, plus to the doctor once and the hospital once! On reflection, I think that we tried to do too much, and we tried to make our daughter do too much too. It's tempting to try to pack lots into your holiday when you've paid so much for flights to get there, the weather is so good outside, and there's stuff to see! But I've realised that it's also important to have chill time, to take naps, and even spend a little time watching cartoons.
As I'm typing this it's mid-afternoon and both of the children are asleep. I'm pretty sure my husband is asleep too. These days I think that the key is to give yourself permission to rest. You could use a sleep mask if you really get stuck.
This book is pretty cool- It comes with a 'magic' pen, and when you draw on the pages colours and patterns magically appear! No mess, and only one pen and lid to keep track of. My husband and Priya made up a game with the Colorblast Book where they try to guess what colour something on the page will be, then they colour it in and find out! Hours of fun, and it doesn't take up much room in your carry-on bag.
OK you probably can have enough, but I've brought three and that most definitely isn't enough! I always seem to be holding the sleeping baby while I'm eating a colourful curry, invariably spilling some on her muslin. Coloured muslins, or ones with patterns are great, because they don't get mixed up with the hotel towels, I'm pretty sure that's how we lost our nice fine white cotton one- so now we're down to two!
Thin muslins are also totally handy in the heat, for draping over baby's legs in the pram to prevent her from getting sunburnt, or as a blanket for an afternoon sleep in a warm room. The new Kip and Co ones would be perfect!
I'm the first to say that I love my phone and I love screen time, but at the start of this year I felt like we were having too much and it was starting to impact on our behaviour and our relationships. Now we have a rule that we don't go on screens in the morning until we're dressed and we've had breakfast, and in the evenings we don't use or screens from when we get home until after dinner. We've tried really hard to keep up the rule while we're away. We also downloaded some of Priya's favourite movies to the iPad before we came (you can buy them from the App Store). She doesn't seem to mind watching the same movie over and over, and it's meant that we haven't connected the iPad to the internet while we've been away- you know what that means? Yep, no YouTube.
They're absolutely the worst, and for some reason they seem to love children! We got some child-friendly mozzie repellant from the pharmacy in NZ, which we also use on ourselves, and we got some citronella stickers which we put on the baby's clothes and her pram. We can't really put the repellant on the baby because she is always putting her hands and feet in her mouth. My mother in law found some citronella bands, which our big girl sometimes wears on her ankle, unfortunately I've thrown away the packaging so I can't link to them from here- but hopefully you can find them at your local pharmacy.
OK this was only going to be ten points but I had to put this in. I know they say that it's good for your marriage to go on holiday, quality time and all that, blah blah blah. I've always thought of holidays as a chance to go somewhere with better weather, so I wasn't prepared for was how much I've enjoyed spending time with our children. It's so nice to get away from the stresses of traffic, and cooking dinner, doing laundry, putting on shoes and getting out the door to appointments or activities. I've really enjoyed relaxing and enjoying their company.
We're heading home next week, and we still have more adventuring to do before then. I hope this list has given you some ideas if you've got a holiday coming up- and I wish you a happy trip!