Sunday, June 17, 2012

Have Baby, Will Travel


Prior to having a baby, my husband and I enjoyed traveling to new places on every occasion that we had. The thrill of discovering a new place and trying new stuff (food, shopping, sights) were things I personally love. So when baby Alexandra came, naturally, I thought to myself that this would not stop us from traveling.

Like every new parent, the first few travel with a baby (and even now as a toddler), were not without sleepless nights. The first airport travel was carefully planned, after reading several articles online to help prepare us. After many articles, now I was assured of the following:

At the Metal Detection Gate and Carrying Liquids

Airport staff and checkpoint guards are usually sympathetic when you are traveling with a child. So don’t worry if you need to pass the baby or let little toddler walk through the metal detector gate. Also, your stroller will be pushed across, and you don’t really need to fold it up and put through the screening belt. Lastly, we were worried about her milk and water.  Will they ask us to throw this away? Turns out, once you have a baby with you, the baby bag has this “untouchable” status! After several international and domestic travel, it has been proven that any water, milk and medicine liquid I carried in that baby bag, we never get stopped for it!

Strollers

Strollers can be passed on to an airport staff just before getting on the plane. That way, you can easily get to the boarding area, or sometimes baby can even sleep while you wait for your flight (especially instances of delayed flights). Depending on the airport where you land, sometimes the strollers are handed out right after you get out of the aircraft, while other airport deliver it through the conveyor belt alongside the luggage. We were stressed at first because we weren’t sure how this worked.

Snacks, Milk, Diapers on the Plane

You don’t need to over pack, but as a mother’s advice to another, always have enough to last for a day in terms of snacks, diapers and milk on your hand carry. This actually saved us one time. Our Paris-Singapore flight on the A380 had huge problems: 5-hour waiting inside the plane (with my 8-months old baby!), then we had to deplane, got checked into a hotel without releasing anything, neither luggage nor stroller! Paris airport hotel + tired + evening + Sunday only spelled that it was close to impossible to find shops with all those stuff! I really thank the heavens I had enough stuff that day.

Baby Ergo Carrier

This is one of my treasured purchases, which allowed us to carry our baby. It is one of the best investment for traveling with  a baby, especially if you have luggage to handle! Don’t travel without it. We were dependent on it until Alexandra turned 1.5 years old.

Take-off and Landing

You can avoid a lot of crying if you prepare yourself (and your baby) for take-off and landing. If your baby seems to be experiencing ear pain from air pressure changes during takeoff and landing, encourage him to breastfeed or suck on a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup. This definitely helped me a lot. Be aware and think in advance of what you will need to help ease the air pressure.

Now let’s get some ideas on where you can bring your baby or toddler. I will share some of our experience:

1.     Stick to decent resorts or hotels. I wouldn’t risk going to places that are too “adventurous” at this point, especially with my baby. So when we had our 1st island getaway adventure with her, we chose to go back to something we were familiar with like Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia. She was 5-months old back then and everything was perfect. Almost all hotels provide baby cots for free.  Room service was important to us as well because there was a day it rained, and we didn’t want to risk mosquitoes in the evening, so we just enjoyed in-room dining.

2.     We also brought her to a long-haul flight Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to Paris. Everything was okay, but of course we had our stressed moments wondering what to do if she cried, etc. Make sure you take a reputable company (we took Singapore Airlines) and had the baby cot which allowed her to get lots of sleep. The airline hostesses were also helpful and understanding, which helped a lot for a first long-haul trip. They helped to warm the milk bottle and gave all the assistance I needed. So don’t be afraid of taking your little one back to see grandparents even if it means long-haul flights. It will be okay and a memorable experience (if you are well-prepared!)


3.     We brought her back to see the other grandma in Manila, which was a short 3-4 hours flight. Upon arriving in Manila, we also booked an island getaway Boracay, which was a familiar place to me. One tip for parents who don’t want stress: go back to places you loved and want to revisit. That way your first trip with baby will be a bit more predictable.

4.     Short getaway to relieve the stress, enjoy a beautiful sunset, a good dinner and massage… we went few rounds to Port Dickson. Stayed at Avillion and Thistle. Not bad for a short drive. We brought the maid along… which means we were able to have good massage sessions plus romantic dinner. I didn’t want to take baby-sitting services from hotels so I brought my own nanny.

5.     Cameron Highland – a bit longer drive but worth it if you like to enjoy some cool breeze, which makes you think you are not in Malaysia! Make sure you stay at a reputable place. We had a horrendous experience (without baby, long ago, will never go back to Equatorial).  Always look at TripAdvisor for family reviews as that will help a lot in terms of expectations.  Last December 2011 we stayed at Strawberry Park Resort, which was newly renovated. It was good. Else try the local resident package for Cameron Highland Resort.

6.     Kota Kinabalu is beautiful and easy access via Air Asia. I would highly recommend going to Shangri-la Rasa Ria. You don’t need to leave the resort when you get there. Superb dining, great service, beautiful Ocean View Premiere rooms (with your own Jacuzzi, superb bubble fun with your young one) and you have the jungle right inside the resort. You can have orangutan viewing in an exotic setting yet easy access. And did I mention their kids club is superb?!? Love their swimming pool!

7.     Langakwi – such a short flight and easy access.  This is one of the easiest beach place you can get to with a toddler. An hour of flight, plus a few minutes car ride (depending where you book). We stayed at the Andaman which was okay for toddlers. I am glad we didn’t book the neighboring Datai as it was all honeymooners there. We did cross over for dinner though one evening. Always check if the hotels are children friendly so that you avoid those honeymoon places which may make you uncomfortable. The Andaman swimming pool is superb as it had lots of plants and trees around which provided good shade.

8.     Hard Rock Hotel, Penang – this is definitely for toddlers! The water playground was such a wonderful surprise! My daughter really enjoyed running around and they even had a shallow pool with sand. For parents, what you will probably enjoy is the easy access to the swimming pool if you had the Lagoon room. Long ago they didn’t allow families with children to book the Lagoon rooms, but we were able to stay there. We had a blast mostly because of that room… not sure if we would have enjoyed as much if we took the normal rooms.  They also had a nice children playroom. Small, but decent.


Don’t stop traveling because of your baby. Instead, bring him or her along. It is a wonderful experience and it will do them good, too!  All it takes is extra planning. And of course it helps to have a supportive husband in tow. Happy traveling!













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