Travel Tips

The five most important actions to take before you travel with children

You have been home with your baby for a couple of months. You are beginning to figure out the whole breastfeeding thing (it’s supposed to be something very natural, but believe me, it’s not, when you are just out of the hospital with double-sized boobs and a crying baby). You are trying to organize a lunch with your favorite friend at your favorite sushi and wonder if you will be able to warm your baby’s bottle. You are sleepy. You desperatly need to wax, but you cannot figure out when to do it. You desperately need a hairdresser, but you cannot think of doing anything else but sleep when your husband is home. And then, you drop a eye on your Facebook page and there you go: a picture of you two years prior, while you were trekking in Chile. You suddenly remind of how sky was blue that day, and the chat you had with a local lady about what to see in Santiago…not to mention that glass of wine at night. There you go with the million-dollar question: to travel, or not to travel? This is the question, when you become a parent. The answer is (honestly): do whatever makes you happy in life, especially after having a baby. A happy parent has happy children. Most importantly, if you decide to travel, you are making your children the greatest gift you can: getting in touch with other cultures. Are you already looking up flights prices on Skyscanner? Here you find some things to consider when organizing your trip.

  • Make sure your baby has the right documents for travelling. ID documents and passports may take some time to be issued. Consider that, if you need a passport to your destination, your baby needs to have his\her own. Check if you need to book a time slot at the issuing office: it might take you a couple of weeks for the first availability. Check what you need to bring for issuing the document (pay an amount of money, bring photos, write a declaration stating you are the parents, ecc..) and be careful about requirements. Photos maybe a particularly complicated part as it is normally required to have a white background and to show the eyes wide open. This is complicated when it comes to an infant that sleeps most of the day. We applied for Princess’ passport when she was two months old. We found out a shop in Milan that prints ID-size picture from a digital photo. We could then take pictures from our mobile without wasting time at a photographer (it’s a non sense when you try to take photos of a baby). We organized the shooting as follows: we put a white blanket on the changing table and wait for a moment in which Princess was awake and somehow happy. Princess laid on the table as if we were changing her diaper: so, no news for her. We played with a small sof toy we often use while changing her and we took several pictures. And by “several” I do mean several, until we finally had a convincing one: eyes wide open, no movements, no fingers in the mouth, white background (the blanket). Once at the shop we made sure they would print the correct passport size of the picture: ten copies for 10 euros. Fair. Also, try not to do it very last minute: we had to go back to the office twice as we didn’t have the updated copy of a document declaring we were Princess’ parents.
  • Consider which is the best way of travelling. Easy peasy if you are going far from you Country: you have to fly. More complicated if you are not going that far. Many people, at least in Italy, are convinced that it’s better to travel by car with a baby. You have more flexibility with the whole baggage thing. Which is true, but a long car trip with an infant can quickly become a true nightmare. It’s very long: if you have an infant, you need to stop for feeding and the gasoline station may not be there when your baby decides that it’s meal time. It’s very boring : if you have a toddler he may want to play, to crawl… well, you need to stop and again, the gasoline station may not be there. It’s very time consuming: depending on where you go, it may take you hours or a day in the car, while you could spend that time sightseeing or at the beach. Train is definitely less appreciated by parents. You loose much flexibility in terms of timing and it may still take long to reach your destination. Despite this, it ensures you a more relaxed travel mode: you can breastfeed, play with your kids, entertaining them yourself (and not your tablet during hours), walk them through the aisle. Moreover, if you leave from and head to a big city, you’ll likely have the high speed train option: this becomes much quicker than driving. The best example that comes into my mind is the Milan-Rome trip: I would definitely take the high speed train. The airplane scary several parents, especially with newborn. Well, to me it’s the best ever option: it is quick, it is relaxing for parents (unless you are the pilot yourself), it is so comfortable for moms to receive the help and support of the airline staff. Moreover, babies up to 2 year old don’t pay. The longer the flight, the better. I will never forget a British Airways hostess on our flight from London to San Francisco, when Princess was four month-old. She provided extra bottles of water to me as she realized that I was breastfeeding. If you are flying a long haul, you get an infant space for your baby, directly fixed to a wall of the plane. This is a small basket (or bassinet) where your baby can sleep or play: when you book your flight, check the airline conditions about this. Normally, it should be directly booked with the baby’s ticket, as well as the right to check-in the pram or stroller and take it until the gate. Another pro of flying: you have a change table in the restrooms whenever you need. The only drawback: you need to optimize your luggage, unless you want to pay a lot of money and be the bulky one during all your trip. Yes moms: that extra pair of stiletto shoes is staying at home!
  • Prepare your baby’s bag/luggage in advance. It may be straightforward, but if you are the kind of person that prepares his/her backpack the night before leaving (I am), I suggest you change approach when it comes to your kids. Especially when it comes your babies. In particular, I use to pay attention to the whole changing thing : having enough diapers to survive the first three days, making sure I got the changing mats (I admit, they are my obsession, but they can save your life), organizing your handbag with a couple of just-in-case changes, having your favourite baby lotions… This part largely depends on where you go. If you are heading to a place where you might encounter difficulties in finding things, you should bring all you need from home. if you are flying a long haul, make sure your hand luggage fits some toys, books and other accessories to entertain your child. On longer routes, you have a bassinet or basket for your child, so you may want to organize the night change for your baby, or bring something that makes him feel home (see the picture below). If you are breastfeeding, you have no problems. If your baby takes formulas, you should organize to bring the right amount with you ,for the travel and for the first couple of days: going around Osaka or Paris, looking for formula is not the best way to start your vacations. Good news: ready-to-use formulas are allowed on flights!
This is an example of an infant crib that you can get on a long haul flight. Don’t forget something that can make it feel “home”. In this case, we were travelling with Princess’ favourite blanket.
  • Talk to your pediatrician. My suggestion is: leave with the medications you might need from home. I normally make sure to have Princess’ vitamin D, a general antibiotic, nose normal saline (travelling kit), lactic ferments and paracetamol. Again: you don’t want to stroll around Berlin or La Habana in search for paracetamol. Also, make sure you get a medical insurance. For European citizens, this is not necessary as you travel within the EU borders. You should have with you the TEAM insurance card: this allows you to get public medical treatments for free. Outside the EU, do subscribe to an insurance scheme, for all the family. You get competitive rates nowadays and..you never know.
  • Moms first! Girls, don’t forget that your kids are fine if their moms are fine. A relaxed mom can do miracles on her children. Make sure you take the right amount of time to dedicate to your own preparation : you don’t want to arrive tired at the airport. It is also your vacations: when planning the itinerary, include something you really want to do. If you are flying a long haul, consider to travel in the moment of the day that best suits your personal well being. Example number one: I am definitely better off taking the night flights, because I don’t need to rush in the morning (hate that) and I better adapt to the different time zone. Example number two: when I was breastfeeding, I always made sure I had enough water with me in order to be well hydrated. Example number 3: do buy that new lipstick you saw at Sephora and put it on even if you are in your trekking outfit with a screaming baby in your arms. Last but not least: do have fun, the most that you can. Even when things are turning difficult. Because at some point, they will: you are not on a romantic trip to Paris with your husband, but travelling somewhere with babies or kids. Things cannot be perfect when you are coping with a hungry two-year-old while you are queuing to clear the passport controls. Or while you are trying to visit the Reina Sofia Museum with a seven-year-old who cannot wait to go and see the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. But who cares? You are going on vacations: take it easy! You might have to rush at Reina Sofia and beg other people’s pardon while your baby is screaming in a queue, but believe me: this is all worth it.
  • Don’t listen to other people (in particular if you are Italian). If confronting on the “travel-with-your-baby” topic, chances are that people will stir at you as if you were an alien and then tell you: “Are you really sure that it is a good idea? The baby is so small, you are going that far …”. For Italian readers, chances are it is 100% sure that people will tell you this. And after a pause (which increases the tragic side of the moment), they will come up with an epic: “what if something happens?”. This is a sentence Italians are very familiar with. You always have a mom, a grandma or even a brother or a friend ready to discourage you with this question (because Italians are old, even when we are in our thirties). Consider that “something” means really whatever, so don’t try to come up with some rational solution: Italians have a new problem for every solution you might provide.In the specific case, “something” spans from medical issues ( solution: get an insurance), to adverse weather conditions (solution: check the weather forecasts and pack extra warm clothes, or swimwear), to “the kids might get nervous and unbearable” (solution: read my other posts and find inspiration). I know this is going to frustrate you and make you doubt about the feasibility of your vacations plans. Let me reassure you: you are the one who feels and knows what’s best for your kids. And if “best” is taking a plane and going to Chile with your six-month old baby, just do it. Not only you will manage: you will have great fun. Several people think that travelling with babies and kids is a nightmare, just because they don’t have a real interest in travelling themselves. If you are not personally motivated, you will see only drawbacks . Why am I so sure about this? Well, just think about something you found boring or didn’t want to do in your before-kids life. Mine is: going out at night until late in winter time. Would you do it with your kids? My answer is: Gosh, no! Let me immediately choose my Netflix program for the night and wear my pijama. On the contrary, if you are motivated, you will find a way to enjoy it. And this is why you should just listen to yourselves. Don’t ultimately trust anyone else. Especially not Italians.

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