NY Times Article on Travelling with a Baby

I just wanted to pop in quickly to share the article I found from the New York Times.  The author details her experience travelling to Southeast Asia (lucky!) with their baby.  She really nails it on describing how a baby draws you into a culture.  While our experiences haven’t been quite as extreme as there’s, the similarity is there.

Traveling in Southeast Asia With a Rock-Star Baby by Jennifer Bleyer

The moral of the story?  Take your baby with you!  It’s awesome!


Travel with a Baby Part 2 – Getting Through the Day

 Since we have recently returned from a trip to Ecuador, I thought it would be fun to do a series on travelling with a baby.  The Grasshopper has been travelling with us since she was six months old, and she’s an old pro at this point.  I’m going to break this up into a 3 part series.  Part 1 deals with how attachment parenting practices make travel easy.  Part 2 (this one) deals with how we deal with the daily challenges of life away from home with a little one.  Part 3 will be more of a me centered post on how emetophobia impacts my ability to travel.

Travel can really does throw your life into an uproar.  It’s a pleasant uproar, but it’s still an uproar.  Unfortunately, while uproar can make life interesting for adults, it can make it miserable for children.  In this post, I’ll go through some of the ways we make it through the day when we’re travelling.

Days start early when we’re travelling.  We try to get up and get breakfast and get out as quickly as possible.  Mornings really are the prime time with a little one for sight-seeing.  So out we go.

Getting Around.  Except in the case of Japan, where we walked and used trains and buses, we always take our own carseat.  We learned our lesson on that in Nicaragua.  We had arranged to rent a carseat along with the car, but the carseat they presented us with was positively ancient.  It had a bar across it instead of a lap-belt, and the padding had long ago gone flat.  It was horrible.  Since then, we always bring our own carseat if cars will be involved.

Seeing the Sights.  Sightseeing with children can be really fun.  Explaining things to children can help you see things in such a different light.  Visiting the temples in Kyoto was so magical. We couldn’t just walk through and look passively.  We stopped and explained more, explored more, and this brought a whole new dimension to the experience for us.  It’s one thing to look at a statue of Buddha and something else entirely to explain it to a 2-year-old.

Washing hands in the sacred spring before entering Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto
Washing hands in the sacred spring before entering Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto

Sights were richer, more interesting, and definitely more interactive with a child along.  A child doesn’t want to stand and look. A child wants to do, and the Grasshopper, in her desire to participate in the goings on, brings us along with her.

Mealtimes.  When we travel, we really try to keep mealtimes at their normal time or as close as possible. We tend to follow the same pattern everywhere we go: breakfast, light snack, lunch, snack, dinner. Foods won’t be exactly like they are at home, but for us it works out. It’s pretty easy, wherever we are, to find something that resembles the food we eat at home.  Chicken, meat, a soup, noodles, etc are all pretty universal foods.  The meals aren’t as balanced as they are at home, but for a few days we’re willing to be flexible.  Luckily she isn’t afraid of stronger flavors, but even if she was, simple foods can usually be found anywhere.

Trying new ways of eating can be fun, too.  Sitting on the floor to eat at a low table is a blast for a child.

Dinner Kyoto style
Dinner Kyoto style

You know what else is fun?  Learning to eat in weird ways with funny stick things.

Noodles and chopticks.  Perfect for toddlers.
Noodles and chopticks. Perfect for toddlers.

She now insists on eating with “choppy-chops” whenever they are available, and she’s become quite adroit at managing them.  Most of the food winds up in her mouth.  Go her!

A Word on Snacks.  Bring your own from home.  There is nothing like raisins and a few whole wheat goldfish to help settle a cranky toddler in an unfamiliar environment.  Sometimes local snacks really won’t do.  They’re just not quite the same.  In Japan, we experimented with my cousin who lives there to see what all she would eat, but she just didn’t like the same “kid food” that Japanese kids eat.

Potty Time.  This can be a real challenge.  If your child is still in diapers, bring enough to cover the entire trip.  Although you will likely be able to find diapers locally, don’t count on local sources unless you’re travelling in the US.  We got lucky in Nicaragua and found the right brand/size of diapers, but that was made easier because we were there visiting family.  If your kiddo has a sensitive bottom, just bring your own.

When the Japan trip rolled around, the Grasshopper was already potty trained, so the challenge became finding a toilet that she could use when she had to go.  Japan is an incredibly child-friendly country, and it is also full of clean public toilets.  Almost everywhere we went we were able to find a toilet for her to use.  Just ask.  In our experience people are pretty willing to let a child use the toilet.

Naptime.  After lunch, we usually try to do something a little quieter so she can relax and fall asleep.  Take it from us, temple districts are not quiet.  Gardens are a much better naptime sightseeing choice.  We pop her into the carrier (now the stroller since she’s so big) and just stroll quietly.  She’s usually tired enough from the activity of the morning that she drops off.

Naptime outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Naptime outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

After nap, it’s business as usual.  Time to find the next sight to see.

Bedtime.  We try to maintain the same bedtime routine that we have at home.  We’re a little more flexible on the timing depending on how tired she is from the day, but the routine stays the same.  It’s safe.  It’s familiar.  Even if the sleeping arrangements are a little exotic.  I bring some of our favorite books from home to read to her at bedtime, then we nurse, and struggle up together to go to sleep.

Yes, I know, this means we don’t get to go out and experience local nightlife.  Meh.  We’ve never really been much into that anyway.  We’d rather visit cathedrals, temples, gardens, and other historical sights than go to bars.  We can go to a bar in the US.  So, when we’re travelling with the Grasshopper, we just adjust our sleep to her sleep.  That way we’re all refreshed together.

We slept on the floor on tatami mats in Kyoto.  She was in heaven!
We slept on the floor on tatami mats in Kyoto. She was in heaven!

Jet Lag.  This can be a challenge for all of us.  Mostly, we head south to Latin America where my husband family is from.  This means the jet lag isn’t as big of a deal.  In Ecuador, for example, they’re on Eastern Time.  This just means we stay up a little later and sleep in a little longer.  The only time it really was a problem was in Japan.  When we visited Japan, we essentially had to reverse our sleep cycles, which honestly is easier than getting over the jet lag you get going to Europe.  Don’t ask me why.  It just is.

I will be honest and say that when we went to Japan, all three of us used Benadryl to help up reverse our sleep cycles.  Drugging a child to sleep is never something I recommend, and we did so under her pediatricians advice and care.  We explored with him several possibilities, and based on her own medical history and risks associated with other potential choices, this is what we opted for.  If you ever do decide to go this route when travelling, please do consult your child’s physicianBenadryl, in some children, can have the opposite effect and cause them to become completely wired.  I wouldn’t think that’s something you’d want to find out about in a foreign hotel at 3 AM local time.

Really, we’ve found that getting through the day can be pretty easy.  A little planning ahead to coordinate active sights for morning and quiet sights for afternoon helps immensely, as does tweaking our adult sight-seeing habits slightly to fit in with the basic routine that she is accustomed to.  I hope this information helps you to feel more confident that you can travel with a very young child.  It’s wonderful.

Travel with a Baby Part 1 – Travel and Attachment Parenting

Happy New Year’s Eve to you all!  Since we have recently returned from a trip to Ecuador, I thought it would be fun to do a series on travelling with babies.  The Grasshopper has been travelling with us since she was six months old, and she’s an old pro at this point.  I’m going to break this up into a 3 part series.  Part 1 (this one) will deal with how attachment parenting practices make travel easy.  Part 2 will deal with how we deal with the daily challenges of life away from home with a little one.  Part 3 will be more of a me centered post on how emetophobia impacts my ability to travel.

My husband and I love to travel. We love it so much that we continued travelling after the Grasshopper was born. We pack her suitcase and bring her along with us wherever we go. I know there are parents who send the kids off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house when they take a trip, but there is no way we could leave her.  As a deeply attached family, it would be neither relaxing nor a vacation with her missing.

She is a pretty well-travelled kid by this point. She’s been a variety of places in the US, as well as Nicaragua, Japan, and now Ecuador.  She’s got lots of airline miles racked up already!

Dinner Kyoto style
Dinner Kyoto style

People always seem surprised when I tell them we brought the Grasshopper along on our latest trip, but in reality, travelling with a baby is not that hard. If you haven’t tried it yet, please do give it a chance.  Little ones can be extremely portable.  The younger the child, the easier it is to bring them along.  Six months was a magic age for travelling with her.  She was not yet mobile and content to sit still with me for long periods of time and still exclusively breastfed, so no need to worry about snacks and meal times.

Children can help you experience countries in interesting ways.  Rest assured that you will need to find a local grocery store for some critical and forgotten something, and grocery stores are great places to learn about other cultures’ every-day habits.  Babies also really seem to bring out that extra something in others.  We find ourselves interacting with locals much more when we bring her with us. People see a cute kid and they want to interact. It’s pretty cool.

Washing the Grasshopper's hands in the sacred spring before entering Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto
Washing the Grasshopper’s hands in the sacred spring before entering Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto

In Nicaragua, a boy in the market gave her a little toy grasshopper that he had made(so appropriate!).  We had so many cute little old men on the train in Japan grinning and waving and trying to get her to smile at them. People do that wherever we go.  A shopkeeper gave her a little packet of koala-shaped cookies.  In Kyoto, a group of taxi drivers took pity on us in a rainstorm and rushed over with umbrellas to help get her into the car without her getting wet.  People want to talk to her, make her smile, and they want to see her laugh.

Travelling with little ones is great, and if you are into attachment parenting like we are, it’s even easier. Here are some ways that AP has made travelling with our little one easier.

We nurse. Breastfeeding is wonderful for a variety of reasons, but when we are travelling, it’s great. On an airplane, when she was tiny, we would just nurse and sleep the entire flight. Now that she is older, it is still a way to keep her still and calm. It is also essential on take-off and landing to equalize the pressure in her ears.

Once we’ve arrived, nursing means we have a portable source of potable fluids for her, something especially important when travelling to countries where the tap water is not safe to drink. It is also a yummy nutritious snack (yes, I am a walking snack bar), a familiar food source when the local foods are a little too different for toddler tastes, and a place of retreat and comfort if the world becomes too stimulating. Nursing is the thing that most helps us when we travel.

Noodles and chopsticks. Perfect for toddlers.
Noodles and chopsticks. Perfect for toddlers.

We co-sleep.  I’ll be honest and say that at home we don’t co-sleep in the traditional sense.  When we travel, though, we transition to a more traditional form of co-sleeping. No need to pack porta cribs or rent cots or squeeze extra equipment into tiny hotel rooms. We just all snuggle up together.

It is more secure for her and easier for us if she wakes in the night for all the reasons co-sleeping at home makes night waking easier for parents.  Instead of sleeping in a strange place, she’s sleeping comfortably between Mama and Papa, the most familiar and comfortable place she knows.

We babywear.  When we are running through an airport or hiking across a city the baby carrier is an essential piece of equipment.  While I have several carriers at home, I stick with the ERGO baby carrier when we travel.  If you don’t already have one of these, get one.  They truly are an excellent carrier. There are no metal parts on this carrier, so I don’t even need to take her out to go through airport security.  Bonus!

The carrier gives her a place up high so she can see what we see.  It gives her a place to hide if the surroundings become too intense.  It gives her a place to nap that is comfortable and familiar.  All this allows us to press forward and see the sights we want to see without having to go back to the hotel every afternoon for nap time.

Comfy in the ERGO at Cannery Row

For full disclosure, we don’t use the Ergo anymore.  While she has not yet  exceeded the weight limit, she has become simply too big and too active to use the ERGO effectively.  Japan was our last trip using the ERGO.  Now, we use the Maclaren Quest stroller.  It is lightweight enough to haul up and down temple steps, but sturdy enough to have survived multiple encounters with airline baggage handlers.  It’s only just now developed a tiny bit of a wobble since the Guayaquil-Miami flight.  Pretty good for so many flights.  It also reclines nearly flat, allowing her to nap wherever we happen to be.

Really, those are the big basics for our travels with the Grasshopper.  Attachment parenting, far from tying us down as a few well-meaning friends suggested in the beginning, has given us the freedom we need to travel together as a family.