Travelling overseas with younger children can be a daunting affair -- not only do you have to manage the eating/ sleeping/ toileting logistics for the family, you also have to do it with minimal amount of carry-on baggage. Here are some tips from seasoned parents on how to go on holiday with your children -- without needing another holiday when you get home!
BEFORE YOU LEAVE: PACK SMART
Working mother Serene M has been on countless overseas trips with her two boys, Ryder (aged four) and Rory (two) -- from Dublin to Down UNder. She's a veteran of long-haul flying with kids. Packing smart, she says, is key to having a good flight. Her advice is to split carry-on luggage into different bags based on need as it will then be less of a chore to retrieve what you need, when you need it.
With a young child, pack one diaper bag with enough diapers, wipes and snacks for the flight, as well as a change of clothes for an emergency. This is your go-to bag. Passports and travel documents can go here as well.
Fill a backpack with the change of clothes needed for when you get to your destination (extra jackets, winter gear, pyjamas, etc.)
Pack a roller bag with back-up quantities of everything -- diapers, wipes, snacks -- as well as other non-essentials of travel. Think tablet, laptop, charges, books, spare toys. Try not to open this bag except to access the toys, tablet, laptop, so make sure they are in an external pocket.
Let each child bring a bag with his own headphones and toys.
AT THE AIRPORT: BE STRATEGIC!
Most mothers said they could not have travelled with ease without their trusty baby carrier. Whether you use a sling, wrap or soft structured carrier, a baby carrier is invaluable in getting you through a long trip with your sanity intact. Carrying your baby with a baby carrier keeps you hands free -- which makes getting through security and immigration a breeze.
Serene always takes her baby carrier when travelling: "I'll have a stroller and have Ryder sit in it with his bag, and I'll carry Rory on the baby carrier. It's handy for travelling through airports or at train stations where trolleys are hard to find."
When it comes to boarding your flight, while airlines do allow priority boarding for babies and small children, it doesn't really make sense if the family boards at the same time. "Think about staggering your boarding," Serene suggests. "I would always board first with the carry-on luggage when priority boarding is given to passengers with babies. I then settle in and get ready all the items we would need for take-off. My husband would stay with the kids at the gate and board last -- this way, your child can run around outside, and you minimise the time he has to spend in the airplane cabin before the plane actually takes off."
ON THE FLIGHT: TOP TIPS
Sophia H, mother of a two-year old, brings along a play pack for long trips. "I keep my child busy on the plane, on long car rides and at meal times using stickers and sticker albums, pre-printed out colouring pages, as well as a few cans of Play-Doh," she says. This is extra helpful during take0off and landing, as you have to turn off electronics.
Help your child deal with changes in cabin pressure by offering a drink or snack, or breastfeeding him. During descents, the 30 minutes prior to landing is when the pressure really changes. Pay attention to when the pilot announces the start of the descent (usually when the seatbelt sign goes on), and offer your child the drink or snack as soon as the announcement comes on. If you wait until the plane is almost landing -- it's too late!
WHEN YOU GET THERE: FAVOURITE DESTINATIONS
Now that you've got a strategy and a plan for coping with flying, it's time to pick a destination! Some destinations are more child-friendly than others.
While a regional beach holiday is always a safe, easy choice, there are other destinations that are exciting, interesting and baby-friendly. Here are a few top picks:
From mountains to beaches, farm stays to theme parks (Dream World, Movie World, Sea World), Brisbane and the Gold Coast have something for everyone, says Sophia. "My daughter loved feeding the animals during a farm stay, and each evening she would also gather the eggs from the chicken coop."
It was easy shopping for groceries and finding playgrounds for the kids, but it was the people that made the stay the most enjoyable for Sophia and family. "From our host at the farm, to a fireman we met on the streets who offered my child a seat in the fire truck and stickers, to the stall-keepers we met at West End Davis park, all of them were welcoming, hospitable and made our holiday an unforgettable experience."
Head to Namdaemum to stock up on good-quality kids clothes and toys at cheap prices, advises Serene. If shopping is not your thing, there's always Lotte World, the aquarium, ancient places, Seoul Tower and more!
"A lesser-known sight we went to which the kids really loves was the War Memorial of Korea. It's a great outdoor space with loads and loads of war planes, helicopters, tanks, rockets, Korean War ships and more," she says.
Yummy cheap eats, easy public transportation and a range of kid-friendly sights and activities are why Serene loves travelling to Taiwan. "From Taipei, we went on day trips to Yehliu (coastal rock formations), Jiufen (scenice town), Shifen (sky lanterns and the old-school Pingxi Line train)," she says. "Drawing and writing on sky lanterns and lighting them, and jumping out of the way when the Pingxi train came by every half hour were highlights for the kids."
Best of all, Taiwan is extremely welcoming to nursing mothers, with a nursing room in every MRT station as well as in large shops and malls.
If your child is fascinated by cartoons, then a trip to the anime capital of the world is in order. Don't miss the Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the famed animation studio founded by director Hayao Miyazaki, complete with a play area, theatre and rooftop garden. Or take a day trip to Hakone (just a couple of hours away) to visit The Museum of the Little Prince and pay tribute to French author, pilot, and illustrator Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Travelling in Japan is incredibly easy with children, as changing and nursing rooms are easy to find. Most onsens (Japanese baths) have family rooms available too!
UBUD IN BALI, INDONESIA
Beat the heat by escaping to the cooler highlands of Bali. Ubud has plenty of budget/mid-range accomodation options that are family-friendly, complete with swimming pools and landscaped gardens for your toddler to roam around in. Many hotels also have nightly cultural shows that are bright and energetic -- perfect for capturing the attention of a curious young mind.