Sunday, January 1, 2012

Travelling with a one year old

This is our first weekend home since November. That means we have been travelling a lot...with a one year old. She has definitely slowed down our travelling - fewer trips and less action on the trips (fair enough), but we've kept pushing. To be honest, I would just stay home a lot, but Matt pushed for that first trip to Australia when Sam was 8 weeks, and that sort of helped get us going. It's WAY WAY easier to stay at home (especially with full time domestic help that we don't travel with). Sam has her routines, her toys, HER bed, her kugel and challah...none of that is available in other locations, but she surprises us each time. She's way flexible, and she has loved (some of) the adventures as well - especially the parts that include animals or steps to climb.

Though in her first 15 months Sam has made it to 7 countries:
Australia (Perth/Margaret River and Melbourne/Tasmania)
Indonesia (Lombok, Bali, Jakarta)
Thailand (Chiang Mai)
US (Michigan)
Vietnam (Hanoi)
Malaysia (KL)

...travelling with her now is completely different than it was for her whole life previously. Before, we just had to keep her happy. She sat still - so we could just have a few books and toys, bottles, a few songs...whatever, and she was fine. Now that she's engaged with the world and walking ALL over the place, it's a whole different level of challenge. It's a fun challenge - because she LOVES exploring everything, and as a parent, it doesn't get any cooler, but it's hard. I thought I would blog about some of what we have learned from our recent travels.

Planes -
There are a few elements to success (not that we are completely successful - we're not - especially on overnight trips - just ask the people who sat around us!). Samara definitely needs a bottle when the plane starts to descend. We put on a slower nipple (like one for younger babies) so the bottle takes longer to drink (she doesn't seem to notice, but I'm guessing other babies might mind this), and we put in a bit more than we think she might want. We also try to take it away every minute or so, in a game, to try to make it last longer.

On the way up, she sometimes needs a bottle - but if you're on a short flight, you can't risk giving a bottle on the way up, because she won't then take it on the way down - and she will need it for her ears! The solution to this is Cheerios. One. At. A. Time. Slowly. Keeps her swallowing.

Toys on a plane are challenging - nothing too small that will get lost. Nothing that makes noise, because that will drive people crazy. We have found the best success with snap toys, or chain toys or things that take a long time to figure out. She also has really enjoyed water bottles, zippers and other things that take a bit of concentration. Lots of books (light-weight books with lots of pictures) are also key, especially for take off and landing when she has to sit in our lap.

We still haven't mastered the walking-up-and-down the aisles thing. She LOVES to (and I get it - she NEEDS to), but I can't figure out how to get her to hold onto my hands rather than touching everyone's thighs on the way up and down. She also tends to play peek-a-boo with random people (men mostly). While they probably think it's cute the first time, possibly two times...after five, I'm guessing they have had enough. Tearing a smiling peek-a-boo-ing child away from an adult is just a bit awkward.

Travelling in Asia means that people simply take your baby, play with her, and give her back later. I have blogged about this - as it has happened in multiple countries and at appropriate times, such as dinner in a restaurant or breakfast in a hotel (see the photo of Sam with her friend Gusti last weekend in Bali). This also happens on planes. In fact, on our way back from Bali last weekend, they took Sam away, and she came back 15 minutes later with a big, red kiss on her cheek. It was pretty awesome. We left it there. Sam is perfectly happy to go hang with a bunch of flight attendants, hotel workers, or wait staff. She is not so happy to go to other people - like if we hand her to our friends to hold, she wants to come back to us, but with these people, somehow she loves it. She's been conditioned. This has affected our decision to try to get on Singapore Airlines (or at least another Asian airline) for long trips. We flew it home in July and we're flying it home again later this month.

We have also figured out that on planes, an ipod touch with some Sesame Street goes a long way (she can't hear it - she won't do headphones, and we don't play the sound out loud). She will watch and dance when they dance. The one challenge we have found with this, is if she holds it, she just constantly presses the "home screen" button - so then I have to play the video again, and then she stops it, etc. It could go on for an hour. She doesn't watch any tv at home, so she thinks this is just the best thing since sliced bread (ok - she doesn't really care about sliced bread - but you know what I mean). See the video - we also use the ipod touch for alternative entertainment.

We have found that boarding early IS a good idea. We had considered that it might not be, because she can't run around as much, and it extends the actual time on the airplane...but to have space for your stuff and organise all of the things you need down (the bottles, books, cloth diaper, snacks, sippy cup) and up, but easily accessible (ergo, diaper changing stuff, sweatshirt) - and if you don't sit her down and strap her in - she has lots to explore before the plane takes off. Those seat belts (though terrifying to watch as her little bitty fingers nearly get snapped in the contraption) are entertaining for a long long time.

Hotels -
We have found that if it's at all possible to get a place with a door - like a second room - it's worth it. We have loved B&Bs or serviced apartments for this reason. When you're all in the same room, you really spend a lot of time reading in the bathroom, and that's no fun for anyone (other than Sam who doesn't notice).

We have never travelled with our own cot - at least out here the ones that they provide have all been perfectly fine. They mostly all have pack and plays. Definitely don't need another thing to carry. We have also found that we have the best success when we can somehow block ourselves from her view (though this is much harder now that she stands up in her cot). We have used curtains, pillows, desk chairs...anything we can find to create a barrier.

The most important thing now is cleanliness - she will touch every windowsill and corner of the room. She will then eat her fingers. If the room is dirty, we will know immediately and it will then be a game of "no, no, no, no" for the next few days. Clean places are just way easier.

Food -
We stink at this, since our child hates eating. We bring the only things that she eats that travel well, and then we try to order old favorites (grilled cheese, pancakes) and still try new things. We have limited success. Happy to take anyone's advice on this on!

Schedule -
Sam still sleeps 12-13 hours per night and takes 2 2-hour naps. This leaves approximately 7 wakeful hours in the day. Once you put in approx 30 minutes per meal, that's 5.5 hours. When you're in a new city, 5.5 hours is not a lot. Factor in commutes to wherever you're going, and you can do 1-2 things per day. That's rough. While in places we have been before (Bali this past weekend, Lombok, Chiang Mai), we have generally taken it easy. We wake up, eat, put her down for a nap, then we go out and do something, come back for a nap and go get dinner and go to sleep. When we were in Tasmania, that was not an option, because we wouldn't see enough, and realistically we're not going back anytime soon (though Matt would argue otherwise). There, we tried to give her a morning nap and then we just pushed all day. She usually had the opportunity to fall asleep in the car (at least) or on a hike, but it was slightly selfish on our parts. I kinda feel like - she's super scheduled at home - follows the same routine everyday - so we might as well shake it up. You know, so she doesn't get too bored. This did lead to a few (legitimate) meltdowns, but generally, she was awesome.

What to do -
Overall we have continued to do the same things we used to do - except no diving, no little boat rides, less hotel hopping (i.e. we stay longer in each place before moving on), earlier eating, no porcelain shopping (we never did that) and evening anything is out. We try to do what we want to do, and then we throw in a little Sam fun in the middle. Hiking and walking around a town are easy, but then you throw in finding animals, playgrounds, parks (bring a ball everywhere) and she's all set.

What to bring -
Wow - there's no way to travel light with a baby. It's easier when not breastfeeding (at least unless you're not working and breastfeeding, so you don't have to consistently give bottles - lugging that pump and all its parts was terrible!). I have a packing list that I have adapted for each trip we have gone on. Generally for Sam we bring 1.5 outfits per day, a sweatshirt, 2 pairs of pants, a pair of socks, a pair of shoes, 2 bibs per day, 6 diapers per day (unless it's long and we have to buy them there), baby soap, tylenol, diaper rash stuff, thermometer, toothbrush, dish soap, sponge, bottles, microwave steriliser bags, formula powder, sippy cup, teaspoon, loads of snacks and squeezy packets (that's all she eats), a sun hat plus an extra in case it gets lost, 4 books, 5 toys, sleep sac, pjs, night light, sun screen, hand sanitiser, wipes, tissues, a few cloth diapers, one blanket just in case and lots of plastic bags.

I saw an ad for the Ergo in one of the airline magazines - and I think it said something like, "Ergo will ensure you have a relaxing holiday." Before I had a baby, I would have wondered how a baby carrier could do that - but I SOOOO firmly believe that the ergo provides us a relaxing holiday. It's magical. When we carry Sam, she just wants to be put down and walk around. Stick her in the ergo, and she just stays. She loves it. If she were ever to fall asleep on a plane, it would be in the ergo (it HAS happened, but not often). We can stick her on our backs, and she loves it, or cuddle on our fronts, and she just lays keppy and sticks her thumb in her mouth. Magical - no joke.

Overall, it IS difficult to travel with a one year old. Maybe I'll feel differently if we have more kids, but I say, keep going. I don't think it's especially good for her in any way, but I think that getting out of our routine in the house, seeing new and interesting places, or just visiting an old favourite is so important for me and Matt (and our relationship together). One day we'll go and leave her - but to be honest, that doesn't sound too fun, since I feel like I never see her! We'll see.

Next stop - the USA. Last time we took 33 hours to get to our destination. This trip should only be 23 to New York, if nothing goes wrong. Hopefully that's not TOO bad...