This post is also a guide for those traveling for the first time with their babies/toddlers.
I can tell you from experience that traveling with your baby for the first time is probably one of the most nerve wracking moments you’ll ever experience. There’s just a lot to consider and a lot of uncertainties. And it needs massive preparation. I planned our first out of the country trip with Light months prior (if you’re using your miles, you have to consider the time it takes to transfer, etc.) and I think there were still a few elements that surprised me.
If you are planning to travel with your baby for the first time and haven’t decided on anything yet, you might want to get a copy of this book – The Toddler Travels by Genevieve Gutierrez-Figueroa. It will give you ideas on where to go first, what to do/expect on your first travel with your baby or toddler. I did a review about it here. You can check it first before getting the book. 🙂
I remember my husband and I being so cautious all the time during the trip. We waited the rain before going out even if it was just a drizzle. We didn’t stay up too late because we didn’t want to tire Light too much. I cleaned every surface my daughter touched. We weren’t adventurous at all, and it was okay. 🙂
First Things First – LOCATION
We decided to go to Taipei, Taiwan for Lights first trip abroad. I wanted somewhere only a few hours away by plane. I thought that shorter trips would be a good choice (to see first how well Light would react being on a plane). I also wanted to go somewhere a little bit cold. I also didn’t want to feel like we have to check out every must see places in the area because it’s our first time there. So choosing somewhere that we (Dennis and I) have already been to was considered. That way, there’s really no pressure and it would be more relaxed (if there’s such a thing when traveling with a toddler haha).
I would’ve planned something different, maybe considered a few places, a different itinerary if I’ve read the book The Toddler Travels. It definitely talked about things I didn’t think of when I planned our first trip with Light.
If you are traveling within the Philippines only, more precisely, within a car ride away, you might also want to check out my post here for what to bring and what to expect. 🙂
I also considered, of course, if the place was baby/kid friendly. At that time, Light was still breastfeeding so I had to check how breastfeeding friendly Taipei was, if there were breastfeeding rooms in the subway or in the tourist places we planned to go. Diaper changing stations were also checked.
Taiwan is very kid friendly and breastfeeding friendly. Almost all the major subway stations have diaper changing rooms. They also have elevators for those who plan to bring a stroller. I was surprised that Taipei’s major tourist places have breastfeeding rooms, and even a little bit sad that Light wasn’t breastfeeding that much anymore because I wanted to go and use those rooms hehe.
*Hotel: Dandy Hotel – Daan Park No.33, Sec. 3, Xinyi Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
ITINERARY – Keep It Flexible
For our itinerary in Taipei, I made it flexible. I think a key to traveling with a toddler is to keep your itinerary as flexible and relaxed as possible. Have room for surprises. Don’t make too many reservations which you might miss in case something happens.
What I did first was research this, “What to do in Taipei with kids?”. I listed down all the DOABLE activities. These included open space locations like parks and the Taipei zoo. It was a good choice because Light was just starting to get interested with animals. I didn’t bother with places that required hours of traveling from Taipei.
If you are like me who just have to do everything in the itinerary, then traveling with a kid will be extra difficult. We didn’t get to go to most of the places I planned because it rained during our last two days. I just had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t compromise the safety and health of my baby, especially since we’re out of the country.
Taiwan has other more kid friendly places than Taipei city, but since Light was just discovering how to walk then, and like I said before, we didn’t want to over plan it, we just stayed away from long drives from Taipei. The main reason we had the trip was for us (my husband and I) to relax and for Light to experience the whole trip abroad. It wouldn’t be that nice of a trip if we packed the itinerary with lots of activities and bus/train rides, and ended up so tired.
I also wanted to make our trip fun for all the three of us so I didn’t just plan for the parks and the zoo. I also put a little shopping time in our itinerary (which sadly, we didn’t get to do much. No Ximending 🙁 ).
It helps a lot if you keep track of you baby’s schedule or have an idea about your baby’s schedule – naps, feeding time, diaper changing time, etc. I know that the schedule could change. But in Light’s case, I already knew for how long her schedule would stay the same. So on our Taiwan trip, I took into consideration her schedule when planning.
In every area we planned to visit, I looked for the following:
- Diaper changing/breastfeeding rooms
- Stroller Rental (if we really needed it)
THE PLANE RIDE – Preparation Is Key
I think it really depends on the child how well he or she will react on the plane. I’ve asked a few mommies about their child’s first airplane ride and some would say that they were behaved and not crying at all at 6-8 months old. Some would still fuss at 1 year old.
I might’ve 0ver prepared for Light’s first airplane ride. I brought surface cleaners, entertainment materials, etc. Of course you have to consider the possibility of not getting an extra seat for your baby (if she’s not yet 2 years old). That means if you have a long flight, you might not be able to get a good rest on the plane.
We were lucky because our flight to Taiwan wasn’t that full so we got an extra seat for Light. I still had to carry her on my lap during take off and landing, but overall, it was a pleasant ride.
I found (after having a few trips with Light since this trip) that aside from being armed with lots of toys for her on the plane, that timing is also key. You’d want to get a flight that is around your child’s sleeping/nap time. An early flight works for me because although I would be interrupting Light’s sleep at night/early morning, at least I know that she will be tired after all the airport procedures and waiting (playing in the play area), that by time we board, she’ll be sleepy again.
In our most recent trip, that’s exactly what happened so I had a few minutes of rest. In our plane ride to Taiwan, I was so determined not to disrupt her sleep that she slept during the airport procedures and was awake most of the time on the plane. My husband and I didn’t get to take a nap.
Breastfeeding on a plane can be difficult if your baby is already big. I had to find a good position that worked for both myself and Light. I also used this big sort of top I bought at a clothing store (and never got to use anymore). It was very convenient to use while breastfeeding because it covers all areas. And when Light was being fuzzy I didn’t have to worry about my cover getting out of place and my breasts showing. 🙂
Fortunately, we didn’t have any major accidents when it came to diaper changing. We only had to change her on her seat. I also bought an underwear type of disposable diaper to make diaper changing easier. I did, however, get to use the changing area in the lavatory on our last trip. Light was about 22 months at that time. Surprisingly the changing area was spacious enough for her. It was still a challenge but manageable. 🙂
I still don’t know if delaying our trip until she’s old enough is better. I think it still depends on the parents and how well they cope/adjust to their child. And I think Light might’ve been born a traveler. She just adjusts well when traveling. Not high maintenance at all!
FOOD – Convenience Is Key
Forget about those hole in the wall, small eateries. Go for comfortable dining experience. It may be a few bucks more expensive but at least you and your little one get to relax. We all know as parents how hard it is to enjoy your food when you have a little one running around. Actually, even if they’re just sitting on the table there’s bound to be something the little kiddos will fuss about.
I think choosing a location that offers dishes similar to what your child is used to is also a good idea. This was our first trip out of the country with an infant so I wanted it to be as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. Maybe it wasn’t the most adventurous, but at least I didn’t have to deal with diarrhea or something. 🙂
It didn’t mean that we had a boring trip either. We did try some street food and went to a character cafe that’s so well known in Taipei.
Take Your TIME
Lastly, and I believe most importantly, is to take your time. Take your time at breakfast. Don’t rush. Take pictures. Enjoy the moment. Give enough time for your child to explore a certain place.
I needed a little reminding with this. You want to see as much as you can. You want to get to as many places as you can in a day that you forget to just relax and enjoy.
Let your child explore. It was actually very refreshing just watching Light discover a new world. 🙂
What To Pack For Your Child
I’m not a light packer at all. I want to be prepared. I want to bring everything I might need. 🙂 So when I was packing Light’s things I had the same thinking. It was amazing that I had all of her things in just one packing cube.
- surface cleaner/alcohol
- Mustela no rinse cleansing fluid (must have for thumb sucking child like Light)
- strap for high chair
- her own utensils and bowls
- dishwashing liquid (for Light’s utensils)
- disposable bib
- a couple of extra clothes (duh)
- extra pajamas
- hip seat carrier
- hanger with clips (hotels don’t have enough hooks/bars to hang stuff)
- small pillow and light blanket (to use in the plane)
- extra wipes
- laundry soap (for emergencies like your child making a bomb and soiling her clothes)
- an extra jacket (when the weather is cold)
Mommy Tip: Instead of bringing a medium-big size hand bag on your trip, just have a small size sling bag where you can put your money, phone, subway card and other small important, must easy to reach items. This will be easier when you’re carrying your little one and you need to get things immediately without help from someone.