With the Eid break over, it’s now time to get ready for summer and the annual summer exodus, when many families resident in the Middle East take the opportunity to escape the heat and travel home to see loved ones or head off on adventures in cooler climes. Travelling with babies and toddlers can be a daunting task, especially if it is your first time travelling with children or your first time travelling with multiple children, or the scariest of all – travelling alone with multiple children!! Being prepared both mentally and practically makes all the difference and having the right gear to hand can make or break your travel experience.
I’m Harkee, a British expat mother of two and parenting blogger at AS they grow. I’m delighted to have been invited by Just Kidding to share with you the travel essentials that I’ve relied on over the last 6 years of traveling with my young family (including 14 hour flights from Australia alone with two young ones that don’t sleep much!) Many of these items can be used over a number of years so are a very worthwhile investment into both your travel experience and your sanity!
I will start with what I consider to have been one of the best travel investments I have ever made and that is a compact collapsable buggy that will fit in the airplane overhead baggage storage. Do not underestimate the value of being able to push your child through a busy airport right up to the airplane door and having that buggy right to hand the minute you step off the plane to make the dash to passport control and the luggage belt. No more waiting around with a tired, cranky toddler for your buggy to come off the luggage belt and wondering if it survived the journey. Babies might seem small but, when you have to carry them while trying to juggle multiple passports and lift suitcases off a moving belt, suddenly such small beings can pose a big difficulty. It’s much easier to have a safe place to strap them in where they can easily nap if they want to. The Baby Zen Yoyo is one of the most well know airplane approved buggies and can also be used as a compact stroller throughout your whole trip. There are also various handy accessories available for it such as a ride on board for a toddler or child, car seat adapters and an insect shield perfect for those tropical holidays.
I also love the look of the new Mountain Buggy Bagrider which is suitable for babies from when they can sit confidently unassisted to around age 3, if that had been around when my kids were younger I’m pretty sure I would have bought it for transporting them through the airport and they would have loved it. I showed it to one of my friends and she bought it straight away so I’m looking forward to seeing it in action this summer – I have always found Mountain Buggy products to be sturdy and easy to manouvre and this seems to be the same.
Another essential bit of kit for getting a baby or young toddler around an airport is a baby carrier and I always travelled with my Ergo. When travelling alone with a newborn and a toddler it was a god send to be able to strap my baby to me and push my toddler in the compact buggy. Airports and airplanes can be busy, scary, overwhelming places for babies and toddlers and baby carriers allow a child to feel comforted by close physical contact with a parent while allowing the parent to keep their hands free to deal with everything that needs to be dealt with. Thick, comfy, adjustable straps, a head support for a sleeping baby and handy little pockets as well as different options for carrying position makes the Ergo carrier a safe comfortable ride for both the child and the parent. I used mine right into toddlerhood throughout airports, onboard planes for hours of walking up and down the aisles bouncing an unsettled child and of course at my destination as well. A baby carrier is particularly handy if you are travelling somewhere where you will be using public transport a lot as it can be more difficult hopping on and off buses and trains with a buggy.
The most multi-functional item I always travel with is a set of large muslin cloths. These have so many uses, from nursing cover to buggy shade, light shade, bed sheet or blanket, to mop cloth, burp cloth, changing mat and more besides. Airplane seats and blankets are usually cleaned with harsh detergents that aren’t particularly kind to babies’ soft skin. The one time I didn’t place a muslin underneath him, my son reacted to the seats and since then I’ve made sure to place the protective barrier over the seat or bassinet. The Swaddle Designs 4 pack of large muslins would be perfect for this.
For my carry-on bag I always forgo a handbag or shoulder bag and opt for a backpack for both comfort and convenience. Ideally one with lots of pockets to separate the things you need, like the Skip Hop Suite Diaper Back Pack which not only looks stylish but also comes with a travel change mat, paci pocket, stroller straps, bottle bag and packing cube, all handy accessories for travel. As soon as the kids were old enough to carry their own little backpacks I got them one each for travelling and going out and about at our destination. They can fill these with their toys and entertainment for the flight and maybe a few snacks – just don’t forget to check what they packed – I remember wondering why my son’s bag was so heavy one trip only to discover he’d filled it full of wooden train toys!! Just kidding has a wide range of back packs so you can pick one suitable to the size of your child and their likes. My pick would be the backpacks from A Lovely Little Company for the many pockets, especially the side ones perfect for a water bottle, not to mention their cuteness!
One of the things I get most anxious about when travelling with the kids is food. It was easier when they were nursing newborns but as fussy eating toddlers I always needed to make sure I had plenty of their favourite things to hand. Stacking pots like the Skip Hop Food Storage Tower are perfect for packing a variety of foods but also practical for snacking on the go. Pack some snacks for you as well – inevitably the baby will need all your attention just as the onboard meals are about to be served and you might miss out!
As well as the gear there is also the basics you need to pack like wipes (I always packed an already open pack that was half used so it wasn’t so heavy to carry), nappies (I split these out into a few in the nappy pouch (or just a ziplock bag) which I can just grab and take to the loo and a back up stash in the bag to refill) and nappy sacks which can be handy not only for nappies but also any soiled or wet clothing. Talking of soiled or wet clothing, don’t forget to pack a change of clothing for you and your partner as well as the little ones as you are likely to be caught in the line of any fire!
Of course the most important thing to be sure to take with you is a bucket full of patience, a sense of humour and the knowledge that no matter how difficult the journey, you will get to your destination eventually and the family time out of the summer desert heat will all be worth it!!
Have a great summer everyone and safe travels!