Half the battle is won with good preparation. When we asked our makchic readership about their experiences travelling with kids, we ended up with an eye-opening sharing session filled with crazy horror stories and hilarious accounts.
From plenty of ordeals involving poop, poop and more poop to getting kicked out of hotels for children crying too hard (yes!), our mothers made us laugh and gasp with their drama-filled travel adventures.
Travelling with Kiddos – Yay or Nay?
But is it really overwhelming for people to travel with their children? In the US, the number of families travelling with their children have dropped in recent years. In general, Malaysian parents still travel with their kids. A survey showed, however, that 19% of Malaysian parents would rather leave their children behind when travelling, with 58% citing that they “need a break from their kids.” So should we be intimidated by the statistics?
Makchic’s mothers certainly did not think so, and most were enthusiastic about offering their tried-and-tested tips when travelling with children.
Here are our top picks of their interesting tips and advice:
1. Research like a pro
As some say, failure to plan is planning to fail. Many of our most seasoned travelling parents research with care and diligence about everything – from weather reports and family-friendly hotels to the local attractions and restaurants for their family holidays.
Not only will this help you pack the right gear for the weather, such as warm clothes and raincoats, this will also help you choose the right activities during your stay. It might also be a good idea to purchase travel insurance, in case of delays and emergencies.
2. Pack what you need …
Some readers recommended going light with only the essentials, but an overwhelming 81% readers polled think that travelling light with kids is impossible, “so bring everything, mommas!”
Our makchic tribe also agreed you should never travel without the essentials. Pack the medication and a thermometer, and if they are very young, nappies, formulas, pacifiers and favourite bottles.
Many of our readers also recommended keeping kids distracted and happy with their favourite snacks. However, one reader suggested that it is best to “avoid high sugar snacks or candies during travel.”
Bring along ziplock bags. These are “great for storing toys, snacks and knick-knacks,” a reader shared. And “compressed towels for diaper blowouts!” said another, in response to the many poop-related incidents shared by our readers.
3. … and pack it right!
We have all heard of travellers’ luggage not arriving at the destination. Avoid packing individual bags per member of the family, advised one reader. “Pack clothes for everyone in each bag,” said another, to ensure that no one would need to head out and shop for clothes when a bag goes missing.
If you are heading to colder climes, you will need bulky items that will take up a lot of space. One reader suggested packing these into vacuum bags. Bring along a small contraption that removes air such as Vago; “great when you are staying in a place that does not have a vacuum cleaner,” said another.
Deciding outfits of the day beforehand can save time when you need to get the kids dressed in the morning. Other mums suggested rolling up clothes and using packing cubes to keep things organised.
4. Arm yourself with vital devices
As some readers shared, portable pocket Wi-Fi turned out to be lifesavers during unexpected disasters.
Yana*, for example, had been out the whole day with her husband and two-year-old in a foreign city when their taxi driver suddenly refused to drive any further. It was midnight, and they had been looking forward to a restful time back in their hotel room. Their taxi driver, however, suddenly stopped the car, forcing Yana and her family out into the cold and heavy rain.
It took them over an hour to return to their hotel safely, but thankfully Yana and her husband had taken precautions before setting out that morning. They stayed connected with a pocket Wi-Fi, brought a power bank to keep the juices flowing, and used the map and GPS on their mobile devices to get them back to their hotel. Other parents also shared that having Internet connectivity made the difference in their ability to experience travel more effectively and experience things spontaneously.
Klook has some great portable Wi-Fi options for many different destinations around the world. You can choose to either have these delivered to your home, or picked up from the airports of your choice. Don’t forget to include power banks and travel adaptors in your bags too!
5. Choose the right time to fly
Many readers shared that they choose to travel at night for long journeys or just before nap time to make the journey a lot smoother. A lengthy daytime flight can be a nightmare for families with toddlers, as the little ones will want to move! If night flights are not possible, try this tip from another reader: Let the kids use up all their energy at the airport. They may then sleep through the journey.
6. Keep them occupied
Bring along favourite books, ‘busy kits’ such as puzzles and colouring books, games and new toys. You can try having these in individual fun packs, as suggested by one reader (pictured above) to keep them occupied during long waits. But “only bring them out when it’s crucial to keep them excited over the new toys.”
One reader also suggested Ivan Brett’s The Floor is Lava as a great resource for travel games that could entertain the whole family for hours. Encourage your kids to keep a travel journal “to keep them occupied and paying attention” throughout the trip, said another.
If all else fails, there is also your phone and iPad. Don’t worry. No one will judge your parenting on this one!
7. Book tickets in advance
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8. Always have activities planned for your kids
Our mothers strongly suggest keeping to one main attraction a day, being flexible and avoiding a packed schedule when travelling with young kids. “Include naps in planning,” said one reader. With older kids, one reader suggested getting the kids involved in the planning.
But most important of all, many mums said, expect that things may not go your way. And just “be kind to yourself!”
More cool tips from our favourite well-travelled mums
Laych Koh, Editor-in-Chief of makchic:
When travelling, Laych and her husband would always try to head to a local park or playground that is not on the usual tourists’ list of attractions. “It’s a nice way to experience the city or area the way the locals there do, and we like chatting with the people there and their kids too – travel is about these experiences, we feel.”
They also place great emphasis on nap times. “We try to be both militant and chilled and flexible around nap times – militant in that we know they are necessary for the young ones and we will make it happen somehow; chilled and flexible in that it can happen anyhow and anywhere – whether on the couch on a ferry or at the beach.”
And as recommended by some within our makchic mum tribe, Laych added this gem, “go on holidays with your best friends’ families. The kids have fun together, adults get precious times to catch up, and everyone gets a break because everyone is helping each other out.”
Azura Rahman, former Presenter/ Producer of BFM:
“People always marvel at my holiday snapshots on Instagram, followed by comments that go along the lines, “OMG how do you do it with three kids” or “I wish could go there with my family!”. To that I say, hold up – Instagram is an edited, curated and filtered moment in time.”
She added, “What it fails to capture is when my son had a runny poo accident at a super fancy beach club on Plage des Pamplonnes near St Tropez, or how Google maps took us on a panic-inducing drive in the middle of a farmers market in Aix en Provence (imagine driving into the middle of a pasar malam with no way out) or how my toddler vomited her breakfast all over me and the sun lounger poolside at KuDeTa in Bali.”
So how did they get through these incidents?
Having “sense of humour, an open mind and a general sense of resignation that one can never do holidays in style with kids. You just can’t. So stay cool. And be comforted by the thought that one day, you may just visit this beautiful place again – without the kids.”
Azura recommends opting for self-catering accommodation which allows her the flexibility to prepare meals for her kids however and whenever they want. Try having a big, protein-filled breakfast so that lunch could be anywhere the grown-ups might want to enjoy.
And best of all, “Ice cream makes any situation better. Kids are hot and bothered? Ice cream. Daddy is grumpy while Mummy shops? Ice cream. Mummy is exhausted and can’t bear the weight of the baby carrier anymore? Coffee AND ice cream.”
Wan Marlina Rahman, Architect:
Travelling with a special needs child is incredibly challenging but possible with a lot of extra preparations. After many nerve-racking and stressful flights, Wan Marlina has this to say about managing her twelve-year-old son on a flight – “Always try the 3-seater rows in the economy section when booking seats for a flight. We always book an extra seat so that my husband can sit with my son. My two girls and I will sit on the row in front of them. This will create an island. So, if my son starts banging on the seat in front, he will only be disturbing me or my girls. The extra seat means my son can stretch out his long legs too.”
Tantrums can be unpredictable and Wan Marlina will always try to bring a stroller along for her son. “It will save you time and energy if your kids can still fit in one. It will also be your shopping, jacket and bag carrier too. So bring a sturdy and light stroller. My son is 12 now and we are looking for a travel wheelchair for our next travel excursion.”
Special needs, special planning
It is not always easy to find the right places to eat, at exactly the right time when travelling. A great tip is to always plan ahead of the itinerary. “Apart from snacks, we will bring empty food containers and travel utensils so that we can fill these up with meals from convenient stores or leftover meals from restaurants. Whenever he gets hungry, we will just feed him on the go. It’s like a travel-picnic!”
After losing her non-verbal son in the crowd during their previous trips, Wan Marlina is now more prepared for this eventuality by making a special laminated ID with his picture, name, contact number and his special needs. “We have several copies; each of us will carry one and we will place another in his zipped pocket.” She went on to add, “Once he had a meltdown in the airplane. Instead of explaining to the passengers, we just passed the ID out. It just saves us time.”
Sharing is caring
We have so many other incredible stories and tips from our tribe of makchic mothers but we couldn’t fit them all here. Suffice to say, however, that our mums ultimately loved and enjoyed travelling with their children and would definitely continue doing so. Revisit our sharing session in our Instagram highlights for more tips and have fun planning for your next adventure with the little ones!
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