“Balik Kampung” trips with babies can be like moving house. We took our six-month old twins on their maiden long haul car journey to Johor to visit my family over the recent Christmas holidays. Three quarters of our large amount of luggage belonged to the little ones. Loading our MPV took us much longer than anticipated. We started at 2.30pm but only finally left at 4pm. What can I say? First timers.
Makchic mummies who will be driving home for Chinese New Year may benefit from what we learnt from this experience.
Car Travel Safety
Our leaving later than planned meant that we had to drive through the night for part of our journey. Being in a vehicle that breaks down on a dark and lonely stretch of highway can be scary. With kids in the car, you do not want to be stalled on the shoulder of the road; worrying about large lorries trundling too close for comfort and becoming a potential victim of crime.
Take your car for a tune-up beforehand and confirm your jack is working. Check the air pressure in your tires, ensuring you have a good spare. Join an emergency road service membership like AAM. Travel when there’s still light and leave lots of time for loading the car. Remember: everything takes double the time with children.
Helpful Hints for Highway Travel
Note the number of PLUS Expressway’s 24-hour customer care line i.e. 1800 88 0000. PLUSLine callers can receive the latest traffic updates and request for PLUSRonda assistance. Most importantly, make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
Get good car seats for your children and refer to tips on how to comfortably secure your little ones. Babies behave better in moving vehicles. So, plan to travel during less busy times and before the public holiday. Use routes that can avoid bad traffic jams.
Feed your babies before departing as nursing in a moving car is a no-no. For journeys above four hours, plan to stop once at the bigger, better-equipped rest areas. For our drive down south, we rested at the Air Keroh Jejantas area and for our drive back to KL, we stopped in Pagoh. Unfortunately, there are no proper nursing and changing facilities. We changed the babies in the van or on cemented seating areas. Bring a sturdy flat well-padded cushion and changing mat for this purpose. You can breastfeed your baby in the car with a nursing cover, protecting yourself from prying eyes with a simple stick-on window screen.
We made sure our diaper bag was easily accessible and had enough diapers for the journey, towels, one change of clothes, wet wipes, hand sanitiser, bottles of milk (with milk powder separated for freshness), plain water, bibs, and plastic bags for soiled items and rubbish. Baby safe mirrors tied in front of their car seats, small toys, cold teethers and music they enjoy can also help keep babies entertained for a long drive.
Packing to Mirror Babies’ Regular Routines
I started by jotting down what we used during their daily routines. I also thought about alternative uses for certain items e.g. strollers doubling up as feeding chairs or temporary cots for naps or bedtime; Tupperware food storage containers doubling up as feeding plates. I grouped items into categories representing the main routines. Our final packing list was as follows:
- Bathing and Swimming: Coconut oil (for baby massage), after bath ointments like Yu Yee oil and Vicks Baby Rub, moisturiser, rash creams, bath scrub towels, soap, gum brushes, rubber mat for dressing baby after bath, swimsuits and floats, baby sunscreen and hats
- Feeding: Steriliser (if staying at a hotel, check whether it provides sterilisers), steamer blender (or steam baby’s food conventionally before mashing it with a sieve), Tupperware for food storage (used also for feeding); spoons; bibs; towels
- Playtime: Playmat, favourite toys and books
- Sleeping: We brought our Graco Pack n’ Plays along to use as cots but alternatives may be available at your destination like mattresses or cots you can loan from a family member. Also, swaddles and blankets
- Health and Wellbeing: Thermometer; Sterimar saline spray and NoseFrida nasal aspirator for blocked noses; children’s Panadol syrup and syringes for fever; baby probiotics for upset tummies; mosquito repellant
- Clothes: Pack for half the length of your stay as you can always do some laundry midway. For our upcoming six-day trip, I’ll pack four sets of daytime outfits (including one set of festive clothes) and two sets of pyjamas
- Breast pumping mummies should also check if there’s a freezer at their destination or invest in a Coleman loaded with dry ice
- I excluded items that were available or easily purchased at our destination e.g. disposable diapers, bath tub, towels, wet wipes, detergent, vegetables, fruit.
I clustered each category of items together using IKEA’s drawer organisers and storage boxes. This way, I was able to quickly unpack the items for immediate use and subsequently, easily repack them for our trip home.
Packing stuff that enabled us to recreate and mirror our babies’ routines at home, helped them to adapt more easily to their new surroundings.
Travelling with tiny tots can be troublesome with the many things you have tote along. However, travelling with them will never be easier, since young babies aren’t very mobile. They can actually be surprisingly good travelers if you are well prepared.
Happy Chinese New Year and safe travels, everyone!
Li-Hsian recently left a career in corporate communications to become a full-time mum to twins. She is learning new things daily as she tries to balance the romance of motherhood with the messy realities of her latest role.
Image credit: The Tiny Times