Traveling with Babies 101: A first-timer’s version

My husband and I had a plan: take a family trip abroad when our little one turned one. We were confident we could handle a 1-year-old baby on board a plane.
I researched extensively about babies and planes. There are many horror stories about screaming babies on planes. A family friend shared that one time, she let her youngest screamed it out on the airplane floor. Neither she nor the yaya could control him.
Fortunately, they are a big family and had appropriated almost all the business class seats; hence they were accorded some level of privacy.
Anyway, back to our trip planning. We informed our travel agent that we were flying with our little boy, and that we wanted this to be as relaxing as possible. That meant no rigorous schedules to follow, and our own vehicle. We settled on Shanghai, China, as our first family trip abroad. And of course Shanghai Disneyland was a definite must. We wanted a five-star hotel that was very, very clean – but would not burn a hole in our wallet.
Our finalized itinerary looked very good on paper. Our travel dates were during the Holy Week. It was springtime in China, so the weather was not so cold. The mornings were sunny, but the nights could be quite cold; so we packed warm clothes.
Initially, it was supposed to be just us three (parents and baby), but my parents-in-law (especially Mom) were worried that we might have a hard time looking after the baby by ourselves. As we didn’t want a yaya tagging along, Dad and Mom decided they were coming along to help us out. (Although I strongly suspect it was more because they would miss their apo.)
Months before the trip, Mom began buying winter-spring clothes for our little boy, like a two-piece pajama-like bottoms with buttons at the waists and a bonnet.
Husband and I were actually more relaxed with the idea of flying with our baby. I figured I could give him stuff like in-flight magazine, vomit bag and safety instruction card to play with. A blogger swore that even in-flight plastic cups make for fun toys. But Mom wanted to be more prepared.
Aside from a couple of small toys and books, she had kids’ apps (our little boy is quite the techie for his age, and songs and music from electronic devices – specifically smart phones, tablets and the television – amuse him greatly), installed in her phone. Our baby wasn’t walking on his own yet at the time of our trip, so buying a baby pack was essential.
Next we needed a stroller. My husband’s cousin lent us her super lightweight stroller. I used a backpack for my belongings, and was able to fit in all the necessary travel-size baby wipes (more compact than the regular size), diapers, a change of clothes, a sweater, bonnet and first-aid kit.
Next: diapers. I mentally calculated the number of diaper changes in a day, then added three more for contingency. Mom was very helpful in diaper packing. She kept a lot of plastic bags (from the baby clothes), and we used them to segregate the diapers based on the number of days we will be out of the country. I mixed three kinds of diapers in a pack – there’s the pull-up, the lampin-type and the thicker variety for the night nappy. For my hand-carry, I only packed the pull-ups for easy changing.
Now the first-aid kit. Aside from my pediatrician’s short list, I included paracetamol (for fever), cetirizine (allergies), salinase (runny nose) and an oral solution (diarrhea). Husband’s cousin who lent her stroller also provided us with her own travel baby first-aid kit. Boy, what a list! She even included a nebulizer. I had been breastfeeding my little boy, so I hoped the first-aid kit I packed would not prove necessary because of his strong immune system. As it turned out, only the oral solution was used, but for Dad, not the baby.
Finally, the day arrived. If things had gone smoothly, Baby would be asleep on the plane. But as expected, our Philippine Airlines flight was delayed and NAIA-3 was crowded. Baby got fussy from the waiting, but I didn’t plan to breastfeed him until takeoff to counter the air pressure in his ears – it was one of the tips I read when flying with babies, while my sister-in-law suggested bringing a sippy cup, so baby can sip and swallow. Mom’s stash of toys came in very handy at this point. She distracted him with a mechanical cow. It’s become one of his favorite toys since.
We were mentally prepared for Baby’s reaction inside the airplane, and were much surprised when he actually turned out to be the most well-behaved baby! He enjoyed the ride, slept and ate and just played with the little toys, books, kiddie apps and airplane window. He kept opening and closing the window blinds and was simply fascinated with it.
Eating time was no problem as well. He ate the airplane food and played with the cherry tomatoes included in the meal. We took a few of the fruit cups with us, so he could play lutu-lutuan later. One takeaway I learned: have a very big carry-on bag, so you can stash a lot of things inside. The lutu-lutuan set proved useful during mealtimes in Shanghai. After Baby eats, we pull out the PAL fruit cups and let him play with bits of lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.
One most important advice: try to minimize the things you bring with you. Like squeezing all three of our belongings in one luggage. Zip bags are heaven-sent for packing! Good thing we did that, because we ended up carrying our stuff, including the stroller, down the stairs as we proceeded to our pick up point.
Shanghai was such a lovely place for our first family trip abroad. We absolutely loved its cosmopolitan vibe. It’s a shame though that we didn’t get to fully explore Disneyland. It was very hot and I regretted that I didn’t bring my boy’s hat. The crowds were just crazy and we couldn’t see the fireworks display properly because people were pushing to get a good view. But we’re glad that we got to stay one night at the Disneyland hotel. Disneyland is relatively new in China. Everything smells and looks so clean. The place was also very kid-friendly. They had kid bathrobes, slippers and toothbrushes. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Lastly, even with the most meticulous planning, things can get lost in translation. The room in the other five-star hotel we stayed in reeked of cigarette smoke. And though we were provided with a free-and-easy itinerary, they neglected to mention that the shopping places are required-to-go places, as these shopping places are where local tour operators get commissions when their client buys from these places.
To be clear, I find nothing wrong with that kind of arrangement. But do let your travel agent know your expectations and ask about everything. Transparency and effective communication are key to a successful partnership with your travel agency and, hopefully, a fun and memorable trip with your little ones.