Travel is probably our family’s third biggest expenditure, next to food and entertaining. We have not gone on vacation in a while but over the weekend, we accomplished one of our biggest travel milestones yet–going home to my in-laws on full commute to and fro. Well okay, we had taxi rides as well, but Turo and I took the kids and our overnight bags on buses, trains, jeepneys and multicabs going to Cavite and back home in Cainta.
As parents, we always want our kids to be most comfortable, wherever, and especially during longer than usual trips. In the past, we make it a point to schedule our trips in advance to be sure that no one will be using the car on the weekend of our trip. But this weekend, I felt that we were ready to take our toddler boys on a rougher kind of travel. And we all managed to go home in one piece. The children were tired as you would expect, but to me it seemed that all of us enjoyed the rides on public transport.
I’m not sure why it feels such a huge victory to me, this commuting thing. Maybe because I myself dislike commuting. Or because I can now imagine taking my children on longer and more difficult trips, maybe Sagada, CamSur, Cagayan? Or maybe because this experience offered some form of reassurance that our children are really growing up, becoming more independent and adventurous, as we hope they would be.
Travelling with children is no easy task. It requires a great deal of planning, organizing and anticipation–luckily, things which I’m quite good at. I am a travel buff. But I am also obssessed with planning and packing for trips, particularly those where my children get to tag along. Let me share some of the things I learned on family friendly travel.
Where to go?
This is the first question to ask, although with the recent endless airfare promos, this can be preceded by “to where is the cheapest flight?” Your main considerations at this point will be:i) can you afford to go there? ii) is there a safe and affordable place where your family can stay? iii) are there destinations that your kids will not be restrained and enjoy?
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to do a little research on your chosen destination, draw up an itinerary depending on the duration of your trip, add up a budget that you can afford, and start saving for extra expenses.
Before you go.
You might be surprised that it will actually take you more time getting ready for your trip than the vacation itself. But if you take pains in planning, you will be rewarded with a hassle-free and enjoyable trip. Some major arrangements that you need to make in advance include purchasing plane or bus or ferry tickets, getting travel insurance, getting clearance from the pedia, making hotel and restaurant reservations, and don’t don’t forget to check on your passports if they need renewing.
Packing your bags.
The rule here is “take only what you need.” If you pack too much, that’s an additional load to carry apart from your heavy toddlers. If you pack too light, you may not have an extra shirt when your kid throws up on a bumpy ride and you’ll have to buy those unbelievably expensive souvenir shirts that your child may not want to wear again.
When packing for kids, be guided by their daily routine. Bring stuff for brushing teeth, shampooing their hair and scrubbing their little bodies. Bring along a bedtime book, the smallest toy that they often play with, their favorite cookie or snack, a bottle of their favorite drink. For packing clothes, first check on the weather in your chosen destination. My rule for packing my kids’ clothes is “4 sandos, 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 briefs, 1 pajama, 1 face towel per day” which I only need to multiply by the number of days of our trip. You can set your own rule for your kid as well and this can be your guide each time you pack, whether for short or long trips.
I also keep a travel medicine kit which contains paracetamol, anti-itch cream, sterile gauze, micropore tape, iodine solution and oral rehydration salts. Your medicine kit will also depend on your child’s medical situation. Common diseases that he’s had over the years will give you a clue on what medicines to bring.
For longer trips, you can even consider mailing some of your stuff straight to your hotel so you won’t have to carry everything on the way. Just make sure that what you send thru courier are stuff like disposable diapers or food items that will be consumed during your travel so you bring the same load when you go home. Otherwise, you’re going to have to mail out soiled clothes back home.
Other items that will be helpful during travel include extra pouches or ziploc bags, laundry bags, extra foldable duffel bag, travel chargers, adaptor plugs, umbrella, flashlight and a swiss army knife. If we are not booked in a big hotel that will most likely not have hot water in the faucet, we also bring an electric water heater for sterilizing the kid’s milk bottles and utensils.
And make sure to bring important documents with you. A copy of your children’s birth certificate, passports, insurance and identification cards. Also tag your luggages with your personal information. Keep some form of identification on your children as well, a sheet of paper with their name, address, your name and contact number inside their pockets, just in case. Also keep tab of important telephone numbers, emergency hotlines, even credit card and insurance hotlines. These will all come in handy in case of emergencies in unfamiliar territory.
Prepping the kids.
As you prepare for your trip, try to get the kids excited about the places that you will visit. Reading travel picture books and watching documentaries, say of the ocean if you’re going to the beach, can help prep their minds and get them ready for longer-than-usual trips. If you can, plan your itinerary closely to their daily routine. Breakfast at 8am, swimming when it’s their bath time, long land travel in time for their afternoon nap, and frequent stops otherwise so they don’t get too bored on the road. Bring some music, snacks and play some games to keep them entertained along the way.
Planning for travel usually gets stressful as the travel date nears, but letting your children discover new things in new places will be the best reward of all. Worth more than the souvenirs and pasalubongs that you bring home.
Until the next trip..