It seems a common remark within the local Hong Kong mommies that they do not have the courage to take their babies on holidays until they are at least 2 years old. The premise behind it is because they perceive such travels as too difficult; too annoying; too much to plan; too much to bring; too much to carry; the babies don’t gain much from it anyways…..the list goes on.
Then when these parents DO take their kids on their first trip, it is often when the kids are going through their “terrible twos” and “tantrum threes” stages! Mixed with the fact that these kids are unfamiliar with the airport and travelling procedures, unforgiving to changes in their normal daily schedules and unknown as to what to expect, EPIC disaster often ensures. Often in such cases, these parents return to Hong Kong after a holiday they wish to forget and vow never to travel with their kids again!
Suffice to say, my thoughts are quite different when it comes to taking our kids travelling.
I believe you need to start travelling and train them up early on – any time from 3-6 months really. By that time (if you also started the citizenship and passport applications early), you would’ve received the baby’s passport (and visa stamps if one is needed) and are ready to go!
The first trip we took with Joshie was to a resort in Phuket; and a driving holiday in Okinawa with Jayden – both when the boys were just 3 months old. We took those trips as a “practice run” as we had extended holidays planned for when they reached around 6-9 months old, which included long haul flights and long car rides.
Whilst our “practice run” trips were fun, filled with great memories and laughter, captured with lots of photos and videos, but…..
Was it tiring? Yes!!
Was it hectic? Yes, Yes!!
Did it go smoothly? Not always!!
Was it relaxing? What does that word even mean these days?!
Was it worth it? Totally!
These were all part of the learning process! We wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing on a trip; that we brought all the things we needed to bring; that we could carry all the luggage; that we had all the right essential items; that we grasped what is allowed and what we needed to demand for; and lastly, that we learned what we missed and what we can do better next time.
For “practice runs”, what we learnt essentially were:
Go somewhere close by, and for short duration.
It’s only a “practice run” – you have your training shoes on, so go somewhere relatively close by and just for a few days!! I normally would consider up to 2 hours flight away (max 3 hours) to be close by.
Go somewhere temperate in weather
The baby is still very young so the easiest is to find a place with temperate weather so it will be easy for the baby to feel comfortable – without having to lug jackets and scarfs or run the risk of being sun burnt!
Go somewhere civilized
I try to book a place that is somewhat civilized and well resourced. The resort we stayed at in Phuket had medical center facilities with English speaking doctors. Similarly, in Okinawa, having an US army base there meant that there are English medical facilities in case anything happens. I always make sure I know where the major supermarkets, pharmacies and medical facilities are before we go.
Go somewhere easy and less crowded
Hong Kong is crowded enough! Travelling with babies can get stressful so my logic is: don’t try to do too much, less people means less opportunities for stressful situations to arise!
Go with a reputable airline
Reputable airlines (as opposed to budget airlines) seem to be more helpful, attentive and have more empathy towards parents travelling with infants/kids. Now that the kids are with us, we also prefer airlines with the highest safety records.
Go with the knowledge that they do grow and learn from their experiences
Even though our boys will not remember these trips in their early age, we do notice and believe that these trips facilitate their further growth and development and they subconsciously retain all the sensory stimulation during the trips: The smell of cut grass; hearing different languages; the taste of the sea; the sight & sounds of all the amazing scenery; the feel of the sand – all ingrained in their little memories. Further, as they become more seasoned travelers, they know what to expect and how the family roll during a trip; and you, yourself, learn what their trigger points are and when it would flare up. All this really does lessen all the crying, tantrums and making scenes, and make future trips a whole lot easier!
We are resigned to the fact that travelling with babies will never be the same as before – we accept that it will be a different way of travelling, a different type of holiday but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, exciting and memorable!!
It just means relaxation, and all words synonymous to it, will not accompany us on our trips!
Take courage, train them early!