Tips for Traveling Abroad With a Toddler
By Anayat Durrani
Embarking on a trip abroad with a toddler in tow would usually be classified in the minds of most mothers as mission impossible. However, it need not be so daunting.
My toddler and I recently returned from three months of travel abroad, visiting countries like Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt. Our journey consisted of travel on 10 different airplanes, about 50 total hours in the air, and travel on two camels, a donkey and a horse. It actually can be done and be quite enjoyable, depending on your level of pre-planning. Here are some tips to get you ready for your adventure:
Immunize. Once a travel destination is chosen, parents should obtain information on the country to find out immunization requirements. This can be done by visiting the website for the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and clicking on their Travelers Health section which will provide health information for specific destinations. It is also important that parents visit their pediatrician at least a month before travel to ensure that their child is up to date on all required vaccinations and in case additional immunizations are required.
As a general rule, parents should ensure that their child avoids drinking local water and eating uncooked vegetables once arriving at their destination. Only pasteurized milk or formula prepared with bottled water should be given to your toddler.
Passport and visa. Apply early for a passport for your toddler and include departure dates to avoid any unnecessary delays in trip plans. A passport can be applied for at Federal and state courts and post offices as well as local county and municipal offices. Some countries also require visas to enter the country. Travelers can check with their travel agent or airlines to find out if the country they are visiting requires a visa. Some countries only require a tourist card which can be obtained on the plane.
Off-peak, non-stop. When making flight reservations one should consider the best times to travel with a toddler. Parents may consider traveling at off-peak vacation times and book seats during the middle of the week and during the day time. They should also opt for non-stop flights to minimize the hassles that often come about with connecting flights.
Bulkhead seating. Many parents find that bulkhead seating at the front of each section provides more comfort while traveling with a toddler. These seats have no seating in front of them and allow for more leg room, ability to change the baby, and room to stand or play for the toddler. Passengers may request a bassinet for their child which is attached to the wall while in-flight. Bulkhead seating and bassinets must be requested ahead of time.
Child fare. Parents may also consider buying their child their own seat. Most airlines offer discounted rates for children 2 years old and younger. However, if parents choose not to purchase an extra seat, they can request the isle and the window seat for themselves while making their reservation, which can increase chances of having the middle seat free for your toddler.
It is also a good idea to request a kid’s meal rather than an adult’s which should be done while booking your reservation. Parents could also bring store packaged toddler meals which most cabin crew are more than happy to warm up for you.
Car seat and stroller. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends the use of car seats in an aircraft for children less than 40 pounds. Car seats can usually be checked in at the gate as can be strollers. However it is best to check with your airline regarding their policy, including how they regard extra carry on luggage for your child. Most airlines allow luggage only for paying passengers. The most important item to bring along for a toddler, and for the tired, jetlagged parent, is a stroller. An umbrella stroller is a must for those long treks through the airport and endless waiting periods before boarding, passport control and customs.
Pack Necessities. What to bring on your trip is the most exhausting decision a parent must make before travel. The best advice is to pack only necessary items. Backpacks work really well for traveling parents because they leave their arms free. Backpacks should include essentials like diapers, wipes, changing pad, plastic bags, medicine and extra clothing for the toddler and you. Make sure to bring more than enough supply of many of these items, or keep a back up in your carry on.
How to dress. As a general rule, mothers should dress in comfortable clothing. Darker colored clothing is always a good idea in case of toddler spills which almost always end up on your clothes. Toddlers should be dressed in comfortable clothing which can be layered in case of a cold or overly stuffy plane.
Keep toddler busy. Entertainment items are also really important to pack to keep a toddler busy such as toys, books, and photo albums. Comfort items are also important to bring along such as blankets and teddy bears. Bringing a new toy that your toddler has never seen before is also a good idea. Parents should bring a variety of toddler snacks like raisins, snack bags of Cheerios cereal, crackers, cookies, juice boxes, and plastic apple sauce containers. Bringing along something for toddlers to suck on such as a lollipop or juice box, or pacifier/bottle can help reduce ear pressure during take off and landing.
R E L A X! Rare is a trip that goes smoothly. No amount of pre-planning will make you completely immune to the occasional mishaps and disasters that tend to happen when traveling with a toddler. But it’s still always best to be prepared. It is also wise to remain calm and R-E-L-A-X throughout your travels, as toddlers can pick up on your emotions and act out. This is often easier said than done.
However, through it all, one thing is for certain. One day you will surely look back on your journey with your little companion and cherish these memories. Enjoy.
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