The best things in LIFE are the people we LOVE, the PLACES we've been with them, and the MEMORIES we've made along the way.
Do you agree?
My husband and I love to travel and having a kid didn't stop us from doing what we love; in fact, it encouraged us to travel smarter. However, we do know that travelling with babies or toddlers can become chaotic and overwhelming so we made to sure to plan ahead (and as a project manager, this is my area of expertise - thinking about all possible scenarios and how to deal with them).
Why travel with a baby or toddler though?
Children below 2 receive 90% discounts on airfares.
You get to board the plane and settle first (no queues!)
You get bulkhead seats (if you want to). That means extra legroom at no additional cost. You can also request for a bassinet so your baby or toddler can sleep comfortably (maximum weight is 16 kg).
Checking in car seats and strollers are for FREE.
Your food gets served first.
As of date, Kara has been to 5 countries and when she grows older, we're sure she'll cherish all these wonderful memories we made together. Now, let me tell you the secrets to having a "funtastic" family getaway.
1. Choose a Family-friendly destination
We chose JW Marriott Phuket Beach Club because they literally have everything within walking distance and they have a 24/7 shuttle or buggy in case you get too tired to stroll. The resort has outstanding amenities and extraordinary services.
There are several pools, all with a beautiful view of the beach. The resort also has daily and hourly activities scheduled for kids and adults of all ages. You can also have your baby stay at the daycare center if you wish. You are also allowed to cook your own meals. You can just take the shuttle to the grocery store outside of the hotel to get some goodies (the shuttle service is FOR FREE).
If you want to do some shopping or go on a food trip (like we did), you can rent a van which will take you to Patong, the shopping hub of Phuket or to Banzaan Night Market (the van will wait for you for 3 hours but you can let them know if you want to shop longer). Also, give them a heads-up that you are travelling with a toddler so they can arrange for a car seat. The rate for the van is just 3,000 Baht.
ADDITIONAL TIPS: Do not assume that the hotel will know you need a cot, even if they know you are bringing a baby/toddler as some people bring their own. Also, do your research on car seat requirements in your destination country and if you are hiring a car, booking an airport transfer or a taxi, make sure that you let them know what you will require in this area.
2. Pack Smart
I love packing cubes! It makes it so easy to organize and label our things. Make sure to only bring the essentials (see my blog on Tips on Air Travel with Babies and Toddlers). Bring travel sized kits (such as the Mustela Baby Essentials Kit which contains Bath Wash, Rinse Water, Lotion, and Diaper Cream) and appropriate clothes for the weather (this goes without saying, that you need to check the weather of the destination you are visiting). Also, don't forget to bring a quiet book or busy bag for your tot.
Fill it with coloring books, pencils, stickers, reading books, games, puzzles, and activities. It will keep them entertained during the travel. You can also download age-appropriate apps for your iPad which don't require internet connection. In our case, Kara loves the Dave and Eva Nursery Rhymes so we just sing along and dance while in-flight. I also downloaded some games because Kara enjoys matching colors and shapes.
Moreover, invest in portable baby items and gadgets that won't take up so much real estate in your luggage. We have the UV Care Deluxe Germ Exterminator which we use for sterilizing Kara's plates, feeding bottles and other stuff. We also brought the Tiny Buds Baby Bottle Travel Cleanser which is a perfect partner for our Oxo Tot Portable Drying Rack and Cleaning Brush.
ADDITIONAL TIPS: Expect delays and bring extra snacks, diapers, clothes, medication (plus a doctor’s prescription if necessary) and essentials in your hand carry. Many people put the bulk of these items in their suitcase but luggage can go amiss and you don’t want to find yourself onboard or in a foreign country frantically looking for diapers or other essentials.
I highly suggest to babywear instead of lugging a stroller for shorter trips or depending on your itinerary (but yes, you can bring a stroller; just note that it is one more thing for you to hold and carry - better if you have the Baby Zen Yoyo because that is allowed to be hand-carried and fits in the overhead bin). We brought our I-Angel Hip Carrier with us, and this is one of the best decisions in my life.
First of all, it is very easy to use. It has adjustable straps that slide up and down so you can find that perfect fit. It also has multiple pockets for on-the-go storage of passports, smart phones and other must-haves. The luxuriously padded straps create a comfortable fit for babywearers. And of course, it converts into a hip seat makes it ideal for comfortable baby wearing from birth through toddler years.
Second, the babywearer can enjoy superior comfort thanks to the unique lumbar support and waist belt. The hip seat provides amazing stability, relieves pressure, and allow baby’s weight to be evenly distributed for a more comfortable fit. It offers optimal support and positioning for the baby, not just for mama or papa.
Last but not least, it has an ergonomic design that ensure your baby's safety and comfort. The material is also breathable but you can also add the pads for cooler climates.
The I-Angel is literally one of the most useful baby gears we have. Kara gets super excited whenever she sees it and knows it by name. I give it 100 out of 5 stars (LOL). En route to Phuket, Kara just slept in it while we were running from one end of the airport to the other. It also comes with a hoodie to cover your baby from the elements. After several hours of walking around, I didn't get any shoulder nor back pain at all. It is so convenient because not all places you go to are stroller-friendly. When you are travelling with a baby or toddler, you can't afford to wait for a long time to get into an elevator because they'll get bored and cranky. Plus, I was able to use my hands freely to help fill-up forms or carry other stuff because of this carrier.
ADDITIONAL TIPS: Should you decide to bring a stroller, we recommend you put them in a hard case as some airlines may have to put them through as luggage and they can get bashed around a bit (I have seen other parents cry and scream because one of the wheels is gone or the stroller got so scratched up). Checking in strollers is FREE of charge by the way. Also, inquire in advance if you can rent a stroller in your destination – many resorts are now offering this.
Overall, we really loved our 5-day stay at JW Marriott Phuket Beach Club. It might be a bit far from the town proper but vans and tours can be arranged efficiently from the concierge and as I've mentioned, the rates are very decent. We didn't mind the location since it was closer to the airport, quiet and relaxing. We loved the beach since it was peaceful and very clean. It was so convenient to go around the other hotels and their restaurants because of the efficient service of the shuttles. The staff were all very friendly, helpful and accommodating. We loved the place so much that we hated to leave. Definitely recommending this to families who would love to travel with their babies and/or toddlers since we had such a wonderful stay.
Parents, don't be too quick to rule out experiences that you think your child is too young to remember. The experience and memories you create are priceless and will never compare to things you can buy for your child.
Do read my blog on Tips for Air Travel and Tips for Road Travel.
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