Hello everyone! So, we’re just back from our 2-week holiday in London. How time goes waaay too fast when you’re having fun! 😀 This was my son’s first long-haul flights, and to be honest, he’s still having jet lag until today *typing with sore eyes*
Well, let’s forget the “post-holiday syndrome” and start gathering the beautiful memories (and photos!) from our last holiday. I started travelling with my son when he was 3-month old. To my surprise, he was an easygoing baby and made no fuss in the airplane. He enjoys holiday as much as we do! So when we planned to visit back London, I had no worries that he would be a cranky or fussy kid during the trip. But still, holidaying with kids mean keeping them amused (even if they have to visit some “adult” places like old museums or crowded souvenirs shops) while still maintaining their daily routines (meal time, nap time, and bed time) on track. Here are my survival guide to help you remain happy and (of course) sane during your holiday with kids 😀
- Pick the perfect holiday time and date
We deliberately avoid travelling in summer time. The hotel and airplane fares (and just about everything else!) will be more expensive. The crowd is also unbearable in this peak season. I’ve never been a fan of summer time travel after all. If you’re going to a four-season country, spring or autumn will give the perfect weather.
Since we come from tropical country, we chose to travel in early September to avoid the “cold weather shock”. When the autumn season is setting in, the weather starts to cool down in London in September. At this time of year, London’s average daily temperature is around 16ºCelcius. We just need a light jacket and a scarf to protect us from chilly wind. But it turned out that my son loved the nippy weather and refused to wear his jacket 😀
We also decided to spend some more time for this holiday. Two weeks in just one country seems like a long duration. But believe me, when you’re travelling with toddler, you have to plan for a slower pace. You may only able to visit one or two places per day. Back in 2010 when we had our honeymoon, my husband and I could travel to three different countries in just one week. We had a full schedule from early morning till night. Now with a fully energetic 3-year-old toddler, a tight itinerary won’t work well for us. You simply cannot force a tired, bored toddler to enjoy your museum hopping. Most likely you will have a tantrum kid in hand. 😀
I had many wish destinations to be visited in London, but I strictly planned to visit maximum 3 places per day (as I know that my son would be too tired or bored), and tried not to be disappointed if we could not visit them all. I also spare some time in my itinerary to visit places that my son will love, like parks or playgrounds, or (my secret place to keep my son’s happy) a toyshop! *Hamleys to the rescue!* 😀
Furthermore, I also considered that we have to face the so-called “jet lag” (I will discuss about it thoroughly in second point below). That’s why I spared the first few days after our arrival to let my son adjusting his body clock to local time.
- Prepare the jet lag
As we had chosen to visit London, which is several time zones away from our home, I knew I would undoubtedly going to deal with jet lag, and (of course) deal with kid who are dealing with jet lag. To be honest, besides the long haul flight, the idea of crossing time zones with a toddler is one of my biggest worries. But after experienced and survived it (yeaaayy!), I’ll share you my jet lag survival tips:
- The main key to help adjusting to the time change is the sunlight. Try to get your kids up in the morning and have as much daylight as possible. During night time, try to keep the lights out and the blackout drapes closed.
- Offer your kids food at local mealtimes, and try to feed them during the day so that they’re not hungry at night. For big time changes, expect that your kids will wake up once or twice at the first few nights, most likely at their usual meal times. At the first few nights, I let my son wake up at his usual waking hour at our home. When he woke up, I tried not to give my son solid food, instead offered him milk and biscuits.
- The first few days after your arrival, your kids will probably take some marathon naps during the day. I know that it would be tempting to keep your kids awake, hoping that they will sleep all night. But it can run down their immune system. So just let your kids to take a nap when it is nap time at your destination.
- During the day, try to have lots of physical activity and encourage your kids to do a lot of walking. It will help them to have more sleep at night.
- Expect that it will take three to five nights for your kids to adjust their body clock to a new time zone, so plan your trip duration accordingly. That’s why we decided to spend about two weeks for this holiday, because the first few days would be the “adjustment time”. In our experience, we have found that going back to east (from UK to our hometown in Jakarta) takes my son about a week to adjust, while going west (Jakarta to UK) seems to happen quicker (one to two nights).
- And one more important thing to remember: Make sure to put yourself to bed early at the first few nights so that you have enough energy (and sanity) when your kids wake you up in the middle of the night. Try to have a nap when your kid naps. Eventually, everyone will adjust to local time naturally so there’s no need to rush things.
- Lower your daily standards to keep away the stress
I know some mums who will freak out if their kids don’t have enough veggies and fruits. I also happen to know some mums who put their kids in a tight daily schedule like army. I didn’t say it’s not good. Every mum always knows what’s best for her kids. But when you’re in a holiday, you’ll also be in a “holiday mood”, and your kids are no exception! They tend to refuse to eat, skip their naps, and resist sleeping early. It’s normal, because it’s hard for your kids to keep up their daily routines in a new place, not to mention the time difference!
For some parents, persuading kids to eat is difficult. But getting them to eat (let alone a healthy food) on holiday is even more challenging. I always do “with the flow” on holiday. For example, my son usually has oatmeal with fruits as his breakfast. But he tends to refuse it during the holiday and wants to eat whatever his parents have. Knowing this habit, we always try to eat something healthy (and avoid junk foods) to encourage him eating healthy foods too. But this is not the end of the story. On holiday, my son also eats smaller portions than he usually has at home. Five small bites of cheese sandwich or five spoons of Hainan rice and it’s done (back at home, he usually finishes a whole portion). But it’s okay with me. As a compensation of the smaller portion, I offer him more milk and high-carb foods as his snacks (like cereal bars or jacket potatoes).
If you know you’re going to have to depend on local food that’s not familiar to your kids, before travelling, you can take them to a restaurant that serves the kind of food that you’ll get in the country or you can cook it by yourself. At least, your kids will have some idea of what they’re likely to eat at your holiday destination. But if in the end your kids still have eating difficulties on holiday, just do relax. If they won’t eat, you know they’ll be hungrier at the next meal and less fussy. Your kids also won’t suffer if they eat more chocolates, ice cream, or sweets than fruits and veggies while you’re away. It’s just for a few days anyway. You can back to your healthy, daily routines when you’re at home.
Oh, one more thing, don’t forget to pack your kids’ favourites in your suitcase (just in case it will be hard to find at your holiday destination). It will help you in “difficult situation”. For example, when my son had tantrum in a public place, I knew I could save the day by offering him Kinder Joy. And I felt so relieved that I brought some spares because, to my surprise, we couldn’t find any Kinder Joy in London! There is Kinder Surprise (or Kinder Egg) though, but it’s different. Copying from Wikipedia, Kinder Surprise is a hollow milk chocolate egg shell containing a capsule with a toy inside. While in the other hand, Kinder Joy is a plastic egg-shaped packaging that is internally divided into two halves. One half contains two soft creamy chocolate layers (one milk-chocolate flavoured and one white-chocolate flavoured), which are eaten with an included spoon, and the other half contains a small toy. We brought 7 Kinder Joy from home and all of them had saved us from many difficult situations like a boring long haul flight, cranky mood (mainly caused by jet lag) at the first few nights, or simply as a “bribe” when we had to visit our favourite but not-so-kid-friendly places. 😀
- Keep your kids healthy during holiday
Repeat after me, healthy kid means happy kid, and happy kid means happy holiday! There is nothing worse than a late night visit to an urgent care in an unfamiliar place. And it’s no fun at all to be quarantined in a hotel room during the holiday. I’ve travelled far too many times to say that having an unwell kid will fail all your holiday plans. Even if my son’s just having a cold, his blocked (and sometimes runny) nose will make him cranky all day. And it’s very tiring to drag a fussy kid around. Once when we travelled to Palembang, my son suddenly had a high fever and literally slept all day in our hotel room. Thank God it’s just a 1-hour flight away from our home. The next morning we could catch a plane back and go straight to his paediatrician. But as you guess, we simply could do nothing on our holiday besides looked after our sick son in the hotel room.
However, being on the go often leads to illness, so here are some tips that can help keep you and your kids healthy while travelling.
- Before travelling, I always do a pre-holiday prep. That includes having a check-up to my son’s paediatrician few days before we go, and packing a first-aid kit which contains:
- Digital thermometer;
- Fever and pain relief (acetaminophen/paracetamol and ibuprofen);
- Cough, cold, and flu medicines;
- Diarrhoea medicine;
- Plaster gel for fever;
- Microlax, to relieve constipation;
- Olbas for children;
- Sticking plasters (Band-Aid) and iodine solution (Betadine);
- Bruises ointment;
- Vicks VapoRub ointment;
- Insect repellents.
- Taking multivitamins, starting a few weeks before holiday and keeping up until a few weeks after you get home. I know that the best source of vitamins for kids is a healthy diet. But when you’re eating habits change (remember that sometimes I let my son eat more chocolates and less veggies on holiday), a multivitamin can help fill in the gap.
- Don’t forget the simple thing: Washing your hands! Dirty hands can lead to many diseases. So remember to wash your hands before touching food or feeding your kids (and make sure they wash their hands properly too), and keep hand sanitizer in your bag.
- Know the emergency numbers for the countries you visit.
- Too much sun can drain your energy and blister your skin. And if you’re going anywhere hot (beach or tropical country) remember that kids have thinner skin and it burns more easily that ours does. Encourage them to play in the shade and try to keep them out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. And the most important thing, cover them with a high-SPF sun cream and keep reapplying during the day, especially if you’ve all been swimming.
- Last but not least, keep hydrated. Most people associate dehydration with hot weather, because they just don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold. When you don’t feel thirsty, you may not drink as much and this can cause dehydration. We lose a great deal of water from our bodies in the cold weather due to respiratory fluid loss through breathing. Our bodies also are working harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in cold, dry air.
- To encourage you and your kids to drink plenty of water, get one water bottle for everyone and keep it filled with water while you’re away. Individual water bottles will prevent the spread of germs and increases the odds of everyone staying hydrated. Speaking of water bottles, I specially brought my son’s favourite bottle so he could drink more. Yes, I carried along his Hello Bebe Silicone Straw Bottle to our holiday in London! This is his favourite water bottle as he always asks: “where’s my blue bottle?”, every time he needs to drink. This BPA free water bottle made of “Tritan”, a copolyester material that is safe for humans and the environmental and spotlighted as a new generation of safe plastics. It also comes with a silicone straw that is safe if kids chew it. Its one-touch cover and the tip of the straw (which has a tilt angle) are very helpful for him to drink by himself. Hello Bebe Silicone Straw Bottle also gives you a special straw brush and one refill silicone straw, which included in the box. The brush really helps to wash the parts thoroughly. I also brought the refill straw, just in case the original straw is broken when we’re on holiday.
With all the preparations and the above tips, I’m glad to say we’ve had a smooth, wonderful holiday and everyone (including my son) are stay happy and healthy till we get back home. 🙂