Traveling with Children? Yay or Yeay?

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One favorite thing that I temporarily give up when I have a newborn is obviously, spontaneous traveling!

Not that I travel often (I wish), but I know I cannot casually checking out ongoing flight promos and purchase the route that seems like a good deal impulsively. Many couples are just fine going out and about with little baby tucked on their backs. But us, me and husband, are paranoid parents.

‘She’s so small.. what if she gets infected by dangerous virus’ or ‘It’s not fair for her if she cannot rest properly! She needs 20 hours of sleep so her brain could develop well!’

Yeah, something along those lines.

Eventually, her first flight was taken when she was around 5-month old. We visited our parents’ home in Cilegon and Palembang during Eid holiday. Of course that wasn’t really a ‘vacation’ because we basically went to another home where we spent most of the time under the roof (and got very helpful baby assistance from our family). At that time, we brought 2 large luggages, 1 diaper bag, 1 backpack, a soft structure carrier (SSC), a stroller, and a carseat. Can you imagine how chaotic it was? So many stuffs (including the baby) handled by just two pairs of hand!

However, as far as I can remember, our first flight with baby went okay. We pre-booked baby basket (free, but you have to book months prior) for the trip so we got seats with larger leg room in the very front row of economy class. Even though the basket was totally abandoned because Momo would obviously choose her mother’s arm to sleep, at least it was nicer for exhausted parents to have a larger space to stretch the legs (sorry, cannot afford business class yet!).

Momo was also quite cooperative during the trip. She just alternately slept and got breastfed. I was beyond grateful that she didn’t poop, because… you know, it must be troublesome to change diaper in a very tiny confined space of aircraft lavatory! Anyway, I brought with me essential oil in case I need to cover any unwanted stench (I would do this if it is pretty close to landing). At that time, I didn’t have chance to use in-flight entertainment or read the magazine as I was too busy ensuring this little creature having the flight of her life.

Of course, as written in every tips about getting on flight with baby, I breastfed my baby during take off and landing to ease the pressure on her ears (would be a PROBLEM if baby got runny nose, which happened on Momo’s return flight to Balikpapan).

Our first long-haul flight was taken when we went to Japan. Momo was 15 months; she already walked by herself, and got vaccinated as required. We selected full-service airline for this trip (promo price); which also provided us with baby basket, baby meals, toy, and diaper! Note that, once again, you must pre-book those facilities (except the toy) long before your flight schedule. During this flight, our baby decided to ‘drop the bomb’ twice in the air. Nice. But overall, everything went just fine.

We picked Japan as we had been there before in 2014 so we were quite familiar with the environment. Well, mainly because I love that country as it basically has everything you need to get entertained! Beautiful views? absolutely checked. Amusement park? checked. Halal delicious food? not available in every alley, but checked. Easy transportation? a bit overwhelmed at first, but checked. Organic-cotton towel which is made using pristine water sourced from mountain? please check Imabari towel.

Japan is also very safe and kids-friendly that you can even find a very clean baby changing room in a remote area of mountainous valley. The train stations mostly have lift facility and baby changing room (in bigger station, they have cute nursery room, too). Well, few times they only have (many, many) stairs so.. let’s say mommy and daddy got their daily exercise mandatory fulfilled! Anyway, I still breastfed Momo anytime, anywhere. No problem at all.

Nonetheless, every baby comes with their own antics. During our trip in Tokyo, our precious baby totally refused to step her feet on the ground! That means, she was 95% carried on her stroller or inside SSC (and it had to be me who pushed her stroller or carried her!). The remaining was when we insisted to put her on the ground and then she ran after us, wailing and demanding to be lifted.

She also refused to eat (our big problem since she was 9-month old anyway), so she was basically living off Meiji chocolate ball.  I have to add that the weather is quite chilly all the time, so she also spent hours and hours sleep on her stroller (I would recommend you to bring a light, foldable stroller that can be reclined into sleep position/around 180 degree flat for more comfortable journey).

Momo started to adapt when we arrived in Matsumoto three days later. She finally used those little feet to walk happily in a garden with pink petals falling down like beautiful rain. Such a beautiful sight, and a temporary relief for my poor shoulders.

But, another challenge happened when we went to Kamikochi, which is a highland area located around 90 minutes with train and bus from Matsumoto. It was spring in the end of April and we did not expect SNOW to come! But it was.. It was snow rain when we arrived. Me and husband were absolutely amazed because that was our first time seeing snow; it was beautiful and kind of dreamy… but it was actually too FREEZING COLD for equator people like us!

We ultimately had to forget our initial plan to hike the trails along the river, which was supposed to be a perfect flat track for inexperienced hiker like us. How could we battle the snow with only spring coats, flat sneakers, and a frail baby with us?

In the end, when the snow a bit subsided, we bravely managed to walk the slippy snowy road to Kamikochi’s most iconic spot : Kappabashi (or Kappa Bridge), 200 meters from Visitor Center.

It was still very beautiful, though the mountain slope was mostly covered by fog (it must be much more beautiful in sunny days!). How about Momo? Fortunately, the Center provided us with free mountain kids carrier with its designated cover, so she was safely sheltered on her seat in my back (triple koyo cabe after that) and we got photographed to prove that, for once, we were an adventurous family.

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(fashion disaster invading the mountain)

Enough with Japan (a long post, huh?)

Another long-haul trip we did with Momo was when we went for Umrah to Saudi Arabia. Momo was ALMOST 2 year old and after we paid everything, we just knew that infant below 2 (no less) and pregnant women are generally not encouraged to go there. It is because they are not eligible to get meningitis shot; which is very important to protect our body in the endemic area of Saudi Arabia. In Balikpapan, no tour agent would dare taking infant for Umrah. However, we went from Jakarta and nothing happened as we passed the immigration check. No one stopped us for bringing infant.

We were surely anxious before the trip since our delicate baby, the one that needed the protection the most, did not get the shot. But, I read some blogs about mothers bringing their babies for Umrah (even smaller than Momo), and ALL of them did just fine. So, I just prayed that everything went harmless until we came back.

Eventually, we did fine. All praise to Allah.

But, she wasn’t entirely okay.

After Umrah procession, she suddenly got fever as high as 40 degrees celcius (anyway, I always bring thermometer wherever I go with Momo). Even paracetamol didn’t work for her! Panic? Sure! I was darn scared that she might be infected with meningitis. Our tour agent was rather irresponsible so we did not get proper assistance from them (lesson learned : choose a very reputable tour agent when you have to go with one) . We eventually e-mailed our company insurance and Thank God, they quickly responded and sent us their partner’s contact to guide us to the nearest hospital. Momo was diagnosed with ear infection and got prescribed with antibiotics (which finally worked).

However, it was still a horrible experience for us.

So, if you consider going for Umrah with an infant, I dare to say : DON’T.

You never know what will happen to your baby. Your baby may turn out fine like many other babies in other blogs I read. But, she may get sick too like mine, or even worse. After all, baby is very prone to any disease. Umrah trip, though rewarding for the parents, is very exhausting for little baby. People usually do Umrah procession after midnight, which is baby’s prime rest time. And it takes around 3 hours to complete. We also had to forcefully wake her up when it was time to pray in the mosque. Not to mention all the bus trips around Jeddah, Medina, and Mecca which may take as long as seven hours.

Moreover, from the parents’ side, I have to admit too that I cannot entirely focus on praying during our time there. I could not easily spend most of my time inside the mosque because baby needed proper rest on the bed, right? She also got cranky when she was too tired or bored. Though we definitely love our spiritual experiences there, we were also tired (and guilty because she got sick).

So, those are some traveling experience I’d like to share with you (1000 words already?).

For me, traveling with little kid is always YES though terms and conditions applied. We shall choose the destination very carefully if we want a smooth journey.. well, actually it is nearly impossible to have a smooth, hassle-free vacation if you bring little monsters with you, but at least, you can minimize the severity. You don’t want to feel guilty when you are supposed to have a joyful escape.

It is better getting irritated by your children howling nonsense while you are enjoying beautiful cherry blossom trees, instead of staying at home and just dreaming of vacation you do not dare to take because you think it will be too troublesome (and you surely still get that howling bonus at home).

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