If you and your partner are constantly on the move and travel is indeed your kryptonite, the arrival of your bundle of joy has undoubtedly put a wedge in your plans for the near future.
Undeniably, the experiences differ from family to family. Travel with a baby in tow is inevitably fraught with laborious lugging, picking, carrying, dropping, dripping, consoling and the infallible cacophony of all things baby. Many parents, ourselves included experience an easier time when they travel with the baby in the earlier months rather than the later ones. For many others, the reverse is true. For us, travel in the fifth month was a walk in the park compared to that at ten months. Babies tend to get more demanding, moody and distracted, seeking constant entertainment as each month goes by so if you’re seeing those pyramids or that Eiffel Tower for the first time, chances are you’re only going to be able to get glimpses of it!
A 2016 article in Vogue by Nadine Jolie Courtney “How to Travel the World With a Baby” drives home the argument that “half the stress of traveling with children is simply getting there.”
Courtney goes on to proffer much-sought-after advice on baby travel including how to prepare beforehand and for the worst on the airplane. She and many other energetic parents like to view the entire operation optimistically and are of the opinion that the hardest part is the preparation and that things tend to get easier once you reach your final destination. That is, until it’s time to pack again for that flight back home! Others hold opposing positions at the other end of the spectrum, lamenting unwaveringly about the arduous ordeal from the moment the trip is planned till the moment they get back home.
Australian couple, Caroline and Craig Makepeace, “serial travel addicts” by their own admission are parents to two daughters - 11 and 7-year-old respectively. Driven by a passion to explore the world and a resolve to escape the mundanity of everyday routines, demands and “headaches”, the couple travels full time with their children, homeschooling them and nurturing their travel blog called “YTravel” as a full-time job. What catches the eye instantly while skimming through their home page are these words - “We travel to escape the chaos of our lives: The expectations, routines and demands placed upon us that make us feel like we’re constantly jammed into the PowerPoint.”
This is true for most young parents who have lived most of their pre-child lives constantly on the move - be it for work, leisure or simply adventure. The makepeace family is testimony to the utopian idea of travel with babies - that it can be life-changing and therapeutic if one has the will and vision to constantly be on the move.
Travel has a different meaning, a distinct end goal or outcome sought by different parents. It also entails picking the right time and right destination for travel with a baby depending on how demanding the baby’s schedule is at that point in time. No two babies are ever alike even at the same age. What is interesting to note is the fact that our own sleep cycles take a beating in the early months and gradually begin to find their way back to some semblance of normalcy albeit interchangeably with the baby’s own changing patterns.
But if we’re really passing out medals for those who manage successful travel with the tiny ones, most deserving are the likes of Irish mom Karen Edwards and her partner Shaun Bayes, who took off for a tour of South-East Asia just 10 weeks after their baby girl was born. The couple decided they did not want to be the quintessential stay-at-home new parents and wanted to continue taking trips while she was still on her yearlong maternity leave. “The hardest part about traveling with Esmé (her daughter) has been feeding her. That was stressful at times,” says Edwards about the downside about doing what she loves. This echoes the predicament of most traveling parents, myself included.
But it shouldn’t stop us. Perhaps the most heart-warming part of Edwards’ story is that her traveling blog “Travel Mad Mum” which has now gained fans from around the world in droves has got readers writing in to her with pictures of their own travels with their children, inspired by her story and emboldened by her grit to take the leap themselves.
Travel with a baby has its challenges at every stage and every age. The jury may still be out on the pros outweighing the cons and vice versa. Feeding, nap time, stroller or baby carrier, adventurous destination or a more chilled out holiday resort with minimum exploration. Every parent has something to think about before they lay out the pre-holiday checklist. As Edwards and many others proffer, “don’t bring the kitchen sink. Travel as light as you can.” That’s half the battle won.
Stories, memories and experiences of a lifetime are always most cherished with your children inside that Insta story picture or that Polaroid shot or that selfie stick click.
The verdict is out. Pack those bags and that baby bag too. You won’t regret it.
Shaira Mohan is a freelance writer and fiction author. She writes for many news publications and has authored short stories such as Raghu and Wedding Woes.