I was already six months pregnant when I returned home after 12 months’ backpacking around Asia. So it was pretty unlikely that I was going to listen to anybody who suggested that my free and easy travelling days would soon be over. Much to the chagrin of just about everyone I knew, I moved to Perth, WA, when my son was just six weeks old – a 72-hour, nonstop bus journey from one side of the country to the other. With the benefit of hindsight, I remember it was easy. But at the time, I’m sure there were several other words I might have used to describe the experience.
Still, it didn’t stop me from leaving the country with a 9-month-old and not returning for almost ten years. Here are a few things I learned along the way about how to manage an itinerant lifestyle with a really young baby.
Prepare, prepare, prepare, then pack
Be warned. If you fail to do this, none of the rest matters. Take a good long look at the things you use on a daily basis and breathe. How many of them would you class as absolute necessities? Anything that doesn’t make the cut, doesn’t go in the bag. Once you have your list, put everything on it into one pile. How big is it? How much does it weigh? How much are you prepared to carry? Keep in mind that you’ll most likely be carrying baby as well. And remember that you’ll be able to buy most things at your destination. Now reduce the pile by half. Go on, you know you can.
A carrier for all occasions
I cannot impress upon you how game-changing this one is. If you’re planning on an active vacation, ditch the pram and/or stroller. Believe me, they’re too tiresome on the road. Depending on the age of your baby, either a front carrier or baby backpack is perfect. Whichever you choose, you’ll be thanking me for the hands-free access to everything you need to do.
If you’re still breastfeeding (and I hope you are) you have nothing to do here. Great choice! If you’ve opted for bottles, then do make sure you have simplest setup on the market. There’s nothing worse than a hungry baby and no access to water, formula, a source of heat etc. etc. etc. All things considered, though, it shouldn’t be any different to feeding baby at home once you actually arrive.
Entertaining on road, rail, sea and air
Really young babies don’t need much. Just be prepared to be the source of entertainment yourself. My personal rule of thumb was always just one toy, and not necessarily the favourite. If it gets lost, or thrown out the window of the prevailing mode of transport, it’s easily replaced. If you have a special something that helps baby sleep, that’s the only other thing you need.
If you decide to take the leap and travel to exotic destinations, the locals are going to love you and your baby. Unlike at home, your baby is a novelty and something to be admired. They will help you more than you can imagine if you’re open to it. It’s actually one of the best things about travelling with your kids, especially in Asia.
While dining in a local restaurant one evening, my one-year-old daughter was being particularly difficult. She didn’t want to eat and she didn’t want to sit in the high chair. Seeing my rising frustration, the waitress offered to ‘look baby’ for me, which I gratefully accepted. She promptly strapped my daughter to her back, papoose style, and carried on waiting tables. Can you imagine that happening in your home town?
Go on. Take them with you. It’s so worth it. Promise.