By Karen Pacia
Plan ahead for hassle-free vacations with your kids
The best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been with them, and the experiences we’ve shared with them along the way. Don’t you agree?
My husband and I love to travel, and having a child didn’t stop us from doing what we love; in fact, it encouraged us to travel smarter. However, we do know that traveling with babies or toddlers could become chaotic and overwhelming. That’s why 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 toddler, though? Children below 2 years old receive a 90 percent discount on airfares. You get to board the plane, and settle first. (No queues!) You get bulkhead seats, if you want them. That means extra legroom at no additional cost. You can also request for a bassinet, so your baby (Maximum weight is 16 kilos.) can sleep comfortably. Checking in car seats and strollers are free. Your food gets served first.
Let me share with you the secrets to having a fun-tastic family getaway.
Choose a Family-Friendly Destination
We chose the JW Marriott Phuket Beach Club, because they literally have everything within walking distance, and they have 24/7 shuttle service in case you get too tired from a stroll. The resort has outstanding amenities and extraordinary services.
There are several pools, all with beautiful views 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 free shuttle service to the grocery store outside the hotel to get the goodies you need.
If you want to do some shopping or go on a food trip, you can rent a van, which will take you to Patong Beach, the shopping hub of Phuket, or to Banzaan Night Market. The van will even wait for you for up to three hours, but you can always tell the driver if you want to stay longer. Also, give them a heads-up that you are traveling with a toddler, so they could arrange for a car seat. All this for just 3,000 baht.
TIP: Do not assume that the hotel will know you need a cot, even if they know you are bringing a baby or toddler, as some people bring their own. Also, 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 when it comes to this matter.
I love packing cubes. They make it so easy to organize and label things. Make sure to take with you only the essentials. Bring travel-sized kits and appropriate clothes for the weather. (This goes without saying that you need to check on the weather at your destination.) Don’t forget to bring a quiet book or busy bag for your tot.
Moreover, invest in portable baby items and gadgets that won’t take up so much space 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 along the Tiny Buds baby bottle travel cleanser, which is a perfect partner for our Oxo Tot portable drying rack and cleaning brush.
TIP: Expect delays, and bring extra snacks, diapers, clothes, medication (plus a doctor’s prescription, if necessary) and essentials in your hand-carry luggage. 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.
Instead of lugging a stroller for shorter trips, or depending on your itinerary—but, yes, you can bring a stroller, just take note that it is one more thing for you to hold and carry—better have the Babyzen Yoyo because that could 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.
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 shield 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 traveling 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.
Overall, we really loved our five-day stay at the JW Marriott. It might be a bit far from the town proper, but vans and tours could 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 property, because of the efficient service of the shuttles. The staff was very friendly, helpful and accommodating. We loved the place so much that we hated to leave.
Don’t be too quick to rule out experiences that you think your child might be too young to remember. The experience and memories you create with your child are priceless and will never compare to things you can buy for them.