It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a personal blog complete with my unique experience, but it’s that time again. Motherhood really takes a toll on you. One moment, I’m brainstorming creative content ideas, and the next, it’s like I had a lobotomy and have completely forgotten my commitments. So here I am, sitting on a couch, with Little Baby Bum on Netflix, my one year old on the floor, having the time of his life, because I’m allowing him untimed TV so I can write this today.
It’s a good time for me to write, and wow, two paragraphs in and it just hit me how much I’ve missed this! Anyway, Zachary turned one about three weeks ago, and instead of throwing a beach party that we originally planned, we decided to go for Disneyland. It just seemed a lot less stressful, and I’m really glad we went for it. We booked our tickets to Hong Kong a few months back, thinking the protest would have died down by then…but it didn’t. It actually escalated and was at the height of it just a week before our flight. It was stressful for me, the days leading up to our trip. I wasn’t worried about the safety per se, but I was told by a friend that transport inconveniences are highly possible. Well, everything turned out great, and perhaps, I’ll write about our experience on another blog, but today, this is about my personal tips on how to avoid rookie mistakes when it comes to traveling with a baby for the first time. Although this isn’t technically Zach’s first time to travel, this is his first international trip, so we learned a few more tricks from our very own adventure.
1.) Not doing enough research.
This is the golden rule. Everything else that follows on this list could be reverted back to this one, very basic, but crucial advise. Do your research. Regardless of how seasoned of a traveler you are, expect a new genre when it comes to traveling with a baby. What you knew then, could be obsolete now, just because, face it already– life is different now. So don’t rely on your previous expertise because this is a whole new dimension now.
Research what you can. Winging it is so pre-baby era. Where are you going? How is the safety there? With Hong Kong’s ongoing protest, it was hard for me to avoid checking the news and talking to friends from there. But I had to be sure safety will be ok for all of us.
Research transportation. With a baby in tow, you want to be aware how you’ll be getting around the city. Getting lost and enjoying it is not too fun with a cranky child who needs a nap. Time is precious. Study the city to avoid delays. Is the city stroller friendly or should you stick with a carrier? Learn about the weather too because you don’t want to pack inappropriately. And finally, research the things you want to do– how to get there, what to expect, how long it will take– everything you can, because like I said, time is precious now.
Unpopular Advice: Go somewhere you’re familiar with. This way, it’s easier to navigate the city because you might already have an idea. It’ll be just like a new experience all over again, trust me, seeing it through your little one’s eyes.
2.) Forgetting the basics.
My baby basics are simple. Food, clothing, how to carry him around. That pretty much wraps it for me. But your baby basics could be different, and it all varies with age and other factors.
So, food. I’m still breastfeeding so I didn’t have to worry about bringing bottles. But the first time we traveled with him, I had to pack a few frozen breastmilk. If you’re traveling with a younger baby, I do suggest calling your airline regarding checking in or hand carrying frozen breastmilk protocols. I flew with Cebu Pacific, and they would only allow us consumable milk for the flight for our hand carry, and we had to check in our frozen milk in an icebox wrapped in saran wrap. Now if your baby’s a little older, don’t forget to pack them snacks. Depending on where you’re going, it could be difficult to find baby-friendly food.
Unpopular Advice: Depending on your baby’s age, consider letting them be a little adventurous with food too, but do set some boundaries. For example, I usually keep my son’s meals healthy and avoid unnecessary seasoning, but because we’re in Hong Kong, that was going to be a challenge. I let him try out some of our food here and there, although still trying to keep it healthy for him. I did let him try some dim sum (hello MSG) and even goose. After all, this is why we introduce them to seeing the world right? To break boundaries and embrace new cultures? Just a little taste of something new here and there ain’t neva hurt nobody.
3.) Being overly ambitious.
No, you’re probably not gonna be waking up early to chase that sunrise. You’re not gonna have a spontaneous hike with a local you met at the dive bar. And you’re probably not gonna spend the entire afternoon free-diving in the open ocean chasing sea turtles. But that’s okay, because you can still have a lot of fun. Just make sure you set realistic goals. After all, your schedule at home already revolves around your baby’s schedule, so a vacation really isn’t that big of a change, but you can absolutely make it more relaxed. Try not to make your schedule jam-packed with too much activities and be open to the fact that you actually might not be able to do everything you wanted. Prioritize what you want to do the most as a family, and start from there. Some family-friendly activities you can do includes theme parks (we did Disneyland and Ocean Park and Zach had a blast), museums, parks, zoos, and even hikes, if you plan it right.
Unpopular Advice: Be open to “hotel breaks”– spending an afternoon in the hotel room to nap, rest, or even just watch TV. Traveling with a child is exhausting. Allow yourselves to just, do nothing.
4.) Winging it.
For god’s sake, do not underestimate the power of advanced planning when you have a child. This is what your life revolves around now– PLANS! A short draft or itinerary can go a long way, save hours and money, and keep you from unnecessary amount of stress. Honestly, once you start traveling with a child, you’ll realize how much more of a work winging it is, compared to just planning in advance. When we went to Disneyland and Ocean Park, we booked with Kkday, which is always a good idea. It’s always cheaper booking with them, but we also got to skip the lines at the ticket booth and went straight to the entrance! We also booked our airport express tickets with them which is just waaaay cheaper than purchasing it at the airport.
Unpopular Advice: Besides your original itinerary or list of things to do, add a few more “back ups” to your list. That way, it doesn’t feel like you’re cheating on your vacation plans if you don’t stick to one thing.
5.) Being afraid to ditch your plans.
In contrary to #5, don’t be too uptight. Nothing is certain anymore, because, baby. Be open to the idea of canceling some of the things you had in mind in exchange of a nap, or nothing at all. And you know what the good news is? It isn’t completely impossible to be spontaneous. On our last day in Hong Kong, we decided to ditch our plan to go to Lantau Island and we looked for a dog cafe instead. My son had a great time. We all had a great time. Changing plans doesn’t always have to be stressful. You just need a smart phone and Google.
Unpopular Advice: Running out of ideas of things to do? Scroll through Kkday and you just never know what you’ll find that would spark your interest. A haunted ghost walking tour? A themed afternoon tea? A VIP dinner on a bus while sight seeing? You just never know what you’re gonna get!
6.) Under packing.
The problem used to be overpacking. But with a baby, it’s quite the opposite. Babies are messy. Ootds can get ruined five minutes after stepping out the hotel. So let’s keep this quick and straight-forward– pack more than you think you’ll need when it comes to your child.
Unpopular Advice: Pack everything you think you need, and then add an extra outfit for each day.
7.) Choosing not to stay connected.
Travel to disconnect? No, because with a baby in tow, you definitely would want to stay connected. Rent a pocket WiFi that will allow you to access internet when you need to. Google Maps is necessary because like I said, getting lost for funsies is an ancient memory now. I booked Big Sky Nation WiFi at Kkday and it made life so much easier the entire time we were in Hong Kong. I loved this company specifically because they deliver and pick up the device to my home address. So from purchasing tickets to Google Maps and bus schedules to finding great restaurants, it was nice to have connection anywhere. Besides, hotel WiFis aren’t always reliable.
Unpopular Advice: Go UNLIMITED. Why wouldn’t you want to keep your family updated about your baby’s first adventures on your stories anyway?
8.) Skipping the popular attractions.
They’re popular for a reason. Theme parks, museums, observatories… regardless of how “touristy” they may seem, sometimes, the best memories are simply made there. Plenty of popular attractions are geared towards family, so it’s easier to get around. Whether it’s a changing table or a family friendly restaurant, a breastfeeding station or a fun little play area for kids, these basic amenities are pretty essential and can make the biggest difference for rookie traveling parents. Think of this first experience as practice for the next ones. Make it your prototype. And what better way to do it than to surround yourself with as much conveniences as possible.
Unpopular Advice: Sometimes, the more touristy, the better. Don’t snub them off. Remember, you’re traveling through a new pair of eyes, so don’t expect the worst for yourself.
9.) Setting great expectations only.
Don’t expect the worst, but don’t set your expectations too high. Accept that things can go wrong… a loooot of things, actually. Accept that there are just some things beyond your control, such as flight delays. If plan A doesn’t work out, go for plan B. Or C. Although a lot more things can go wrong because you’re traveling with a kid in tow now, as long as you’re prepared, you will handle this like a pro. But be realistic, and embrace the adventure. Every mishap will teach you lesson.
Unpopular Advice: Don’t aim for a perfect experience. Aim for a memorable one 🙂
10.) Not taking enough pictures.
It’s your first travel with your baby. Why wouldn’t you take a lot of pictures? Honestly, I feel like I could have taken a lot more, and although it is no regret of mine to be living in the present and enjoying every moment with my family, I do wish I could have captured more. I get it, sometimes, the best things remain undocumented… but sometimes, you want those things documented. As a new mother, one of the hardest thing to accept is how quickly they grow up. So capture the moment. Trust me, you’ll want to look back later and wish you can see the look in their eyes the first time they saw a shark, or how their face brightened up when they looked up to the sky to see the fireworks. Life is short, take the damn picture.
But if you want perfect, I actually discovered a platform where you can book a local photographer for a photoshoot. I love Sweet Escape because the photographer also works as your local tour guide since know the best spots to take your pictures. Feel free to use my code GIRLUNSPOTTED for $50 off your first booking.
Unpopular Advice: Don’t aim for instagrammable. Don’t aim for perfect. Don’t ask them to act candid, and just let them be candid. Just keep snapping away. Trust me, though they’re not the first choice photos for social media, those are the best photos to look at when you’re walking down memory lane.
Disclaimer: Thank you Kkday for providing some of our activities in Hong Kong! As always, thoughts, opinions, and photos are my own.