Travelling with children? – Make sure you read these tips first! – Ikwo Ndiomu
Now time used to be when travelling by road around Nigeria was fun and not extremely dangerous. Those of a younger generation might look stunned right now and go “really?” It’s true……trust me. I remember as a child, going to places like Yankari Game Reserve, when driving up North wasn’t a foolhardy venture and my parents had friends in Jos who grew strawberries and apples in their backyard; fruit not typically grown in our climate. We also visited Obudu Mountain Resort in Calabar, back when it was called Obudu Cattle Ranch and the only way up there was a narrow, windy, dangerous lane (couldn’t really call it a road) and when most of the country had never even heard of the place (thanks to former Gov. Donald Duke for letting the cat out of the bag).
Anyway, enough with the reminiscing. Suffice it to say, going on holiday in Nigeria is now viewed as a situation arising from not having enough money to travel abroad. Even visits to one’s village / hometown are not as exciting a prospect as they once were; if you come from up North, no psychologist needed to realize why and if yours is in the South, East or West you probably have issues with bothersome relatives or witchcraft…….or whatever (funny, ha-ha……..not).
My focus therefore will be on travel that involves getting on a plane and going as far away from Nigeria as you can afford or are interested in getting, be it other African countries or other continents. First off, travelling with children can be…….trying. I don’t think I need to spell out why. I’ve travelled with toddlers enough times that I think I am now an authority on the subject and I’ve gotten enough compliments from passengers and flight attendants in different countries and airlines to believe that I figured out ways to make the experience as painless as possible for parents and fellow passengers alike – or it could just be that my children are so well behaved they’ve fooled me so for what it’s worth, bear in mind that if my tips don’t work it’s probably because of this…….the delusional state they have placed me in.
Tips for preparing:
- Pack 1 or 2 sets of extra clothes for each child to handle any ‘accidents’
- Toddlers and fussy eaters will most likely not like airline food – heck, a lot of adults don’t – so pack a lot of their favourite snacks and drinks. In the UK and US they might make you take sips from their drinks. In Naija, depends on who’s on duty; just insist as long as you have young kids.
- On most European, Asian and Middle Eastern flights, you can book in advance for a bassinet if your baby is less than a year old and of a certain height and weight range (check with the airline). This helps give you some free hands when baby is asleep and means you get to sit in that row of seats with plenty of leg room. If you’re in economy, you won’t mind when seated in this row. In Business class or First, it doesn’t really matter where they put you as long it’s not close to some anal business man who gives you evil looks once they seat you and your precious bundle of joy. You want to make sure you book for a bassinet as soon as you buy your ticket because they tend to go very fast.
- Lollipops to relieve pressure in their inner ears during flight take-off and landing, can be a life saver. Don’t take too many other things with sugar in them if you want to avoid hyper’ children. For an infant that can’t suck a lollipop, breastfeeding is your go to remedy for providing relief. The flight attendants will let you do so as long as baby is properly strapped – on European flights – most American airlines don’t seem to care about an infant being strapped to its parent / travelling adult.
- Even if your child is potty trained, I’ve found that children below 5 have difficulty ‘holding it in’ if they really need to use the bathroom. You might want to pack some pull-ups for your newly potty trained child and make him/her wear one for the trip…..just in case.
- Activities galore – take enough colouring books and crayons (not markers), a favourite stuffed toy or rattle and a tablet (ipad, kindle, galaxy tab, something) if they’re into them already.
- If you have more than 1 young child, you might need a double stroller; depends on ratio of adults to children in your party. You should also consider a baby carrier that you can sling over your body, if your baby is less than a year old or small for his/her size.
- Take plenty hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial hand wipes (which can also be used to wipe toilet seats before use), in addition to regular wipes, diapers and scented diaper trash bags. It all sounds like a lot to carry but trust me, you’ll likely regret not taking them.
- Jackets and long socks for each child. An extra set might be needed in the event of soiling.
Tips for during the trip:
- For infants, if you’re nursing you have the magic key to keeping them calm during the flight. Nursing is recommended worldwide now so even if you were not planning on breastfeeding alone for the first 6-months (what some refer to as ‘baby friendly’) or even at all, travel is a good reason to reconsider. You can always use a pacifier but a lot of babies don’t take to one and sometimes the suction involved isn’t enough to provide relief for them; the coziness from skin contact is part of the soothing process.
- The plane is not the place to introduce your children to completely new foods or drinks. You don’t want to find out that they’re allergic or react by barfing, to any foods.
- Get your potty-trained children to use the restroom just before boarding, as soon as possible after take-off, before meals or drinks are served ’cause of the food trays being lowered, and just before the pilot announces descent.
- I recommend changing any diapers just before descent as well.
I can’t take all the credit for this insight as though a lot of it comes from my personal experience, I often refer to http://www.babycentre.co.uk for extra tips….great resource.
This article is used with permission from the author.