I know I have a travel bug permanently lodged under my skin as I’m constantly dreaming of and planning our future holidays a year or more in advance at times.
It is common knowledge that having kids would make travelling more challenging but I was determined to not let it stop me from doing what I love.
During my first pregnancy, I made all sorts of travel plans for my 6 months of maternity leave:
Weekend in Geneva – Just before he turned 1 month
Weekend in London – Ilyas was 2 months 1 day
Extended weekend in the Netherlands – 3 days before he turned 3 months
Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Philly/Annapolis – 3.5 months
Extended weekend in Edinburgh – 1 day before he turned 5 months
Japan – 5.5 months
Were the long flights a nightmare? Thankfully only the flight back from Japan was. We were also lucky to have the person sit next to us to be a kind Japanese man who even helped hold Ilyas a couple of times. Our flight to Mauritius did not go too well (it took us 21 hours door to door with a 4 hours layover in Paris with Ilyas waking up 3 times during the night in the plane), neither did the 2.5 hours flight from Mauritius to Seychelles where he cried almost the entire journey.
I did constantly worry how the first flight and weekend away in London would be with nursing the baby, how we would get things done should he need a nap, etc. As with many other things, it’s all in the mind – I learnt to calm down and take things slower, and we managed to get everything we wanted to done, from visiting Tate Modern and Camden Market, to shopping and eating out. Ilyas was 2 months old then.
Dealing with jet lag was however an issue. It took the 3 of us several days to get used to American time when we flew to Washington DC but luckily it wasn’t a problem at all when we flew East to Japan.
I then had another thought process: we should travel as much as possible before a second baby comes. And so we planned the following:
Weekend in London – a week before he turned 8 months
Weekend in Hamburg – a week before he turned 9 months
Weekend in London – 10 months
10 nights in Morocco – 10.5 months
Weekend in Ireland – weekend before he turned 1
Weekend in London – 13 months
Weekend in San Sebastian – 14.5 months
Scandinavia/Norwegian cruise – 15 months
- Weekend in Italy on the Bernina Express train – 16 months
The list of countries Ilyas has visited to date are as follows:
Country 1: Switzerland
He was born in Basel and has also been to several other cities and mountains including Geneva, Zurich, Interlaken, Gruyeres, Chateau d’Oex, Rhine Falls, Saanen, Gstaad, the Peak Walk, Lausanne, Murten and Fronalpstock. We also just returned from a weekend away traveling through the eastern Swiss Alps on the panoramic Bernina Express.
Country 2: Germany
We always do our grocery shopping across the border and I remember us going with him before he was a month old. We also took him to Hamburg for a weekend last November and recently for a weekend in the Black Forest.
Country 3: France
We must have taken him to France quite early on as we alternate shopping across the German and French border all the time.
We have also taken him to Colmar. In April, we flew to Bordeaux and stopped for breakfast in Biarritz on our way down to San Sebastian. We also did a boat ride from Lausanne to Evian in France.
In September 2017, we did a trip to the French Riviera.
Country 4: UK
We love going to London and Ilyas has already been there for the fourth time at the age of 13 months!
We also spent 5 days in Scotland when we attended my brother’s graduation in Edinburgh last July and made a trip up into the Highlands.
Country 5: Netherlands
As Ilyas’ grandmother is Dutch, we took him there to see his Dutch family. The timing was perfect as it allowed us to also go to Keukenhof to see the tulips.
Country 6: USA
As my sister lives just outside Washington DC, we took him across the Atlantic to meet his aunt, uncle and cousins. We also went to a lake house in Virginia, Philly and Annapolis.
Country 7: Japan
Japan holds a special place in my heart as I did my MSc in Modern Japanese Studies and spent time there living with a Japanese family in 2008. Ilyas managed to visit many places including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Gifu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Tokyo, Nikko and Nasu.
Country 8: Morocco
This was where we learnt the most about what it means to travel with an increasingly mobile baby who can crawl and needs space. It was nevertheless a good trip where we visited Rabat, Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech and Essouira.
Country 9: Ireland
We paid a visit to the roommate I had whilst traveling in South America whom Peter and I had not seen since we parted ways in Rio de Janeiro more than 6 years ago. We visited Glendalough, Wicklow, Powerscourt Estate, Skerries, Malahide and Houth.
Country 10: Mauritius
We thought it was finally time to do an island holiday which would be a bit more relaxing now that we have a baby. In the end, with us visiting so many different parts of the island, we were wiped out at the end of each day due to the long journeys and the heat. Based in Flic en Flac, we managed to visit Port Louis, Quatre Bornes, Mahebourg, Curepipe, Trou aux Cerfs, Chamarel Falls, Black River Gorges, Chamarel and Tamarin Salt Pans.
Country 11: Seychelles
It was always a dream of mine to see the giant tortoises in Seychelles and we did just that!
Country 12: Spain
Visiting our friends (whom I met while traveling in Africa) in San Sebastian was on our to-do list for many years. We finally made it!
Country 13: Denmark
We flew to Copenhagen as that would be the starting point of our Norwegian cruise which unfortunately never happened as I did not read the fine print that says that one can’t be more than 24 weeks pregnant at the end of the cruise. We were so disappointed we didn’t take a single picture.
We however revisited Copenhagen when Ilyas was 2+ and here are some pictures of him there.
Country 14: Sweden
We spent a night in Malmö when flying into Copenhagen in 2015 and the following year, Ilyas visited Stockholm with his baby brother in tow.
Country 15: (should have been Norway but instead is) Italy
We took the Bernina Express from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy over the weekend and had a splendid time eating delicious gelato, pasta and more! Ilyas has also been to Italy a second time when we explored Lago Maggiore over Easter in 2017.
We’ve learnt a great number of things from all the travels we have done so far with Ilyas. Yes, it is proving to be more challenging as he gets older because:
He needs time to run around and play
Solution: Have a flexible schedule that would enable you to make such stops and always be on the lookout for a playground, etc.
He needs toys, books, diapers, clothes (It took up most of one big luggage to Mauritius)
Solution: If your little one has a favourite toy or book, don’t forget to pack that.
He needs snacks/food (all the time)
Solution: Be sure to pack the snacks you know you can count on. In Japan, my friend ordered a whole box of baby food for us on Amazon and it arrived at our hotel the next morning.
He needs space to crawl/run around in the hotel room (biggest lesson learnt after trip to Marrakech)
Solution: If that means paying more than you normally would for a hotel room, then pay it. If that means not being 2 minutes walk to the main square/city centre, then stay further out.
Is it easier to travel with a newborn? Now I can confidently say yes. They don’t need much apart from milk and to nap during the day which can be in their stroller or by babywearing them. This was how we managed a full day out in Japan where we left our hotel in Kyoto before 7am, found ourselves in Miyajima and then the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum by noon, at the Herb Gardens in Kobe in the late afternoon, dinner in Osaka with a friend and back in our hotel in Kyoto just before midnight. Was it tiring? We all fell asleep in the train from Osaka to Kyoto but the point is, it is possible!
What to pack on a long-haul flight?
Adequate change of clothes for your little one and yourself should the poop explosion hit your clothes
Peel-off stickers they can play with on window or tray table
Snacks such as biscuits and chocolates
Many small and light toys that can fit into a bag you can have at your feet: a ball, stacking cups, a small puzzle board, etc.
- Adequate supply of medicine
The next big trip for us will be New Zealand in November with two kids where we will be flying on the longest flight in the world from Dubai to Auckland of 17+ hours (after an initial 6+ hours from Zurich to Dubai and a 3 hour layover)! How will we tackle it? I’m not sure, we’ll just deal with it when the time comes. The biggest concern I have is luggage space and amount of things to pack. One thing I know is we will have to get laundry done for all of us mid-way. Wish us luck!