Hey folks! I’m still badly jet lagged and so you’ll have to forgive the blunders in my thought processing, grammar, sentence construction and spelling—include math, geography, and everything else in between just to be sure. Hahaha! I just missed you so much on the blog, I was so excited to write about my experience and share it with all the moms&dads (and even the future ones) out there 🙂 Thanks so much for traveling along with us for the past 2 weeks, for all your sweet comments on Instagram, messages and emails too!
So…. there are some parents who are like unicorns and are so amazing, calm, and composed and just know what to do, how to do it and when to do it. And these unicorn parents have unicorn babies that never poop, sleep 18 hours straight and never cry too! Hahahaha! But for the rest of us mere mortals, traveling with a baby is quite challenging. FUN, MEMORABLE, EXCITING, WONDERFUL—all yes, yes, yes, yes to that, but it definitely is not easy.
If you are a kapa-kapa sa dilim kind of mom like me, someone who’s learning and failing simultaneously, celebrating mini triumphs after picking herself up from daily trials, then this post is for you 🙂 I barely have the mothering gig figured out but with the encouragement and love of my husband, friends, and family—I’d like to believe I’m doing okay. In fact, I would boldly say that I am doing GREAT as a mom! Right Theo????? Theo??? THEO! Stop licking the door knob!!! PLEASE!!!! *Face palm*
Now back to sharing my tips, tricks and missteps. Before I begin I just want to be clear that these are just based on my personal experience from our recent trip—no expert advise here guys, you have google for that! Hahaha! If you find yourself disagreeing with anything I say here, then that’s totally cool but I do hope you would choose to encourage instead of criticize/judge/lecture. This poor little mama is also just trying her very best and so words that build up would be much more appreciated than words that tear down. 🙂 🙂
I do hope you know that I am writing this out of love for all the wonderful readers who’ve asked me to share my thoughts and experiences. Despite my limited knowledge and understanding of motherhood, I am sharing because I care about YOU—and so I trust that I will also be met with love and understanding too. Phew! Just wanted to put it out there so we only welcome happy vibes here 🙂 Okay, so let’s begin!
- TRAVEL WHEN YOU ARE READY
Some parents choose to travel when their kids are older and to some extent I subscribe to that philosophy too. When they’re older, they have the capacity to fully embrace the experience, absorb everything and make formidable life choices based on what they’ve encountered. I totally respect parents who choose to wait for the perfect age, it’s something that makes a LOT of sense. Not only is it a prudent decision—when you think of budget, but also waiting for the “ripe” age for travel means you are giving your children time to really process things at the appropriate season in their life. So YES to all that!!!
But, Theo is practically FREE on my lap until he turns two so WOOHOO, let’s book that flight baby! Hahahahaha! Okay, so the decision to travel with our baby was not one that came with an epiphany. It’s not even an advocacy. It’s just that the husband and I have itchy feet, we love travel, and we love our baby, so we made it work.
Patrick and I were approaching Theo’s birthday and thought to ourselves, do we save up for a really amazing party (one that I was actually so desperate to plan!!! I love, love, love planning parties!!) or just travel? We found an amazing buy-one-take-one promo so it was the answer we needed. My parents were kind enough to chip in for airfare as a gift for Theo’s birthday—so double hooray for the generosity of Lolo and Lola!
Although honestly, I think he would’ve loved a big birthday bash too. Birthday parties for babies are always so much fun and worth all the efforts of parents! I love kiddie parties–both big and small. If only we had the moolah to do both travel and party, we would! But we only had money for one, so we chose to travel this year instead and have a small, small merienda for Theo’s birthday nalang.
So I guess what I’m saying is travel when it feels right for YOUR family. Don’t force it upon yourselves because everyone’s doing it or don’t put it off because everyone’s giving you reason not to. Parang kasal lang yan— decide on your own terms: some choose to wait, some choose to dive into it—if it feels right in your heart, then go with the timing that puts you at ease 🙂
2. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
It’s important to understand that travel with the baby should be a trip motivated by LOVE. This trip is for you to bond as a family. So what if you skip that award-winning winery because your baby decided to nap an hour longer?? Who cares if you can’t enjoy that Michelin starred degustation meal because they don’t allow strollers? There are some things on your travel wishlist that will be crushed out immediately because of the baby—but so what?!?!? It’s FINE! You can always do those things in the future! Traveling with a baby will look different but it won’t mean it won’t be fun! It’s an all NEW kind of FUN!:) 🙂
On that note, not everything you do in this trip will be Instagrammable—About 80% of our trip involved baby handling from changing diapers in park benches, messy feeding sessions, and hiking up a hill while pushing a stroller. Not exactly the most picture perfect situations but these are the golden moments you’ll save in your memory bank forever. But don’t fret, you can still take a photo or two. There will be pockets of chill between all the chaos and you’ll be able to take a little snapshot that will serve as a reminder of all the good times you had with your baby on that trip.
With a bit of creativity and flexibility, you can create an amazing itinerary that will be wonderful for YOU and the BABY! We still managed to squeeze in a lot of things we enjoy as adults with Theo with us and it still worked. Of course, we needed to make some tweaks in the experience but having Theo never felt like a hindrance or limitation, in fact, it felt great to travel and see the world with a new set of eyes—through the eyes of our inquisitive and curious 11 month old.
If you are motivated by love for your baby during your vacay, manage your expectations, set a new pace, and think of your limitations as a challenge for creativity instead—then all will go well 🙂 It won’t be smooth sailing throughout but it will be enjoyable! You just have to know that traveling with a baby requires a whole new mindset and perspective.
3. CONSIDER YOUR BABY’S SLEEP SCHEDULE
So this is where most parents are on the fence— and again you’ll hear NO JUDGMENT from me about this (and on everything else!) because like I always say, each family is different. But since a lot have been asking about what works for Theo, I’ll share it here—again just for the sake of answering your questions and not to impose our way on you. 🙂
Theo has had a relatively consistent sleep routine (since he was about 4 months). He wakes up at 5-530AM (yep early bird!!!), naps around 830-1030am then again after lunch for another 1.5-2 hours. He’ll have a third quick cat nap in the afternoon on some days (especially if it’s rainy) and is knocked out by around 630-7pm. Of course, this is not a rigid schedule but it’s sort of what has been the cycle we’ve been on. I’m a napster myself so I treat my own naps as gold (okay, ever since I became a mom naps have been non-existent but before I had Theo I was a serial napper!) so you see why I consider Theo’s naps as sacred. I’m a big advocate of snooze! Hahaha! I know some moms are not so strict about nap and sleep times and I could see that their babies are totally fine and happy–so whatever works for you, GO!:) But since Theo is wired like his sleep happy mama, I could see that when he clocks in some good naps in his day and sleeps at the same time at night he is generally more pleasant, less fussy, and more active and alert.
For this trip, the one thing I was dreading was the “wasakan ng tulog” brought about by the jet lag and time difference between Manila and Sweden/France. The hopeful mama was praying for “mild disruption” and the scared mama was expecting “total annihilation of sleep”. Hahahaha! Extremes ba?! The first 3 days in Sweden was moving towards total annihilation—but not as horrific as expected. Theo was waking up at 3AM every morning laughing and playing with his two bangag parents in bed. And since most shops, museums, restaurants open at 10am in Stockholm—it was 7 bloody hours of trying to entertain a super happy active baby! Hahahaha! The good part though was that although Theo was jet lagging he was in such a good disposition—thankfully he wasn’t irritable or fussy so it was still a relief! On the 3rd-4th day, his body clock was soon adjusted and he was waking up at 6am! And since he normally gets up at 5am in Manila, this was like “Yeyyyy bakasyon mode!!!” for us to have an extra hour to sleep in. Surprisingly though, when we got to France, he slept in longer and gave us until 730-8AM in bed!!! Whoooaaaa Theo! Grabe ka na!! Spoiling us!! Hahahahaha!
So after his sleep normalized after first 2-3 days, we tried our best to introduce his nap times again and he gradually adapted it. Hooray! We worked our itinerary around Theo’s new sleep and nap times in Europe. Get ready for a run-on sentence—->We would get up at 7-8AM, have breakfast, play a bit/walk to the park, back to the flat for his morning nap (this is when Pat and I would do the chores or catch up on Netflix), then head out for some sightseeing as soon as he would wake up, lunch, then back to the flat for an afternoon nap (or if we were in a very far location—we would make him nap on the stroller/carrier or on the Uber we were on—we had to be flexible) and then head to another place and then dinner, bath, sleep. Of course once he slept, that’s when I would do the laundry, do the dishes and bottles, take out the trash, etc.
Again, I’m only sharing what worked for us. But please remember that each baby is unique so listen to your baby’s needs and take your cues from him/her. It’s easy to just copy other people’s formulas but if it’s not meant for your baby, it’ll only make you and your child miserable. Allow your child to teach you along the way, our babies are very patient! 🙂
4. RENT A FLAT or BOOK A HOTEL
So let me be honest about the pros and cons, just so you can see what works best for you. I have done both—hotel staying and airbnb-ing and happy with both set ups 🙂
a) If you are after all out luxury, then I say go for a hotel. You’ll have daily housekeeping services so that means coming home to a clean room everyday! Now, that’s a vacation!!! Saraaaaap! hahaha! And since most hotels are centrally located, this spells convenience on all levels. So if you have saved enough for it, then by all means do IT!
b) But if you are staying for a longer period and have to remain true to your budget, adding up the nights in a hotel (in super pricey Europe) might be too much for your wallet. Since we had 2 weeks on our itinerary, we knew that airbnb-ing was the way to go for this trip with our budget. Your euros will be stretched out farther if you decide to rent a flat instead. oh and you can book with my code for a discount for ANY airbnb property in the world! Click HERE!
c) Staying in a flat means—MORE SPACE. And if you have an active, roaming baby- this is worth every penny. I shelled out 10 euros more for a bigger flat so that Theo would have more space to crawl and semi-walk in. This kept us sane because cabin-fever with a jet lagging baby aint funny at ALL!
d) Unlike staying in a hotel where you just sort of leave all the housework behind— staying in a flat means you’ll need to do the laundry for clothes/linens/towels, sorting out the trash, washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning, making the bed, etc. —so consider these household chores on top of baby duties.
d) When choosing an airbnb property I always had these considerations: 1)Is there an elevator in the building? Remember you will be bringing heavy luggage and a stroller with you! 2) Wifi?? So you can cut down on roaming and stay online when you’re at your base. 3) Is there a metro/bus station nearby? Accessibility is key so get a flat near public transport. Although we used UBER on most days—it was amazing! 4) Since sleep was golden for the baby, I wanted to make sure we were in a less busy street and in a quiet neighborhood. So I made sure we were in a more residential part of town and away from the party scenes. 5) Ask if they have a grocery within walking distance—for you to stock up on your supplies. 6)Review all the amenities before you book: full kitchen, washing machine, play room for kids, crib, etc.
e) For hotels, consider if it’s a baby friendly property by sending them an email to ask if they can provide a crib to use. Some hotels also have play areas for your little ones to enjoy! This is a BIG plus!!
f) When it comes to budget for both a hotel/airbnb, it’s not as easy as pegging a price. There are SOOOO many things to weigh like accessibility, location, space, amenities, security, even interiors etc. So again, list down your priorities and start from there. When you have your non-negotiables in place and the budget fits, then it’ll be easier to make a decision. A hundred euros per night may look a certain way in one place and completely different in another—so choose wisely.
5. NOT ALWAYS STRANGER=DANGER
All our lives we’ve been taught to believe the STRANGER=DANGER line. And yes, as parents we have to teach our kids to be CAREFUL in dealing with strangers. There are a LOT of crazy people out there and we need to make sure we do all we can to protect our kids. BUT—-it’s also good to teach our kids (with wisdom and discernment) to embrace new people and engage with different “strangers” of all races, backgrounds, and cultures. It’s these encounters that change their world views, make them more tolerant towards differences, appreciative of strengths of others, and less egotistical too! When they see that there’s a whole world of amazing people out there—beyond their house, beyond their street, beyond their village—they can have a more outward thinking 🙂
Theo met so many WONDERFUL people in this trip, I’ve lost count. So many strangers would come up to us to say how adorable Theo was (syempre kilig na kilig ako!) and would just play with him. We took Uber rides all the time and maybe 8 out of 10 drivers made funny faces. We would have waiters coming back and forth to our table asking if they could carry him. Even random lolos in the airport lounge would follow me around just to get Theo to laugh. Some flight attendants even took selfies with Theo..even some nannies in the park too! Hahaha! Patrick and I were completely shocked at the volume of people who would approach our son and show random kindness. It made me believe that there’s just so much GOOD in the world that’s often overlooked. We’re so obsessed with pointing out each other’s flaws and differences, there are so many walls that have been built. Travel is the best way to have those walls crumble down and to welcome diversity and to expose your children early on.
6. BE FLEXY EATERS
I applaud moms who are able to get their babies to stick to a strict healthy eating regimen and prepare meals from scratch even on holiday. It takes a lot of effort and ample planning, so you guys deserve a slow clap! I wish I could do the same but we’re pretty much an eat on the fly kind of family when we are on the move. (Of course, if your child has allergies and other medical conditions to consider—it would be best to be loyal to a program that works with him/her even when on vacation. Please make sure you follow doc’s orders.)
At home, we’ve managed to keep him on a happy lutong bahay eating regimen. He basically eats what Patrick and I eat—just diced up into smaller bites so he can chew better. So if we have Tinola, he’ll have Tinola. If we have Pochero, he’ll have the same. And he also eats next to us at the same time so he sort of understands the concept of having meals as a social experience with us more than just a way to satisfy his hunger. He’s easy to feed and has a hearty appetite (hence the cheeks). So for this trip, since he’s been used to eating the same food we eat, it’s been relatively easy to feed him. We are thankful we don’t have a picky eater and he loves food just as much as we do. I’ll usually order something on the menu that has any of the following factors: 1) Ideally something with veggies incorporated into the dish 2) Soft/chewy and easy to swallow (pasta, risotto, rice, macaroni) 3) Something that doesn’t have ingredients that can be choking hazards. Thankfully most restaurants in Sweden provide healthy meals that can be shared between kids and adults—and same goes for France. So it was not much of a dilemma for us dining out 🙂
If your child is on the picky side, there’s hope! This happens to a lot of families and there are steps on how to address them. Ask your pedia how you can work on it months before your scheduled trip so it’ll be easier once you travel. Who knows, maybe travel will actually help ignite your little tot’s passion for food.
7. WORK AS A TEAM
This trip made me see my husband in a whole new light. He’s shown me in a thousand ways that he’s an awesome dad to Theo but this trip just made me love him even more. Like my friend Bianca Santiago-Reinoso quoted “Find your tribe, Love them hard” —this is exactly the mantra you’ll want to have especially when you travel. My two boys are my tribe, my team and it was great to be put in a position wherein I could show how much I love them and want to serve them.
If you’re used to having household help in Manila, then you and your spouse should be ready to distribute the chores between you two on top of caring for the baby. Patrick was in charge of entertaining the baby while I did all the house chores, so he was the one who would put Theo to sleep (with sintunado Jesus Loves Me on loop 30,000 times) , bathe him, walk him to the park, feed him breakfast, etc. while I did the laundry, sorted trash, washed the bottles, etc. This is what worked for us and it might look differently for you, so think of your spouse’s strengths and your strengths and start with that. It just has to be clear from the get-go what each will be assigned to so the load is managed well and distributed fairly and you can avoid pointing fingers when you get there. Hahaha!
Dining out will also look completely different with a baby in tow. If you have a behaved baby who can sit and stare for hours, then good for you. But our baby is one who likes to crawl, climb, touch, poke, pull, grab, taste, lick, etc etc etc. His learning language is through tactile stimulation so he likes to move and feel to experience the world around him. It’s actually quite fascinating how he learns in his own way, but truth be told, as parents of this active learner—it can get quite tiring. And so when it comes to eating, Patrick and I have come up with a strategy that involves taking turns in eating and feeding and it works for us so far. Ideally, I would like Theo to learn proper table manners—but since he’s still very small, we’ll have to be patient and teach him bit by bit and make adjustments for now. Of course, our primary concern is his health and making sure he is well-fed during mealtime 🙂
It’s normal for couples to fight. Unless you are the perfect wife married to the perfect husband, then woooow! Nahiya namin kaming lahat sa inyo. Wahahaha! Healthy arguments are necessary in every relationship and if you fight fair, you can actually learn from each other through your disagreements. Of course, by “healthy” I mean no violent cussing with flying pots and pans please. If you and your spouse find yourselves clashing while on vacation (sometimes the combo of exhaustion, jet lag, and frustration can be a breeding ground for arguments), just give yourself a few minutes to BREATHE and PROCESS everything. Remember every minute you spend fighting is a minute you could spend having fun with your baby instead—so if you must fight, keep it short and try to genuinely resolve it as soon as you can. When you talk things through with your partner, you’ll realize that you both have the best intentions for your baby and for each other and that it was just a miscommunication on both ends 🙂 Forgive each other, learn from it and remember that you are a TEAM!! Team Baby all the way! I’m still learning how to fight “better”–I am just really lucky to have a very patient and understanding husband who bears with me and my cray-cray.
8. IT’S OKAY IF THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED
Flexibility and Humor: These are the two things that will keep you HAPPY troopers throughout your trip. Even if all the odds are against you, if you have these two tenets you will be smiling even in the most dire situations. We had a bit of a personal crisis halfway through our trip (it’s so personal, I will keep the details private) and it was really stressful and agonizing—but Patrick and I powered through it together and survived that hellish day with a good laugh. It was something so horrible, I wish it would never happen ever again in my future trips—but in retrospect, I’m glad it happened because it made me value my husband’s presence all the more. It made me realize that YES, PATRICK AND THEO are my world and all that matter to me. So be ready for things to turn left, right, upside down, when you least expect it so learn to adjust and adapt. Focus on the good brought about by the surprises and work with what is given. If you make mistakes, don’t beat yourself over it. Chances are your baby will still have a blast no matter what you do, they are easy to please and will love us just the same.
9. LET IT GO
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably remember my post about Theo’s licking phase and how I’ve surrendered completely to the Lord. I realized I had no control over the germs in his system and yes, in true Elsa form—I had to let it go! It just would be pointless running after him with antibacterial wipes and spraying each and every chair, table, or random object with Lysol for the whole duration of our trip! Hahaha, I would look like a mad woman who hates germs. (I actually am a mad woman who hates germs, hahaha). So for as long as Theo was not eating dog poop, I had to be more chill than normal.
When you’re on vacation, far from the comforts and predictability of home, you will be faced with many conundrums and you’ll have to ask yourself, should I fight for this or should I let it go??? Hahaha!!! If it’s a matter of principle and conviction, then stick by it. All heart, all the way. But if it’s a matter of preference and won’t hurt your child long term, then letting it slide for vacation’s sake won’t be so bad. I’m not saying you should just become an absentee mom all of sudden and turn extra liberal, hahaha! I’m just saying, weigh the pros and cons and see if the issue is worth robbing your joy over. If it’s something small and silly, then maybe you can let it go to embrace a more vacation happy approach. On that note, we let Theo have a few licks of ice cream and a french fry too. Fry lang? Ang damot ni Mommy! Hahahaha! I gave him a pear to compensate. But hey, it’s OKAY to live a little and let our kids have a bit of fun 🙂
10. BE GRATEFUL FOR THE TIME YOU HAVE TOGETHER
Whether you are traveling locally or internationally, together on a trip for 3 months or just for a weekend—family time is GOLDEN and should be treated extra special. It’s a GIFT to be together— physically, emotionally, spiritually, so make each moment count. I’m pretty sure Theo will forget all the names of the places we visited (I think same goes for Patrick who’s horrible with names hahahaha) and he won’t recall all the things we did together—but I’d like to believe that this experience taught him more about me and Patrick as his parents. And that even if he’s too little to express himself, I believe that his heart is big enough to process all the love he received from us through this adventure. It also allowed him to have a first hand encounter with God’s beautiful creation and to see HIS realness through the sights, sounds, tastes around him–which to me is the biggest PRO that outweighs all the CONS of traveling with a baby. I am grateful that we went on this vacation with Theo and I hope that more and more families will be able to experience something similar with their own little ones too.
Wow I actually reached 10??? That was A LOT! Coolio!!! I will try to share more specifics about travel in the future posts but I just wanted to encourage all the parents out there who are either planning a trip or simply considering it. I’m nowhere close to being a supermom and we survived it!!! If I can do it, I’m sure you can—you will probably even do way better!:) Thanks for reading this blog, I do hope it was helpful for you and your family.