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Category: Traveling With Baby

Guilin To Beijing On The High Speed Train

Arriving in Guilin by air, we spent a few days exploring Guilin city and headed to the sleepy town of Yangshuo to have a better view of the beautiful karst…

Arriving in Guilin by air, we spent a few days exploring Guilin city and headed to the sleepy town of Yangshuo to have a better view of the beautiful karst mountains. Then took the high-speed train to Beijing with an estimated time of 10 hours and 30 minutes but eventually stretched to 12 hours due to some technical issues. We bought second class seats (RMB806 / $130 per person) which meant that our train seats can only be reclined a little and there were no pre-booked meals. The seats were more spacious than airline economic seats and the wide windows offered panoramic views of the changing landscape.

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Getting on the train was a feat in itself. We had to take a taxi from our Air BnB apartment and it was raining heavily. A very kind taxi lady stopped for us in the middle of the road and even came down and helped us with our bags. With our very broken and limited Mandarin, we managed to tell her where we wanted to go. At the train station, everything was in Mandarin. We had our tickets at hand and the only thing we could understand were the numbers on the ticket. “1035 (departure time), G422 (train number), 10 (Guessing it’s the carriage number) and 9 (Guessing it’s my seat number). There was a large crowd already at the waiting hall. Minutes later we heard an announcement on the PA system and everyone barged to the entrance. We followed suit, albeit with less haste and no pushing!

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We walked to the platform and saw number markings on the floor and made another guess that the markings meant the carriage number. We got into the train without a glitch and settled down into our designated seats.

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The doors closed and we were on our way. About ten seats in front of us, a ‘private party’ was going on. Chinese men were clanging beer bottles, laughing, chatting and eating pork and noodles with chopsticks over folded tissue paper. I looked around and people were already getting cosy in their seats, curled up with a pillow, others were snacking on cookies and many others were tuned-out and tuned-in to their electronic devices. I even spotted someone doing some yoga stretches.

yogaIMG_0609Throughout the journey, we made 18 stops alighting passengers and picking up new ones. The landscape was predominantly farming land with rolling hills as a backdrop. Block houses dotted in the fields and farmers with hats were bent over busy in the field. The sky was downcast and the clouds were low. A constant drizzle followed us through. Nearing Beijing, we stopped at ‘ghost towns’ with tall building blocks that seemed vacant. It was interesting to people watch when the train stopped, although there wasn’t enough time to leave the train.

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We had lunch and dinner on the train. For RMB40 ($6.50), we had pre-packed trays of rice meals – rice, beef, chicken, potatoes, veggies and Chinese condiments. It wasn’t horrible but it was definitely overpriced. We were so glad we had our own snacks to munch on.

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We filled the hours with reading, reading stories to Seth, walking to and fro different carriages, playing games and eating. We were constantly snacking! Peanuts, dried fruit, biscuits, preserved plums… you name it!

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Overall it was a great experience. We survived 12 hours, travelled 2,135 kilometers on a train with a toddler. A good sign and precursor for the many more train rides to come…!

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Featured on Zafigo: What New Moms Need To Know About Traveling With Baby

Back by popular demand, I decided to expand on my baby travel checklist and share some lessons learnt from my first ever trip with Seth when he was just three months…

zafigologo

Back by popular demand, I decided to expand on my baby travel checklist and share some lessons learnt from my first ever trip with Seth when he was just three months old. I have been talking to some friends who have recently become new moms and they too had a string of questions, similar to when I was about to embark on my first trip.

In the article in Zafigo also has a step-by-step guide on how to set out on your first trip with you bubs. Truth to be told, a lot of it is common sense, but sometimes we just need a bit of reassurance. Now that Seth is two years old and have travelled more than five countries, I can honestly say that it gets easier by the trip and a few things are as rewarding as seeing the world with you child.

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From Zafigo: 

Endless screaming in a confined airplane seat, uncontrollable crying while waiting in line for some cheap burgers because you simply did not have the time to eat, terrible tantrums in the middle of a shopping mall and food stained clothes, the mark of a true parent. All these horror stories are enough to cripple your grand idea of walking out the door with a suitcase packed for a holiday.

I was determined to prove my fears wrong. Read full article…

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Flying High In Queenstown

New Zealand’s landscapes are nothing less than dramatic, from towering mountains to dense lush forests to majestic seas with abundant sea life. Imagine flying over these landscapes and appreciating the…

New Zealand’s landscapes are nothing less than dramatic, from towering mountains to dense lush forests to majestic seas with abundant sea life. Imagine flying over these landscapes and appreciating the beauty from a  bird’s eye view. It is a bit of a splurge but the experience in itself is a lifetime memory. Here’s are some shots that captivated my soul and fueled my grand appreciation of the Creator.

We started our journey from Queenstown flying over the vast Lake Wakatipu with mountains rising from its surface and over secluded alpine lakes bypassing rugged peaks.queenstown helicopter line  7lake wakitipu helicopter Queenstown helicopter ride deborah chan

At some point our entire view were just spikes and jagged peaks as we passed through waves of barren mountains. We saw the grand Bowen Waterfall cascading from a crack on a mountain peak, flew past fluffy (almost edible) clouds and landed in Milford Sound. The entire journey from Queenstown to Milford sound took about 30 minutes, but it felt like eternity (the awesome kind of eternity!)

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queenstown helicopter line

We landed in Milford Sound for a meander around. Known as Piopiotahi in Māori, Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. Its spectacular sheer cliffs, mountains and thundering waterfalls left us in awe – but we didn’t do the cruise this time, as we have visited Milford Sound a few years back.

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milford sound helicopter ride
After a short walk, it was time to go. We put on our mufflers and headed back into helicopter. The blades spinned as the engine cranked up and we were soon flying again.

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We spotted some white patches on rock mountain surfaces, we flew over some snow capped mountains and then we flew face on with a glacier patch that our pilot named “Puddle”. The closer we got to the “Puddle” the larger it got and soon without a flaw, our helicopter made a gentle landing on the glacier. The doors swung open and a gush of chilly wind blew in. It was hard to believe that we were stepping on glistening snow.

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We watched as other helicopters made their landing, just a gracefully as ours did. The dramatic view was breathtaking to say the least. It was very humbling to be surrounded by mountains and to realize how (really, really) small we are.

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Our little son slept through most of the 90 minutes experience. I reckon the sound of the helicopters engines lulled him into deep slumber.

Want more? Watch this video and catch a glimpse of our unforgettable experience in the air. Helicopter Line fly from Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.

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Family Beach Getaway at Nexus Karambunai

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai…

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai resulting in a ship wreck and later an unrecovered ship at the bed of the sea, hence its name ‘Karam’ which means sinking ship and ‘Bunai’ referring to Brunei.

nexus karambunai 1Today Karambunai is home to two local villages and a few notable island resorts, one of which is the massive Nexus Karambunai with an 18-hole perfectly manicured golf course. Situated 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) airport, the resort has a range of accommodation options suitable for honeymooners, families, groups of friends and even big corporate groups. Away from the KK buzz, Nexus offers the idyllic snappy beach holiday with loads to do around the resort such as water skiing, kayaking and trekking or simply settle into one of the many beach chairs and laze the day away. The beach is private for the resort’s guests’ and my 18-month old son absolutely enjoyed sinking into the sand while the waves lapped on him. Private beaches are quite a luxury for resorts nowadays, especially when it is somewhat of a quiet coast with a backdrop of palm forest and rolling hills.

nexus karambunainexus karambunai 2The hotel’s nature guide, Leroy tells us that there used to be a trail at the end of the beach climbing up the hill, swinging round the jagged cliffs leading up to a vantage point with unobstructed views of the great South China Sea. However, for safety reasons, the trail is no longer accessible. Instead we headed off on another trail into the palm forest just behind the resort. As we entered in, Leroy warned us of mosquitoes. Those blood suckers came in all directions, and the warning was a good caution for preparation. We went in covered with a layer of repellent and was mosquito free. The quiet under grove had plenty of diversity from pitcher plants to the local traditional aphrodisiac, tongkat ali. The trail continued to climb up until we reached Pangiran lookout point. The view was spectacular with nothing but ocean and forest to behold. We descended after 40-mins and returned to the resort by van.

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Arriving back at the entrance of Nexus, I get a sense that the resort’s interior is a reflection of the Malay traditional kampong grandeur. Furnished with dark wood, the high A-framed entrance etched with floral carvings opens to a spacious lobby with a spiral staircase at the end leading to the pool and beach. The rooms have the same rustic Malay traditional design with a minimalist approach.

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Imprinted with the 80’s glory days of big resorts, the Nexus Karambunai has a choice of eight eateries to choose from. Unfortunately, during my visit, two of the main restaurants were closed for refurbishment. Noble House, the resort’s only Chinese restaurant is as Chinese as you can get, with its interiors lined with intricate embroidered-designed wallpaper, hanging lanterns and tall slender wooden furniture with circular marble top tables. Food at the Noble House is uncompromised, with the freshest seafood coming from the coasts, the menu offers a range of famous Chinese dishes such as herbal soups accompanied with fresh seafood, Peking Duck wrapped in rice paper rolls and dim sum.

Perhaps what I appreciated most about the resort was the friendly staff. They were at our service anytime of the day with a big smile and a hand across their chest as a gesture of welcome and respect. Stepping into Nexie Club, their indoor kids recreation area, I get a sense that many little people have stepped into the room busying their hands with arts and craft, watching cartoons and listening to stories. The murals on the wall suggests that the resort has had at least two decades of visitors streaming in – donald duck, lion king and mickey mouse.

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Back in the room, our retreat continued. Our Ocean View Room boasts of spanning sea views along the coast lined with swaying pine and coconut trees. The spacious room with wood panelled flooring has undergone some maintenance but still manage to maintain its simplistic charm with every bit of modern facility needed for a comfortable stay. Vacationing at the Nexus reminded me of days when my family retreated on beach holidays to Penang and Port Dickson, the kind of family friendly resort with expansive ground to explore.

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Homestay In Kaikoura Run By A 75-Year Old

It’s a daunting thought for most of us to wake up every morning at 5:30am to cook breakfast for guests, but for Margaret Woodhill, it’s a joy and something she…

It’s a daunting thought for most of us to wake up every morning at 5:30am to cook breakfast for guests, but for Margaret Woodhill, it’s a joy and something she looks forward to.

Her modest home is perched atop a hill with sweeping views of Kaikoura’s rolling mountains that meets the grand sea. Kaikoura is a small town north of Christchurch made famous by its whale watching activity. Annually, the town welcomes enthusiastic wildlife lovers from all over the world. Before the big whale watching boom about 28 years back, Margaret together with her late husband, Bob first opened their home to travelers. At that time, their four children had all grown up and moved out leaving an empty nest. So, the most logical decision was to find a way to fill up empty rooms and that was how Bayview Homestay came about.

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Margaret recounts the first official advert that was published about Bayview Homestay. It was printed in the New Zealand Bed & Breakfast book together with 25 other operators. They welcomed their first six guests and since then, there have been thousands from around the world. Margaret has a poster of the world map stuck on the pantry wall and guests are encouraged to stick a pin on the country of their origin. The map is polka-dotted with many pins, too many to count.

Staying at Bayview felt like putting up a night at grandma’s, especially since I was traveled with my husband and baby son. Margaret treats everyone like family and her warm and infectious smile is the very thing that made me feel at home. The guests’ rooms are situated in a separate section of the family home with a small pantry, living space and a separate entry and exit. But despite the wall that separates us, Margaret never made us feel that we had to stay in the guest area. She welcomed us to roam freely and to join in conversations over a cup of tea at the breakfast table.

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Breakfast was a grand feast at Bayview. Margaret took painstaking effort to provide us with homemade food. Breakfast at Margaret’s is as good as having brunch and she takes pride in what she serves her guests. For two consecutive mornings, we had bacon, perfectly poached eggs fresh from Margaret’s chicken coup and homemade toasts. Atop that, we had a selection of other goodies to choose from; cereal, fresh rhubard and peach jams and yoghurt.

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There is a great sense of respect for the environment at Bayview. Margaret shared with me her passion of tending to her garden, the hours invested in caring for the land and some tips on creating good compost. In her one-acre garden she grows tomatoes, lettuce and other greens. She has a neat chicken coup only for eggs and a beautiful garden of blooming flowers. Despite the garden looking immaculate, Margaret remarks, “I wish I had more time to spend in the garden. If I have a spare minute in the day, you will see me in the garden.”

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Her green thumbs were cultivated over time and she credits her father for sharing tips on keeping the plants healthy. “You need good compost,” she said. “The trick to good compost is seaweed. Layers of grass, animal manure, grass, seaweed…” I listened intently as Margaret freely shared her garden secrets.

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Although Bayview Homestay is opened to guests, the home remains a family sanctuary. Margaret hosts her children and grandchildren when they come to visit from afar. The home is also a meeting place for special occasions such as Christmas. Having spent three days at Bayview, there is undoubtedly a family atmosphere in the place. I asked Margaret what is the best thing about living in Kaikoura. She beamed and told me two reasons, “This home. I’ve lived here so long there are so many memories here. The scenery – looking out the window at the breakfast table, I am reminded how fortunate I am to be living here. Especially when the guests’ go “Wow!” at the view.

Margaret had recently published a book about her life called “Life of Mar”. It is a beautiful recount of her life from childhood up until the birth of her first great grandchild. Precious personal memories and descriptions about Kaikoura were documented. Margaret wrote it as a personal memoir for her family to remember.

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She had lived in her Kaikoura since 1934 and back in the day, there were only 5 houses on the hill – now there are 66 houses. It gave me a sense that development has crept into this small little town, now made famous by the big ocean mammals. But even with the boom, Kaikoura has not lost its charm. The people are still as friendly and communities tightly knitted. Possibly, it is this community-type hospitality that keep tourists coming.

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QT Sydney: The Designer Statement Hotel

Very designer, definitely avant-garde, somewhat sexy and absolutely unforgettable. I stayed at QT Sydney, the talked about CBD hotel located in the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theatre…

Very designer, definitely avant-garde, somewhat sexy and absolutely unforgettable. I stayed at QT Sydney, the talked about CBD hotel located in the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theatre on the corner of Market and George streets. Location wise, QT Sydney nailed it, positioned central to the popular shopping strip and a nice stroll away from Sydney’s waterfront, the Harbour.

The restoration of both buildings and the curation of a new, bold and eclectic five-star hotel was no easy feat. The State Theatre is one of only two surviving theatres in Sydney and its interior mixes eclectic elements of Gothic, Italian and dramatic art décor while the Gowings department store is more plain in nature, with open and expansive space, big windows, high ceilings, open corridors and sandstone walls.

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

The acclaimed design team, Nic Graham & Associates was responsible for the curation of public areas and Indyk Architects designed the rooms. They spent months gathering art pieces from auctions, eBay, yard sales and op shops in order to achieve the classy vintage and quirky designer look. The aim was to marry heritage elements, such as the beautiful timber flooring, elaborate golden columns and ornate shop display cabinets with contemporary luxuries such as oversized bathtubs, designer bespoke furniture and cutting edge installations.

With 200 guest rooms and 12 unique designs, one will never be bored. I stayed in a room above the State Theatre building. The dimly lit hallway with glowing numbers above each room is a gentle theatrical prelude to the room itself. The room was spacious, with a short hallway leading up to a sprawling bathroom seamlessly overlooking a small study and an island bed facing a tall window. The lighting was different, somewhat dramatic casting shadows on art pieces and designer objects and playful bowler hat lamps hung from the ceiling – all as a reminder of the State Theatre’s former glory.

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The deep red and burgundy bold tones subtly dominate the room, as seen in the plush pillows, rug, hexagonal carpet and curtains. Every element in the room is intentional and specifically designed for the space – from the minimalist wall installation, to the old-style minibar, to the slick wardrobe and the red and orange-stained glass cabinets. Almost all the furniture is bespoke, the QT Collection as it’s called. I especially loved the cool wooden pill-shaped cot complete with bespoke bed lining, duvet and tiny pillows. While the room shouts contemporary, the original timber flooring gently subdues it and gives it a habitable feel.

QT Sydney RoomQT Sydney Room

The expansive bathroom is accentuated by an oversized, perfectly round bath tub and separate shower and toilet. The bathrobes are black instead of the usual white and the spotlights in the dark stone bathroom add to the suave mood. Standing at the sink, I noticed a quirky object, a black hand holding a small magnified-mirror – very avant-garde indeed. These display objects are spotted throughout the hotel such as mannequins decked in 1920’s styled dresses and miniature animal coat hooks – a fitting reminder of the old-school world of glamour.

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Outwardly the two buildings remain distinct and as is. QT’s lobby is understated and can be easily overlooked. Perhaps that is why the hotel has taken to a “look at me” approach when it comes to choosing front-line staff. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Market Street, you will not miss pretty girls dressed in presentable dark sexy outfits complete with the bold redhead look. They are given the title ‘Director of Chaos’, these pretty girls audition for the role and are accepted as ‘casts’. Not just your regular hospitality crew, the staff at QT is dramatic, over the top but every bit professional. They leave you with a lingering sense that you’ve just stepped into a show and about to live in a set.

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

The ‘drama’ continues, in the lift – intelligently fitted with a sensor to detect the number of people in the lift, the music in the lift changes according to the crowd. If you go solo, lonesome tunes like ‘All By Myself’ and ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight’ come on. Duos in the lift get more romantic and happy tunes such as ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. In the presence of three or more, groovy and upbeat tunes take over.

On entering the reception, the hall opens up to an array of beautifully handpicked and curated furniture. There is so much attention to detail from the unconventional yellow, magenta, blue colour palette chosen for the furniture to the circular coffee tables in different sizes to the featured wall of vintage luggage pieces.

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QT Sydney is a celebration of old and new. It has definitely succeeded in its attempt to stand out. The designers have not only done an immaculate job at transforming the space into a luxurious abode, it has created quite a ripple effect when it comes to story-telling. QT Sydney is one of those hotels that is talked about, years, and even decades to come.

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Tips On Traveling With Baby

As a fairly new mom, I know how daunting it is to add “baby” to the travel equation. Before Seth came along, hubs and I spent less than 30 minutes…

As a fairly new mom, I know how daunting it is to add “baby” to the travel equation. Before Seth came along, hubs and I spent less than 30 minutes packing for trips, sometimes as speedy as 15 minutes. We seldom (never, say never) miss any essentials. We packed like pros and learnt quite a few travel hacks along the way too – for example, packing clean rolled socks into our shoes to save space, using medicine containers for jewelry and vitamins, making sure we have a pen in our passport pouch for filling in arrival cards and packing light-weight gifts for the nice people we (will) meet.

When Seth came along, the checklist quickly extended and so did the packing time. Seth made his first overseas trip to Cambodia at three months old, the first of the many trips to come. Since then, I’ve learn quite a few things about traveling with a baby and I’d love to share it with you. I understand how overwhelming it can be to see the checklist perpetually growing by the minute, how scary it is to be uncertain of how your baby will fair in a new environment or how clean and sanitized the destination will be. All of which are valid concerns and really, all you want is a good fun holiday minus all the unnecessary worry. Here are some simple travel tips I’ve learnt:

1. It’s all in the mind. The first step to getting out of the door is saying ‘yes’ to traveling with your baby. I’ve heard parents say, “I’d travel after my baby turns one.” The reasons: “It’s too troublesome”, “Way too much stuff to bring”, “My baby won’t even remember it. What’s the point?”, “My baby has to stick to a strict schedule”, “What if… what if… what if…” I’m certain Seth wouldn’t remember his first trip to Cambodia when he slept in a hammock in a village among cows and chickens while we chatted away with village folks – but photos will tell and more importantly, I learnt that babies are way more adaptable and versatile than we think. So let go and allow your baby to try new things and venture to new territories at a tender age.

Seth in Cambodia Village

2. Travel checklist. Here’s my basic baby travel checklist, mainly for tropical destinations. Depending on the type of travel and the expected weather conditions, I will add to this list as required.

On the body:

  • Onesies / Rompers
  • Pants / Shorts
  • Pajamas (usually long sleeve onesies to keep warm)
  • Hat
  • Shoes and socks
  • Baby lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Sudocream – Essential for nappy rash, heat rash and it even works on insect bites.
  • Mosquito patch – Doubles up as protection for you too if you’re carrying little bub.
  • Bibs – Yes! You will need more than one because meal times can become messy.
  • Diapers
  • Wet wipes
  • Small plastic bags for soiled diapers – And keeping the smells at bay.

For the tummy:

  • Bottles – Usually one would suffice, but for long haul trips, I bring two just in case.
  • Sippy cup – After Seth turned 6 months, I added this to the list.
  • Milk powder – After 7.5 months, Seth went fully on formula milk. If you are still breastfeeding, you have less to carry!
  • Food & Snacks – Read No.3 & 4 for a variety of travel friendly food I love to have with me.
  • Portable blender – A friend gave this to me and it’s the handiest tool. I’m not selling the brand, but you will probably find similar products in the market that blends baby food without the need to be electrically powered. Failing which, a fork would do the job too!
  • Thermos – One of the most essential items to bring along. Hot water on the go anytime, anywhere.
  • Small container and spoon for feeding
  • Washing detergent for bottles
  • Bottle brush

To keep him happy:

  • A toy and a book – Something to keep baby entertained. Don’t go overboard with toys, one is really enough for comfort sake. What I found interesting was, Seth loved travel brochures and magazines and we often read from these, making up stories of places and people. Tip: Improvise. Almost everything is entertaining to babies.

Baby toy and book

On the go:

  • Baby carrier – Best invention ever. Believe it or not, Seth has never used the pram since his birth. I just found using the carrier a lot more convenient and hassle free. A good one like an Ergo keeps shoulder and backaches away. Get a lowdown on the best baby carriers at Babble Out before you purchase one. It’s a worthwhile investment!

Baby carrierJust in case:

  • Medicine – For extended trips (more than a week) I usually stash the basic flu, cough and fever meds with me and a syringe. Thankfully I never had to use the stash, but it’s wise to have it with you to avoid hefty medical bills or hunting for a pharmacy.
  • Thermometer

3. Food. Depending on how old your baby is and how long you are gone for, the food selection can vary. At six months, everything that Seth ate was bland, bland, bland. After eight months, the taste experiment started and since then, Seth has been pinching from our plates every time we eat. I will feed him till he’s almost full and then leave room for tasting.

  • Must have – A small container of rice cereal to mix with veggie or fruit. Weetbix works too.
  • Purees – I make these ahead of time, store them in small containers and pack them in freezer bags with ice packs. I carry the freezer bag with me on the airplane if I’m flying. At the hotel, I transfer them into the fridge. But if I’m camping or there’s no fridge available, I will bring mashable food items such as bananas, papayas and avocados.
  • How much food to bring? I will bring anywhere from 4-8 serves and spread it out throughout the trip. There is no point in bringing more than 8 serves as you want the food to be as fresh as possible. When my supply depletes, we order baby-friendly food such as steamed veggies on the side, porridge or stews.

Baby puree_travel

4. Snacks. The last thing you want is to feed your baby some Twisties because you don’t have anything at hand. And when your baby starts teething, that’s also when they start snacking the most. Seth loves cucumber and carrot sticks, especially when they are chilled, healthy rice crispies and water crackers are great too and assorted whole grain cereal with dried fruit.

Carrot sticks

I’m sure you have your own baby travel tips too. Care to share? I’d love to hear yours. Share them in the comments section below.

Now giddy up, plan the next trip, pack away and have a fab time exploring the world with your little one!

Read also:  Baby in a Spaceship.

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