How to do a stress-free overseas holiday with infant twins?

Travelling with one baby is no easy feat, not to mention travelling with two babies. When G&G were eight months old, we made our first family trip. Just the four of us, we had managed a seven days six nights free and easy trip to Perth.

It was a milestone for us and through this virgin trip, we learnt several tips and tricks. I have summarised them into the six “Ps” namely Planning, Prevention, Packing, Playing, Plane ride and Photography.

(I) PLANNING

1. Type of holiday

The objective of the trip determines the type of holiday. For us, choices for the type of holiday have included either beach resort, city free & easy, shopping trip, or a farm stay. We have eliminated shopping and farm stay for our first trip. Reason simply, we know we won’t have time for any shopping with our little monsters who need to be fed and changed every now and then on alternate basis. Farm stay is probably more suitable for older kids. We left with resort-type or city free&easy and decided to go for the latter because of supermarkets which I will explain later.

2. Season

Different seasons equate to different weathers and temperature, resulting to the type of clothing to bring, the luggage size, as well as baby’s body reaction to the change in climate. We chose a place which has the temperature and humidity that are closer to that of Singapore in February as G&G have drier skins and had just recovered from slight bronchitis a month ago. For their first trip, our motto is “Leaving home is just like at home!”

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3. Location

There were few considerations which we have noted during the shortlisting for location, as follows:

    • Stroller friendly– How easy is it to commute with stroller? There are places with stairs, and lots of walking up and down flight of stairs may not be suitable for stroller.
    • Hygiene– As babies’ immunity at their age were still low, hygiene level in the country became particularly important to us. Although we could not eliminate the possibility that G&G might be exposed to germs and bacteria during an overseas trip, cutting that exposure to the minimum was the best we could do.
    • Food and supermarket– G&G were on two solid meals per day, we chose to cook their food throughout the trip. Availability of the big supermarkets was imperative. Even if you choose to give quick meals, unless you are bringing your own food, it is always easier to find the decently trusted brands of jarred food for baby in big supermarkets than the smaller ones.
    • Road – We planned to do self-drive. A place with less buzzy traffic means less stress on the roads in foreign land.

4. Type of Accommodation

Hotel or Serviced Apartment? We chose serviced apartment, very much for the kitchen and the laundry cum dryer machine. Bringing our whole wardrobe for fresh change throughout the trip was not our way of adding luggage weight. A machine that avails us of throwing in our dirty laundry before we sleep and wake up with clean sets of clothes to change just sounds enticing. Notwithstanding,  for any emergency wash, throwing into the washing machine is much easier than hand wash. Yes, occasional indulgence of wasting water and electricity for the sake of laziness during a holiday seems reasonable!

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5. Airline

Nowadays we are always spoilt for choices in terms of airlines. Firstly, we need to decide between a full-fledged airline or budget airline. We went for our national carrier – Singapore Airline (“SQ”). Beside being patriotic (to our share investment portfolio), frankly speaking SQ has not failed me so far in my flight experiences with them. We have no idea how G&G would react to a 4.5 hours of flight time since this was their first flight, but we were very certain that we did not like poor services.

6. Car

To be able to dump in two 28 inches luggages, one big diaper bag, one big survival bag (I will explain the use of this survival bag in the later section), one smallish 12 inches hand-carry luggage and a twin stroller, we need a car with big (and deep) boot.

It is recommended to book and confirm the infant car seats in advance instead of requesting it upon car pick-up to avoid any surprises. If the car rental company does not provide infant car seat, bringing your own could be an option although it may be crumble some to do so. We didn’t have a good experience with the car rental company in Perth. We were given a car that has faulty air-conditioning, and two dirty toddler car seats. Eventually, after two hours of negotiating with the staff and pushing our luggages and babies in and out of the airport, we managed to get an exchange of a car that was able to blow cool air at 20° amidst a 38° outside temperature and a cleaner (meaning, not too dirty) car seats. Still, we didn’t get the infant car seats!

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(II) PREVENTION

1. Vaccination

This is closely linked to the factor on choice of location. It is always recommended to call up your Pediatrician to check on the necessity to vaccinate before the trip. We aren’t advocates of poking our kids unnecessarily, so our choice of location has to fit in to what we believe!

2. Medication

In Singapore, we have this term called “Kiasi”, which is defined in the Wikipedia as “… a Hokkien phrase…, to describe the attitude of being overly afraid or timid… means to take extreme means to avoid risk.” I am a Kiasi mum. We brought all kinds of medication from diarrhoea to fever (low and high grade) to coughing to vomiting to allergy to constipation. We even brought a travel-sized nebuliser! We never regretted the decision to bring the load of “ammunition”.  They did serve us well when G&G fell sick during the trip. Do get ready your Pediatrician’s contact numbers as well!

Depends on the kid’s medical condition, my medication packing list would always include the medication for 1) fever, 2) diarrhoea, 3) runny/blocked nose, 4) allergy, 5) nebuliser medication, 6) nose wash and cleaner/nasal aspirator as well as 7) cooling pads for fever.

And, I brought all the medications up to the plane for a good reason that I had experience of losing my check-in luggage.

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(III) PACKING

1. Packing List

As safety measures, I split the clothing into two check-in luggages, and hand-carry all medications together with two sets of clothes and washcloth for the babies and one top each for me and my husband. Do bring adequate diapers and a pack of wet wipes on board. The comfort toys and favourite titbits for babies were an absolute must. I am a believer of travelling light, but travelling with babies, I just need to be more realistic that travelling light is no longer an option for me.

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2. Ferrying aids

We swear by our baby carriers. Without the baby carriers, the feeling is akin to without your mobile phone with you – high sense of insecurity! The abilities to keep our hands free for luggages, eating and drinking on the move are just great. Sitting in the baby carriers, G&G are like our constant accessories. We won’t mind such cute accessories and at times, they are able to cover up some stains that got spilled accidentally onto our top (“artwork” created by them).

For the trip, we bought a twin stroller that is light. When the babies weren’t sitting in it, it would be conveniently converted into a trolley for our diaper bag and shopping bags!

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(IV) PLAYING with Senses

Babies’ attention span is very short and the best way to distract them from boredom and before any wailing starts, is to play with their developing senses. Beside bringing their comfort toys and teethers, we brought a couple of new toys along and only hand one to them at a time whenever we sensed that their boredom started to kick in. This could be a saviour to survive a long car ride or flight.

Playing with their taste buds is another great way to keep them occupied. Beside munching, finger food is also good for developing their fine motor skills. Some finger food like puffs, biscuits and rice cakes as well as fruit puree, went into the survival bag. We called it “survival bag”, which is filled with toys and food … for our survival of course.stress-free holidays 4

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(V) PLANE RIDE

There is always a string of questions for all first time plane ride with baby, “Can my baby cope with the air pressure on the plane? What if my baby cries while all other passengers are sleeping? …” For breastfeeding mum, “Can I bring frozen breast milk on board? How do I keep the breast milk?”

1. Air pressure during taking off and landing

We were as panicky as any first time parents who bring their little ones on a plane ride. Final outcome was, it wasn’t that bad after all. Babies’ ears tend to get blocked due to air pressure during taking off and landing. It is advisable to feed them with some liquid like milk or water during taking off and landing so that they could clear any ears blockage through the swallowing, and dispel any discomfort. But, not feeding them too early i.e. during taxi. We started the feed of expressed breast milk during taxi, and G finished almost the whole bottle before the plane took off! The air traffic was busy that day and the distance to the runway was pretty far, which we forgot to take into consideration to time the feeding.

2. For breastfeeding mum

Usually, airline allows parents to bring expressed breast milk on board. Of course, it is always good to double-check with the airline before travelling. We chose to declare the bottles of expressed breast milk at the check-in counter, as an added measure that no one should hijack the milk at the boarding gate. I brought a bottle of freshly expressed breast milk and a bottle of frozen one up to the plane, the fresh one for taking off and frozen one for landing. While I did direct latch with one G, the other G went to the nanny daddy. I have requested the air stewardess to keep the frozen bottle in their fridge and being a first-class airline, they obliged.

I started to de-froze and warm up the frozen milk 30 minutes before landing, by putting the bottle of frozen milk in a cup of water to de-froze and subsequently, warm it in a thermal cup filled with hot water.

3. Wailing and Crying on board

Usually, other passengers are more empathetic towards parents with infants on board. Notwithstanding, how empathetic they may be, any continuous crying for more than 10 minutes could be a nuisance noise than pleasant sound. When this happens, a baby carrier will come in handy. We have no wish to build our hand muscles. When our survival bag didn’t help, and hopefully no air turbulence, we just had to dump them into the baby carrier and started our parade along the aisle in the plane.

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(VI) PHOTOGRAPHY

What gives the best memory after any overseas trip? – Photographs and videos. Be it a smart phone with camera or a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR camera, be sure to take photos and videos of the little ones whenever possible. Pictures are also a good way to track the itinerary after the trip! We probably had taken thousands of photos including videos for this trip.

1. Well-rested and well-fed babies

To ensure we get a pair of cooperative babies in most of our photos, we get them well-rested and well-fed. We all know sleepy baby is a cranky baby. Similarly, for a hungry baby.

2. Gears

What photography gears to bring? – This is definitely not a photography trip, please leave all your lens, filters, gadgets at home. Just bring one or two (maximum) lens. One good choice would be a 35mm equivalent f1.4 prime lens, simply because 35mm is comparable to a human eye view angle and it is a versatile lens which can take landscape, and moving closer to the subject it will become a portrait lens. To take an ever-moving baby, we need a fast lens. Being a f1.4 lens, it could pick up their fast movement without a blur image (most of the time, and not in an environment with insufficient light). We brought our tripod which was under-utilised. A light monopod or a selfie pod would be a better option. Many memory cards and a spare battery would ensure that you get to snap every moment. We left our 1 kg DSLR camera in the dry cabinet and brought our light-weight 4/3 mirror-less camera.

Like everyone, we love to load our photos onto Facebook. A fully charged power pack for the smart phone was always in our bag.

Whatever not, most important for any trip are always the companion and of course, having fun! Hope the article helps in making your travel less stressful and more fun!

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In a NutShell

(I) Planning: Type, Season, Location, Accommodation, Airline, Car

(II) Prevention: Vaccination, Medication

(III) Packing: List, Ferrying

(IV) Playing with senses

(V) Plane Ride: Air pressure, Breastfeeding, Crying

(VI) Photography: Well-rested and well-fed babies, Gears

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