Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 10 Things I Learned About Traveling Overseas with a Baby/Toddler. (Part 1)

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we came back from our trip to Colombia.  I couldn’t believe either that it’s been almost 12 years since the last time I was there!  I have really enjoyed re-counting the memories of our trip with friends here that either like to learn about our culture, or are getting ready to go themselves.  And that is what has inspired this posting.  I have had at least two conversations with friends with little ones that are getting ready to travel overseas. 
I learned a lot from our first trip, and I thought it was a good idea to share it here.  I hope some mommies may  find it helpful someday when thinking travel. So here there are the 10 most important things we learned about traveling overseas with 17 month old Garrick..

But first let me introduce you to my town: Santiago de Cali - Colombia..on the left most point of South-America, right next to the Andes. I bet the pictures will keep you entertained as you read along..=)

1.       Realize that there are babies and toddlers over there too.

For some reason people assume that you have to bring everything you normally use for your baby at home when traveling.  They assume that everything overseas will be so different, that their baby won’t have what is needed to survive.  But the truth is that babies in other countries are also babies, no aliens. And families and people in general care for them to raise them healthy and safely, and they actually do grow strong and healthy eating their native food and enjoying the idiosyncrasies of their culture.  I was actually very surprised to see the playgrounds available in restaurants for children over there. They were far from being as closely monitored as the playgrounds here.  The issue of “liability” in the U.S makes this impossible.  Yet in Colombia, they don’t have a higher rate of accidents.  Parents are more relaxed in that area and children are raised to be more resilient, resourceful  and confident when facing danger.
Having fun while waiting for our pizza to be ready!

Mommy, I bet they'll let me get my driver license here!

2.       The four tricks that saved the day during the flights: A few interactive toys, a bottle of milk, tweaking the nap-time & a bit of Benadryl.

Well, we are aware that not all babies are equal. Temperament makes a big difference.  Therefore, some babies are easier to handle than others.  Our son happens to be somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.  We are very fortunate to have developed a routine for Garrick, so he normally takes at least one long nap during the day.  So the first thing we did was to ensure that he didn’t sleep before we got in the plane.  Once there, we let him play with some of his interactive toys.  I know most babies don’t use a bottle by the time they’re 17 months. But we decided to let Garrick splurge with this as we knew that it would be handy for our trip. And it was! We gave him a bottle during the take off to help him with the pressure change, and to also put a smidge of Benadryl in it to help him fall sleep. He played for an extra 20 minutes or so, and then slept for a long while! Benadryl had been approved by our pediatrician before and we had just used it once before and made sure that he didn’t have any abnormal reactions to it. So it worked as a charm, Garrick ended up sleeping at least 60% of the flight time which lasted a little over 4 hours.  And by the way, it’s only been one month after our trip and Garrick has already been weaned from the bottle.  No need to over-worry about that.  He didn’t grow an extra tongue or stopped eating. ;)
"The proof"

Sleeping well helps to enjoy the beauty outdoors! Here at Lago Calima, about 2 hrs from the city..

Garrick fell in love with the trampolin!

3.       Make sure that you train your child  to sleep in different settings and places.

This was a super plus. It allowed us to continue with his routine even though we were at a different place. This training actually started while Garrick was an infant, and it has paid us back in full!  We started letting Garrick sleep in his pack-n-play sometimes.  We also used different rooms, and made it a point to take him with us when visiting friends and teach him to sleep on his pack-n-play while we were visiting.  I have to admit that the only thing I hadn’t trained Garrick to do was to sleep with us in our bed.  Though we respect those families that co-sleep, that option didn’t work for us.  However, I have to admit that having taught Garrick to sleep with me sometimes would have been handy on at least one night over there when the sleeping arrangements didn’t allow us to sleep separately.  Needless to say that was a difficult night.  So I wouldn’t say that you have to co-sleep, but I would suggest teaching your children to fall sleep with you sometimes.  I’m all for establishing consistent routines for our children, but teaching a little bit of flexibility for traveling purposes is really helpful.

Mom, after a good nap, I'm ready to ride around the world!!

Singing Carols at the "Novenas" a type of advent tradition to celebrate Jesus' birth. people gather to do thsi with neighbors and friends for 9 days prior to Christmas day.

getting a ride by his cousin..

4.       Get a medium size, really compact, easy to carry non-umbrella type stroller

I can’t tell you enough how much I love the stroller we took with us.  I remember  being undecided on this subject the very night before our trip.  We have an umbrella stroller too. But we were undecided between that one, and a medium size one that is kind of a step up from the umbrella, yet not a full size stroller.  We were afraid that the airline won’t let us travel with a non-umbrella type stroller. However, Hurray for the moment with decided on the bigger stroller.  They didn’t give us any problem at all. The one we used was the Jeep Cherokee sport stroller.  You don’t have to get this one, but be mindful of some of the advantages of these features:  First having a reclining seat gave us the advantage of letting Garrick take naps on his stroller.  That was a super plus, for those days that we were outdoors, sight-seeing and going back home was impossible. That was awesome. Did I mention that he actually learned this while in Colombia?  He never napped in his stroller before!  Second, the cargo capacity at the bottom and sides was great for carrying his diaper bag, water bottles and his mommy’s bags while being out shopping. =). This is a free standing, super compact stroller, so we could store it anywhere and would fit easily in the back of mostly any car. While riding small taxis, we would just fold it and put at front of the copilot seat.  Sweet!  So no umbrella strollers for us when traveling! =)

Nothing like walking along the river almost every morning..

Rio Pance..at the south of the city..we used to go to splash, eat of its banks and hike along with our family..good memories..


5.       Be prepared for changes on your child’s routine and feeding patterns

I have worked so hard trying to get Garrick to eat consistently healthy and at the right times, but with all the changes of places, people, events, we couldn’t keep it up.  Garrick had a temporary change on this area.  I almost expected it.  I’m not saying that that would happen to every baby, but it was our case.  He would not eat at his usual times and would reject foods that he normally loves at home. What I resorted to do was to make sure that we drank his fortified milk, and water.  I also gave him enough of the few foods he was taking. So he got LOTS of oatmeal, avocados, plantains, tomatoes, yogurt and eggs. I didn’t give up on letting him try a variety of foods all the time as usual, but I confess, with little success.  He was just enjoying the excitement of the new surroundings and family!  I was pleasantly surprised with how much he liked a Colombian fruit called “Guanabana”.  So he got lots of that too.  He went back to his regular eating habits right after coming back home, and he didn’t get sick or lost any weigh.  So no reason to panic about this.
Food was a big theme on our trip..so here we are..at our welcoming meal: Sancocho the Gallina..a super yummy traditional soup!

Some of our staple Christmas foods, from right to left: Natilla, Papaya in Almibar, Hojaldras & Bunuelos..Yum!

Cholados!..Bunches of fruit served in a very interested, super delicious way..

Family breakfast in the country..with "Arepas, scrambled eggs & Hot chocolate" =)

Patacon pisao..This is a dish served on bed of "Plantain" a staple in our culture as well..

The Fruit paradise!

"Mango Viche" & "Chontaduro"..the first in unripe mango served with salt and lemon & the second is a soft nut..both are snack that you can get everywhere overthere..

"Pandebonos" a very popular breakfast treat..We couldn't have enough..Garrick actually loved these ones too!!

I'll be back pretty soon with the rest of the tips! ..

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