As a rather naïve first time mother (I had even forgotten to pack clothes for my new born son so we could leave the hospital after the birth…) I was perhaps not the most well equipped person to be taking precious cargo into the unknown. But, as it turned out, the lack of worry and planning worked in my favour as it meant I got to travel to areas that, if I had thought about too much, I probably would have been too nervous to go.
Now, fifteen years on, I have got the preparation and planning thing down to a fine art – it’s just that now, rather than having to think about bottles for the baby, I have to discuss with my teenagers why their devices are staying at home.
Here are a few things I have learned over the years…
You'll probably want to stick pretty close to home for the first few months after your baby's born. Between feedings and diaper changes, a new baby requires almost nonstop attention.
In addition, the risk of a newborn catching something while traveling is quite high as their immune system is not well developed.
Once they hit that 3 month mark though, as long as they are healthy overall, there is nothing stopping you whisking them away to those exotic destinations on your bucket list.
Firstly, make sure your baby has had the relevant vaccinations needed for the destination and, of course, good travel insurance is a must!
I found that carrying your baby in a front or back pack was the easiest way to transport them. Strollers are cumbersome and often difficult to pack down quickly when you want to pop on to buses and in to tuk tuks etc. and having them close to you is also easier when negotiating busy pavements and market places.
The main rule to packing is not to take half the stuff you think you might need as you almost certainly won’t!
Babies really don’t need much apart from food, a clean nappy and sleep. If you are breast feeding then the food part is sorted. If you are bottle feeding then baby formula can be found easily all over the world and usually using NZ milk powder! Nappies are also easily found as are baby wipes, powder and Vaseline. And one thing you can be guaranteed, babies will sleep anywhere when they are really tired so nothing special is needed to help with this aspect of things.
Every child under the age of 16 must have their own passport if they are travelling from NZ. Even new born babies are subject to this requirement and although the form isn’t difficult to fill out, you will want to allow enough time to get the passport photo done.
There are clear guidelines stating that the baby’s eyes must be open and they must be facing the camera with nothing obstructing their face – not so easy to do when newborns spend so much time either sleeping, crying or putting their fists in their mouths! You may well need to make several trips until you get a successful shot, so plan ahead.
Sri Lanka remains one of our favourite destinations to travel as a family. The country features landscapes, nature, beaches, history and culture all within a relatively small area, eliminating the necessity for any long journeys which makes it suitable for even the youngest of families.
Cambodia is renowned for its ancient history, as on display at the amazing Angkor Wat, and notorious for its more recent past under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. It is also gaining recognition for its superb beaches on the south coast. Once again, it is a relatively small country with an excellent public transport system so internal travel is quick, cheap and simple.
Malaysian Borneo - home to amazing wildlife, stunning scenery, indigenous tribes and tranquil islands surrounded by clear seas teeming with life - this is a slice of paradise on earth that really has it all! Although much bigger than either Sri Lanka or Cambodia, internal flights are inexpensive and easy, making it a great destination for those people who want to get a little bit more off the beaten track.
I have found that travelling with children not only changes people’s perspective about us as travellers, but also changes the way we see the place we are visiting. Babies, especially, bridge both language and socio-economic divides and bring a sense of understanding, innocence and acceptance.
So shake off those fears, look forward to having your freedom back and start planning for that overseas adventure when your baby arrives.