If there is anything or any activity that is close to my heart, it would certainly be travelling. Travelling gives a different kind of joy and inspiration to my life. There is just something hopeful and exciting about going to a place that you haven't been in before at all or for so long, creating a rough draft of your itinerary, polishing it, researching some more, anticipating for it up until that moment that you actually do it. The cycle is addicting; I have usually gone with my family, rarely with friends and had never solo and I think I would not be able to stop travelling even if I already have toddlers on my own.
I have seen people who travelled a lot in their twenties up after their wedding days but they stop going out when the little ones come in and more so when their kids become toddlers. Sometimes it even extends up until the kids reach their teens which I totally get because there are things that the parents just got to prioritise more resource-wise. I have also been hearing a lot of talks about the impracticality of travelling with the little ones since they would not be able to enjoy it yet and it will just be a waste of money. Though there is something sensible about it, I think it is a very old perspective that had only been blindly adapted by the present generation from the older generation who have only known about travels from their rich neighbours who can afford it. If impracticality is the concern, I think the idea is not anymore applicable now because of cheaper airfares, more flight routes and more options in the market of easy-to-use baby products. Although more couples are still not open to the idea, there is a minority that just do not want to limit themselves by their toddlers and I am happy to say that for those thinking about travelling with their toddlers, there is already a guide book solely dedicated to this topic now available in the market!
Last April 8, I was invited by Gen Gutierrez - Figueroa on the launch of her first book entitled "The Toddler Travels". This book rounds up the hacks, trials-and-errors, shortcuts, unsolicited advice and realizations captured from her adventures abroad with her toddler into an overall guide that will help those couples who are actually thinking of travelling with their little ones. It actually acquaints you on how you can go through the preparation stage seamlessly and on the things that you need to keep in mind on the actual day of the trip, the do's when you get to your destination and how you can make this experience with your family an unforgettable one.
The launch was held in The Forum in Fully Booked BGC. It revolved around the theme of flying. The registration tickets was in the form of a boarding pass. The chairs were set up in two sides of the room creating a common aisle in the middle just like that of an airplane. There was also this cute, little girl who served us on the plane stewardess-style with a cute scarf around her neck who at first was very shy to do it but eventually got the hang of it. After munching on the snacks provided and mingling with the other participants, Gen then took the center stage, microphone in tow and began to talk passionately about her book, why she got around starting it and what can the readers expect from it. As Gen focused on the Q&A part of the event, the attendees, especially the mommy bloggers, asked a lot of practical questions about travelling with their toddlers. I'll share with you some of her thoughts.
On the stroller she is using
Aprica is the lightest stroller that she can find here in Manila. It actually weighs only 3 kilos, it is Japan-made and it is very sturdy in any kind of terrain.
On keeping the kids busy and comfortable during a flight
There are a lot of ways to do this, she said. What she usually recommends is to bring a comfort blanket or stuffed toy, some crayons and play-doh just in case the kids need to stay busy and comfortable during a flight. In Gen's case, she brings and gives small books and toys to her kid. She also brings milk or snacks so that the act of swallowing eliminates the pressure build-up in her kid's ears. Also, she likes to keep her child in the window seat so she can be entertained by the wonderful views outside.
On countries that are toddler-friendly
Gen says that parents should take baby steps. Maybe have a test drive and go on a road trip first. If that's a success, parents can then transition to taking local flights, then short-haul flights and finally long-haul ones. For short-haul flights, Singapore and Hong Kong are her most recommended. Singapore is very kid-friendly as can be seen from their airports. She also loves Tokyo which they frequent a lot.
On medicating your kids
Gen is against it primarily because there are other things that you can do to have your kid behave without the need for any medication. She said that what she usually does to assure that her kids are well-behaved during the flight is to let them play and run and exhaust themselves while they wait to board the aircraft. Also, it would greatly help to be creative in distracting and entertaining them. You have to also keep in mind that flight attendants are your best friends.
On practical tips about travel
Be there in the airport early. Do online check-in even if you know that you will be arriving early. It is better if you arrive at your destination during daytime as you could navigate the streets easier than during the night. Gen particularly loves travelling in Japan as their cuisine offers delectable dishes that kids could love. She recommends taking their subway as the Japanese is a respectful bunch but if your hands are full, it would be better to take a cab.
On the shortest and longest flight she and her toddler took
The shortest flight that they took is going to Hong Kong while the longest ones are via London and Northern Italy. The ideal duration that you should plan for when you are to go out of town or out of the country is 3 full days so that you could properly enjoy the place and not just rush through things.
That's a whole lot of tips from Gen during the book launch! Should you want to read more of those practical tips that she had written or give the book as gift to your mommy/daddy friends who have been wanting and contemplating to travel with their toddlers but have got no idea where to start, you will be able to buy the book at select Fully Booked, National Bookstore and Power books branches in Manila. The book retails at Php 395.00 only.