Is it crazy to travel internationally in 2020 with a baby?
Are you planning a trip with your family in 2020?
I've traveled overseas dozens of times with my kids since they were newborns. In this time I've been through the planning process and have it down pat.I'm sharing my trip planning checklist with you, to make your travel planning calmer and reduce your stress in the process.
It includes steps from 3 months before (vaccinations, passports, travel dates, flight and accommodation) up until the day you leave including a checklist of what travel documents to tick off before you leave the house.
Is there any point in going on a holiday your baby won't remember?
In a word, Yes!
We traveled to Thailand for a holiday when our daughter was 7 weeks old.
For starters, you may be asking, why would you travel to Thailand with a newborn baby, there's no way she will remember it. Here are the reasons we believe travel with a baby is infinitely valuable and worthwhile.
1. Time for Bonding with your baby
You will have time to bond with your baby away from the hustle and bustle of "normal" life. The time spent together is priceless you can only experience it once and the first year goes by so fast.
2. Creating memories for you!
You will create memories of this trip for yourself even though your child won't remember it when she is older, but your relationship will develop and this will have a lasting effect on you both.
3. Brain synapse development
Being in a new country, especially one that is quite different to your home will stimulate your child's brain development with new sensations in a place with different sights, sounds, and smells from home. Research states that connections between neurons in the brain are developed from new experiences in a baby from the age of 0-3, and especially in the first 12 months.
4. Opportunities for attachment play
Attachment play is vital for bonding with your child, it helps their emotional development and gives them the psychological message "I enjoy being with you, you have my full attention and I am here for you"
When you are on holidays you don’t have the usual “duties” to keep you busy around the house so you are likely to make more time for Attachment play – things like building sandcastles, playing in the pool, exploring the market together, going on a boat ride and watching the shore together. As soon as a baby is old enough to sit up (around 6-10 months usually) they can enjoy sitting on the sand and spending time with you.
5. Increased attention and concentration caused by being outside in nature
Research shows that being outside improves children's attention and concentration levels, as well as reducing stress hormone levels. It even reduces stress and brings on a calming feeling for adults, so this time out in nature if beneficial for the whole family!
6. Enriched environments on holidays enhance brain function and IQ
An "enriched" environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive and sensory interaction (Hannan 2014).
When you're on holidays together as a family you will all play together in the pool, walk through a forest, cave or beach, Enjoying all the sensory stimulation around you. Imagine sitting on the sand together and the sensory stimulation of feeling sand in their fingers and toes.
Enriched environments turn on the genetic expression of key “brain fertilisers” in the frontal lobes, enhancing executive functions such as stress regulation, attention, concentration, good planning and ability to learn, also improving physical and mental health. The brain fertilisers triggered in enriched environments are also associated with higher IQ in children (Gunnell 2005).
So, spend time exploring together in a new space, and you're making your child smarter.The enjoyment you will both get from this experience on a pristine beach in Thailand, or clear blue water on their toes with the squeal of surprise and delight are memories you will always treasure, as well as developing your babies brain synapses.
7. It brings you closer together as a family and creates memories you can all share and reflect on when you get home.
Taking a boat trip around Melacca, doing a family cooking course in Thailand, watching with glee and excitement as an enormous Roti Tissue came to our table in Kuala Lumpur, are all memories we can look back on with pleasure and fondness, increasing our family bond and closeness. There are lots of memories we've created that my daughter from 2 years old has mentioned, that she probably won't remember when she's 20, but for now, it's a really important experience to her.
8. Being outside in a "green" area makes you and your baby happier
A study was conducted of over 20,000 people by MacKerron and Mourato (2013), that showed that people report feeling happy when they are outside in a green environment (such as a park or a forest). When we are on holidays we are much more likely to have time and the inclination to go outside together as a family and enjoy exploring the environment.
9. It teaches your baby to be flexible (which can make your life easier at home!)
Being in different areas to sleep, eat, and play teaches your baby to adapt to its surroundings. As a parent it is great to be able to have some options around where your baby will sleep so you can take them to a friends place or have a play date with older kids and not have to stay home so your baby sleeps in their cot. My baby will sleep in his stroller on the streets of Hoi An Vietnam, in my arms in a Tuk Tuk in Thailand, or of course in his cot at home or in a hotel.
10. It exposes your child to new cultures and this becomes part of their "normal"
I am ashamed to say that my experience until I was in my 20's taught me that being a westerner meant I felt somehow superior to people in developing countries, naively thinking that I was more "worldly" or somehow better educated than them. (read more about this here) . I am very happy that my child have been to multiple countries where people look different, sound different, eat different foods, celebrate different festivals and different religions, but to them this is normal. People are just people and this allows them to develop with a very open-minded outlook.
11. Experience the world through your babies eyes
Being a parent can be hard. But it can also be extremely fun. The experience of seeing your child's first sensation of grass under their feet, holding a flower or a smooth cold river stone will bring you immense enjoyment. Splashing water in the pool and singing songs together will be more fun than you can imagine.
12. Traveling with a baby makes you slow down and have time to appreciate your experiences.
A holiday with a baby (especially a newborn) will be a lot slower and more relaxed than an action-packed bucket list checking holiday you may have had before children. Having to stop for naps, feeds and time to regroup allows you to take it all in.
13. Exercise like walking on holiday is healthy for the whole family
Going on holidays usually involves walking and exploring. Research has found that 20 minutes of aerobic exercise can enhance our mood for up to 12 hours. Of course the physical benefits of exercise are also well known. So put your baby into their stroller and go for a brisk walk (maybe even up a hill!) to enhance their sensory stimulation and get some exercise for yourself!
14. Holidays exercise the PLAY and SEEKING systems of the brain that triggers wellbeing and affects the development of personality.
The brain’s PLAY system is exercised every time you bury your child’s feet in the sand, tickle them on the pool lounge chair, or take them for a shoulder ride. The brain’s SEEKING system is exercised each time you go exploring together: the temple, the beach, a night market in a village. Professor Panksepp discovered these systems which trigger well-being neurochemicals including opioids, oxytocin and dopamine. Panksepp calls them “nature’s gift to us”. These neurochemicals minimise stress and create warm feelings and a lovely sense that all is well in the world. This gives families a chance to emotionally refuel with the anti-stress chemicals activated.
The amazing thing is that these systems are like muscles: the more you use them, the more they become part of your personality. Or, as the neuroscientist Bruce Perry puts it: “Emotional states become personality traits” (Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, Neuroscientist).
So when you take your child on a holiday, you are supporting their urge to explore (SEEKING system) and their capacity to play (PLAY system). This can even affect them into adulthood, with the ability to play with ideas and have well developed problem solving skills.
15. Chance to disconnect from technology
Being outside on holidays gives you a chance to keep your phone away and enjoy your surroundings. It also makes it easy for you to discourage your kids from screen time. If you need to entertain them in a cafe you can bring a hands on learning activity kit rather than turning to screen time.
These reasons and many more are why we have travelled overseas and locally dozens of times with our children, including while both were newborns.
You may be wondering... How did we do it?
The challenges included getting a passport for our daughter, which included getting her birth certificate, passport photo and filling in the required forms.
You'll also want to consider booking accommodation that will be easy and comfortable for you and your baby, check out these tips for all the things to consider when booking accommodation for a baby
It's much easier if you have your hands free and your baby can lie down in a bassinet on the plane, but if it's a busy flight you are not guaranteed access to one.
Once you are on the flight there are many tips you can follow for Surviving the flight with a baby
Of course, the best outcome is that you can get the baby to sleep for as much of the flight as possible. Here are my tips for getting your baby to sleep on the plane.
If you are taking a holiday in Asia with your family you need to ensure you are careful with water, including drinking water and also washing bottles and other dishes with water. How to wash and sterilise bottles for a baby in Asia
Once you've arrived, you will want to make sure you follow these tips for enjoying your holiday with a baby
Looking for inspiration for where to go with your baby? Read about our holiday in Hoi An Vietnam with our 14 week old son and 3 year old daughter.
Comment below, would you take your baby on a holiday? Or do you think we are crazy!? :)