Our 9-day trip passed by like a blur. Sorry for lack of a more creative comparison. (My mind's a blur. Haha.) Can I just say how much Hugo enjoyed our trip to Korea. Judging by how many pictures he had where he seemed truly happy, then I can safely say he was happy 70% of the time (the other 30% he spent sleeping).
Traveling with a toddler is not as tough as I imagined. I'd like to think I mentally prepared myself for it; I had to run through the whole process of departure and arrival just to anticipate what Hugo might need. And because I now consider myself an experienced mom-traveler (one experience makes one 'experienced'), let me impart some of my new found knowledge to all of you (meaning you, Janine).
1. Nasal decongestant for a traveling baby works. Haha. Apparently, nasal decongestant helps relieve the pressure on tiny ears and gets babies to sleep easier, too.Clear it with your pedia and do it quick. I gave Hugo his Disudrin dosage 1 hour before the flight and he was comfortable throughout the trip. He fell asleep as soon as the plan taxied the runway. I didn't need to make him drink milk on take-off or landing, too (although I wanted to give him that, so he'd be forced to swallow). Success!
2.A lightweight stroller is very important. Our Inglesina Swift lasted us many, many kilometers, inclines, stairs and elevators. When traveling, check out the city's subway system first, if you plan to travel by mass transit as some old train lines might not actually accommodate strollers. The subway system of Seoul was not too stroller friendly and we had to carry the whole stroller up and down the stairs all the time. If your baby is small enough, just use a carrier or sling.
3. If you come from the tropics (like us) and will go somewhere with a colder climate, your baby should be well-bundled up. This means, his head, neck and ears should be covered by a hat/ hood/buff and his feet and legs should be fully protected from the cold. In our case, the temperature dropped to as low as 8 Celcius (without the wind chill) and we had to wrap Hugo with a fleece blanket to add more warmth. Using a weather shield for the stroller may also help in keeping out the wind and some of the cold.
4. A baby's toys matter a lot. I was lucky that I did not have to bring his favorite playthings to Seoul as Hugo's dad bought some stacking cups and balls before we even got there. I just took with me one toy car, his crayons, one book and one stuffed animal. We taped the free city maps on the floor too, so the little one can spend his time writing on it.
5. I learned early to travel as lightly as possible and to make bags do double duty. I packed everything (toys, clothes, food, bottles, etc.) into one big suitcase. My own handbag doubled as a baby bag. The first day we went out, I had Hugo's big backpack and my own big bag.Never again. The next day, I left half of my things at the hotel, and used that other half of the bag for Hugo's food supply. The stroller's storage pocket can accommodate his nappies and wipes, and even his sippy cup. :)
6. I am happy to report that Hugo's eating habits were not affected by our trip. Hehe. He liked Korean rice so much, probably because it was stickier than our white rice here and it allowed him to use a fork (tinitinidor) to bring it to his mouth. In fact, he ate more solids there than he did here. The tip here is: make sure you know where to get familiar food for the little one.
7. On departure and arrival, dress your baby comfortably. I had Hugo wear layers that I stripped off and added on depending on the temperature. I also made him wear shoes that I can afford to lose in he decides to kick it off somewhere between gate 117 and the immigration area.
8. When eating out, make sure the little one is preoccupied enough not to ruin the meal for you. For every restaurant we went to, I made sure Hugo would have his own spoon, fork and fingerfood which he can spoon to his mouth easily. This keeps him busy during OUR meals.
9.Upon check-in and the ground crew asks your preferred seat, ask one that will have the most legroom (front middle aisle seats). Or, have the ground crew choose the best seat for you. When we checked-in, the ground crew offered to block-off the seat next to us, to give Hugo and myself more room. On our return trip, I asked the same thing from the airline and they gave us the whole row! :)
10. Take your time. Traveling is not about seeing sites; it's about being there and remembering how that feels like. I kept this in mind as soon as we arrived: our gate was at the other end of huge Incheon airport and Hugo and I had to walk all the way to the arrival gate without our stroller. Since I was holding our two hand carried bags, I really had to let Hugo walk the whole stretch of the airport, until the we got his stroller at the baggage claim area. This took us around an hour but it was a stress-free one hour.
Lastly, be prepared to change, change, change your schedule. The husband and I planned to watch Seoul Philharmonic and arranged for friends to watch Hugo. However, we left the hotel only after Hugo was engrossed with his toys enough not to notice our absence (he noticed after half an hour). This made all the difference as we were late for the concert (which did not have any intermission) and were not able to get in.
So there. I got over the fear of traveling alone with a baby. I am sure I want to do this again, especially since Hugo seemed closer to me after that trip. The stress and body pain were truly worth it.