Taking a young child on holiday to a tropical destination can conjure all types of nightmare scenarios for parents. And for good reason; there’s dehydration from the heat, insect bites and possible infections from them, their immune systems are exposed to new strains of bugs and viruses and just the general unsettling in a new environment and new people.
My family are originally from Bangladesh and we do travel back often. I’ve flown to Bangladesh with my son twice so far, the first time when he was a year old and the second when he was 2. I’ve had some really good experiences and awful ones too. The second trip was admittedly much better than the first as I’d learnt lots from experience and also, I think in general my son had started to adjust to the environment.
Like all things, planning and prepping for the trip was key to making sure it was stress free and enjoyable for both me and Chicco. So here are my key tips to having a fun holiday with a young ‘un:
Health & Vaccinations
Before you fly make sure you child is up to date with his vaccinations. If there are any that need to be had for the particular region(s) you are travelling to, find out from your GP what they are and get them done. I would suggest you leave a week or two before you travel to do this as some vaccinations can cause a child to have a mild fever or flu.
Check your child’s ears. Again get this done a couple of weeks before you fly because if your child has an ear infection, you will want this cleared before you travel. Even a mild ear infection can cause pain from the pressure in the plane as it ascends and descends.
If your child is on any kind of regular prescribed medication, check your stock of this. I always like to order extra in case I lose his, or it gets damaged.
Always pack a standard travel first aid kit for all the things that could possibly happen. I also suggest taking mosquito repellent; I used a spray that was specially designed for children. I sprayed this over him mostly in the evenings when mosquitos were more likely to bite, but also when we travelled. Sun block; always use this to protect delicate skin. Insect bite cream or antiseptic cream. Some form of allergy relief is always a good idea to have, even if your child has no allergies – you just never know.
The first time I flew with Chicco he was in nappies, bigtime! Nappies are hard to come by in Bangladesh, and when you do get them, they are ridiculously expensive. I calculated how much I would need for the trip and added ‘just in case extras’. There was way too much for me to carry in my luggage, so I kept some aside for the journey and the first few days, and packed the rest up to be cargoed. By the second trip, Chicco was mostly out of nappies. I knew I would need them for when he is asleep or when we are out and about (so hard to find a clean toilet!) As I was taking considerably less than the first trip, I was able to fit them into my luggage.
For both trips Chicco was already onto cow’s milk. But unless you live on a farm, fresh cow’s milk isn’t easy to find! Powdered milk is available everywhere, but I wasn’t sure if Chicco would like the taste. I decided to take one tub of Aptamil Powdered milk and lots of ready-made Aptamil milk cartons. I used the powdered milk for night feeds and the cartons for when we are out or travelling. For the first trip, the powdered tub and most of the cartons were cargoed with the nappies and was sent straight to where we were staying. This was done a couple of weeks before we flew, so I could be certain it would already be there before we arrived. Most cargo agents will hold stuff until you pick it up, or I had a relative receive it to save on added costs.
Though Chicco isn’t such a fussy eater anymore, I didn’t want the stress that comes with a hungry grouchy child, so I made sure I packed a few things I knew he would like, and things I wasn’t sure I would be able to find easily. (The last thing you want to do as soon as you start your holiday is a big grocery shop!) I took a big box of rice crispies (which I now know are available in Bangladesh), a few cans of Baked Beans, Digestive biscuits, cheese crackers, Pringles.. you get the idea! I had to make sure I had transportable snacks too, for when we are out. So as well as big packets of Pringles, I had a couple of small tubs too, to decant into. I also made sure I took juice cartons as I wasn’t prepared to let Chicco become dehydrated.
Eating out with Chicco wasn’t difficult. I just had to be super careful. This is particularly the case if your child has an allergy. I vetted EVERYTHING he put into his mouth. I know that sounds over cautious, but I wasn’t willing to take any risks with my son’s health. Street food was a definite no-no. We went to a couple of nice restaurants and I always made sure to check the ingredients. Eating at family/ friends home, I always asked what was in the food and made them aware of any food restrictions. Always with a smile though, so as not to offend!
The people in Bangladesh are generally friendly and I’ve always been relaxed and had fun, but there are a few weirdos! The cities and towns are populated and when you’re out you will usually have to deal with beggars and amongst them will be the odd pickpocket. Don’t walk around flashing your cash or expensive electrical items or jewellery. Never carry a backpack! I usually carry a bag across my body with a zip fastening. My purse and phone are nestled amongst things in the bag so they’re not easy to just grab and pull out. Never let your children wander off or out of sight. This isn’t just about potential kidnappers, but in a country where there are so many people with no sense of personal space, it’s easy to lose a child.
Having said all that, Bangladesh is very family friendly and there is a real sense of community. If you go into a shop, your child will usually be offered some form of entertainment or sweets to keep them occupied while you shop. Don’t be surprised, this is normal!
Toys and Activities
I knew that there would be plenty for Chicco to do on holiday, but I wanted to have a few bits of entertainment on hand.
Balloons are always great fun for kids. There are so many games you can play with them, alone, or with other kids. I took a few books that I knew he would like for bedtime, or just when I needed him to sit still. I also took Chiccos Kurio tablet, loaded up with lots of cartoons. I used this mostly for the plane and a few odd occasions when we were at home. The weather in Bangladesh is very hot, so I took a small paddling pool with me. It didn’t cost much as was quite small, but crucially, it was easy to blow up and folded away very small. This was a lifesaver on those very hot days and so much fun for both Chicco and me!
The things I’ve mentioned are just a few tips to help make a holiday easier. Depending on where you are going and your personal circumstances, you may not need them, or may have better suggestions. Please comment below and let me know of any tips you have that may be useful for me, as I intend to travel with Chicco quite a bit.