Taking the family away over the summer is a South African tradition. Sunburn, whining and insect bites aren’t. You can survive a holiday with little ones in tow.
(This article was first published in Your Baby, Nov/Dec 2013)
Going away for the weekend, or just leaving the house for that matter, can be quite an ordeal when you’re a new mom – particularly of very little ones. And then there’s the family holiday. What do you pack? How do you fit it all in? Will the kids scream from point A to point B, making your trip all about the destination and not about the journey at all? Experiences like these make many parents simply opt to stay home for the holidays. But with the festive season upon us, you may really want to travel to get a much-needed break or visit your family and friends. And it can be done. Here’s how.
Going by plane
Also, if you can time your flight so that it coincides with your child’s sleep time, or manage to keep your child awake until it’s time to depart, then that really is first prize. But we know that that’s not how it always works, which is why you need to make sure that you have a separate bag packed full of goodies and surprises to keep your child entertained for the duration of your flight. Some “new” presents – they don’t have to be expensive – serve as an excellent distraction too. And don’t forget an iPad with some new apps on too.
Going by car
While a car trip is easier in some ways because you can stop along the way to let your little ones stretch their legs and run around a bit, and not just up and down a busy aisle, it’s also tough because babies and toddlers don’t always like to be strapped into their car seats for long periods of time – particularly if you’re travelling at peak holiday time and land up sitting in traffic, adding (sometimes) painful hours onto your travel time. It’s a good idea, then, to look at a map before you venture off and if the trip is going to be 10 hours or more, then may we suggest that you overnight somewhere along the way?
If it's only a five-hour trip, definitely stop for lunch and loo breaks too. Essentially, though, while you can plan your trip to coincide with some sleep time (unless you drive through the night, which may not be the best option for tired parents) your child will be awake in the car and you will need to keep him or her busy with a bunch of games and activities. This really is the one time where the iPad is just brilliant as is an in-car DVD player (borrow one from a friend if they are a bit expensive). If you don’t normally let your children watch TV or play on an iPad, then now’s the time to let them.
Pack it right
The best part about baby and toddler clothes is that they’re small, which means you get to pack lots of them. They get dirty quickly too, so you’ll probably be doing some washing on your holiday anyway. Ideally, though, you should pack two changes of clothes for every day and a pair of pyjamas for every night – or every second night if you’re daring. Remember, the weather is totally unpredictable these days so packing some warm clothes for your summer holiday (especially if you’re going to be out in the early evenings) is vital too.
As far as toys go, of course you’ll be packing your child’s favourite toy or comfort object, but don’t be fooled into thinking you need to take along the whole toy box. There will be so much for your child to explore on holiday that you’ll only need a few favourite toys for downtime – you know which ones those are. The smaller the better, and remember you’ll have your activity bag from the aeroplane or car too.
The nearest hospital
Before you set off, you need to make sure that you know where your nearest hospital is in case your child is in an accident or gets sick and needs to be taken to an ER. Contact the B&B or hotel that you’ll be staying at for this information (or visit en.wikipedia. org/wiki/List_of_hospitals_in_South_ Africa) and save the details on your phone. If you know you’re travelling to somewhere with limited resources, then make sure your first aid kit is packed to the brim.
Your first aid kit
When kids are sick, they need to be treated immediately, and you need to have the right medication on hand to do this – especially if you’re trekking out into the bush where there are no doctors immediately available. According to Cape Town-based paediatrician Dr Paul Sinclair, it’s vital that you pack some sterile saline, “Because you can wash out eyes, noses and wounds with it”. If you’re travelling out to the bush, it’s also important that you back a probiotic as it helps prevent traveller’s diarrhoea.(Even though your kids won’t be drinking the water, they’ll bath in it.)
Similarly, vomiting is also common with travelling kids, so it’s vital that you have something to stop it as “the last thing you want is a vomiting child that’s dehydrated and you’re 400km away from a hospital,” warns Dr Sinclair. He also recommends that you pack a safe anti-emetic (anti-nausea medication) such as Zofran, a wafer that you can ask your doctor to prescribe before you hit the road, in your first aid kit. An antihistamine is also useful because if your child does get stung by a bee, “it’s nice to have a systemic antihistamine that you can treat it with immediately,” he advises.
“Cream-wise, a great one to pack is Quadriderm as it includes a steroid, an antiseptic, an antifungal, and an antibiotic – four treatments in one, hence the name Quadriderm. It’s a kind of a ‘treat-all’ and you can put it on just about anything.” Finally, Dr Sinclair urges parents to pack something for temperature control – kids that come down with high fevers – and pain relief. “Make sure you pack anti-inflammatories such as Ponstan or Nurofen and for babies Empaped suppositories are a must.
“If you have a child that gets sick often, then you might want to take a dry antibiotic with you such as Orelox or Augmentin that you can mix up once you’re there, but that’s really if you’re going into a very remote area.” much of an issue in terms of fitting everything you need into your car – as long as you don’t have three other kids and a dog! However, we all know that extra baggage on a plane costs money, and there’s a limit to how much of it you cantake with you.
Thankfully, companies such as Babylite (www.babylite.co.za) cater specifically for this dilemma, and can rent to you, for the duration of your stay, bottle warmers, camp cots, prams, playpens, high chair, safety gates, baby monitors, and so on – you know the drill of what you need by now.
Other similar companies include The Travelling Baby (www.thetravellingbaby.co.za), for those holidaying in Durban, and Baby Exchange (www.babyexchange.co.za), for anyone planning a trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg or Pretoria. There are also more localised companies such as Knysna Baby Equipment Hire (www.knysnababyequipmenthire.com), which provides baby equipment hire and rental service to Knysna, George, Plettenberg bay, Sedgefield and the wider Garden Route area of South Africa.
Long cotton sleeves and pants are a must if your kids are outside in the early evenings, while mosquito nets, keeping the windows shut, fans, and safe insect repellents are your best bet if you want to keep annoying mozzies away. While there are plenty of child-safe insect repellents, you can also try homemade remedies. Some people swear that eating garlic or bananas repels mozzies; others that consuming Vitamin B1 makes humans smell bad to the pesky insects. Citronella oil is widely available in lamps and candles and is said to decrease the presence of buzzers. It’s always worth trying safe remedies – but not in malaria areas, where you need to take the precautions your doctor advises.
Where are you travelling with your kids this festive season? Share your stories, images and videos by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your story! Should you wish to remain anonymous, please let us know.