It’s nice to travel. In fact, it’s one of my goals in life to be able to go on holiday at least once a quarter or every two months, depending on what mood I’m in. I want to be able to just set off when I feel like it and go anywhere of my choice. One day, one day… However, travelling with 3 children: one toddler and two twins (as people will say), y’all ain’t ready for this. We had planned this trip even before the boys were born and as a family, we were so looking forward to it. We were counting down the days and as the time drew nearer, I started getting anxious about the whole trip. How to pack, what to and not to pack, how will they eat, time difference, jet lag, going through different airports, how they will do on the flight and many more questions. We had traveled with my daughter when she was 7 months and it was much simpler with her, I guess because it was just one baby. However, with three, it is a different ball game altogether. I have put together a few tips and tricks to ease the stress of travelling with children.
- Make sure you invest in a stroller and car seat. In the abroad, laws are stricter than in our Ghana. Initially, my husband and I had decided to buy the double stroller on our trip but when we thought about how we were going to go through the airports with all three children, we decided to get one here. And all ye faithful Babybliss came to our rescue. We could also foresee our daughter doing ‘carry me, carry me,’ so we decided to order a regular toddler stroller there because hers here was too bulky to carry along. Imagine us carrying two car seats, one double stroller and a toddler stroller, plus suitcases. Imagine the time it took to pack all this in the car and offload them all when we arrived at our destination. And if we had more than 3 places to go to that day, hmmm. Where my sugar daddies at? I’m still looking for a sponsor. I left that task to my husband. I can’t do it all (flips hair). I always preferred to push the stroller to avoid having to carry bags. The double stroller also drew a lot of attention to us. Everyone was so awed to see twins, very fine ones at that, if I should say so myself. Heeeey! However, please be prepared to be patted down and screened at immigration. My husband was thoroughly searched at JFK because of these strollers and car seats. We also decided not to check in the strollers and car seats all the way to our final destination so we could easily move around at the airports. However, having to go through immigration with all the screening and patting down and also waiting for them at the gate when we landed, led us to check them all in on our way back to Ghana. This was when the baby carriers came in handy.
- Get yourself a baby carrier. Make sure the baby is used to it before your travel. With my daughter, we booked the bassinet on the flight for her to use. On our way, she was able to fit in it, but upon our return, she had outgrown it and I had to carry her all through the flight. Thankfully, this time around, my daughter had her own seat, however, we were unfortunate not to have the bassinet and so we had to carry the boys in our arms. Luckily, I was in the front row seats in Zongo with MJ and Lady Jay, while my husband was behind us with PJ. Before takeoff, we thought all five of us could sit together on the same row, so we convinced the man sitting by us to swap seats with my husband. We were happy that the transaction was a success, however, that happiness was short lived. One of the flight attendants drew her colleague’s attention to us all sitting together, and they immediately instructed my husband to switch back to his original seat. Why? Apparently, there are only four air masks for the front row, and we are five, so it wasn’t safe. Bummer! Who knew this? Anywho, we had only used our baby carrier once for the boys and weirdly enough, we couldn’t figure out how to strap it properly. I managed to fix mine a bit, which helped me carry MJ on the plane so he could sleep well. Eventually, we were able to figure it out.
- At least two changes of clothes, cardigans, sweaters or long sleeve tops because it does get cold and those blankets they provide on the flight don’t do jack. I would advise at least two cloth bibs for milk and plastic bibs for food. It is much easier to clean, and you don’t have to soak and soak to get stains out, unlike the cloth bibs. Diapers to last for at least a full day. These airlines can play a fast one on you and delay the flights, so you must be prepared.
- If your toddler is already potty trained or not, make sure to wear them a diaper. My daughter is already potty trained but still wears a diaper at night. Please, those of you who have crossed this stage, how did you do it? To avoid numerous bathroom breaks, I chose to wear her a diaper and gave her the permission to do number 1 and 2 in it. Any time we were out though, I secretly wished she wasn’t potty trained. The annoying thing she would do is, she would want to pee at the oddest times, usually just when we were about to leave the mall, restaurant or anywhere! There were times we had literally just come out of the bathroom and madam will say ‘mummy, I want to weewee’,Gosh! I used to get so agitated. I couldn’t shout because I was in the land of freedom and justice where children have rights and child abuse can be seen differently from Ghana. Somebody will now call Child Services on me. I didn’t boga to be jailed. Mba!
- For those of us with babies on solids, you can freeze their food and use icepacks in a cooler bag to keep them frozen on the flight. I wish I knew that I could do this, especially when we were staying with family. My cousin did that and it helped her a lot with her daughter. Next time, I shall be wiser.
- If you’re packing premade baby food, make sure they get used to it days before your travel. Big mistake I made was not giving the boys the Gerber foods before we left. Their first time trying it was on the flight and I can tell you for free that it didn’t really go down well with them. They weren’t used to it and of course, it wasn’t my sweat, blood and tears that was used to prepare it and so it didn’t taste the same. Going through immigration with all the food I was carrying too had its challenges. I had to open their food bag every time for it to be screened for narcotics or any other illegal substances. The annoying this too was, after I had painstakingly arranged the bag neatly, these TSA officials will just empty everything out and not remember where what was. So not cool! Thankfully, I had groceries pre ordered for me so once we arrived, I made their food and they were back on track.
- Always have water with you – hot, cold, lukewarm, all weather water. I can’t stress on this enough. Here I was at JFK, after going through a very stressful ordeal through immigration, which eventually made us miss our connecting flight, running across the airport twice, looking for water. I got to a food vendor and realized that the lady at the counter could only give me hot boiling water and I needed room temperature water to mix their milk. Me too ah, I didn’t have money on me. Come and see the boys screaming, madam refusing to stay with my husband and me looking like a train and ship wreck survivor. Thankfully, another family offered me bottled water, but as my village people would have it, the milk powder decided to pour on the trolley. I just removed my eye and went on about my business. On the flight as well, the flight attendants weren’t as friendly as they are supposed to be. Ok, let me be specific, Delta Airlines. It was as if they were looking down on us. Having to ask them for water was as if I was extracting their tooth. I quickly bought a Contigo bottle to keep their hot water when we arrived. Thankfully, they were on sale and so I was able to afford it. That thing ain’t cheap. I also always had at least two bottles of water with me everywhere we went. You can’t fool me twice! Once bitten, twice shy.
- Make sure they eat before you step out of the house. Bruh! This always used to delay our going out and pretty much dictated everyone’s schedule. It wasn’t amusing, to say the least.We tried as much as possible to have them eat breakfast and lunch at home before heading out. Usually, they would have their afternoon nap while we were out and snack on Heinz biscuits and Gerber yogurt melts or stars. Dinner was usually Gerber yogurt which was much easier. Woe betides you if you don’t get home in time for their next meal. You go smell pepper. One time, we had stayed out a bit longer than usual and had to rush home quickly for the boys to have their dinner. Chai, I smelt pepper. Imagine sleepy and hungry twin boys, screaming their lungs out, refusing to eat, not being able to sleep and a tired and sleep-deprived mother trying to calm them down and feed them. I had them strapped in their car seats, rocking them with one leg and feeding them at the same time. Sometimes I don’t know how I do it, honestly. When I checked my blood pressure the next day, I was almost certain that I needed to be put on medication for life. God forbid!
Yo! Guys! This thing is a serious something for young boys and girls. We weren’t ready for this. We knew it was going to be a nightmare and were psyched for it, but it is never the same until you experience it. When we arrived, it took the children about a week to adjust to the new time zone. It wasn’t funny, but because we were on holiday, we knew we could rest anytime of the day and so we managed it. When we got back to Ghana, omo, it was hell! They were still on American time and would always sleep after 2 am! We got back on a Friday and I had to resume work on Tuesday and my husband on Monday! It wasn’t a joke! Come and see these children wide awake at midnight, playing and making noise, and here we were, feeling so sleepy! It was so painful! Eventually, by a week and a half, they adjusted back to Ghana man time. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about it, but just know that it shall pass. However, I have heard some people say that to avoid it, it is best not to sleep on the flight. I don’t know how true this is or how I am going to forcibly keep my children awake throughout the flight.
In conclusion, we have agreed as a family that we are not doing this again, until the boys are about 3 years. It wasn’t easy oh. We got back more tired than before and still wishing for another holiday, ALONE! Nope, I ain’t ashamed to declare that I want to be away from my children for some time. All in all, amidst these challenges and lessons learnt, we had a good trip. It was nice to be with family and celebrate my brother in law’s wedding. If we are to go on another family trip and we are not sitting in business class, then I will not go. He who has ears…