I took my baby to Africa. Thats right. We survived a 36 hour journey from Vancouver to Nairobi with two 9 hour flights and an overnight layover in London with our 10 month old daughter! Call me crazy, but it had to be done. Visiting my parents in Kenya, showing my husband and daughter the home and school i grew up in, seeing the beautiful wildlife in Maasai Mara and getting some sunlight at the white sandy beaches in Mombasa was ALL worth it!
However, traveling with a baby is not so easy. Therefore, i’d like to share 3 tips that i hope will help should you decide to travel internationally with your baby. The following advice is just based on my personal experience.
1. Its better to pay more for comfort and convenience than cheap out and suffer the consequences. When booking our flight to Nairobi, we could have opted for the cheaper airfare at $1000 per person with a less reputable airline. However, this consisted of three layovers at three different cities with several hours in between each stop. This didn’t give us any time to rest or freshen up before catching the next 9 hour flight. It’s already hard enough flying 9 hours at a time twice! After careful consideration, we chose to fly with British Airways (a well known brand) for $1700 per person. In exchange this gave us one layover in london and an overnight stay at a great hotel (which is also an additional cost) to rest and freshen up for our next 9 hour flight to Nairobi the next day. Suffice to say, it was worth every penny.
2. Plan ahead. Book ahead. Know what to expect! Going to an unfamiliar territory without proper preparation can be disastrous. Although I grew up in Nairobi, I had left 14 years ago and it was probably not the same Nairobi that I once knew. Hotels, transportation and accommodation were all booked prior to landing in Nairobi. I wanted to be prepared. It was me and my husbands first visit to Africa with a baby. To be honest, I was more terrified than excited for the unknown. I mean… it is Africa. Regardless of the fact that it used to be my home, it is a third world country and for that reason alone i had to be prepared for my baby. The following are essential items that I brought with me on this trip and highly recommend should you ever travel to a third world country.
- Squeezable baby food. Buy enough to last you for your entire trip, factoring your flight duration and layover time
- Sippy cup or water bottle – baby will need to stay hydrated. I used this thing religiously.
- Breastmilk – Whether you breastfeed or pump, giving your baby breastmilk helps fight any germs and sickness she may encounter there. Unfortunately i had to pump since my little one refused to breastfeed and oh my lawd, it was a nightmare trying to access clean water to wash and sterilize her 6 bottles and on top of that lugging around my breast pump everywhere i went. So not sexy.
- Pack and Play – This is a must!! I had the biggest argument with my husband about packing this big thing and shipping it to Kenya. He thought it was ridiculous and an inconvenience but once we got there he was so thankful that I had my way in lugging this giant thing around because you NEED it. At 10 months, this little monkey crawls everywhere! Not only did it help contain her, she was comforted to know that it was her little space -sleeping SO well in it every night. In addition, I was able to put a mosquito net over her playpen everywhere we went (Beware of Malaria! if you are in Africa…)
- Baby Blanket – Babies are attached to their blanky. This is not an option but a requirement.
- Hydrasense Nose Sucker – I forget what the real name is. Anyway this thing is GOLD! During the trip my poor darling caught a mild cold and this nose sucker helped enormously when she was all stuffed up. I do caution not to use it too often though only if she cant eat and breath properly, suck those boogers out!
- Lots of onesies (short and long) – Depending on what country you go to, pack a lot of onesies! For Kenya, the weather was so hot i wish I packed more short sleeve onesies. Dont pack pretty outfits for your kid just for pictures. It is NOT practical. Dont be me. My daughter was so hot, she got very annoyed when I tried to fit her into cute little outfits. She was all about her comfortable cotton onesies which I started running out of and had to hand wash.
- Diapers – Lots and lots of diapers. Yes it takes up space but it was worth it. On our returning flight, the space that took up diapers was replaced with souvenirs!
- Baby sunscreen – You need this stuff. Lather your baby in this because the last thing you want is a sunburn and I didn’t want to chance not finding a good solid sunscreen in that country. Bring a hat too.
There’s a lot more to add to this list but that would take me all day to add so I’ve just listed the essentials above that I found extremely handy.
3. Leave your stroller at home and bring the ERGO baby carrier! If you don’t have an ERGO baby carrier, make sure the one you have is a good sturdy one because you will be carrying your baby EVERYWHERE and you don’t want to end up with a back injury. Lesson learnt – Many countries are not stroller friendly. From London to New York to Nairobi, pushing your stroller around the city is quite inconvenient and challenging. These cities have stairs everywhere, barely any ramps and half working elevators that are scattered in random corners of the buildings. In addition, swarms of people are not very empathetic to your gigantic stroller that hogs the space of three people. Bringing your stroller will be more of an Inconvenience than a convenience. You’ve been warned.
There you have it. After experiencing a journey to the other side of the world with a 10 month old baby, I conclude by saying that traveling with my baby wasn’t such a nightmare. It wasn’t easy but with patience, careful preparation, and a solid partner aka hubby and baby daddy, it was doable and definitely worth it. Dont let fear hold you back from experiencing life.
Happy traveling folks!