Adam and I, we booked flights to Myanmar. Issy’s first birthday crept up on us, or not so much crept but stampeded toward us like a toddler you’ve told to be quiet! As we tidied up from the aftermath of Issy’s first birthday party, we realised that although we had always said we would travel with kids, we had yet to board an international flight.
“It seemed easy enough. How hard could it be?”
It was time to live the statements we had made pre-children and take the plunge. We had seen it done on previous trips, the smiling families with kids asleep in their backpacks as they hiked up Sigirya Rock in Sri Lanka. They looked happy, it seemed easy enough. How hard could it be?
So there we were, huddled around our laptop, whilst our now 1 year old slept unknowingly in her cot, deciding on the details of her, and our family’s first international trip. We’d never been big on the planning stages of trips, we tend to book things on the hop, we stick to the bigger picture…flights, passports, visas and fill in the gaps as we get to them. It is not uncommon for us to be booking internal flights the day before, or accommodation after we’ve arrived.
“Our criteria… was a bit vague”
Our criteria for our first trip, like us, was a bit vague and ad hoc:
- Destination: interesting, we hadn’t been, wouldn’t break the budget, adventurous.
- Dates: dictated by school holidays (Adam’s job) and, as is standard in country Victoria, football and netball
- Flights: cheap, overnight with late departure to allow time to play said football/netball matches and drive the 3.5 hours to the airport.
Myanmar- ticked all the boxes!
It is important to note, that at this stage we hadn’t traveled internationally with kids previously. Hence it very vague, indulgent criteria. We did not consider things we would now consider integral such as: climate, time zones, itineraries (see our post on the 3 non-negotiables for travelling families). You can learn from our lived experience and skip on some of the not so favourable parts of our first trip.
So with flights to Myanmar booked for the next school holidays we used the 2.5 months to arrange the essentials.
- Passports: For Issy, this required passport worthy portrait photos from our local camera house, filling out at least 3 forms, expediting processing time.
- Visas: conveniently purchased online
- The research...
Where was Myanmar? What was there to do/see/explore there? And most importantly for us: how should we do it with a toddler?
Do we really need to take the “stuff” (all the paraphernalia that goes with having children)?
- High chair: No
- Portacot: Yes (Phil and Teds Traveller)
- Pram: not suitable
- Stroller: not suitable
- Carrier: Yes (Ergo360)
- Hiking carrier: Potentially (Kelty Carrier)
- Nappies: Yes- we couldn’t find reliable information that there would be nappies (of course there were!)
- Formula: Yes. We kept Issy on formula (she was 15 months at the time of our trip). This would allow for a reliable source of nutrition and milk for her during our trip.
With the necessities sorted it was time to think about what our itinerary might look like.
We had 10 days, with a toddler and crossing 4 time zones. We needed to consider what would be achievable. 10 days. 3 destinations seemed doable- from the comfort of our own home, regular routine and minus the jet lag! So – Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake it was. (FUTURE POST: This is how our itinerary played out)
As our departure date loomed closer our confidence and bravado about travelling with kids remained mostly in tact. We had our passports, flights, insurance and firsts nights accomodation booked, and had arranged to earn a little extra with the “side hustle” of renting our home on Airbnb whilst we were away. We were kicking goals (literally) up until the day we left….
As stated earlier, logistics are not always our strongest point, and we happened to book our flights to depart at midnight the day our football and netball club played in Nhill- the furthest location from Tullamarine Airport in our draw. Adam ran off the field, through the shower and into the car for the first leg of our journey to Myanmar. Issy had seemed a little bit out of sorts throughout the day with a regulation runny nose from daycare and we assumed nothing to serious.
“Issy had seemed…out of sorts…nothing to serious.”
Our plan was to feed Issy her dinner in the car and that she would fall asleep as we travelled the 450km to the airport calmly acknowledging our superior planning, parenting and travel prowess…. the reality, as the ks slowly ticked over, our little girl seemed to be deteriorating, her cheeks were flushed, she was cranky and the biggest tell tale sign, not hungry. We hoped it was a simple virus and gave her some panadol and watched (as she fitfully slept) and waited and hoped. All sense of being invincible had waned, we felt powerless to help her as we continued our way to the long term car park.
“All sense of being invincible had waned”
Our concern eased and excitement crept back in as we unpacked our car and Issy relaxed back to sleep in the carrier. We made it through customs, with my first experience of the frustration of having to wake my sleeping, slightly unwell child to remove the carrier. I’m sure you know the feeling- you just want to keep them comfortable and asleep- especially at 10pm! Before long we were settled in and on the runway. Our concern for Issy had returned as she seemed to be running a temperature – we comforted ourselves by knowing that we would be doing the same if she was unwell at home – pain relief and cuddles, and continued to trust that this was just a virus.
“So there we were…not even at our layover, with an unwell toddler with no change of clothes!”
By halfway through our first flight to Kuala Lumpur it was apparent that Issy did indeed have a virus…likely gastro. Of course we had packed as lightly as possible. One day bag doubling as a nappy bag, the Kelty carrier and another MacPack 70L backpack. As is standard protocol at our home, I complete phase one of packing of which Adam then culls by half stating that most of it’s unnecessary. So our day bag happened to contain a meager 2 changes of clothes for Issy, both of which failed to escape episodes of diarrhoea in the first 8 hr flight. Luckily (or not so luckily) Issy had a temperature and only wanted to be in a singlet. So there we were…not even at our layover, with an unwell toddler with no change of clothes! What were we thinking? We couldn’t get to KL quick enough.
We had a long layover, found a parents room with a cot and two couches, made a makeshift sheet for Issy and gave her a proper sleep, washed and dried her clothes in the bathroom, lots of cuddles and reset for the rest of our trip. By the time we boarded our next short flight, the worst of the virus was over and we were again feeling hopeful that our first foray in international travel with a toddler would be a success.
Despite the rough start… we arrived unscathed and in good (yet fatigued) spirits to Yangon. We were met by a friendly driver we arranged in advance with our guesthouse (we didn’t fancy negotiating public transport with a toddler after an international flight) and were soon settling ourselves in, on the 8th floor of our guesthouse, for a wonderful 10 day adventure.
Of course, on reflection, it helped that we were able stay positive and remind ourselves that although Issy was not in perfect health, we would have been dealing with the same thing at home…we had just changed the scenery around it!
Has anyone else had a horror flight with their little ones? How did you manage it? Was your trip still a success?