Sunday, 17 May 2015

Road Trip With Young Children

One of my dearest childhood friend came to visit us from Vancouver last month and one of the many thought-provoking questions she had asked, was this:

"What is it like going on a road trip with your children?"

The answer, my dear Ellie, is this - plan, prepare and pray. 

Proviso: There is no cut and dried rule as far as young persons are concerned. In fact, they add all the variable factors and differentiating circumstances we can think of. This is just a simple account of what works for my family.

1. Plan
We are the best of planners, Allah swt Decides. So, plan we do. 

We look up common free dates, hotel deals, flight schedules, road maps, places of interest for 2 and 5 year-old young persons. 

Rest points, safe playgrounds, clean toilets along PLUS or any highways overseas are noted.

We book and pay for the necessary hotel rooms/park entrance tickets, service the vehicle we are using, fuel up and load up our prepaid toll cards.

If taking flights, we book and pay for the tickets, download and keep the e-tickets into the same information folder (which in itself deserves a separate post). Same goes for train tickets. 

Visa is something we always double-check. Some countries do require at least an e-visa which can be completed online.

The checklist is quite long, as we usually also plan our laundry, dishwasher load and fridge contents to be a neat as possible. Then I do a minor spring clean BEFORE we leave so that we can come home to a clean, inviting home. 

Oh, emptying the trash is a big item on the plan, as are turning off most power sockets and unplugging electrical and electronic devices.

We even reload the supply of fresh diapers for Bean so that we will not have to face diapers shortage crisis upon return.

(Of course, we use a neatly typed-out checklist like most parents).

2. Prepare
We pack, prepare for the journey and just go ahead with the plan without stressing over the exact minutes and seconds. 

A holiday is a holiday. It starts from the minute we wake up for the day, not upon arrival at holiday destination. All of the journey is part of the holiday so we try to enjoy it as much as possible.

The obvious preparation for young travellers like ours include handy towels, wet wipes, spare change of clothes and shoes for everyone, "never-ending" supply of snacks and drinks, CD and book combo for sing-along, a fairy tale or two to read and watch. An iPad can do all that but we are parents who try to minimise their screen-time.

Never underestimate the usefulness of a waste-bag to contain all the trash young persons are capable of producing within 350km, or more. 

3. Pray
Nothing beats prayers, in our lives that is. Journey mercies, safety, deliverance from hardship and mishaps. The whole long-winded prayers and Amin for me, said in the heart/thought out in the brain. 

The Little Girl had vocally "led" some of those prayers and they were concise too. "Bismillah, we go to Penang happily. Amin!" Love those moments.

Our reality:

Over the years, we gained more experience and road trips have become less tedious. Less overwhelming. Less daunting. More joy. More simplicity. Travel lighter. 

We have since added Bean to the equation but the golden rules have not changed much. In fact, we have found more efficient and effective ways of traveling, cutting down on anxiety and add more beautiful memories into our lives as a young and growing family.

We are not perfect, but we are happy. Syukur alhamdulillah

Here's to more future road trips (I promise it gets easier as the little ones grow up!). I sincerely hope this answers your question, Ellie!

P/S: Long haul flights are different  experiences depending on the airline and route we choose. So far, we have only practised with MAS to Sydney, Australia and Emirates to Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom on multiple times with equally good outcome. 

The worst had to be British Airways UK local flights because The Little Girl had a meltdown during the 5pm flight; she was simply overwhelmed and tired. It is the time of the day I would avoid travelling if all plans were up to me.

We could have had a better experience with British Airways and MAS in the London return sector. That was probably a one-off incident.

InshaAllah, Vancouver, Canada is in our medium term plans. If it is His Will, it will happen according to His Time! We look forward to it, nonetheless. 


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