Lily and I head out to Yangon tomorrow! I’m taking a break from packing and thought I’d do a post on my trip prep process.
Step 1: decide where to go and book tickets.
This is obviously a very important step. My best tip for trip planning, especially when traveling somewhere outside of, say, Western Europe or major cities in the US, is look at the Wikipedia page for the airport you are flying out of. Under “Airlines and destinations,” you will see a full list of all of the airlines that fly out of the airport, and where they fly directly. I’ve found it’s almost always up to date and accurate. Airlines often update the wiki pages themselves to promote a new route. An example, the Addis airport wiki. Ethiopian Airways flies from Brazzaville almost everyday, so the next thing I do is look at that wiki page, and see what my next options are. Ethiopian is actually a great airline in many ways–they have newer planes, they fly all over the world, and they are flexible with their booking policies. Also, if you stay overnight in Addis to catch a connection on Ethiopian, they will pay for your hotel.
For the book tickets part, I use Google Flights all the time. It’s very comprehensive and often has good prices. I will also search the travel pages like Expedia and Opodo. I usually end up booking through the airline’s website.
Step 2: pack.
Packing with a baby or toddler isn’t fun. There are all kinds of things to remember like milk/special food, snacks, diapers, wipes, etc etc. Now that my kid is four, life is easier! I still always pack an extra change of clothes for both of us. Spills and accidents happen, and I’d rather not have to sit on an airplane for many hours in wet or smelly clothes. I also bring a layer for a cold airplane, including scarf. I also still pack snacks. Lily gets “hangry,” especially in the afternoon and evening, and it’s best to have something for her (or even me, when I am hangry) to avoid a meltdown.
I also load up her iPad, which she only gets to play with when we travel, with new shows and new games. The Toca series of kid’s games are always a hit. There are also a few Peppa Pig apps that are well-made and engaging. We recently discovered the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar app, which is beautiful and keeps Lily occupied for awhile! I also recommend Marco Polo Ocean, Octonauts app, Endless ABC and Endless 123, and the Daniel Tiger apps. For shows, she’s obsessed with My Little Pony right now (not my favorite show….), but I also loaded up on Puffin Rock (Netflix show which you can download via the Netflix app, and my personal favorite), Daniel Tiger, Wild Kratts (also Netflix, somewhat educational), Paw Patrol (she’ll never tire of that crew), Luna Petunia (also Netflix), and Shimmer and Shine (another unfavorite of mine). Be careful with apps–so many of them these days require an internet connection to function properly! I test them out before we leave to make sure they work without internet.
Of course, for long trips, I always bring an external charger. They are very powerful these days, able to charge an iPad and a cell phone a few times before running out of juice. You can buy them at the airport–they even come fully charged in the box! The airports will also have plug adaptors, just make sure you don’t plug an American 110 volt electronic into a 220 volt outlet. (Rest in peace my beloved food processor.)
Step 3: GO!
Don’t forget your passports (and WHO cards if needed!) and visas (Myanmar, for example, allows you to get a visa online, and you print it out and bring it with you. Congo, on the other hand, requires you apply for a visa in advance via the embassy). I always bring a printout of our itinerary, just in case. I also bring some cash in a currency that makes sense–usually US dollars, but also Euro. (Ugh the US dollar is so weak right now! Awful for us Americans traveling overseas!) Always remember that if the airline screwed up while you are traveling, they will likely help you out with food at the airport or even a hotel (and of course rebooking if needed), you just have to ask. I usually prepare for losing luggage or having luggage delayed, so I bring some essentials in the carry on (clothes, contact lenses). But besides the essentials of a passport and method of payment, chances are good you can buy whatever you need at your destination.
Even if the worst happens, and you lose your bags and are rerouted half way around the world, your trip is an adventure. Life’s too short to not travel. My parents took me and my sister all over the world at a very young age, and she and I haven’t stopped traveling since. You’re doing a wonderful thing for your children by taking them to new countries. It’s really not difficult to do, I promise!
Our route tomorrow, by the way: Brazzaville to Pointe Noire to Addis to Bangkok to Yangon. Bon voyage!