Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

How to travel across the world with a child in tow

Six continents and 41 countries later, AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir have learned a lot about travelling with children

AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir with son Aarav on a rickshaw ride in Tokyo. Courtesy 2idiotstravel.com
AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir with son Aarav on a rickshaw ride in Tokyo. Courtesy 2idiotstravel.com

A few years ago, AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir decided that the time was right to stop working their way up the corporate ladder – and that they were going take some time out to see the world instead. Having a four-month-old son wasn’t a deterrent for the pair, even if many of their friends called them “a couple of idiots” when they heard their plans.

Ratani and Sandhir took that term and made it the hashtag for their travels, so that those friends and family could follow them on their nine-month ­globetrotting adventure. Upon their ­return to the US, they launched The 2 Idiots ­Travel Blog as a place for ­globetrotting families to go for advice. ­Having recently published their first book, How to Travel with Kids (Without Losing Your Mind), the couple share some of their travel wisdom below.

What advice would you give parents gearing up for their first flight with a baby?

Carry the essentials, book bulkhead seats and give yourself enough time at the airport. It’s going to be different, it’s going to take longer but it will get easier the more you do it. The most important advice is to make sure babies or toddlers don’t have a stuffy nose that can cause ears to hurt.

How do you deal with mid-flight tantrums?

Your child might be tired or hungry. Stay calm, don’t worry about others, just focus on your child, try to distract them and, if all else fails and they are old enough, rescue the situation with emergency chocolate or devices.

The family pose in front of Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas. Courtesy https://www.2idiotstravel.com
AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir and three-year-old son Aarav pose in front of Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas. Courtesy 2idiotstravel.com

What about combating jet lag?

Try to adjust your child’s sleep to fit sleeping times for your upcoming ­destination a few days in advance, don’t plan any activities early on the first day of your holiday and be ready to roll with the punches if their sleep is off schedule. It might take a couple of days to adjust from jet lag at a new ­destination, but that’s OK.

What’s the one thing you wouldn’t travel without now, that you never thought about before you were parents?

Our travel stroller. We never realised how valuable a stroller could be. From transporting your child from point A to point B, as a place for them to sleep on walking tours, and as storage to carry their snacks and toys.

What do you think about the trend of handing out apology goodie bags to other passengers on a flight?

It’s completely unnecessary. How many times have you been on a flight and adults behaved badly? Adults should know better; kids behave badly when they are scared or in pain because they cannot express themselves any other way. Let’s all stop apologising for bringing children in to public spaces as if it’s a liability on the world.

You’ve created a parenting philosophy called Be Flexible. What’s it all about?

It requires finesse to learn how to incorporate travel into your daily life with a child. For us, it wasn’t smooth sailing the minute we stepped out the door. We dealt with cancellations, temper tantrums, late nights, early mornings, long waits, bad tours – plenty of hiccups. But we also learnt from every situation and, the more we travelled, the easier it became. We used this knowledge to develop our philosophy.

It stands for: Focus – focus on your child, not others; Live – live your life and don’t wait for the perfect time to travel, do it now; Empathise – empathise with each other, with your children and with other families; Xperience – experience new things and build amazing memories; Improvise – improvise and go with the flow; Be prepared – prepare mentally and have a plan for when things go wrong; Learn – understand you won’t have a perfect trip, but you will learn as you go along; Embrace technology – use technology to make your travels easier.

Do you think it’s important people continue to travel when they have children?

If you love to travel, why wouldn’t you want to experience that with your children? Seeing the things you love and experience during travel through your children’s eyes is amazing and these are memories for life, even the tantrums. Our travel memories with Aarav [their now three-year-old son] are stronger than when we travelled as a couple. We still reminisce about the time he said “elephant” for the first time on a safari in Botswana, when he was swimming with turtles in the Galapagos Islands or him pooping in the middle of a walking tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

More information is available from www.2idiotstravel.com

Updated: August 13, 2019 08:10 PM

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