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  • 'Despite Our Fear, We Promised Ourselves The Gift of Travel With Our Kids'

    This couple vowed to go on memorable trips with their two daughters after seeing how much they can benefit from it
    by Karen Ayala .
  • Parenting can be a lonely job. What helps is having a community who cheers and listens without judgment. And that's what our "Real Parenting" section is for: a space where parents can share the joys, pain and the mess that is parenthood.
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala

    Before getting married and having kids, my husband Aidz and I used to go on adventures. We loved traveling and everything that came with it – both good and bad. We loved its ability to put us in unplanned situations, despite having an itinerary, because the unexpected moments become the most memorable.

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    After welcoming our firstborn Kali, we had a year-long travel hiatus. The unpredictability became our greatest fear. As a mom, I wanted to control everything baby-related and I knew that when we go out of the country, any form of control goes out the window. What if she poops while we’re walking and we can’t find a decent restroom? How many sets of clothes should we prepare for the duration of the trip? What if she doesn’t eat?

    Traveling with kids is like taking a leap of faith

    To ‘test the waters,’ we traveled locally and to nearby countries first. We visited Palawan, Boracay, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. After these trips, we got braver and went to Hawaii. We thought we’re back to being confident travelers, until we had another baby. We got super scared again! Imagine – double the pagod and double the unpredictability.

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    As much as we wanted to sit it out for another year, we had to attend a wedding in New York with the whole family. Aidz and I took a deep breath, prepared as much as we could, and went despite the fears.

    Soaking up some sun and enjoying the cool breeze with the two girls.
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala
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    We visited New York in Spring so Kali’s asthma became extremely bad. The triggers were there – pollen, cold weather, viral infection – literally everything! The family also had to visit Florida for a few days in between our New York stay so there was an extreme case of change in weather and exhaustion.

    Kamie, then five-months-old, was also teething so she was fuzzy and had low-grade fever multiple times. She only wanted to be carried by me for the whole three weeks and she breastfed almost 24/7.

    Kids can learn from traveling

    While it was an extremely crazy and exhausting trip, we didn’t think that it was wasted. In fact, it made us want to travel more every year. The trip made us realize that kids can be exposed to different forms of entertainment which we initially thought were only fit for adults. Kids are smarter and can understand bigger things more than we think.

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    Even at five-months-old, Kamie also watched and enjoyed The Lion King!
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala

    Looking back, it showed us how much Kali wanted to be an Ate to Kamie, showing courage and a great sense of responsibility – not just for herself, but for her sister as well in every activity they did. As parents, it was also the perfect opportunity for us to put more trust on Kali as she becomes the wonderful big sister she was born to be.

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    Kali loves Broadway so she watched two shows.
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala

    It also made us realize that adults and kids can learn new things together. Best of all, the trip taught us that the most important things don’t even cost a thing. Being together and giving each other undivided attention were enough to build new core memories. Will we travel again despite the challenges? Most definitely!

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    After everything we’ve been through this trip, we intend to rely on these hacks we’ve learned on our succeeding trips:

    Pay the doctor a visit before leaving

    It's always best to ask the pediatrician what medicines you can bring oversees in case anything bad happens. In our case, our kids can only tolerate medicines they’ve taken before. It was important for us to bring all local medicines. For our trip to New York where Kali had a bad case of asthma, we had almost half a suitcase of ‘just in case’ medicines. It’s better to be ready than sorry!

    Traveling with the kids taught Karen and Aidz to look at the world with renewed wonder, making the trip more colorful and enjoyable.
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala

    Introduce the kids to the food

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    The best way to experience a country is through its food. When you’re a mom, you know that the kids’ food will matter greatly when choosing a place where you can eat. There’s nothing more stressful than your kids not eating abroad just because they don’t know the food. Kali once had to only rice for a whole day because she didn’t like anything else. Make sure your kids will eat during the trip by introducing them to the different types of food found in the country you’re visiting before you leave.

    Tell them stories about the places you’ll visit

    Kids can become restless during long hours of traveling, especially because they can’t predict what’s about to happen. One way to turn restlessness to excitement is by telling them stories about the landmarks and places they’ll visit. It didn’t matter to Kali when it took us three straight plane rides to get to Maui because she wanted to see where Moana lives and dinosaur bones in Manhattan. The late night flight didn’t matter as well because when she wakes up, she will be in Disneyland.

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    The trip to New York showed how responsible Kali is as a big sister to Kamie.
    PHOTO BY Karen Ayala

    Whether you tell these stories through photos or videos, it can help kids accept travel schedules and have an end goal in mind.

    Play dress up

    Like many Filipinos, I love visiting cold countries because I can dress up and layer clothes. As much as I enjoy this, it can be difficult when it comes to asking kids to put on more layers to deal with the cold.

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    What seems to work is when we play dress up and wear the outfits while we’re at home. They are more willing to wear the layers of clothes fast when they are familiar with the clothes already. We even dress up their toys to make it more fun.

    Practice the process

    Tedious tasks during travel may cause meltdowns. From our experience, the most tiring and monotonous activities for a child is staying in airports and public establishments. Kids love to act things out so you can do role playing at home to be able to explain to them how things work. We would do everything – from playing pilots and falling in line, to pretending we’re riding an airplane.

    Let them pack their things

    Allow them to decide what they need to bring. Who knows? What we think they need might not come in handy when in another setting. By letting them decide what to pack, we’re also allowing them to process boredom on their own when the need arises.

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    Remember, predictability is key. The more they know about the places they’re visiting and what will happen, the happier they will be during the trip. Prepare well for the journey, control what can be controlled, but do not lose the sense of adventure. Like what we learned, the unexpected moments can become the most memorable.

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