Saturday, November 16, 2013

Traveling China with a Toddler

To end my China adventures series, I will discuss traveling from Florida to China and back with a 14-1/2 month old child. If you missed the other posts of our China trip, check here for the complete series

Overall, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I don't regret taking Daisy with us, and I believe our trip was better because of her participation.

1. The Flight. 

We bought Daisy a lap ticket to save money. It was very uncomfortable, but I don't regret it, because I would rather save hundreds of dollars than be comfortable. 

The flight from Chicago to Beijing was the worst part of our entire trip. Daisy slept most the flight because it was our bodies' night time, but she's a sweaty little sleeper. Zane is sweaty too, so we basically were in a 6'x3' box of sweaty cramped-ness. (And I brought jackets and extra socks thinking we'd be cold. Ha!)


What I learned: 
  • DO fly when it's your child's natural sleep time. That worked for us nicely both flights, because Daisy was tired enough to sleep several hours in a row in a place that's not her bed. 
  • DON'T over-pack. I took WAY too much stuff for us on the plane ride to China. Daisy didn't need or want all the toys I brought in my carry on. I packed more lightly on the way back, and she was find with a couple stacking toys and doodads that she put in and out of a cup. 

  • DO ask for a vacant seat for the kid if you do a lap ticket. We didn't ask on the way to China (cue Chris Farley "I'm so stupid!"). We asked on the way back to the U.S. and, bless those flight attendants, they moved people around for us, so we could have three seats in a row. The difference between Daisy in a seat and Daisy on my lap was heaven and hell (slightly exaggerated): less sweat and more playing contently with her toys.
  • DO bring food for your child for the plane. We planned for Daisy to eat Chinese food throughout the trip, but airplane food is unpredictable and portioned to feed one adult. I guess lap tickets don't include a meal. I brought her a banana, Cheerios and plenty of toddler puree pouches. I think she ate four pouches during one flight. 


2. Jet Lag

I've heard many ways to combat jet lag, and since we've only done this once, I don't know what is best. The first day of touring, Daisy just conked-out in her stroller, which never happens at home. It didn't happen the rest of the trip either, but it was really nice that afternoon. 

Can't say enough great things about the MacLaren Volo stroller!

We woke up early in the morning, went out up until lunch, took afternoon naps in the hotel or apartment, then went out for dinner. We were usually in bed by 10:00 pm and up the next day by 6:00 am. 

The first two nights, Daisy woke up in the middle of the night hungry and cranky. She sat between us in bed watching her kid shows on Zane's phone over and over again until she fell back asleep. Which brings me to the next point...

3. Shows/Movies on a Portable Device

The most genius thing we did was download some of her favorite shows on Zane's phone. It saved us during jet lag recovery, long bus rides, and other random times when we needed to calm a crying child. I try to regulate shows at home, but I gave her (and us) more freedom on this trip since we were off routine anyways. 

4. Schedule down time. 

Daisy did great on all our tourist adventures. She slept in the vehicles to and from our destinations, though a private car was the best venue for sleep versus a bus or train. She was happy to walk around and explore whatever cool thing we were doing that day.

Exploring the Great Wall of China

She also needed her routine and down time. We stayed at my sister's apartment for five days in a row, which helped Daisy to get on China time and just relax. It felt more like home to her. She had freedom to walk around, play, and adjust to a nighttime routine.


We went out to dinner almost every night, because there were so many restaurants we wanted to try.
Daisy's only meltdown happened one night at an outdoor Chinese BBQ restaurant. She wouldn't be soothed by anyone or thing, so Zane and I left our group and took her back to my sister's apartment. As soon as we walked in the door, Daisy cheered up and started playing with her toys. Apparently, she just needed a night in.


5. Food. 

We brought an entire box of Cheerios and 20ish toddler pureed food pouches from the states. Daisy did really great with Chinese food, and we usually found enough to feed her wherever we went. Noodles, eggs, bananas, and veggies were all pretty available, but it was nice to have the pouches in case she rejected the foreign food.

We also bought Chinese breakfast crackers in the grocery store, which Daisy loved. I tried to limit how many she ate a day, because they were probably full of preservatives, but it was only for a short period of time, so I didn't stress over it. 


Daisy eating duck-shaped pastries filled with duck meat.

6. Baby Gear: To Bring Or Not To Bring?  

Two products I highly recommend: MacLaren Volo Stroller and Ergobaby Carrier.

MacLaren Volo Stroller. The stroller was great for airports, Forbidden City, Terra Cotta Warriors, and any city exploring. There's always the chance you have to fold it up and sling it over your arm, but it's small, lightweight, and easily folds. We actually got this stroller just for the trip (give to us by a friend), but soon discovered that it's far superior to the other stroller we were using. Plus, it's super durable!!

LOVE that stroller.

Ergobaby Carrier. The carrier was perfect for places that required hiking. Where there were too many stairs for a stroller, the ergo was priceless. We used it on the Great Wall and Leshan Giant Buddha. Daisy was too independent by this age, so she didn't particularly like being in it, but it was very helpful for us parents to move quickly with her securely strapped to one of us. 


Her expressions says, "I want to walk." 

Diaper Bag. We used a small backpack as our diaper bag. We had a change of clothes, 6-7 diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, a couple toys, and food. While you want to be prepared for everything, you also don't want to haul everything around China. Try to keep it light.

What Not To Bring:
  • Car seat.  No one uses them over there. We took taxis and private cars, and just had her on our laps. For the most part, I wasn't worried, but I did pray a lot for our safety. 
  • Highchair/booster seat.  Most restaurants have high chairs. Otherwise, Daisy sat in a regular chair or on our laps. 
  • Pack-n-play/Baby Cot.  My sister bought one for while we were at her apartment. When we were in hotels, Daisy slept between Zane and me. We don't co-sleep at home, and I'm not sure we got the best sleep while co-sleeping, since there's always that fear of rolling on her (or getting kicked in the ribs by tiny feet), but it was better than dragging a pack-n-play across China. Even if my sister hadn't provided a baby bed, we would've co-slept the entire time or made a pallet for Daisy on the floor. 

7. Diapers. 

We brought enough diapers for the plane ride and our first few days in Beijing. After that, we bought them in China.  

Get used to changing your child in public, because most restrooms don't have changers. No one is offended by changing a kid in public (I did it in subways, park benches, the Great Wall of China), and I think it was more sanitary on my lap than in some gross bathroom. 


7. Be Flexible.

Everyone will love your child in China. They love kids in general, and a foreign child even more for their cute foreignness. Daisy was given so many gifts by about anyone who saw her: food (you have to monitor that!), candy, toys, books, etc. 


If your kid is extroverted, then most Chinese people will try holding them. Daisy didn't like that, but one frown or crying face, and they backed off, because they don't want to make the baby cry. 

There were times when Daisy only wanted me, so I just enjoyed being the momma. I used to long for my own child, a baby who would want me and only me, and now I have one. It just means that sometimes you have to get your hair done with a baby on your lap, which might not fly in the states, but in China, if the baby wants it, the baby gets it. 

Getting my hair done with a toddler on my lap. 

This list has been kind of random, but I hope it helps if you are considering traveling across the world with a toddler. If there's something I missed, feel free to ask questions. We loved having Daisy with us. 

I also have a Pinterest board with articles that I researched before our trip. You can find the link here
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