Quick Tip #12: Hotel checklist for travel with baby

Vacations with a baby can be stressful, but they can also be fun – if you have everything you need on site to make it as hassle-free as possible.

After coming back from two holidays with a three month old, I’ve learned a thing or two about questions you might want to ask the hotel before making your booking. Going away with the wee one? Here’s a checklist of questions to ask before you leave, to make sure you holiday with a happy baby on your hands:

Happy Baby

Where will your baby sleep?

Before you go, double check that the hotel can accommodate whatever sleep pattern you’ve worked so hard to establish at home. If your baby co-sleeps with you, then ask for a king size bed. If your baby is already in a crib, call in advance to see a) if your hotel offers cribs to guests b) if you can reserve one (sometimes they have limited numbers available) c) if they also provide sheets, or if you need to bring your own linens.

Where can you find medicine or get access to a doctor?

On a recent trip to Mexico, my daughter’s arm got caught between elevator doors and we had to call for the hotel doctor to see if her arm was broken – a new parent’s nightmare. Thankfully, the doctor was available for consultation, but I won’t hesitate in the future to call ahead to see if there is a doctor on-call at all times, just to make sure. It’s also good to know where the nearest hospital and pharmacy are, in case you need anything, from aloe vera to diaper rash cream. Of course, I also recommend taking along a mini-first aid kit for emergencies. Think of bringing things like: Children’s Tylenol for pain relief (thankfully I brought some with us to Mexico, and we used this to soothe her after her poor little arm got crushed); probiotics or over-the-counter medication for gassy tummies; syringes for giving medicine; thermometer to check for fever; a few band-aids; and anything specific to your little one.

Where can you find baby food?

Our Mexican holiday was certainly an adventure! Now breastfeeding moms won’t have this problem, but if you’re formula feeding, you’ll definitely want to take note! During our one-week holiday down south, not only did we have to call on the hotel doctor, but with a full day left on our trip, we ran out of formula! Before leaving, I made sure that I knew where the next  major city was – unfortunately it was an hour away, so when formula started to trickle down, my mind started racing! What do I do? Risk it and hope we have enough? Head to the village nearby and see what I can find? Or head to the city directly in search of something safe for baby? As it happened, there was one pharmacy open in the village nearby, offering two types of formula for newborns. Unfortunately, neither of them were lactose-free which meant an afternoon of tummy troubles. Lesson learnt: Next time, I will absolutely locate a store carrying the type of formula we need – before arriving on-site.

Of course, formula isn’t the only thing you could run out of. Scouting out local shops where you can stock up on diapers, wipes etc. is also a good idea, but at least with those you can improvise!

How will you sterilize both water and bottles?

If your baby is sensitive to cold formula, then it’s a good idea to inquire as to whether or not your hotel has a microwave on hand. Of course, this isn’t the only (or necessarily recommended) way to heat a baby bottle, but it sure does make things easier (plus you can also boil water and sanitize nipples in there, if you’r really stuck). If there’s no microwave available, you’re going to want to ensure there is a kettle on hand for purifying water and sterilizing both bottles and nipples – especially if you’re traveling in a region known for poor water quality. It’s also a good idea to inquire about where you can purchase bottled water for formula. Remember to buy water with the least amount of minerals, as those aren’t good for your little one and can do more harm than boiling the questionable water from the tap.

How will you keep formula/breast milk cold?

If you’re not making formula on the go – and especially if your baby is still getting up in the middle of the night to feed – you’ll want to call the hotel beforehand to make sure that there is a fridge or mini-bar in your room, suitable for storing formula that you can make ahead of time. Asking about an ice machine is also a good idea, since that will allow you to make and store bottles whenever you want to pick up and head off the resort.

Hotel dining: Know what to expect

While it may seem as if you can dine anywhere you go, having a little one does complicate things. In Mexico, for example, thanks to hoards of mosquitoes that decided to infiltrate the open doors of the dinner buffet, my husband and I took turns rotating between taking Luna back to the room, and bringing drinks and desert back to share. Had we known that mosquitoes were a particular problem that time of year, we probably would have looked for a hotel which restaurants that were better insulated. Instead, we ended up rushing through nighttime meals and scratching ourselves to sleep. Besides the mosquito issue, dining was never too much of a problem, until we went to book dinner at one of the “a la carte” restaurants available on-site. Never had it crossed our mind that children would not be allowed into the restaurant, but that’s exactly what we faced! Not to say that would have changed our decision to book where we did, but knowing how open resorts in places like Cuba are to families with children, it would definitely cross our minds the next time we looked at choosing between Mexico and other hot destinations.

One last suggestion? Scout out the bar as soon as you get there (if not before) and figure out where you can get coffee first thing in the morning, and wine delivered to your room at night. You’ll thank me later. Happy travels!

Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad

Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad

So, I just got back from a three week adventure to Sweden, Finland and Russia and after ripping apart my bank for leaving me high and dry overseas, I have to admit – I should have made the call. Here’s what happened.

Unlimited, free cash withdrawals overseas? Easy packing.

As I was emptied my purse in preparation for the trip, I stood contemplating which credit card to take with me overseas. You see, my husband and I are lucky enough to have a German account from which we can withdraw money from any bank machine around the world. So, the easiest way for me to pay for things while traveling – and avoid massive charges on my Canadian credit card – is to take out money and just pay cash. That being said, I always take my Canadian card with me in case I run out of moolah and need to use the plastic.

Making payments prior to take-off

Since I was heading to Russia, where I had no idea how easy it was to get things done on the ground, I decided I should plan a little further ahead than normal. My itinerary had me flying into Stockholm, traveling onward to Helsinki and Kuopio, and then onto St.Petersburg for four days of discovery before heading home.

First of all, since the Russian visa application for Canadians (and Europeans) demands an invitation letter from the hotel for every applicant, we had to make our reservations months in advance. We reserved four nights in a three star hotel called History Hotel on the English Embankment (review of what is possibly the worst hotel in St.Petersburg, to follow) through St.Petersburg.com (mixed feelings about this site, you’ll find out why later). I made two separate reservations, since 4 of us were staying for 3 days, and only 3 were staying for the 4th. To make sure that we had the best possible “Russian” experience, we also booked tickets to see Swan Lake at the Hermitage! Needless to say, costs were adding up, but given the fact that I had made the purchases on the Canadian side of the ocean, I was sure there would be no problem with the order. Continue reading “Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad”

Quick Tip #7: First-aid kits for backpackers

You’re overseas. You’re all alone. And you feel, like crap. What do you do? 

When you’re traveling in a foreign country, trying to hunt down a doctor or medical professional is one of the last things you want to do. From not being able to converse to confusion over payment, a visit to the doctor’s office can be more trouble than it’s worth, and avoided if prepared. Obviously, some problems demand immediate attention from a licensed physician – say, if you’re jumping ruins in Rome and a bone is protruding out of your lower leg – you might want to get that checked out. But when it comes to minor injuries and discomfort, from an unexpected burn (like that pictured above after carrying a mid-sized backpack up Kilimanjaro) to annoying and embarrassing travelers diarrhea, having the right medicine on hand is a great way to skip the doctor’s office and carry on with your travels, pain free.

So, what do you need to take with you while traveling abroad? The medicine you should pack is largely dependent on where you’re headed. If, for example, you are traveling to East Africa, anti-malarial medication should definitely be included on the list (unless you plan to buy it there), but if you’re heading to Sweden, you can probably leave that one off the list.

Wherever your travels take you, here are some of the staple (medicinal) items that may come in handy somewhere along the way:

  • Swiss army knife (useful for everything from opening cans to removing pieces of wood from the bottom of your foot)
  • Acetaminophen (pain relief)
  • Ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory)
  • Antibiotic Ointment (for any minor cuts or scrapes)
  • Tweezers
  • Waterproof Band-aids
  • Waterproof Matches
  • Antifungal Cream (to combat fungal infection)
  • Antihistamine (to combat allergic reactions)
  • Anti-nauseant (for road travel, boat travel, or bad reaction from food/heat)
  • Sunscreen and aloe (even if you think you won’t need it – just pack some)
  • Earplugs (more preventative than medical – great for overnight trains)
  • Anti-diarrheal  (self explanatory – bad food may taste good on the way in… but not so good on the way out)
  • Re-hydration salts (in case you’re puking your guts up, you’ll need to re-hydrate)

Stay healthy wherever you are by packing smartly for any adventure.

What would YOU add to this list?