We Hutsons aren’t the most practical people in the world. Thankfully, I am from a long-line of practical people, so when logic and organisation needs to prevail, I am up for the task (although it is not my preference). Matt, however, is 100% right brain. He loves to create, dream and is the heart behind everything that we do. In fact, his emotional fortitude, patience and strength during this trip has been exactly what we have needed at the gritty times. And, I guess, it’s been my logic, forward-thinking and organisation skills that have ensured our trip has run so smoothly thus far.
I like that. At our wedding, in my speech, I used a mathematical term to talk about how Matt and I are complementary angles. By definition, “two angles are complementary when they add up to 90 degrees (a right angle)”. (Source: https://www.mathsisfun.com/definitions/complementary-angle.html) At times, Matt’s the 70 degrees and I’m the 20. At other times, I’m 60 degrees and he’s 30. And, on the rare occasion we balance and we’re both 45 degrees. Either way, this blog is dedicated to praising my amazing husband who, over one week into our trip, has endured 60 degrees of early morning whimpering, 70 degrees of public, non-compliance tantrums and 89 degrees of exotic (and in some cases, not so exotic) food refusals from our two cherubs.
While he’s doing that, I’m ensuring we have baby wipes in the bag, scouring booking.com for a hotel with clean towels and no mould, sourcing snacks for the kids, confirming airport transfers and hanging the very important “please make up our room” sign on our hotel door so we can return to a little bit of order after being out in the chaos. It’s certainly not the most conventional division of gender roles but it works for us.
This whole trip I have been meaning to write a list of practical tips (thought of mostly by me) that may help people who dare to choose international travel to developing southeast Asian countries with their toddlers. I’ve just defined the niche so feel free to stop reading now if you’re single or married without kids and don’t need a sterile bottle of cow’s milk (unsweetened but warm, thanks) to put you to sleep at night…!
Tip #1: If your baby or toddler finds comfort in a bottle or any other toy/object etc, bring it. Now is not the time to grow up/wean/be a big boy (there will be ample opportunities to prove your big boy status kids, believe me) I left Casper’s bottle drying on the sink in our unrenovated kitchen on the morning we left. I completely forgot to pack it. That has left us with the dilemma of a) Finding somewhere that sells babies bottles and b) Trying several different types of milk and finding one that Casper will actually drink. I’m proud to say that by about day 6, we sorted this dilemma!
Tip #2: Bring hand sanitiser and lots of it. We are down to our last bottle and as yet, I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere…
Tip #3: Bring snap lock bags – of all different shapes and sizes. Bags to keep your toiletries from spilling. Bags to hold unsterilised medicine syringes. Bags to store left-over snacks that you took a risk on in the market, not having any idea what they were but it turned out that your kids really liked it!!!
Tip #4: Only bring as many suitcases as there are adults. There will usually be trolleys at the airports but when there are not, it’s a simple 1:1 ratio. Matt and Casper share a suitcase and Eva and I share. It has worked really well.
Tip #5: Bring nappies and wipes. Again, you know what works for your kids and you don’t have to spend half your holiday scouring obscure shopping establishments to find something you could have easily packed and had diminishing weight for luggage weigh-in at the airport, plus extra if, God-forbid your child gets the “squirts” (as we like to call it).
Tip #6: Bring a stroller. Lots of blogs tell you not to. Unless your child will sit happily in an Ergobaby or its equivalent, a stroller is primarily really handy at an airport when you are waiting in a long and/or painfully slow line for customs/immigration/baggage collection etc etc. Restraint = good for tense airport moments with impractical people! Before we left Australia, we spent $19 on a stroller from Target and made a pact that if it got too annoying we’d gift it to someone here. It was completely useless on the streets in Ho Chi Minh City (I wouldn’t bother) but in Hoi An, it was given a good run for its money and saved our arms and backs in the process. Not only that, it is a transportable cot for times when you can’t be in your hotel – like now, when our flight has been delayed by several hours. Casper is currently having his nap as Matt paces the terminal! AND, take the stroller as carry-on so you can have it right up until departure.
Tip #7: Bring cable ties. Why? Initially it was to tie up the stroller, now I just feel like McGyver, ready if anything happens to break. My dad would be proud!!!
Tip #8: Book hotels with a pool if you’re there for more than one night. There are very few open spaces in the cities we have travelled to. Being able to return to your hotel and let the kids jump, splash and cool down has been a lifesaver (and an excellent bribing tool) on our trip so far.
Tip #9: Bring a light-weight blanket as hand luggage – especially if you’re flying on a budget carrier. It is also handy for “picnics” on the hotel floor, early morning airport transfers, something familiar when kids can’t sleep and something to snuggle when your flight is delayed in a cold airport (ours is currently in our checked-in luggage and I’m regretting that choice!)
Tip #10: You don’t need much luggage. My logical left brain made the rule for 14 days of travel: 5 sets of clothes per person, two warm things. Considering the temps have barely dropped below 20, there are a lot of clean warm clothes in our bags. It is very cheap to wash clothes here (three times for the five sets if my calculations were correct). We paid about $16 to wash a week’s worth of clothes. I’d happily part with that every few days in Oz!
Look, I have more tips but it’s been a long day and I have to end on an even number. Perhaps I’ll post 4 more, or 6 if I’m feeling accomplished as a traveler at the end of this trip!
To Phu Quoc island we go…!
Featured photo: Matt showing 89 degrees of patience feeding Eva phở gà. The result: a newly evolving pho-diction