If traveling in Southeast Asia with a baby can sometimes feel like going to the Moon for some families, it is not. This joyful part of the world is a perfect destination for young families. Noah traveled to Cambodia when he was only 4 months old, then we explored a bit of Vietnam two months later and we LOVED it. Hakuna Matata, you just need to be prepared!
It's interesting to see how we can be scared of the unknown. Just because we've never been to a place, we'd think it will surely be too hot, too dangerous or too crowded to travel there with a baby. But if you think about it for a minute, per example, how Southeast Asia could be more crowded or more humid than Hong Kong in August? How could it be more dangerous dans Europe? It's all relative. And to be honest, traveling to Europe with a baby was far more complicated -weather-wise, security-wise and most important, people-wise (does any of these words make sense? you get my point anyway, right?). Indeed, the hospitality when traveling with a baby is AMAZING in Southeast Asia.
There are tons of questions we ask ourselves before traveling with a baby: what should we pack, what did we forget, how hot is it going to be, are the hotels family-friendly? I've put together what REALLY happens when you travel in Southeast Asia with a baby (hint: you won't get eaten by a tiger) and how to prepare for it. Ready? Pack, and GO!
Traveling in Southeast Asia with a baby 101
If you've been following our adventures for the past 5 years, you know we're real Southeast Asia bums. We love the atmosphere, the people, the food, the landscape... But when you travel with a baby, everything is different. You see the world differently -and you're re-discovering places with new eyes. We were curious to see how traveling in Southeast Asia with a baby would go -and it was FANTASTIC. Here's what you need to know before going on that family trip...
#1. Get ready to see your baby becoming a rock star
Be prepared to feel like the minders of a celebrity when traveling with your baby in Southeast Asia. Local people LOVE kids, but babies? They're not used to see lots of "white babies" -that's how they called Noah- so be ready for him to be FAMOUS! Cheek pinching, head rubbing, arm grabbing and many, many pictures... It's CRAZY! In restaurants, the staff offered us many times to take care of Noah while we were eating. In the hotels, every morning he was like a rockstar. He loved the attention, as he was constantly entertained. The best moment was when we volunteered to teach English in a school in Siem Reap. The whole school was surrounding us, watching Noah sleeping. Adorable!
Traveling with a baby is actually a great way to interact with locals in the most simple way -there's nothing to sell or buy, it's just a lot of love to share!
#2. Ditch the giant diaper bag and Pack light!
I never got the giant diaper bag thing. When you live in Hong Kong, you have to be minimalist anyway. When traveling with a baby, it's vital! Don't forget they also have babies in Southeast Asia -and you know what, everywhere else in the world!- so unless your baby has specific needs, there's no panic if you forget a pacifier or something. Believe it or not, one backpack or big handbag will single handedly fit all you need for you and your baby for those long day trips. Look for separate compartments and zips -organisation is the key!
#3. leave the stroller at home
I know -your baby is getting heavier and heavier. But invest in a good, light baby carrier (we love our ErgoBaby 360), and forget about your stroller. Streets in vast majority of places through Southeast Asia are not pedestrian friendly, much less pram friendly! You'll take more risks by trying to walk on the crowded sidewalk -when there's one- or attempting to cross a busy street while pushing your stroller on a road full of potholes.
#4. Prepare your baby's heat survival kit
The heat was my main concern when we got to Cambodia with our 4 months old baby. But I was all set for us to enjoy our trip and avoid any struggle! I found some super light onesies in Uniqlo that Noah worn everyday, a bottle of water, a water mister, a mobile fan (you can recharge it by USB, thank you Hong Kong's Ladies Market), a LOT of sunscreen and his adorable sunglasses. Noah didn't mind about wearing them, as it was so bright. He's always been used to traveling around since he was born, so he took his naps in the baby carrier, on the beach, by the pool... Anywhere he felt like sleeping! Of course we organized our days around him, so between 11am and 4pm, we would either stay at the hotel or in a cafe, by the air-con to cool down during the worst hours.
The ingredients of products can vary from country to country plus it can be hard -and expensive- to find sometimes in Southeast Asia, so I would recommend to bring your own baby sunscreen to play it safe.
#5. Don't rely on the hotel cot -buy a baby travel bed
If you're doing an itinerant journey, you might be in a different room almost every other night. To avoid questioning / stressing whether the hotel will have a baby cot available, play it safe a buy a travel bed. We found one on AliExpress for 20US$, which is very light and folds up very compactly. Even when we're not traveling, we still use it for a nap in the garden or on the beach.
#6. One and only one essential: the aircon
I'm usually really easy when choosing a hotel, but now with the baby, there's one thing essential: the air-con. Even if that means paying double the price for the room. It can get really hot during the night, and you want your baby to feel comfortable, especially after a day being out and about under the heavy heat.
#7. Think like a local and RELAaaX!
You're traveling to Southeast Asia. Don't expect to find things as they are back home. There won't be a car seat in your taxi -nor in your tuk-tuk!- and you probably won't get a high-chair in every restaurant. Soak up in the local vibe and take it EASY. We went on bicycle rides on the rice fields with Noah, it was fabulous. He simply was in his carrier. Southeast Asia is known for its chilled atmosphere, so RE-LAX.
Oh and yes, we took Noah on a motorcycle in Vietnam -like the locals- when he was 6 months old... I'm not sure it's more dangerous than a minibus ride with the crazy drivers in Hong Kong. It's all relative!
#8. Nappies, nappies, nappiiies!
I know I said you should pack light, but these items are luxury in some parts of Southeast Asia, so the cost will reflect that. Plus the quality will probably be different too. So pack your favorite brand of diapers -with enough extras. Good news is, at the end of the trip, you'll have work through them so it means you can use the extra space for the shopping you'll inevitably do!
#9. Prepare The just in case kit -just in case
Don't overdo it and bring the whole pharmacy, but pack some basic pain reliever, mosquito repellent and anti-constipation for your baby. Hopefully you won't need these but if you do, you won't have to rush to the next pharmacy to find them.
#10. drink, drink, drink and make baby drink !
It's HOT in Southeast Asia, and sometimes very humid, so it's important to stay hydrated. Offer your baby the water bottle regularly, and breastfeeding mothers: DRINK, DRINK, DRINK! You don't want to find yourself out of milk supplies in the middle of nowhere.