For those brave troopers who choose to travel to Bali with babies and toddlers, an exciting overseas trip can soon become a major headache. Panic and stress can consume any level headed parent as the daunting task of preparing to travel to a third world country with your most precious cargo begins to sink in.
Breathe. You can't prepare for every eventuality but you can make a trip away with your young family a holiday rather than a tactical SWAT mission. Your baby can share all the sights, tastes and delights of Indonesia with some careful planning and simple tips.
The first time we went to Bali with our son was with a group of friends one of them being my bestest buddy, also a first time travelling mum. Our kids were ten months and one year and we packed for Australia! It was fairly ridiculous but we were taking an over the top approach.
Our good friend (also part of the crew), a seasoned traveller with kids, gave us some great advice and then sat back and watched as we took it on board as well as four thousand other opinions about travelling to Bali with children.
There are plenty of forums with excellent information, tips and advice on the what, where's and why's for packing and preparing both in Oz and over there. Most were very useful but I also found a few just made me go into a mental packing paranoia. Once I got to Bali I was a little weary the first few days but once me, my husband and bub got into a rhythm and relaxed I realised I could've survived without most of the stuff I'd packed.
Nobody enjoys headless chook syndrome so when you've made the decision to go begin preparing that day by making a list. It will be the first of four hundred but trust me it helps.
I wrote a few lists in my phone. A major one of everything I could possibly think of to pack and buy as well as a list of all the things I needed to do in the following months right up until just before boarding the plane.
The second time I wrote three lists for each of us, stuck them onto the suitcase lids and crossed things off as I went. I use this method for travelling anywhere, even locally. I have a shocking memory and found writing everything down no matter how ridiculous and then ticking things off as I bought, packed, chucked or completed each task worked well for me.
If it's your child's first overseas trip welcome to the laugh a minute world of passports for children. To add to the torturous fun your munchkin can not be smiling in the photo. My son had not smiled as much in his short little life thus far as he did the day of this particular photo session. It was as if someone had simultaneously released the nitrous oxide and charm gas and I'm pretty positive I saw him pull a blue steel.
Do yourself a favour, make this a priority task and don't put it off because if there are any issues, you'll at least have time to deal with them.
Don't laugh but I seriously started packing two months before we were due to leave. We had a decent sized house with a lot of room so I set the suitcases up and added and subtracted about a billion times which gave me an opportunity to play around with space allocation and how realistic my plans actually were. Thanks to my super lists I was able to get everything bought, packed and prepared in a weekend.
Pack a spare case or take a small case under your child's name that can sit on top of the others (Garuda allow 10kgs for Infants). Pack light especially for your kids and buy most of it over there. I bought a lot of summer clothes when I went to Bali for me and my son and he is still wearing some shorts and shirts I bought the first time round (too big) and they still look and feel brand new.
We all know Bali clothes are hit and miss, but there are tops and dresses I bought that have seen me through two summers and a pregnancy! For my little boy I made sure I packed a rashie, hat, Crocs, light pj's, and when he was a baby a thin sleep suit and a long sleeved bodysuit for night time when the air conditioner was cranking in the hotel room.
I gave my baby a bottle before we left for the airport and packed a three part formula dispenser for the plane trip with bottles of boiled water and had no problems. I took two tins and they just got me through an 8 day trip. A lot of bottles went to waste as my son had either loaded up on other food or it was just too hot for milk. I took advantage of this and tried to reserve milk feeds for the night and morning only and offered him plenty of water throughout the day.
Thankfully the second time round he was drinking cows milk which he wasn't overly interested in but we were able to easily purchase at the nearby 7 Eleven and Circle K and he was fine with it.
We took the Raffertys Garden squidgy packs, rice cereal, plenty of wrapped snacks and of course, Vegemite. The Raffertys fruit packs can be put in the hotel freezer for a slushy icy pole treat throughout the day.
My friends baby girl had special dietary requirements so she took a healthy supply plus some canned food which she warmed in her bottle warmer. Apparently you can purchase these cheap in Bali now and there are also self heating versions which would probably come in handy.
My girlfriend would order mashed potato and steamed veg and mush it up for her little ones own room service din-dins. Both our kids enjoyed breakfast and we'd take a couple of jams and butter packets back to the room for them to have later on crackers or bread rolls.
On our return trip my son mowed his way through a Bali culinary food safari and consumed so much watermelon juice I thought his belly button would start sprouting black pips! The wonderful staff of Mozzarella Restaurant were so welcoming and could not keep away from him. Once they realised he liked watermelon juice they were wheeling the stuff out by the barrel!
I had stopped breastfeeding by this stage so I really don't have any advice based on my own experience regarding feeding in Bali. But to the wonderful breastfeeding Mum's there's no denying boobs are easy to pack, store and sterilise so it's really win win with overseas feeding for you and your hungry little pumpkin. If you're expressing then my bottle regime could still apply to all the pump equipment and obviously the bottles.
I packed five bottles (so I had spares and didn't have to rewash and sterilise half way through the day) and a cheap bottle brush which you can purchase in Bali. I just wanted one so I could use it the first night.
Before I'd go to bed I would wash the bottles with boiled water from the hotel kettle and dish washing detergent and then Miltoned the bejesus out of everything.
Our wonderful husbands went hunting for a plastic container to house the sterilising equipment and this and the detergent was the only thing we bought.
I found this method the easiest as the Milton tablets took up hardly any room in the suitcase and boiled water was easy to organise.
I also used Milton tablets in the bath as my son was a slurper.
I've got all the bottles I need right here. Milk straight up thanks!
My girlfriend who now lives in Bali nearly laughed her head right off when we told her we boiled the bottled water for the babies. I felt like a bit of a nong, however I was given conflicting advice on this matter before I left.
In hind sight we were staying at the Padma and they really can't afford to give out dodgy water especially to babies but I was happy to be over paranoid than have a sick bub.
This was definitely not a practice I repeated the second time round as my son drank water like a camel and we had no problems at all.
Also most hotels will give you extra water bottles if they know you have kids, not that water is expensive but it may save some rolled eyeballs as you send your partner down to the quickie-mart for half a dozen 1.5 litre bottles seven times a day!
If your child has a dummy and is attached to a certain type pack a million of them in every pocket you can find. You will lose them in the room, at the pool, in the taxi's, out to dinner and watch them drop into puddles of questionable life forms of sludgy filth so it's good to have back ups.
People will tell you where and what nappies to buy and it's great advice if you're short on case space. I however can't be bothered traipsing around trying to find a particular brand and size at a particular shop or district. Plus I seem to breed gigantor babies who I fear would look like they are parading in a little g-string instead of a nappy if I bought in Bali. So I pack my own.
If you pack light and are creative you can fit in a box and a bit.
I put one half in mine, one in my husbands, some in my son's case and a bucket load in my carry-on luggage.
I also took my own wipes but again, they can be purchased over there. If you do buy in Bali keep your nappies from Oz for the trip home for their guaranteed longevity. I also took my own Little Swimmers but you apparently can get these too.
We took suncream, mosquito repellent, baby/childrens panadol and nurofen, baby powder, Sudocream for nappy and heat rash, waterproof band-aids, Hydralyte, Savlon, sorbolene, aloe vera spray (which the adults mainly used!), hand sanitiser, aqua ear and red cordial.
If there's a group of you going perhaps organise one lot to share. I also took a mosquito net for the pram for when we went out at night though by the end of the week my son wasn't sleeping anymore and thoroughly enjoyed a net kick fest.
There are heaps of blow up versions with little canopies at Toys R Us or Clark Rubber and if it's still in good knick at the end of your trip donate it to the hotel pool, parents who forgot to bring their own or ask the staff if anyone would like it for a young family member.
I got a little tricky and attached a bath net filled with waterproof toys and books that floated nearby for easy access. This will be the best decision you'll ever make as you can spend your pool time relaxing with your entertained bundle safely nearby.
Tricky toy attachment for fool proof fun! Also holds dummies to stop pool water skulling.
On our second trip I bought a Quicksmart back-pack pram off eBay and used it at both ends just before we boarded the plane and then it became carry-on luggage. It was brilliant particularly on the trip home waiting in lines with a tired, restless toddler. If you can get your hands on one I highly recommend it.
We also hired a pram from Bali Baby Care for nearly three weeks which wasn't "cheap-cheap" but worth every dollar.
The roads and pathways are a nightmare and we did need to lift the pram up and down a fair bit, but when it came time to shop, sight see or just have a meal in the stinking heat with no high chair in sight, I could have kissed my resting child and the pram that held him. Just be careful when choosing a pram though, the wide bulkier models will not fit in the boot of any taxi.
My friend and I purchased the best little fan ever made from the former Baby on a budget shops but can be ordered online on the above link. This is not an extravagance, it's a necessity and trust me, you'll be sneaking a little pram fan action yourself when the only body cooling system available is from the short lived frosty glass of a Bintang on your forehead.
The fans are battery operated, clips onto the pram, some tables and high chairs, they light up with different colours to entertain at night and the blades are made of foam so they are totally safe. We also took some novelty spray bottles to spray the babies with the fans for their own portable air-conditioning systems.
Repeat this mantra…"It will all be over in a few hours and I will hopefully never see anyone on this plane again". Let's not kid ourselves, travelling with very young children tends to suck and until I had my own, I never would have believed that it usually sucks more for the parents than the childless passengers who have to put up with a few hours inconvenience.
It's good to visualise the place your'e trying to get to. Rocking back and forth helps too.
You can try all the tricks in the world leading up to the big day but there really is no way to predict how your child will behave on the actual flight. My son slept solid the first hour, screamed the second and then went into a hypo frenzy for the last leg of the trip.
The next time round in the claustrophobic confines of the aircraft he was like a tyre spinning in a gravel ditch and in both countries he passed out just as we left the airport!
The best tips are to feed babies or give a dummy on take off and landing. Pack a small back pack for your toddler loading it up with lots of new and different toys (no noise makers if you want to walk off the plane unharmed), wrap them up like presents to kill some time (if you have time), lots of snacks (preferably sugar free and bowel friendly), portable DVD or these days iPod/iPad loaded up with whatever keeps your little one amused.
When he was a baby I attempted to keep him awake before the flight and stressed out about him until I got a grip and embraced the above mantra.
Don't forget a nappy change just before it's time to land because by the time you've got through customs, luggage, hotel transfers etc those soggy bad boys will be dragging between their ankles!
For the sake of your sanity and if you can afford it purchase an extra seat. We had a whole lot of naptime shenanigans on our first trip and my husband was more than eager not to repeat the torment with a boisterous free range toddler.
Try and get to the airport as early as you can and request three seats together where you have the option of putting your sweet angel near the window or in the middle so everyone suffers together.
If you have a baby you can request a bassinet seat but it's a first in first served basis and if you have long legs like me it can be pretty uncomfortable and awkward.
If you have missed out on a bassinet or you are travelling with your baby on your lap you should receive a child restraint belt which clips to the existing seat belt to wrap around you both.
I wont deny my absolute elation when I discovered my son was able to utilise the beautiful kids club at the Padma hotel. Use a kids club, don't use them it's a personal choice.
At this stage of our trip our son had begun to assert his inner demon and would start the day as Gizmo, get wet and morph into Stripe until his head would reluctantly hit the pillow fifteen hours later.
We scoped the kids club out and it was clean, modern, staffed with lovely caring girls who were highly amused by our little nutcase. This meant a few hours for shopping, eating or just generally relaxing without nagging the poor child or being nagged by him. He seemed to really enjoy it and was annoyed when we'd pick him up anyway!
The first trip our son did not leave my sight the entire time we were there. The second time was different.
We stayed for nearly a month over Christmas, New Years, a friends 30th as well as my husbands and my birthday.
The babysitting first came up when we were "required" to attend a New Years Dinner at the hotel as part of our package.
Warning: when the Balinese say "Sexy Dancers Will Be Performing" they sure ain't lying. To spare my son from seeing every male including his father drool all over the floor as the sexy dancers performed the caterpillar gyration groove at our feet, we thought it best to organise some child care.
Yes. Seriously. Family fun with Sexy Dancers! Happy New Year!
Most hotels offer a babysitting service for a reasonable fee. The Lokha sent up a lady who was so wonderful and reliable that we got her number and used her even after we left that hotel.
I will admit I was very paranoid about the whole idea and had our friend who is Balinese come to the room, suss her out and ask her all my silly questions. I needn't have bothered as she was very trustworthy, ordering my son dinner, playing games with him and putting him to bed. She'd stay in the hotel room and watch tv until we got back, she even tidied up and folded some of his clothes!
If you're not too comfortable about it all try having a meal at the hotel or near by even for a couple of hours. It just gives you a bit of a break to spend time with your partner or friends and relax a little.
It's good to remember that while Bali is awesome, we are guests and rudeness is wrong no matter where you're from. I've seen a few fellow Aussies ranting at some poor Balinese waiters or hotel staff, demanding high chairs that simply don't exist or complaining about the language barrier because their kids order came out wrong.
The Balinese bent over backwards to accommodate my child almost every part of our trip and in return we chose to embrace their kind and calm nature rather than take advantage of it.
Regarding the high chair issue my girlfriend also took a portable highchair seat that folded up flat into a back pack.
Use bottled water for everything, including brushing teeth.
Take nappy wipes everywhere. If your kid is going to mow down everything in sight at least you can reduce the risk of sickness by wiping away the grot that will get on their hands even if they've been sitting in a pram!
If something looks dodgy, keep walking. If your gut instinct is saying "not good" then listen to it. Common sense generally prevails and at the end of the day we've made the choice to take our family to another country, so we accept that there may be a few risks.
Keeping that in mind there are some safety issues to note and some risks you should not have to endure.
Car seats are pretty rare and even if you hire one the cars don't have the attachment bolt. We sat our son on our laps with a seatbelt over both of us in the back seat.
Most of the time the traffic is that congested you'd probably be more at risk of injury walking along the streets. Just look out the window when your'e in a taxi and watch the moped cycle circus zooming past with sometimes up to five family members including infants crammed on top. While it's pretty funny to watch as they all give you a wave it's also a good indication of the road safety standards over there.
Without going into great controversial detail if you are travelling to the islands with children particularly the ones further out (ie Gili) I strongly recommend you do your research.
We had a wonderful time, it was beautiful and lovely to visit, however our boat trip was a little traumatic and I doubt I would go again especially with a small child.
I wrongly presumed we would be going on a large ferry type vessel but we were booked to go on a speed boat which was very comfortable and a great boat just not in this situation. The seas were very rough and when the deck hand offered me an adult sized life jacket for my toddler, I immediately gripped my child, zoned out and went into fight or flight mode.
The trip probably should have been cancelled instead of being rescheduled. Also because of the storm the laundry was not delivered to our island until the next morning so the three of us had to dry ourselves with a sheet and my son had to sleep in our bed as there was no clean linen or an available cot. This was all done through a particularly dodgy company who we complained to on our return to Kuta.
Please don't let this isolated incident scare you off exploring the gorgeous islands and the friendly people there. But do as much research as you can and ask a lot of questions especially regarding the welfare of your child.
Obviously there is plenty I've left out, too much I've included and thoughts and advice that may differ from others. I'm sure it can be agreed that no matter how you tackle it, Bali is a treasure to create fantastic memories and life experiences for your children no matter what age.
My parting advice is the more prepared you are the more relaxed you'll be to appreciate all your child's splendour and wonder as they discover Bali for themselves.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. We are going over with our 4 month old and I have found your page really informative. We have been many times on our own but now it's a totally new ball game:)
Hello Stephanie, Thanks so much for this really helpful article ! I got one question regarding using the Milton tablets for bubba's bath, how long before you put him into the water did you put the tablet ?? is it safe for him ?? thank for your answer, we are flying in 3 weeks, we know really well Indonesia but it's our first trip with a baby !