Monday, January 26, 2015

Travelling with Baby to Thailand

The countdown is on to my first family holiday in Thailand with my 10-month-old granddaughter! This will also be Ellie's first plane flight, baby daddy Nic's first overseas trip as an adult, and my daughter Jo's last week of freedom before returning to work after a year's maternity leave.

Can't wait to spend time in Thailand with this little poppet!

Needless to say, it's a big deal, requiring a lot more forethought and planning than a holiday travelling alone or as a couple.

We'll be spending a week at Sunwing Resort in Kamala Beach, Phuket - a dedicated family resort, which offers special baby packages for young families. I'll be reporting further on that in the coming weeks: but first, we need to get there!

The second I'd booked cheap flights on Jetstar I regretted it - by the time you add checked baggage fees, and any extras such as meals and entertainment for the flight, it doesn't turn out cheap at all!

We are of course not looking forward to a nine hour flight with a cheeky monkey, one that hates sitting still and is quite vocal when she's restrained! Beware, fellow passengers - we'll be THOSE people, the ones with the annoying baby! But trust me, we're hoping she'll be quiet and happy too for the entire flight too - we don't want to deal with a crying child any more than our fellow passengers.

Ellie practising to sit in a big plane seat!

For parents travelling with young babies, here are a few considerations and tips:

- Jetstar has changed its carry-on baggage limit to 7kg, as of 28 October 2104. Fortunately, we booked prior to that date so have 10kg each (everyone except the baby, of course, who has no luggage allowance at all!). Between the three adults, we'll need to carry all the essentials for nine hours with baby - disposable nappies, creams, formula, snacks and distractions. Plus our own toiletries, change of clothes and food!

- Passengers travelling with babies are exempt from the 100ml restriction for liquids. Here is what the Australian Government site states: "Passengers travelling with an infant or toddler are permitted to carry a reasonable quantity of liquid, aerosol or gel (LAGs) products for the infant or toddler onboard for the duration of the flight and any delays that might occur. The security screening officer has the final say about what a ‘reasonable quantity’ is.

Baby products may include, but are not limited to:

baby milk, including breast milk;
sterilised water;
baby food in liquid, gel or paste form; and
disposable wipes.
Products such as baby milk powder that are not liquids, aerosols or gels can be taken onboard."

- Since our resort provides a pram (as well as bedding items, high chair etc) for the baby, we will not be travelling with our own. Parents are permitted to take their prams as far as the plane, but then must pack it away in the hold. On Jetstar, baby items such as strollers, porta cots and bedding, infant car seats and portable high chairs can be checked in, free of excess baggage charges and regardless of fare.

- One of us will be wearing the Baby Bjorn carrier, this should be exempt from luggage as it's technically an item of clothing! However, this cannot be used during the flight, so will need to be placed in the overhead locker.

- The airline provides baby seat belts for children travelling on your lap, which connects to your seatbelt and must be used when the seatbelt sign is on.

- Tiny babies can be carried on-board in a car seat, but you must inform the airline prior to check-in if you are planning to travel with one.

- I've loaded up the laptop with 30 episodes of Peppa Pig, a last-resort distraction!

Wish us luck! I'll keep you posted...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Get Festive: Events in Thailand, 2015

Another year, another excuse to travel to Thailand! I'm looking forward to spending more time in my favourite destination in 2015, with my first trip coming up at the end of this month - bring it on!

Of course, it doesn't take much for Thais to slip into party mode - they'll celebrate everything from the full moon, to no moon, to the dawning of the day. But if you want to tailor your travels around a major event, here's a rundown of what's on in Thailand in the coming months:

Feb 6-8: Chiang Mai Flower Festival
February is a gorgeous time of year in Chiang Mai, with glorious weather and a riot of floral colour, celebrated annually in Thailand's biggest flower show. The festival includes a parade with floats made of flowers, beauty contests (of course!) and activities at the Ratchaphruek Flower Gardens.

Pic: Julie Miller

Mar 13: National Elephant Day
This is a day when the focus is on Thailand's beloved pachyderms, with feasts and parades to celebrate the contribution they have made to Thailand's history and culture. Elephant parks and sanctuaries around the country hold Buddhist rituals where the elephants are bathed and blessed, followed by a fruity feast which the elephants devour with relish.

Pic: Julie Miller

April 13-15: Songkran
The most famous Thai festival is one big water fight, celebrating Thai New Year and the coming of the wet season. Expect a lot of noise, fireworks and of course, water - there's no way you won't get wet!

May 8-10: Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, Yasothon
This ancient local festival in Isaan is dedicated to the god of rain, who is appeased by colourful fireworks sent up to the heavens in his honour. Any excuse to make noise, really!

June 7: Phuket International Marathon
Why anyone would want to run in the steamy heat of June amazes me, but every year, around 4000 runners compete in the 42km marathon, 21km half-marathon or 10k fun run at Laguna complex on Bang Bao Bay. It's actually a great community event and fund raiser for the Developing Sustainable Schools program.

Pic: Julie Miller

June 26-28: Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival, Dan Sai province
One of Thailand's most bizarre festivals, this celebration of demons and ghosts is held in the north-eastern region of Loei near the Laos border. Before the parade, men smother themselves in mud along the riverbank then don scary masks.

Oct 12-21: Phuket Vegetarian Festival
During the nine-day event, participants stick to a strict vegetarian diet which is believed to spiritually cleanse the soul of devotees. The festival is said to bring good luck to participants and the wider community.

Oct 26-27: Naga Fireball Festival, Nong Khai
Once a year, a restless underwater serpent that lives in the Mekong River throws up mysterious fireballs to the amazement of onlookers gathered on the river banks.

Nov 24-26: Loi Krathong
The most beautiful of all festivals, this celebration of light is celebrated throughout Thailand, but is most spectacular in Chiang Mai where it coincides with Yee Peng, marked by release of thousands of khom loi lanterns into the night sky.

Pic: Julie Miller