Many people think becoming a parent means losing your freedom—no more nights on the town, lazy mornings sleeping in or travelling. The thought can be depressing, especially when you consider that raising a child from birth to age 18 can cost up to $250,000, without even taking university into account. We'll spare you the details. But could travelling with your baby be easier than you think? Unless you gave birth to a baby Yeti, climbing the Himalayas might have to wait a few years. However, with some careful planning, you can still travel the world as a new parent.
There's no denying that the arrival of a baby will have a major impact on your daily finances. Between equipment, diapers and formula, meeting a child's basic needs costs several thousand dollars each year. How do some animals get their babies to be self-sufficient in just a few weeks? *Sigh*
Even with benefits and tax credits to ease the pressure, some families struggle to put a little extra cash aside for a vacation. Remember that income usually drops in the first year, while expenses spike.
Numerous strategies, such as drawing up a budget, can help you make it through the year and afford your dream vacation!
Step 1: After your child's birth (or even before), gather all your bills—yes, ALL OF THEM, even those that aren't related to your little bundle of joy.
Step 2: Do the same thing with your income. Don't forget interest payments, tax refunds or taxes you may have to pay at the end of the year (once again, we'll spare you the details).
Step 3: If you're left with a negative balance at the end of this exercise, you'll have a better idea of which expenses to cut back. Do you really need that lunchtime sushi? If it's the only thing keeping you from putting some money aside, you may want to curb the habit.
Step 4: Plan your perfect vacation. You'll need to budget for plane tickets, accommodations, food and activities. Don't forget to prepare for unexpected expenses! The good news is that flying is free for children under two years old. Plus, most all-inclusive resorts don't charge for infants. Otherwise, some hotels offer playpens for as little as $10 per night. "Most places we stayed at in France and Western Canada agreed to set up a playpen for us at no extra charge," recounts Eve, who's travelled with her young son twice in recent years. Speaking of accommodations, renting an apartment can be a good way to save! Instead of going out to eat, why not cook a good meal in your temporary home?
Step 5: Divide the cost of your dream vacation by 12 months. The result is how much you should save each month. Then, make a decision: Would you rather eat raw fish and seaweed three times a week in your Mississauga office, or pack your lunch and save your raw fish and seaweed tasting for a picnic with baby under a cherry tree in Japan?
Even if your flight only lasts a few hours, it's often THE part of the trip that parents worry about. To make light of the situation, offer earplugs to your neighbours before takeoff. After all, an ounce of prevention (and a laugh) is better than a pound of cure (and guilt).
Along the same lines, reserving your seat can prevent a great deal of stress. Some seats are more convenient. If you're near a toilet, it'll be easier to change your baby. Think about grabbing that first-row seat for business class comfort without business class prices. "They often agree to place young families in the first row, and some airlines provide bassinets for babies," explains Eve.
Make sure to bring your infant's favourite toys to minimize their feelings of disorientation and soothe them with familiar smells. Keep them busy or feed them during takeoff and landing so they don't have time to notice the discomfort.
First off, if you think you've become a minimalist guru, know that babies have you beat. "Babies are experts at voluntary simplicity" says Kim. "When your baby's less than six months old, you don't have to bring a million and one things."
Other than diapers, some pyjamas and a bottle, the only cumbersome item that your baby needs on your trip is a stroller! You can usually check a stroller in for free, as well as your child's car seat. "They let us keep our stroller until the last minute and it was waiting for us when we got off the plane. It wasn't even considered excess baggage!" exclaims Eve.
Since guidelines can change from one airline to the next, make sure you arrive early to get more information. A last-minute return to the baggage counter can happen quickly.
"Diaper bags containing liquids and other baby items are checked when you go through customs. You're allowed to have an additional bag for that," adds Eve.
Babies certainly seem to get some extra travel perks!
Different destinations call for different budgets. In many Asian and Latin American countries, you can travel for cheap and stay safe. For example, people in Thailand love children. The Buddhist religion sees them as bringing good fortune. It's easy to ask for special accommodations for babies, and beach bungalows can cost a mere $25 per night for the entire family.
In any case, no matter the culture, everyone loves babies. If your child wins them over, your server or hotel manager might even offer you a free drink or an upgrade. An advantage you shouldn't underestimate!
Don't worry: Even when your child gets older and their face loses that baby charm, you can still bring them along on your adventures without breaking the bank—as long as you've budgeted for the different stages of your life.
There are babies everywhere in the world. You're likely to find adequate clinics and medication anywhere you go, unless you're in the middle of the Gobi Desert (but we're guessing you'll wait until your baby is a little older to head over there).
"However, you have to be careful with food in some countries. For example, some European countries may add different ingredients to infant formula. For those who don't breastfeed, it can be really useful to bring a supply of formula from home."
In the event that your child contracts a virus or other worrisome foreign disease during your trip, make sure to sign up for travel insurance before you leave.
And don't hesitate to visit the Government of Canada website for more health advice!
Getting your baby used to new smells, sounds, environments and a bit of adventure is not detrimental at all.
It's not selfish to want to travel after starting a family. You might even pass on your thirst for adventure! As they say, travel builds character—even if you're very young!
If you plan according to your priorities, you can continue travelling, even with a baby (or babies!). If you have any other questions or worries, don't hesitate to meet with an advisor for help drawing up a pre-departure budget!
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