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Travelling with a very young child

  • Sparts

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    Ok, so I'm looking for opinions here.

    Having been to Thailand a number of times now I'd not consider myself as a stranger to that part of the world. I'm planning a trip towards the middle of this year. Nothing fancy or off the beaten track. Just a nice relaxing break on a beach we are familiar with (or were).
    We'll simply be flying into Bangkok before flying to Samui for onwards transport to Phangan. As I said, simples!

    The difference this time I that we'll be bringing our toddler who will only be around 18 months old at that time. When I spoke to my health clinic to enquire if they recommended vaccinations for the little one the nurse made a comment about how she would never take a child that young to that part of the world - before telling me what the toddler could and couldn't get. Her reaction took me by surprise and have seeded doubts as to whether or not we should leave it another year or so. In the end she only advised Hep A as Typhoid would not be appropriate given the age.

    We'll be staying in good accommodation (I hope, not a hut or anything remotely similar) so I can't see any problems. We'll be arriving at the start of May. Will it be too hot?

    Does anyone have any advice? Has anyone travelled with such a young child to the islands? Would anyone advise against it?
    As an aside, has anyone stayed on Thong Nai Pan Noi recently? I'm looking for a hotel there and it would appear to have changed quite a bit over the last few years! I realsei they are a bit more expensive now, and we are comfortable with that.

    I'd appreciate any comments, thanks.

    #1 Posted: 21/1/2014 - 08:46

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  • MADMAC

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    The biggest problem with small children is their immune systems are not yet well developed, so what can be a small problem for us can be somewhat bigger for them. A smaller problem is they don't always move well (although often they sleep in transit) irritating the **** out of others in transit. Personally, I think 18 months is really on the young side because they can't verbalize what a problem is if they have one. But if they are up on their immunizations (I believe the Brits use the term "jabs"), then it should be doable and reasonable.

    #2 Posted: 21/1/2014 - 12:43

  • LeonardCohe-
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    Im suprised that you thought taking a baby to the tropics was a risk free breeze.

    I wouldnt take a child below 3 on such a trip.

    Spending a holiday changing nappies and worrying about illness is not the way to travel.

    #3 Posted: 22/1/2014 - 02:34

  • somtam2000

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    Personally I'd say no problems -- go.

    It's not like you're planning a particularly off the beaten track travel. We travelled extensively with our kids when very young, my daughter at about 9 months to Cambodia and then both of them under three a few times to spots in Indonesia. They were both born here (my daughter in Thailand, son in Indo) so acclimatised to the heat somewhat, but that is about it.

    My main concerns at the time were that cars had no seatbelts so there was no way to secure a child seat in a car (in the end we kept them in a baby bjorn) and keeping the room cool for nap time and evening.

    The car thing will be less of an issue for you (we drove from Phnom Penh to Kep) but I'd definitely get an air-con room on Thong Nai Pan.

    Worse case health meltdown wise you are a few hours from Samui by speedboat, and for less big deals KPN has good clinics.

    Nappies are a drag - there's no easy solution really - but they're a drag at home too!

    What your nurse said to you reminds me of a convo I had at a child care shop in Sydney where I said I wanted to buy a carseat that could be secured without seatbelts because the cars where I live don't have seatbelts. The attendant looked at me and said "What do you mean they don't have seatbelts?"

    :-)

    Pack a generous kid med kit with stuff like baby paracetamol, sunscreen, hat and baby wipes - keep them in the fridge. Pick up thin muslin cloth thingys which are good to keep them comfortable.

    If you're going into somewhere with a pool, see if they have a kiddie pool -- a MAJOR asset! Also see if the room has a tub as that makes bathtime easier. Also, bear in mind accommodation in Asia may not be as safe babywise as you're used to. By that I mean no pool fences, lack of safety rails etc -- keep an eye on them!

    More questions, let me know.
    Cheers

    #4 Posted: 22/1/2014 - 03:30

  • somtam2000

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    Sorry also, meant to say, hot water decent bathroom, ideally with a kettle is good for sterilising stuff.

    (and for locking yourself in when it all becomes too much :-)

    lylyakbc.jpg

    A very happy under one year old in Kep. No comments on my shirt please :-)

    #5 Posted: 22/1/2014 - 03:46

  • MADMAC

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    Stuart, because you're kids were born here and you had been living here quite a while, it's likely your children had better immunity to tropical crap than an import would.

    Again, I am not saying it's crazy or irresponsible, but you are beginning to push the envelope. Some people travel with small children to prove a point and be contrarian (the way some pull their kids out of school for a year because the travelling will be educational) and are using their kids in a certain way to be defiant towards social norms. I don't see that going on here, but if they were planning on taking their kids to some place in the sticks of Laos, with no decent medical care within hours... yes, I would say that was being irresponsible.

    #6 Posted: 23/1/2014 - 03:03

  • Sparts

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    Thanks for all the responses chaps. It's refreshing to get an honest opinion.

    I understand your view Madmac, especially regarding taking young children on planes. I have no doubt it can be annoying for others but so long as we parents do our best to keep things to a minimum then I'm comfortable with that. I have seen passengers get angry when young children are around them but as a frequent flyer myself I have never and would never complain, sneer or get annoyed at kids. Frankly I find the obese, drunk and those with poor hygiene far more unsettling and/or offensive. Her place on the flight is paid for too.We expect this will be our last chance to travel such a long distance for a few years at least. Sure we could just wait a few years, but by then we'd probably have had another kid so we'd be in exactly the same position.

    Leonard, I never thought anything would be a breeze, it never is with a kid :)

    Stuart, thanks for the tips. I've added them to my every growing list! Us Scots are not known for our fashion sense so I'll forgive you the shirt ;)

    I'm pretty sure the hotel has a speedboat service that takes only 30mins to get to Samui - so no worries there - about the same time it takes me to get to the A&E here in Scotland!
    I never considered the kiddies pool, but it's a good suggestion. So I checked the hotel and they sent me a photo of it, looks good and as an added bonus it looks to be in the shade for at least some of the day.
    I think this beach has changed quite a bit (the hotel we stayed in last time was quite literally packed into a lorry and transported to the adjacent beach!), I'll make sure I sample as many of the local establishments as possible and report back.

    Anyone been there in May? Quite warm and dry I'd assume?
    Thanks again guys

    #7 Posted: 24/1/2014 - 05:36

  • MADMAC

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    May should be warm, probably dry. Have a good trip.

    #8 Posted: 24/1/2014 - 09:46

  • LeonardCohe-
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    Speedboats r rough and dangerous in Thailand. Even adults suffer injuries to backs and necks. Not wise to take a baby. Best to fly or not go at all.

    #9 Posted: 24/1/2014 - 20:05

  • exacto

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    First off, it is completely unfair asking us not to comment on that shirt. That shirt should be the subject of an entire new thread if not a Ken Burns documentary. That shirt represents all that is just and good in the world. I love that shirt. Please wear that shirt when we meet in person.

    @Sparts,

    While MADMAC and Leonard are well-informed and insightful posters whose suggestions should be seriously considered, in this case I think they are being overly cautious and I'd lean more towards Somtam's recommendation that you should go. I think Somtam's first-hand experience travelling in the region with his small children would be enough to put you at east. Plus, since you've travelled in Thailand before, you already know what to expect and will be well equipped to handle whatever comes up.

    But what really makes me think that you'll be fine travelling with a 18-month old is my sister's experiences doing exactly that in Thailand nearly 30 years ago. Thailand was much rougher around the edges then in terms of comfort and infrastructure, but my sister managed to do just fine and still comments on how friendly and accommodating the Thais were towards her and her children.

    Definitely use caution and good judgement as the guys suggest, but millions of people travel with their young children every year. Have a good trip and please be sure to let us know how it goes. Best wishes.

    #10 Posted: 25/1/2014 - 11:17

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  • MADMAC

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    Exacto - I moved here with my nine month old. But... we went to one place. It had infrastructure, and we were not moving around once we got here. I did a lot of homework and risk analysis before we made the move. Still, as I said, I don't think the plan is unreasonable. As I said, they are not planning to hit the backwoods of Laos or something.

    The fact that others have travelled with children and had no ill effects is not, however, a good arguement for doing so. I knew a man who took his child to 1980s Somalia when he was an aid worker. He did not want his son growing up spoiled, watching TV, with too much western influence, materialism, etc. etc. etc. Three years latter that little boy was dead, shortly thereafter he was divorced, and he never fully recovered. Of course the location and circumstances were different, but there is such a thing as being irresponsible when you travel with children.

    Leonard is also right about the speed boats. I like 'em. But I'm a risk taker. I just don't take them with my children. I restrict said risks to myself.

    #11 Posted: 26/1/2014 - 05:51

  • exacto

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    like stock brokers often say, previous returns do not guarantee future results. that 99 or 999 or 999,999 who have traveled successfully and without incident to thailand with their children means nothing to the one whose child is injured or gets sick. but as the regional security officer in istanbul liked to tell me, you can't eliminate all risks, no matter where you are. you mitigate where you can and manage the rest. besides, as you say, thailand isn't exactly somalia.

    plus, as you'll note, i said that you guys had good information that should seriously be considered, but that in the end i still think you are erring on the side of caution. that's entirely reasonable, by the way, but in my own experience and those of others close to me the trip to thailand with a youngster is still generally safe. by all means avoid speedboats and don't go into the backwoods and stay within a short travel distance of quality medical care. but still go.

    you did your homework and sparts is doing the same. and i think it is important that you and LC pointed out the risks so that people are just blowing sunshine up sparts' skirt. but in the end, i think the conclusion still is that with proper care and planning, this trip will not pose undue risk. (unless somtam's shirt is somehow involved) cheers.

    #12 Posted: 26/1/2014 - 11:45

  • MADMAC

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    My biggest fear here, and one I try hard to mitigate, is transportation. Not for me. If I die in a motorcycle accident, so be it. I've had a full life. But not my little girl. Driving here is just a high risk activity that is unavoidable if you can't walk to your destination.

    #13 Posted: 26/1/2014 - 22:25

  • exacto

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    That's a tough one, and I don't know how to completely mitigate those types of risks. I avoid traveling at night, particularly on overnight buses. I think trains are safer than buses, and flying even safer still, but what else can you do to mitigate transportation risks? What do you do, MADMAC?

    #14 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 01:04

  • Sparts

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    Good morning everyone.

    Exacto/Madmac -I agree with both of you :)
    I should probably clarify. The hotel describes it as being a speedboat. It takes 40mins from Samui to get to Thong Nai Pan - so perhaps not that speedy? They also serve soft drinks on board and should you wish to hire it for yourself then they will serve champagne and canapes. I can't imagine they'd do that if they thought you couldn’t keep a hold of it. It is a motorboat (obviously) and I reckon it can go at a reasonable speed, but I'm not expecting it to be bouncing across the waves. On a previous trip we did get in a proper speedboat – that one took 15 minutes and I can assure you, that is not a trip you’d take a kid on!

    I should also say that at first I was planning on taking the ferry and then driving over the island. But that adds considerable time to an already long journey and from what I remember the road is awful and they have no seatbelts in the back of these taxis, never mind baby/child seats.

    Cheers

    #15 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 04:48

  • lanathai

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    Do it! If you've been to Thailand before you'll be well aware of the risks, I'm sure. I have a friend who works at a hospital here in Phuket who told me the biggest problems he's seen with kids on holiday here is sunburn or heat-related illness, stings from sea creatures, and neck injury/whiplash from too-fast speedboat rides -- so as mentioned above make sure you avoid getting on a boat or in a car with a kamikazee driver. The usual precautions apply to travel anywhere in the tropics: keep 'em hydrated, keep them in the shade and slap on the mozzie cream in early mornings and evenings.

    I've travelled around Thailand (not far off the beaten track) with both my kids from the time they were about 9 months and had a great time. A big plus here is the warmth of the people here towards young children: most any Thai woman in the vicinity of your child quickly becomes a temporary 'auntie', so you'll often be able to enjoy a meal or wait at the airport lounge, etc, while someone entertains your toddler. Unlike my homeland, Canada, I feel free to go anywhere with my kids and receive a warm welcome. Travelling with kids is a great way meet people and see another side of Thailand that you might miss when travelling alone.

    #16 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 06:31

  • LeonardCohe-
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    What are the benefits of taking a baby overseas? None, they won't remember it.

    What are the benefits of adults doing it? Little, cause their activities are restricted.

    I don't get it. I can understand people flying back to Thailand if the child is half Thai and staying with family but for tourists only it doesn't make much sense at all.

    #17 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 07:18

  • chinarocks

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    "What are the benefits of taking a baby overseas? None, they won't remember it."

    To be fair, that is a bit of a stupid comment. Who said there was necessarily benefits for the child? The fact is if you have a child and want to go on holidays for an extended period of time then there is often no option but to take them with you. Mainly because (a) there is probably no ready made babysitter for 2-3 weeks, and (b) some parents do not want to be apart from their children for that long.

    #18 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 08:01

  • MADMAC

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    Exacto, we rent a van and I back seat drive. Or simply take over and drive it myself.

    #19 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 08:21

  • exacto

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    @MADMAC. Perfect. Sounds like great advice for Sparts as well. I used to do the same thing in my younger days with samlor drivers who were too drunk to pedal, but that's a different story.

    @lanathai. My sister mentioned that very same thing about the temporary aunties paying lots of attention to my then infant nephew. She also agreed that because they had the young child with them, they got to enjoy a side of Thailand that others wouldn't get to see travelling with only adults.

    @Sparts. It still seems that the consensus among those who have travelled with small children is to do it, but just be sure to use good judgement. I'd love to hear back from you after the trip to learn how it went. Good luck and have a great time.

    #20 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 10:32

  • Sparts

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    Leonard, are you seriously saying familes should just stay at home and not travel overseas?
    Sorry my friend, but that is ridiculous - in my opinion ;)

    We are pretty easy going and we just don't get stressed easily. Our daughter is the same.
    Perhaps you meant you don't get why they travel so far, which is a slightly different proposition? Well I'll tell you why in my case. We are stopping on the way (middle east) to stay with a relative before we carry onwards to Thailand - so we are half way there already - so why not?
    We know what the journey entails and are pretty comfortable with it. We wont be able to do it again for many years as we expect to have more kids in the next year or so - even we understand that one is acceptable but taking two small kids so far could be a strain as neither of us would get a break. She is at an age where she sleeps 12 hours a night and still takes two naps a day - for an hour or so at a time. And the of course there are two of us. Between us we can make sure that we both get to recharge also. if we expected her to get somthing out of it you are right, we'd wait until she was older and take her somewhere else rather than sitting on a beach. But for now I think she'll be happy to splash in the pool, the warmth of the sun and playing in the sand
    Regardless of the above, it's nice to get out of your usual surroundings to relax - something I'd find hard to do at home. It makes me happier and my family happier. It's cold wher I stay (Scotland), the weather forcast for the next two weeks is constant rain and temperatures of 1 or 2 degrees C.

    Rest assured, we will all benefit Leonard :) Or I'll eat my hat.

    Cheers

    #21 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 15:04

  • MADMAC

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    One thing I do enjoy with my little girl now, I should mention, is she packs her own backpack and she carries it as well. She has taken responsbility for her own things. I'll always ask her if she remmembered her toothbrush, but that's it. I double check her TKD fighting gear (since we are usually going to fight), but the rest is on her. I love watching her grab her stuff, sling it over her shoulders and say to me "let's go."

    #22 Posted: 27/1/2014 - 22:07

  • LeonardCohe-
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    A 5yo can remember holidays, a baby cannot.

    What a stupid post from China yet again.

    #23 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 00:51

  • erica5877

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    Goodness me, what a lot of disparate opinions.

    I have taken my 2 year old daughter on holiday in Asia many times, specifically Bali, Phuket , Malaysia (Cherating & Langkawi). My daughter seems to have a lot of fun, who doesn't love a sandcastle or two! I confess we live in Singapore so she is used to the heat/humidity, but my niece has also joined us a couple of times from UK and gets on just the same as my daughter. You should plan for longer naps, more fluids and shade for the hottest times. Conversely we've taken her home to the UK during winter, we just plan ahead - as you are. With regards to car trips, we always take our own car seat if the hotel/villa can't provide (although they generally come back and say they can provide) - overkill perhaps but it's a freebie in terms of weight for most airlines.

    As for long haul with a toddler, again, I've done this many times both to UK and Australia. My daughter generally sleeps through the entire flight, I think it's the white noise and the motion. She also gets over her jetlag a lot quicker than me! People have been very welcoming of my daughter when we have flown, although I'm not sure I'd want to travel with some of the people on this chain!

    Perhaps we have been lucky, but we haven't experienced any hiccups. Once in Phuket we needed to take my daughter to hospital (my husband tripped and dropped something onto her toe - ouch). The onsite nurse advised we took her in 'just in case' - the facility was spotless, efficient and friendly. Certainly better than the NHS... Perhaps check your hotel has an onsite nurse too? Mosquitoes are an issue in Bali, but we haven't personally found them to be a problem in Thailand.

    I'm afraid I haven't been to Thong Nai Pan Noi before but (as you probably have seen too) the Thai people I have met are wonderfully welcoming, especially with children. We found food/drink the hardest part to arrange - we ended up sticking with Evian, formula bought from home and I did a fair bit of home cooking as we always get kitchen facilities. We found restaurant more than happy to accommodate menu requests but you might want to think about a kitchenette too.

    ....and most importantly, have a wonderful holiday. As you say - happy parents, happy baby!

    #24 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 02:19

  • neosho

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    although I'm not sure I'd want to travel with some of the people on this chain!
    That's funny.

    #25 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 05:05

  • chinarocks

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    Leonard, which part of the following is stupid? And why? I never said a baby will remember their trip.

    "The fact is if you have a child and want to go on holidays for an extended period of time then there is often no option but to take them with you. Mainly because (a) there is probably no ready made babysitter for 2-3 weeks, and (b) some parents do not want to be apart from their children for that long."

    #26 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 06:26

  • LeonardCohe-
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    Why are people having kids if they want extended holidays? Easy to have a break at a beach town near home. Saves a lot of hassle. The main attractions of Thai islands are kayaking and snorkelling. Not much use going if you are just sitting in a bungalow or pushing a pram along rocky roads. Songthaews and Tuk tuks are not suitable for babies nor are speed boats. There's very little upside from going.

    At least with a 5yo they can undertake activities like that under supervision and will remember it. I went on a fishing trip when I was 5yo and still remember the fish I caught.

    #27 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 20:33

  • LeonardCohe-
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    '" haven't been to Thong Nai Pan Noi before"

    Isolated beach down the end of a bad road on KPN. At least with Phuket you have access to proper hospitals if needed.

    #28 Posted: 28/1/2014 - 20:38

  • Sparts

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    Good grief Leonard, it must really suck to be you. Is life really that bad?
    You sound miserable.

    Each post you make is littered with rudeness, assumptions and inaccuracies. I've never read such drivel in my life.
    Worse still, I don't think you are just trolling, I think you actually believe what you type! You are overly forceful trying to impose your opinion on others, even when it's clear you have very little knowledge on the subject matter. To be clear, in this case you are clearly not informed enough to comment.

    Are you Bruce Moon 'reloaded'? But even he wasn't that rude..... hmmm. Perhaps not.

    To correct your last post alone. It's my understanding that road is now paved all the way to TNP. Medical emergencies can be dealt with on KPN with more serious injuries being treated on Samui, 40 mins from TNP by boat

    In comparison, my home on the UK to nearest hospital = 25 mins or up to 1 hour in rush hour
    TNP is not isolated anymore - in my opinion.

    #29 Posted: 29/1/2014 - 04:18

  • MADMAC

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    I would avoid "remote" locations though. As in places with low population density. Nature is far less forgiving in the tropics. Venemous insects, snakes, jellyfish... to just begin with. 40 minutes is a long time for a child with a bite from a snake like a grove viper, and children are far more likely to reach into holes and things where snakes rest than an adult would be. Also, in urban locations natures nasties tend to have already been evicted. But in rural settings they're alive and kicking. I once tried to climb a mountain out here in Muk at the end of the rainy season. I had climbed it once in the dry season. That was a horrible decision as I was attacked by this nasty, large, predatory wasp in the first 50 meters. Then was subsequently confronted with a venemous snake. I didn't get 100 meters up the trail before we decided this was just a bad idea.

    #30 Posted: 29/1/2014 - 06:51

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