Travel to China with a 20 month old

We made our first family trip to China with our 20 month old.  Prior to this trip, I have a lot of angst and worries as to whether I can cope with a 20 month old on this trip.  So, in preparation for this trip, I have purposely bought AirAsia Premium Flex so that we get some priorities, purposely bought a new compact GB Pockit stroller so that we can have a stroller on hand as and when needed and purposely bought a few breastfeeding attire, which is not useful at all.

Our trip was only 6 days and we were in Foshan the whole time.  I wanted to visit some yogis in Guangzhou and Shenzhen but most of them were away, either in Wuhan for the Music Camp or India.  So in the end, I didn't meet any of my friends.

Before I rant about the whole trip, let me share some tips for new mothers bringing their infant overseas.

THE GOOD

1. Get a compact stroller
Something like the GB Pockit or something that is easily foldable and can be brought to the airplane.  Although AirAsia has some restrictions on the size of the baggage, I found a loop hole that can bring any of the compact stroller on board, regardless of the size, as long as it can fit into the overhead compartment.

I did a research earlier and found that most compact strollers' size is not compatible to AirAsia carry-on luggage which is 56cm x 36cm x 23cm.  Only GB Pockit fit into that requirement, hence that's why we bought it.  At the check-in counter, I informed the staff that I am bringing a stroller on board.  I was informed that before I enter the cabin, I will have to surrender the stroller to the staff and they will handle it.  Our stroller was tagged at the check-in counter.

Before we board the plane, we folded the stroller to its ultra compact size and put into the travel bag.  It was so compact and hidden well, that no one noticed that it was a stroller.  Therefore, none of the staff asked us to surrender the stroller to them and we just took it on board, just like that.  So, I guess if you have other compact strollers, you can simply fold them and put into a bag so that no one know it's a stroller and you can bring on board.

This is because when I asked Airasia staff, I was told I can't bring any stroller on board, regardless of compact or not.

Now, this stroller was very useful to us while in the airport.  Although it was a bit troublesome, like say before the x-ray machine, we have to fold it up and put it through the machine and at the immigration, I have to carry baby up to show the officer baby's face, so baby was cranky in and out of stroller.  But I must say, right from after the x-ray machine to the plane, a stroller will be very handy especially if you have to walk very far.

In Foshan, most places are not stroller friendly, lots of curbs, motorcycles and bicycles parked on the sidewalk, uneven roads, lifts are small and difficult to locate and people are a plenty, so better to have a baby carrier instead.  I will elaborate more later on this.

The pros of having a stroller is that baby can sleep comfortably in it while we were shopping around.  Just make sure to put a clip-on fan so that she is not hot because at this point of time, the weather in China was 30C everyday.  Super, super hot.  So stroller and clip-on fan was a comfort for my girl.

2. Bring along a baby-carrier too
We brought along the Lillebaby carrier and boy was it useful.  Although it was taking a lot of space in our backpack despite being light, I was so grateful that I brought this along.

Prior to the trip, I was thinking whether to bring a stroller or a baby-carrier.  I have decided to bring both instead, though I must say for this trip, I used the baby-carrier more than the stroller.  But it really depends on where you visit.

If we were staying in a hotel, then having a stroller in and out isn't such a big deal.  But because we were staying in my in-law's apartment and it was in this old building where we have to take 3 flight of stairs before taking the lift to the 5th floor, having a stroller with us was a pain.  My husband have to carry the stroller to 3 flight of stairs while I carry the baby up.  So, with a baby-carrier, the weight is not so noticeable.  But with a stroller, both of us were carrying like 5kg and 9kg respectively.  And that is aside from our shopping stuff, say groceries, etc.

Another thing I find the baby-carrier was more useful than stroller was taking public transport.  This time we didn't manage to take the metro but was travelling few times in a bus.  And one time was during heavy rain.  Unlike the buses here where it is disabled-friendly, therefore stroller can be brought up the bus, in Foshan, most buses were like normal buses.  So imagine you have to fold the stroller upon the bus arrival and then take that on board and then take out the stroller when we reached.  It was more troublesome.

The cons of having a baby-carrier is that baby tend to sweat a lot while in it because mommy sweats too much in the hot weather.  Besides, she can't really sleep in it comfortably because it is super hot.  But walking around with baby in the carrier is so much easier than with a stroller, especially in Foshan.

3. Full-cream fresh milk
Prior to the trip, I was a little wary with the milk in China, having heard so many horror stories about it.  So, while preparing for our trip, I found a very good UHT milk to bring along, just in case.  However, I found that I can buy Pura Pure Milk, made in Australia while in China.  I can't even find this milk in Malaysia but found it in China.  Was tempted to buy more to bring back but we didn't visit that supermarket again.

4. Food wise
Food wise is quite ok.  She has been eating hor fun noodles and rice with sauce and soup.  But if you are worried about food, can always get bun and bread.  Porridge is abundant too, so no worries.

5. Nursing cover
I bought an expensive nursing cover called Bebe Au Lait muslin nursing cover and it has been a life saver for us.  I have nursed baby in the public in the airport while waiting to board and many people were curious and looked at us but other than that, people just walked away.  It is huge enough to cover baby and not exposing any body parts and at the same time the material is so breathable and baby loves being underneath, like her cozy little corner.  I nursed while my nephews were playing in our room.  My baby called it her 'stinky cloth'.

6. Games for the flight
As I was very worried if baby can be good throughout the 4 hour flight, I prepared quite a few things.  Sticker book, ice cream sticks puzzle A to E, felt piggy bank for her to put coins in and take it out, iPad filled with short bhajans for children and my phone with Netflix (free 30 days trial) downloaded some Peppa Pig, just in case.  Also on my iPad are games for children.  I try not to take out my iPad so much as I don't want her to use smart devices so soon.  But there was a time when both me and her dad was super tired and all we want to sleep but she is wide awake and wants to play.  So, I have to let her watch some bhajans while I took a nap.

Summary
The only difficult part I find travelling with a 20 month old infant/toddler is that you will need to carry him/her a lot.  So if you are walking a lot, climbing a lot of stairs or need to go hiking, you have to forget about bringing a kid.  But if you are just hanging out, meeting friends, shopping, then I think it's ok.  My 20 month old mixed very well with other kids and enjoyed their company as much.  Food wise, toilet wise, bath wise, sleep wise, is quite easy since she is still in diapers.  I might have to think again when she is like 4-5 years old, toilet trained and need to use public toilet.  That's a whole new experience altogether.

OK, that's about travelling with a kid.  Now it's about vibrations and meditation.

I was a little disappointed that I don't get to meet some yogis this trip.  In fact, I bought some souvenirs for them only to leave them behind because we are not meeting up.  Now, I have to admit that despite my in-law's place is dirty and messy and all that, I had the best meditation that I never had for a long time.

The altar isn't really a proper altar.  It is just a table top and I put my portable Shri Mataji's photo and table cloth and a candle.  I remembered that it was a very hot day and I was sweating non-stop.  I decided to meditate since we don't have much to do.  I sat down and can feel heat from my body.  Then as my thoughts and mind rested to a thoughtless state, my body cool down significantly.  I could feel good vibrations from both my hands.  I felt deep and settled inside and my heart filled with joy and love.  I opened my eyes and wondered what has just happened.

This is the second time that I had a good meditation in this place.  In fact, it is so much better than back home and I really wondered why.  I asked Shri Mataji and the answer that I got was my in-laws are very simple people.  Although they have their struggles and their everyday problems, they don't think much and accept whatever it is that come their way.  And although they do not recognise Shri Mataji and would leave socks on the makeshift altar or leave things like hangers there, the vibrations remains and I really have no idea why is that so.

When I came back home, I was glad that I was home but meditation and vibrations wise was quite different.  I had a headache sleeping in my bedroom and had to dhoop the room the next day in order to have a good night sleep.

In fact, I find myself rested and slept very well when I was in China compared to back home.  And I really don't understand why despite the bed hard as rock and not as comfortable as the one back home.  Some people said because when back home, start to worry about work and so on.  When travelling, nothing to think about.  Everything is as it is.  Perhaps.  I felt as if I was in India, that feeling where there is surrender and nothing to worry.

OK, now for some rants.

THE BAD

1. Airasia Premium Flex
I paid RM1,080 for this.  You see, I made a mistake when I purchased the air tickets.  It was one of those discounted and cheap tickets that you need to login at 12 midnight to grab the seats.  I usually used my office computer to purchase anything online but because I have to do this off office hours, I have to use the notebook at home.  Since the notebook was super slow, I decided to use my phone instead.  I managed to buy the cheap tix and it was really cheap without any frills.  So I decided to add luggage allowance and still cheap.  Suddenly I saw an ad asking if I want to try Premium Flex.  Usually in the office computer, I will try to tick this and that and see how much is the total before I confirm.  However, using my phone to do for the first time, I don't know how I managed to click confirm for Premium Flex and paid additional RM1,080 on top of my air tix.

Anyway, since I have already purchased it, I decided to make full use of it.  Unfortunately, it is really not that useful and I would suggest not to go for this.  Better to select the seats yourself and add on luggage and that also won't come up to RM1,080.

They said you get to use the priority lane when checking in and that is only applicable in Malaysia, not in China.  Same with express boarding, only in Malaysia, not in China.  And what's the point of having express luggage when the immigration line holds you behind.  When we arrived in China, at the immigration, my husband got out first.  Me and baby was stuck behind a long queue.  By the time we came out, I saw all the luggage from the belt missing and at first I thought it's because it haven't come out yet.  We waited for 15 minutes then someone told us all the bags were already on the floor.  Left with only our bags, can you imagine.  Meaning everyone has already left except us.  When back in Malaysia, I got off the immigration pretty fast and me and baby quickly went to the conveyor belt to grab our bags which came out pretty fast too.  My husband only came out 30 minutes later.

Oh, if you are buying luggage allowance separately, I would suggest to buy 20kg for you and 20kg for your husband.  40kg is just enough for both of us and baby, to and fro.

2. Malaysian Immigration
Sigh, I don't really want to talk bad about my own countrymen, but they were really on Whatsapp and Facebook while stamping my passport.  My husband said the same happened to him as well.  It is so different when we arrived in China where they were so strict and no one was looking at their phones.

3. Culture shock
Now, I have been to my in-laws place before.  But each time it is a culture shock for me.  Bedrooms have no lock.  No privacy.  Anyone can come into your room at anytime.  They do not sweep or clean the floor, so everyone is required to wear shoes or slippers while in the house.  Leftover food can be eaten for 3-4 days and are kept without cling wrap in the fridge that is infested with cockroaches.  Yes, live cockroaches inside the fridge as the temperature is not cold enough.  They only bath once a day despite the hot weather.  Quoted by my mother-in-law, "What's the point of bathing now when you will sweat again later?"  They only change their clothes once a day, that is after their night bath.  Otherwise, they will wear the same clothes to sleep, to shopping, to eat, to do chores and so on.  Kids are not taught to throw rubbish into the rubbish bins.  Instead, papers and wrappers are thrown on the floor and left there until someone pick it up.  Toilet is comparable to public toilet, the smell, the dirt, can't flush, you name it.  The whole place is filthy and we survived it by closing an eye.

And about meeting relatives.  Yes, they are loud and I am ok with that.  Used to it already.  One uncle smoked in the house, with windows closed and my sensitive nosed clogged up from that.

So, the only time I was worried about my little girl with the dirt was that she likes to put chopsticks into her mouth, used or not.  And the nephews were throwing things all over the floor and drank cartons are not thrown in the bin so my girl took and sip on it.  Yeah, that was when my mother instinct when on a high beeper and emergency alarm was all over.

4. Teaching children the right conduct of life
My 2 nephews in China lack love.  And they crave for it.  Since they are not very well-to-do, they don't have a lot of material things.  I don't see any toy on the floor, despite so messy.  Clothes are just the few.  Shoe also the same one.  Because they don't have much, they are happy with whatever they have.  So, when we went back, we brought them out to eat good food and they chomped it down within minutes, never eaten delicious food in their life, only eats leftovers.  We brought them out and they were so excited with everything.

But they have a bad habit of not respecting other's privacy and other's belongings.  When we were away on our own, they ransacked my luggage and took out my iPad and other games for my girl.  They also took the sticker book for my girl and used up all the stickers.  They also sat on our bed and ate there and left biscuits crumbs and paper wrappers all over the bed and on the floor.  Not only that, they ate up all the biscuits and drank all the drink that we bought for us.  And they did all these while we were away, without our permission.

I was mad.  I called them thieves.  But then I realised they lack so much of love and the proper education that they don't know what is right and what is not.  Perhaps I am being too complicated with too much rules in my life.  On the last day there, I bought the small boy a sticker book that I found and he was delighted.  I told him to bring the book and see if he manage to complete it and we completed the whole book together and he was happy and I felt so warm in my heart.  These kids lack so much in life and they don't know what is material wealth.  They just eat what is given and always no choice.  They just play with whatever they have and again, no choice.  This is their life.

Conclusion: Lesson learned
Perhaps in the future, it might be better if we bring a trolley bag and a handbag plus the stroller instead of 2 backpacks plus the stroller.  Then my husband wouldn't need to lug along 2 backpacks if there is a bag with wheels.

Perhaps, skipping the stroller is also a good idea because the baby-carrier was useful enough to bring through the airport and throughout our trip.

Now that I know how to travel with a baby on the flight, I am suddenly looking forward to other international trips.  Hoping one day to bring baby to Nirmal Dham as we have not visited it before.

Comments

Musanf King said…
Our first air travel with my son was when he was 11 months old, we had a compact stroller that allowed us to carry onboard. Problem with the compact stroller is sometimes hard to unfold and fold it, and not so stable. Actually, you can travel with the normal stroller, they allow you to use it before you enter the cabin then leave it at the cabin entrance there. Once landed, the stroller will be there quite fast, don't have to wait long usually about 5 minutes or slightly longer, then you can use it. For Air Asia, watch out for the Premium flat bed, at low peak season they are selling the flatbed or the so called business class at RM 1080 one way to Shanghai, and I believe will be about same price to Guangzhou too. It comes with seat selection and 40 kg luggage allowance which is a good deal. At the China immigration, why did your husband got out first? Because he was in China passport queue, and both you and your daughter in foreigner queue? You can just tag along your husband and use the China citizenship queue, they recognize you all as a family unit and will not have an issue.
Yen said…
Hi Musanf King, Thanks for your comment. I didn't know I can tag along my husband because the immigration officer divided us before the queue at the counter. As for the flight to Guangzhou, there wasn't any Premium Flat Bed, though it would be useful when travelling with baby. I bought that AirAsia Premium Flex which wasn't good at all. But thanks for letting me know about the Premium Flat Bed. Will look out for it for other travels.
Musanf King said…
Hi Yen...just don't show your passport and tag along with your hubby and daughter who they consider as Chinese citizenship by birth because her dad is a Chinese citizenship. In Malaysia customer, your hubby can tag around with you and follow the Malaysian passport queue which is faster. My situation is opposite of you, living in Shanghai for 12 years, married in China , son born in Shanghai, back to Malaysia for about 1 years, now my wife and son are staying with me in Malaysia, went through all the hassles and pain to get a long term pass for my wife...lol..they should learn how efficient the china visa center in Hampshire Place office is....as for Chinese driving license...is it really a need to convert? Because the Chinese driving license now have both Chinese and English wording on it...I was a JPJ Padang Jawa few months ago to convert my Singapore license to Malaysia license, they said no need convert can use the Singapore license because it is English, ask about my wife Chinese license...they said you can still use it but sometimes it depends on the mood of the traffic police officer...lol
Yen said…
Hi Musanf King, we converted my husband's Chinese driving license in Malaysia because I read on the JPJ website that it is required to do so because of the different side of driving I think. Can I know if you have the Chinese Residence Card or the Chinese Q Visa being the spouse of a Chinese Citizen? I am not sure if I want to apply for one.
Musanf King said…
Hi Yen...you need to be married, and stay continuously for at least 5 years in China to qualify for China residence card. I was on work visa, then a 2-year family reunion type Q1 (applied in Shanghai) for stay exceeding 180 days). It is expiring soon, so few weeks ago went to Hamsphire Place to apply Q2 reunion visa (for stay not exceeding 180 days) since I am now based in Malaysia, Q1 is good enough for me. For Q2, every time you arrive in China, you need to go to local police station to register your local address there. If you travel to China occasionally and not staying for more than 30 days, then a 1 or 2 year multiple entry will be fine. If you will stay for long term more than 1 month, then a Q1 2-year visa is good. I am no sure about the cost of normal vs Q1 visa, if they are minimal, then next time you can try apply for Q1, just show marriage cert, spouse china passport, ID...etc..
Musanf King said…
Also you don't need to show you confirmed air ticket or itinerary when applying Q1 visa.
Yen said…
Hi Musanf King, Thank you very much! Appreciate it a lot. Will keep that in mind!