Where in the Southern hemisphere would you take a 10-month old baby?
June 13, 2016 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend and I are planning on taking our (blessedly low-maintenance so far) will-be-10-month old on an international family vacation come Thanksgiving, for about 16 days. We are well-traveled, but newbie parent-travelers. Which is the most practical country(ies) within Africa/ South America/ Oceania with regard to experiencing much of what the region has to offer, in which to travel with a baby? I hope I'm asking the right questions in my post below.

Our top choices are Argentina (BA and Patagonia), South Africa (Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Kruger), or New Zealand (with a short stay in Sydney, possibly) in descending order of preference.

Our main concern is that some activities that would allow us to really experience the places we're going may not be baby-friendly - hiking, safari treks, etc. Is this a realistic assessment? Are there ways to experience these places such that we're not running a physical risk to the baby (my boyfriend can carry our son in a carrier on short hikes but probably not ones at very high elevations or great distances)? We deeply understand that a baby is a whole other being with wildly unpredictable and different needs, so we are willing to move at a slower pace than we normally would.

We're not really island/ beach vacation people (plenty of that at home in San Diego, and my boyfriend's timeshare in Maui) and have no inclination to battle winter weather on our first vacation with our tiny Southern Californian. Also not looking in this post (yet!!) for advice on babies on long flights, availability of food, diapers, etc. This is more wanting to assess destinations/ experiences as adults while also having our baby in tow and not selfishly exhausting him /putting him at physical risk on a hike or safari, etc.

Parents, have you or would you travel to any of these places with a baby? Anecdata greatly appreciated. Also, are there amazing places I may have missed, maybe in the Middle East or Africa? I was born in Dubai and lived in Abu Dhabi but haven't returned in decades. We would like to stay out of Asia as we'll do a separate trip out there to visit family in a couple years.

Thank you for your wisdom, MeFites!
posted by Everydayville to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
We're planning a trip with a 6 month old and a 18 month old and one factor is jet lag. We worked hard to get our babies on a good sleep schedule and it wouldn't be worth it to mess up- so we will choose South Africa since its within an hour of us on gmt... Perhaps that's something for you to consider.
posted by catspajammies at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kid BlahLaLa was a little older (toddler age) when we took him to NZ. Great trip -- we had a lot of fun adventures and he went along on almost everything, except paragliding which Mr. BlahLaLa did by himself while I hung out with Kid. Lots of boating and hiking, sheep farm exploring, swimming and the like. New Zealanders seemed quite welcoming and it was never a problem to bring him to a restaurant or other public place. (Didn't try super-fancy restaurants though.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:10 PM on June 13, 2016

Safaris and babies do not mix - even if they were to let you take him, which they really shouldn't, you're in an open vehicle that you can't fasten a child seat to, often on uneven ground, for several hrs at a time and you have to be quietish. There is plenty of South Africa that would work but the safaris not so much. The ones I've been on had kids as young as 7 or 8 but they got whiny/threw tantrums towards the end - mainly teens and adults and never really young children.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

How old is baby now? My experience traveling with a 10 month old is that they really want to move and thus the flight is tough and in country travel means going to a lot of big open spaces where baby can move safely.
Also remember that at 10 months baby's food needs will be different.
- signed, someone who planned an international trip with a 6 month old and went on said trip with a 10 month old.
posted by k8t at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

My qualifications: My child, now 12, has been traveling for many years and is an amazing traveler. She was a super low-key baby, too, very calm and easy to deal with. Great sleeper, nursed and ate well, kept quiet and played with whatever I gave her to play with (i.e. I didn't need to haul around a zillion toys, could just give her a plastic spoon and a piece of ice). Much of my travel with her has been without a partner helping me out.

There was a time when traveling by plane was suboptimal -- probably between 10 months and 3 years -- because she was old enough to really need to move, and young enough to not understand the need to follow apparently arbitrary directions, like "keep your seat belt fastened now and not some other time when you feel like it." My child, who was still quiet about this kind of frustration, was unhappy, and that hurt. I don't suggest you avoid this because it will bother other people on the plane, but because it will bother your son. OTOH, you may want to consider the feelings of the other passengers taking a long-ass red-eye some place exotic who would prefer to get there somewhat rested. You'll certainly suffer if you have a screaming child, or even a quiet but clearly unhappy child, on a long flight.

Holding a 10-month-old on your lap for a long flight is impractical at best, so you'll want to buy a seat. This makes the trip more expensive than a shorter, local one. Baby won't remember any of this, and will want to put gravel in his mouth, and you can get gravel anywhere, so maybe save your money for a much bigger trip when Baby is older and can get something out of the trip. You won't be able to "experience much of what the region has to offer" with a baby wanting you to spend all of your time hunched over letting him hold your forefingers while he tries to walk.

There is also a risk that the Baby will touch nasty things and put them in his mouth and get sick. My daughter did this in Paris; we spent a week inside a dark apartment. (This is not a developing country issue; it's a "foreign germs" issue.)

We took her to Morocco when she was five, and she remembers it well. Anything we did before that is gone from her memory, but I remember my back hurting and feeling frustrated that I'd made a huge effort to get to South Carolina (from Seattle) and couldn't really see much of it because my child was needy (not especially needy, just 10-month-old needy).

For Thanksgiving, from SoCal, I'd suggest some place much closer: Costa Rica. Nicaragua. Puerto Rico is the furthest I'd suggest. I'd even suggest taking a train to New Orleans. Trains and babies go so well together!!! My daughter and I took trains all over the U.S. between 10 months and four, and it was fabulous. They can walk, you can get a room where they can play on the floor, there are meals at a dining room table and even room service if you're not up for that or Baby is napping. Trains are made for young children. (But get a room, definitely.)

Also, getting a passport picture of an infant is an exercise in futile hilarity. Trust me on this one.
posted by Capri at 5:50 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

we greatly enjoyed Costa Rica--last went in November. it's laid back enough for young kiddos. returning home we were concerned wrt Zeka (we'd hiked up into the jungle, living in open window'd tree houses for a couple of weeks.) no problems with mosquitos.
Costa Rica's great during the non-rainy season, for adults so are the islands off Northern Caribbean Panama although a little "Wild West" to consider towing a young baby around.

We're going back to Peru in November.
The clay cliffs in-country and long hikes may not be the best for baby.
New Zealand's more like Europe. can be cold (during NAmerica's "winter" the temp seemed like a long wet spring.) You'll have no problems, good hospitality, and not-so-great food. We never felt anything but safe. did have to live on scones, given at tea time with raspberries and non-sweetened whipping cream, as the food was inedible. the geography's world class.

You don't mention Japan; there was no place we enjoyed more. Safe, wonderful, great hikes...the ocean. the food is beyond compare. unquestionable safe for your kiddo. we stayed in Kyoto for a month during December (a couple of years ago)--didn't want to come back. the history, the hikes, the culture, world-class food AND safety....geographic beauty beyond compare.
avoir une bonne aventure
posted by Twist at 7:11 PM on June 13, 2016

on re-read : were it me New Zealand and further are off the table. truly a trip and a half.
too far for kiddo. if during summer, perhaps consider Canada. true beauty, not far, no concerns wrt kiddo getting medical.
If going to NZ or beyond make it a month visit.
I like Japan (or NZ, Oz) for family friendly-ness, temperature and safety. as an adult I wouldn't go for less than a month--too much time gettin' there. we're heartworn travelers.
When your daughter hits 7 take her to Japan; an eye opener. perfect for kids.
posted by Twist at 7:45 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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