One of the many questions I receive is about travelling for Umrah and Hajj with kids. Sadly, I don’t have any of my own but Dr Mumly and her son very kindly stepped in to help me write a post on the topic. 🙂 These tips are awesome and I know you will find them helpful too.
I was very fortunate to visit the blessed cities of Makkah and Medina, in the latter part of April 2017, in order to perform the pilgrimage rites of Umrah. Whilst there I found myself feeling really grateful for certain things we had packed or preparations we had made for the trip. Travelling with kids to a hot country requires planning and thought. Couple this with wanting to make the most of a pilgrimage takes even more thought and planning.
The strategy we chose to take for our trip was to stay close to the mosques and take it in turns to visit for prayer. This was so everyone took benefit without the children becoming too tired or agitated. We did not go in a group, so it literally was just us parents and our two children aged 8 and 4.
My eight-year-old son and I have put together some tips for others planning to go to benefit from.
#1 Start preparing
Start preparing for the Umrah as soon as you know you are going and plan realistic goals. We read children books about pilgrimage and did a role play of the Umrah rites with the children. We also wrote out the main duas (prayers) in big font so it was easier to read and rehearse them with the kids.
#2 Consider your travel experience.
How well do your children tolerate heat? How do they cope with waiting at airports? It is handy to plan the different ways you will help the kids cope with waiting periods. Pack a small bag of manipulative toys which are not bulky and can be used or manipulated in many forms of play.
# 3 Consider your travel anxieties
What is it that bothers or irritates you most? Prepare and plan for that. It is really worth the parents being honest and supporting each other with any travel worries.
Pack the essentials for your overall trip and also bear in mind what you may want to pack specifically for whilst you are out and about at Makkah and Medina. This is not a comprehensive list however things you may want to take include:
- Childrens’ wrist straps either to attach to the child’s wrist or to their trouser belt if the wrist strap material is too coarse.
- ID badges with child name and hotel name and a telephone number (we got these from any stationary shop to either pin on or wear around the neck).
- Slippers. Sun hats. Sun cream. Familiar brand of nappies/pull ups/wipes for little ones to avoid rashes with a new product abroad.
- Vaseline for boys and men to use during ihram between the legs (as they cannot wear underwear!).
- Fruit polo sweets for a burst of energy or to divert a tantrum (such as just before prayer begins!). Any sweets or energy bars that will not melt or get sticky in the heat!
- ‘Emergency snacks’ to cover the first day at least like bread rolls, individually packed croissants and Tortilla wraps. These were handy to put in the daily travel bag for when we would get stuck outside in the busy times especially whilst still getting orientated.
- Any regular medication you use such as inhalers/ Calpol sachets.
- Ihram – We suggest having two each. For the boys and men, an ihram belt is handy to keep the men’s’ ihram (white cloth) in place but make sure your phone fits inside it! My son wore a normal belt as the ihram belts were all too big! Take your scissors and shaving equipment. It is just easier and quicker to clip or shave the hair in your hotel room for the males. It will help if the boys get their hair cut short before you travel so that it is a simple and quick job after your umrah.
- Plan how you will celebrate the umrah with your children once it is completed!
#5 No stroller or buggy
Compromise with travelling light. In Makkah, you can get access to wheelchairs which kids can use. You will need a form of ID to get a wheelchair (and you need your passport to buy a Saudi phone SIM too).
#6 Think ahead
What you will use in your daily travel bag that you will be taking with you on your trips to the masjid. Use a flat string rucksack bag for each adult – child pair. Each adult- child pair may carry a bottle of water/Zam zam, fruit, bread roll, Sweets for energy or an alternative, Wipes and nappy/pull ups if required. We took an empty bottle spray to spray our faces with Zam zam or for use to make wudu if required. Pack a prayer mat because the marble floors can be hard and the kids may want to lay down, or the floor can be very hot during the day. If you get headaches pack some pills or something like a forehead balm to rub on. Pack spare plastic bags in case you need to bag up a dirty pull-up or nappy or food remains etc.
We stayed at the Crown Plaza hotel (Medina) and the Pullman Zamzam hotel (Makkah). Both hotels were a good close distance to the Harem (10-minute walk). Once checked in find out where the nearest grocery shops or chemists are located. What we had not considered was that the Masjid Nabi women’s’ sections were quite a walk around the masjid from our hotel and because the big shade umbrellas with fans were not always open, the heat would create exhaustion just in that walk around. It obviously depends on an individual basis what your personal endurance level is. So always be sure to top up water bottles, allow plenty of time to get to the women’s section and plan an agreed meeting point for after the salah to meet with your husband/ mahram to minimise waiting around in the heat.
#8 Review your spiritual goals
Review your spiritual goals every day and enjoy!!! We planned very specific goals for our trip to help us stay focused. It is important that these are realistic for the time and level of dependent responsibilities you have. We planned 5 basic goals for our 10 days stay in the Holy cities and tracked them in a very small journal book.
#9 Having Extra time?
If you have extra time learn some basic Arabic sentences that may be useful in scenarios such as asking directions to find a chemist/ wheelchair/ wudu area/ or to communicate to security at the mosque entrances if your children are feeling unwell and need to be let in to cool down at busy times when they restrict entry if the rows have reached full capacity.
#10 Have a bless trip
Finally, we wish we could come with you!
Dr Mumly is a mum, clinical psychologist and home educator who has interests in ‘growth’ models of well-being, home education and emotional development issues. This article was written by Dr Mumly and her home-educated 8-year-old son after their special trip to visit the Holy Kaba recently. They hope you benefit from their insights and tips. Visit her blog here or Facebook here.