Continued from Part 1, you can read the first part of the story here.
The preparation has been completed and now it's time for the trip...with the kids. So how do you go about ensuring - not a flawless trip because with kids anything can happen, but at the very least - an easier one? I found that doing the following while on my trip made things significantly easier and as for the mistakes... I'll try to be a bit more cautious next time.
While I enjoyed every bit of my trip and while I always urge everyone to travel with their kids I have to admit that umrah with a baby is very difficult and despite what others say I really would not advise it and would never attempt it again. From 4 years onwards, however, they manage extremely well and their patience surpasses that of many adults.
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In some cases though, as was in mine, we had no choice and the baby had to come with so to kickstart a more relaxing trip try to be at the airport earlier than you need to. If you taking a stroller with you know the admin that comes with it but apart from the stroller you will still need to keep track of your excited children at the airport, you will need to make a few bathroom breaks before boarding and they will definitely eventually want something to eat. So getting there earlier allows you to work at a calmer pace and what I personally found on all my trips with my kids is that take them earlier to the airport, let them burn off some energy and excitement so that when they board they are a bit exhausted and wind down considerably.
Flights only recently opened up in Medina but that's only via Emirates Airlines and consequently means a longer trip, so the chances of you landing in Jeddah is highly possible. Although Jeddah has the most challenging ground staff and terminals that I have ever experienced during my travels, one thing about the Arabs is that they absolutely adore children, especially babies. It may be a tad unethical but if you have kids and you know the drama that comes with it, as much as possible while waiting in the excruciatingly long lines try to make your child visible. Once they see that you have a child with you they will call you to the front of the line and stamp your passports first. Also, the bathrooms in the airport which is usually a low pan can be a bit daunting and aren't cleaned as frequently as one would like, so remember to take your little ones to the bathroom on the plane just before landing
Travel agents will charge you an arm and leg to get you transport from the airport to the Haraam. If you can, try to remove this option from your travel package and get a taxi outside the airport. It's far cheaper, no booking is required because they are in abundance and the vehicles in Saudi are all strangely enough large sedans that can accommodate all your luggage and stroller. If you have a baby, a stroller is a must but for a toddler and older child, apart from the airport, you won't actually be using it much so rather leave it at home.
It's an hour-long drive from Jeddah to the Haraam so this is again where the snacks and electronics come in handy. The airport doesn't have many eating options and free wifi isn't available so the airport is literally like a step back into the 1990s.
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Check-in at the hotels in Makkah is usually only at 4 pm, sometimes even 5 pm so this is where the day flights will work in your favor. If you are alone it is very easy to leave your luggage at the hotel and head to the Haraam for your umrah but with kids, you need your room first. A big mistake though is to try to attempt an umrah immediately upon arriving especially if you have kids. Check-in, have something to eat and then the entire family should get some rest before performing the umrah. We made the terrible mistake of doing the umrah immediately and it was just far too taxing on all of us.
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Strollers are not allowed in the Haraam so babies can comfortably slip into a baby sling but an entire umrah with a baby strapped to you is quite harsh. I suggest you practice with your baby before you leave home because this is literally like a mini-marathon that needs to be trained for and swap with your spouse after each portion of the umrah is complete. My eldest son is relatively light so my husband was able to keep him on his neck throughout the tawaaf but there are wheelchairs that can be hired at an additional price if you prefer to push them. If you can manage to carry your kids I advise doing your tawaaf on the mataaf because the distance is shorter but also because it is so crowded they can't really walk on their own. The second floor and rooftop is more wheelchair friendly but the distance is longer and can be a bit strenuous on the kids and with the latest renovations being done to the haraam it is a bit difficult to get to these upper floors. Also the guards on the mataaf- because of their love for kids- if you are close enough will pick them up and let them touch the Black Stone.
After the tawaaf, if completed on the mataaf, it is very easy to pray your two rakaats Nafl Salaah but just don't stay on the mataaf because while you are praying because your children can and will be bowled over by the rushing crowds. The best option is to pray by the zam zam drums so that you can also easily quench your thirst afterwards.
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For the Safa and Marwa I advise you to go to the second floor. The distance is the same, wheelchairs can be easily pushed here and it's so much quieter. The kids will be able to run from one point to the other without any difficulty at all. After this act is completed there are a number of hairdressers outside the haraam to complete the final step of shaving off your hair. When at the barbers ask them to use a shaving machine on your kids instead of a blade because they do have machines on hand but choose to use blades if not given a preference.
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Try to complete your umrah with the kids after Fajr because after Isha as mentioned everyone will be tired from the flight and in Makkah life only begins at night because of the scorching heat. Also by the time you complete your umrah because it takes longer with kids, not many food stores are open, and getting them supper will be a challenge whereas after Fajr you can head back to your hotel for breakfast and rest until Zohr. Going now for an umrah through with covid still rife is not a feasible option because entry into the haraam is limited and many areas are cordoned off.
I hope these tips help with your next trip and let's hope that Covid ends soon so that we can make this trip soon again In Sha Allah.