[Updated 27 Nov 2019]
If you’re here then you must be preparing yourself for the trip of a lifetime! Whether it’s your first pilgrimage to the Holy lands, or a repeat visit but this time with baby in tow, here’s a few tips and tricks for you to have a wonderful spiritual journey with your loved ones, based on my experience going for my Umrah with a then 17-month-old toddler ?
Things to do before your journey
1. Set your intentions and lower expectations
If there’s only one tip I could leave you with, this would be it. If you’ve been on umrah before without a child, you’d know how wonderful and tranquil the experience can be, as you’d have ample time to really connect with all the ibadaah you’re doing. However, when you’re with young children, you’ll hardly have the time to find that calmness, especially if you’re running after a toddler or tending to a baby!
Remember that looking after your children is also a huge form of ibadaah if done so for the sake and pleasure of Allah, so don’t be disappointed if you’re unable to read as much Quran or do as many prayers at the mosque as you’d like. Never feel like it’s a burden to bring your children along with you because Allah will truly ease your journey in unexpected ways! You can always do lots of dhikr and dua too while minding your children. Allah always hears our duas and sincerest intentions ❤️
2. Introduce them to the Umrah and Hajj
There are plenty of books and resources to introduce your kids to the concept of Umrah. I’m a big believer that it’s never too early to educate your child, as they understand more than you think! ? Being at the Haraam is the perfect opportunity to teach them about Islam, and to refresh your knowledge and love for the deen too.
Credit: @smileysoulstore on Instagram
3. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date
As you’ll be travelling to a melting pot of people from around the world, that also means bugs and viruses from all over! Ensure that your child has all vaccinations up to date, and take any extra ones offered for precaution. Do make sure that their vaccinations are taken at least a few weeks before departure time as some babies run mild temperature following vaccinations, and rest up before your trip?
4. Flight and accommodation
When making arrangements for your Umrah, whether you’re going with a tour package or DIY-ing the trip, try to select flight times that coincide with your baby’s sleep time so that you can get some rest as well! The journey is long, especially if you’re heading to Madinah first by bus. Malaysia Airlines, Etihad, Saudia, AirAsia X and Oman Air are some carriers that fly to Jeddah (with either one-stop or direct) which is a shorter bus ride away to Makkah but about 6 hours from Madinah.
Credit: @etihadairways on Instagram
This depends on the package you're taking if you will be going for umrah with a tour provider. As my family and I opted for the cheaper route, we were on Oman Air from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah, with a stop in between in Muscat, Oman. We then took the bus from Jeddah to Madinah, with the travel time from KL to Madinah coming close to a whole 24 hours!
Credit: @shiddiq_baela on Instagram
If budget permits, try to find accommodation that is closer to the Haraam like the Hilton Suites, Al Safwah Tower Al Ghufran or Swissotel Makkah so that you’ll be able to go back and forth to the mosque with ease. There are tonnes of hotels lined up just outside of the mosque compound. If your accommodation is far like ours was, fret not as there is also rewards for every step you take towards the mosque, so remember the first tip and set your intentions straight ?
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Shall I not tell you something by means of which Allaah erases sins and raises people in status?" They said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah. He said: "Doing wudoo' properly at times when it is difficult to do so, taking many steps to the mosque, and waiting for prayer after prayer. That is constant readiness." Narrated by Muslim, 251.
5. Have a dua list
Admittedly, I didn’t have this on hand before my trip but if you do have the time, having a dua list definitely helps to keep you on track and in check!
Credit: @faakihah on Instagram
Must-haves in your luggage!
Besides the usual list of things to bring, here are a few must-haves to add to your packing list!
6. A sturdy and comfortable baby carrier
If you’re not a babywearing mama, this would be the time to do it! Although having a lightweight stroller might be handy at times, nothing beats being able to carry your child comfortably and easily while you navigate through the crowds. I absolutely loved my LÍLLÉbaby carrier for this, as it comes with a small lumbar back support which subhanAllah made all the difference for me! Other good brands you can check out include Boba, Tula and Ergo.
Credit: @noorshafia on Instagram
Alhamdulillah I managed to perform my umrah with my son strapped to my chest – he fell asleep during the second tawaaf and it was a breeze from there! It’s also a lifesaver during prayer times as I would pray with him while wearing the carrier. Sounds impossible carrying a 10+kg toddler but it was very doable. Although he protested the first rakaat or so, with lots of dua, it became a routine for him to sit in the carrier as soon as the adhan sounded and he went in without a fuss! ?
Credit: @fadzlinabubakar on Instagram
Some people recommend using a leash / safety wrist to wrist for children, so that might be an option for you as well, although this didn't particularly work for me as my son was happier to be strapped on me during prayer times. Do read up on the permissibility of carrying your child during prayer, and do what is comfortable for you and your child.
7. A compact and lightweight strollerCredit: @asmidarz on Instagram
Although admittedly I didn’t use the stroller much during our trip, it was definitely more useful in Madinah where it is relatively calmer as compared to Makkah. You won’t be able to bring the stroller with you into the main part of the mosque, but you can pray in the compound with your child safely in the stroller.
It’s especially useful if your child falls asleep and during walks around the mosque and city!
8. Enough medication and a thermometer
There’s always the possibility that your child (or even yourself!) might fall sick when you’re there. Make sure to bring their medication like paracetamol and koolfever patches just in case, as well as any others that you might need for yourself. It’s better to have it on hand rather than having to look for a pharmacy there which might carry different medications from the ones you’re used to☺️
9. Favourite snacks and a small water bottle
Although there are shops everywhere selling food and snacks, most are very sweet or unhealthy so it’s best to pack some of your kid’s favourite snacks, some baby food pouches if our baby is still eating purees or fruits to keep them full and occupied while you’re at the mosque. Having a small water bottle is useful to fill up with cool zam zam water that’s available at every corner of the mosque. You can also keep your kid occupied by asking them to help fill up the bottle with zam zam ?
10. A few toys and busy bags on hand
Having a few small toys on hand is especially helpful during bus rides when visiting sites or traveling between cities, or to keep your kids occupied during prayer times. Don’t bring anything too expensive as there’s always the possibility of leaving things behind in the rush of traveling. Just make sure you avoid bringing any dolls with faces or animal toys as they might be confiscated at the doors.
Credit: @khadijareads on Instagram
11. Bring enough diapers for the whole trip
Although you might be able to find diapers in stock at stores like Bin Dawood, they can be more expensive and not have brands that you’re used to available.
Vacuum pack your diapers to save space in your luggage!
12. A pair of comfortable shoes
You’ll be doing A LOT of walking, and if you’re lugging around 10kg strapped to your chest while walking 10km a day (the ladies’ entrances are usually quite a walk away, and so are the ladies toilets), investing in a comfortable pair of shoes is an absolute must. My go-to were my trusty Skechers which provided the right comfort and support for me throughout the trip!
Credit: @prosport.br on Instagram
Whether it's your Nike's, Adidas or FitFlop, bring a bag to put your shoes in when entering the mosque to ensure that you don’t lose it in the crowd.
13. Lotion and sunscreen
Depending on the time of the year that you’re there, the sun can get really hot! Remember to slather some sun screen on your baby, and don’t forget to bring lotion that is suitable for their skin because it can dry out very easily due to the weather conditions there?
When you’re there – tips & tricks
14. Diaper changing
This was actually a big concern for me before my trip! The ladies’ toilets are usually a little far from the entrance, so make sure that you do a diaper change before leaving for the mosque. Be prepared to run back to the hotel in between prayer times too if needed – this is when spending a little more to have your hotel close by is handy.
15. Expect a lot of people to grab your child for a hug or a kiss
People in general are very friendly especially with children, offering sweets and snacks too, so don’t be surprised if someone comes up to give your baby or toddler a kiss!
16. Plan the timing of performing your Umrah and other ibadah
If you’re planning to bring your baby or toddler with you while you’re performing the actual umrah rituals, try to pick a time that is comfortable for you or coincides with nap time – my toddler slept most of the way and wasn’t a fuss when he woke up either alhamdulillah. We performed our umrah at night after Isya prayers, not too long after our arrival from Madinah. The temperature is much cooler then and it was quite a comfortable time for us, although there was quite a crowd.
Credit: @asmidarz on Instagram
Strategise with your spouse on when the best times are to go to the mosque or if you should take turns – especially if you don’t have anyone else in your family there with you.
17. Try not to bring your baby to Raudhah
Although it would be wonderful to be able to bring your children to such a special place, I would recommend against it if possible, as it can get very very crowded, with the possibility of being pushed while you’re there. If possible, leave your kids especially small babies with your spouse or other family members for a while if you plan to make your way there.
If you’d like to bring them, make lots of duas that Allah makes it easy for you, and insyaAllah you’ll be able to pray while you’re there! ❤️ Just remember to always stay calm and mind your manners (trust me it’s harder than it sounds!).
18. Try to grab a good spot to park yourself and your kids
At both Masjidil Nabawi and Masjidil Haram, there will be areas which have more mothers with children. Try to aim getting early to those spots so you can be comfortable and settle down with your children. Most people will be very understanding and accommodating when you’re in family-friendly areas.
In Madinah, there are areas outside the mosque that you can pray at, as well as some designated areas for women with kids inside. In Makkah, the basement and upper floors are usually less crowded and more comfortable for mothers and children.
19. Taking the scooter or wheelchair
You can choose to take the scooter to perform your tawaf and sa’ie for around 100 riyals per person, at the upper levels of the mosque. This could be a good option if it’s too tiring to bring yourself or the kids on foot!
20. Last but not least, make lots and lots of dua to Allah!Credit: @asmidarz on Instagram
Truly believe in the power of dua! If you have faith and trust in Allah, He will make everything easy and manageable for you. It will be challenging and your patience will be tested in many (many!) ways, but remember to be conscious of your actions and intentions. With a positive attitude, you'll have an amazing umrah insyaAllah.
Enjoy your umrah with your family, as it’s truly an unforgettable and fulfilling experience like no other ?