So you’ve made intention to go for Umrah and Alhamdulilah you’ve set the dates. Like us, you may have already performed Umrah or Hajj on your own, except this time you have your little troop coming along! How do you prepare for this awesome opportunity yet slightly challenging task? Read below for part one of a three-part series on practical tips from our trip to make your experience of Umrah as a family, as rewarding as possible in sha Allah.
Build it up
1. Set their expectations
Once you’ve broken the news to them you’re going, start talking to your kids about what your daily routine will be like. Ours are used to beaches, pools and tourist attractions when we go away, so this was important to clarify early on. We explained we were going to visit lots of Allah (swt)’s special places on Earth and by doing so, we could learn a lot more about Islam and become better Muslims. And have fun while doing it all!
2. Set your expectations too!
If you’re a routine-lover like me when it comes to the kids, then be prepared to relax those rules. A lot. Mealtimes will be all over the place, babies’ naps will move around and sometimes disappear, and bedtime will most definitely be pushed later than you might like on an average day... but it’s all good as you are there to do three simple things. Pray, eat, and sleep. Stay flexible and don’t stress.
3. Spread the news
Encourage your kids to tell your family and friends that you are planning to go to Umrah. In sha Allah everyone’s positive and joyful reactions will spur on their excitement and they will begin to look forward to it even more.
4. Make a dua list
If they’re old enough, ask them to make a dua list of everything they want to ask Allah (swt) for. After spreading the news of your upcoming trip, people will have asked your kids to make dua for them, so keep a track of who has asked for a special mention too. Remember to pack this with you when you go. A special little notebook for this may be a nice treat!
5. Qur'an Stories
Older kids will benefit from knowing some stories beforehand so when they visit places of importance, they already know what happened there and why it’s special. My First Quran Storybook is one of Big Miss’s current favourites and the short stories are perfect to prepare.
6. Turn on the telly
You’ll have seen many photos of the Ka’aba before, but live broadcast channels have a completely different effect on you. In the week or so before we went, we would switch over to a live stream of Makkah or Madinah and leave it on in the background. Alhamdulillah the kids were naturally drawn to it and started asking questions which was a great conversation opener. Point out the people doing Tawaf, Maqam-e-Ibrahim or the Clock Tower. Kids have strong visual memories and will feel comfortable when they are around familiar sights.
7. Which duas do they need to know?
The obvious one to learn is Labbaik, and if they are old enough, ensure they know the routine of salah so they don’t feel lost when praying in congregation. They will have seen you pray at home, so maybe ask them to stand and follow along with your actions too. For Umrah, teach them simple duas to pray for each ritual that you can easily explain the meaning of as well. For example, we listened to this nasheed SubhanAllah by Zain Bhikha to help them learn a dua for tawaf, and it was a bonus that the lyrics also included an English translation. Result!
Pack like a pro
8. Do I need to take the kitchen sink?
Most definitely not. We travel a lot with the kids and are now quite savvy at taking just what we need, however for an Umrah trip, I’d say take more than what you think you’re going to need. This applied to clothes, snacks, toiletries, baby supplies, you name it. You can get everything you need from there if you were to run out, but think about where you’d prefer to spend your valuable time. I felt better being over prepared and being able to use that extra hour or few in worship instead.
9. How many snacks should we take?
Your daily routine will revolve around prayers and going back and forth to the Harams, so there won’t always be enough time for a proper meal. We would make sure to have big breakfasts, and one proper meal at some point in the day, and padded it out with snacks in between. Cereal bars, flapjacks, biscuits, chewy sweets and toffees all came in very handy and were often a welcome change from all the fast food that was often the only quick and convenient choice.
10. How about drinks?
All of our kids wake up to warm milk and they’re quite grumpy if they don’t get it so we compromise by giving them Yazoos. They don’t need a fridge as they’re long life milkshakes so we stock up from home, and as they’re flavoured they think they’re getting a treat and are quite happy to wake up and start the day! For Baby I took some formula and he didn’t notice the difference. Definitely more convenient than trying to get fresh cow's milk first thing in the morning.
11. What medication do we need?
Calpols, Nurofens, Lemsips, cough remedies, inhalants… whatever you usually use and you know works for you, stock up on plenty of it. Exposure to germs from all around the world combined with the fatigue you will eventually begin to feel makes it highly likely you will have a bad cold for a couple of days so prepare for it and in sha Allah it won't stop you from going about your plans as normal.
12. I have daughters, what should they be wearing?
For the girls I packed all their summer clothes with sleeves plus leggings and loose bottoms, and as a backup, an abaya each which I found in Arabesque Elegance. In hindsight I shouldn’t have worried about dresses etc and just packed more abayas as they were most comfortable in them with just leggings underneath. So quick to get ready (picture throwing them on over PJs to catch breakfast in time) and no fuss about what to wear today. In the evenings we had a hoodie or cardigan over the top which was more than enough for the light breeze.
13. Do they need to wear hijab?
I saw lots of little girls, most probably under five, without a scarf on which seemed to be perfectly acceptable. Any older than this though, and they were all wearing some form of scarf, some loosely wrapped, some firmly pinned down. I found some kids sized jersey pull-on scarves also from Arabesque Elegance which were ideal for them to take on and off quickly and Alhamdulillah they didn’t slip either, even without an underscarf.
14. Mums, fancy a childproof hijab?
As you can’t take buggys and pushchairs into the Haram, I often had to carry Baby when walking to and from the Haram. He does this thing, like I'm sure lots of yours do too, when he plays with my scarf and over a short time it always ends up pulling loose. On a last minute packing/shopping trip I grabbed some cheap and cheerful maxi jersery hijabs to allow for this constant tugging and I'm pleased to report they worked Alhamdulillah! The fabric was also quite cool to wear which was a bonus. Definitely something I will wear again now I've seen how well they stay put.
15. How about the boys?
There was a big variety in what the boys were wearing, short and tees, kurtas and shalwars, however the cutest ones were the ones wearing Ihram! Although we knew it wasn’t an obligation on him, we took a couple of jersey ones anyway. I wasn’t sure if he would be up for wearing them but we managed to hold it up well with baby safety pins and Alhamdulliah he seemed to enjoy dressing up too.
16. Got a baby in nappies?
Then take some easy/pull up style ones too. If your hotel is very close to the Haram, you can always pop back whenever you need a change. However if you’re further away or out for longer periods of time you’ll need to change on the move and I didn't see any baby facilities anywhere. Whenever we needed to, I took Baby to a ladies’ loo and changed him standing up and these types of nappies were lifesavers. They also came in useful on the flight as the change tables on planes are seldom big enough to fit a baby more than a few months old.
17. What footwear is best?
Consider how many times a day you’ll be taking yours (and your kids’ shoes) on and off, so take something to wear that you can do easily. Hubby and I had simple flip flops, however the kids find it hard to walk in them so as our podiatrist has always advised, we took sandals with contoured footbeds and velcro straps across the front and back to keep them securely on. It made a big difference to them and kept them going longer than flip flops would! Remember to take a couple of canvas or plastic drawstring bags with you to put them in and carry with you, as well as your phone, spare cash, wipes and snacks.
18. Will I need to do any handwashing?
It’s likely you will need to. I washed our abayas almost daily as they were usually quite dusty around the bottom. Alhamdullilah the ones I had taken were made of the Nida fabric, so as long as I washed them the night before, they were dry by the next morning. Dr Beckmanns Travel Wash is a brilliant gem I found many moons ago and always take with me when we go away.
So now you're packed and prepared Alhamdulillah! Part two will be uploaded in a few days and will take you through The Big Day, including tips for travelling, the journey and making your Umrah as a family. Watch this space in sha Allah xxx