Along with the obligatory sun, sea and sand, pre-baby holidays for me and my hubby were all about adventure, tanning time, a book or two, and of course sampling of the local tipples – but was that all about to change? I knew post-baby travel was bound to be different, but how? Here’s my 5 top tips for travelling abroad with a little one.
Tip 1) Never wake a sleeping baby… unless you have a plane to catch of course!
I never thought the day would arrive when I would purposefully wake my baby at 3am! But needs must. We got up, dressed and fed the baby before heading on our way to the airport. This was it, our first holiday as a family and not a couple. However, the whole holiday process had already begun to change way before the alarm went off that morning.
Tip 2) Do your research when deciding where to travel.
Deciding where to go was a complete nightmare. The factors: it’s November and we wanted sunshine, plus warm pool, plus a reasonable flight time, plus not ridiculously expensive. Cue a warning – hidden costs found. When it says indoor pool, in many cases this was actually part of the hotels spa and therefore was an extra cost per person, per day to access. Additionally, with it being part of the spa, they tended to state ‘over 12’s only’ rendering them useless with a baby. All in all, this equalled rather a large headache! In the end, we settled on Gran Canaria, having found a holiday complex that not only boasted an outdoor heated pool, but more importantly had the reviews to backed it up.
Tip 3) The biggy – What to pack.
On our travels, my little dude was 11 weeks old, so I’m guessing this list will evolve (become outdated) as soon as he gets older and more mobile.
On all my pre-baby holidays, I threw things into my case until I hit the weight limit, bringing home much of what I’d packed having never worn/used it. This time had to be different and that’s where the challenge began. Space was now limited and therefore very valuable. With our airline our allowance included one 15kg check-in bag, 10kg hand luggage each, a nappy changing bag and 2 pieces of baby equipment. (Baby equipment being: travel cot, car seat and prams; all the bulky essentials that you need abroad. It was a real nice surprise to find in our research, that most airlines are really child friendly and allow these items free of charge; as well as keeping what you need right up to the airline steps).
The check-in bag did have my husbands clothes in, but mostly things for our baby including: (big breath in, here we go…) swimming nappies, his wetsuit (see Best Buys: twobarefeet), a sleeping grow-bag for little one, a two seater baby float, all my expressing gear and a pop-up shelter. Basically, everything but the kitchen sink.
One of our hand luggage’s was a ‘Trunki’, which we used for all our baby’s clothes. Packing for him was a real dilemma. It would be warm in the day but cool at night, so I was plagued with questions… How much would he need? Would he be too hot? Too cold? What if he messed on them in one of many, many ways? Arrhh! These questions were answered along the journey and a couple of lessons learnt…
Firstly, we only packed him with one jacket, which he promptly threw up all over just after take off. This led to us buying another jacket whilst on holiday. Secondly, we had thought that because we had all his clothes with us in his Trunki, we could use the extra space in his nappy changing bag for other stuff (mainly sandwiches and biscuits!) Turns out, no we couldn’t. When said sickness occurred, we had to fuss about getting things in and out from the top lockers rather than quickly pulling an outfit from the nappy changing bag. Always, always have everything close to hand.
A real triumph was his pushchair. We decided not to take his main pram in case of damage, but instead brought a cheaper (about £30) fold down buggy. We used it day in, day out and would have been completely lost without it. It provided shade whether sitting around the pool or going out on walks, somewhere for baby to sleep wherever we were, and made a handy shopping trolley/storage space for all our day to day stuff. An absolute must.
Tip 4) The flight.
I’ll admit that pre-baby, I would have been one of the first to curse anyone walking onto a plane with a baby/toddler who would surely cry or kick the back of your chair relentlessly for hours on end. Now, stepping into the parents shoes, I realised that as you walk down the aisle of a plane with your baby in your arms, all you sense are the glares stabbing you in the back and fear rising in every other passenger as they silently pray that you are sitting absolutely nowhere near them. As luck would have it for us, and them, travelling out of season meant that the plane was half empty and we ended up having a complete row to ourselves. What a bonus!
As the plane taxied down the run way, I was already slightly panicky… mainly about whether or not he had his dummy in? (My logic being he must be sucking to protect his ears). Yes he did. Relax, breath. I look over onto my husbands knee and little man is in fact peacefully sleeping. As we took off, still asleep. As we ascended through the clouds, still asleep. I was amazed. Then, about 10 minutes in, he sat up and vomitted. He went a shade of green and I was ready to shout, ‘Is there a doctor on board?’ Luckily, hubby maintained a cool head and quickly reassured me that it was probably no more than a little motion sickness, mixed with his cold symptoms. A quick (or not so quick as previously explained) change of clothes, a feed and a kip later, and all was well. Even with his rather dodgy start, he never so much as whimpered. I doubt anyone would have been able to tell where ‘the dreaded baby’ was sat. What a star.
Tip 5) All inclusive? Half board? Self-catering?
Of course baby is currently all-inclusive…
And in just a few years (when ice-creams are being demanded) all-inclusive will be the way forward for all of us, at the moment we chose to go self-catering and I’m really glad we did. We worked to our own (and baby’s) schedule, no having to be up and at breakfast for 9am (which was great as baby soon got into the holiday spirit and gave us a couple of lie ins!) or showered and ready for dinner by 6pm. Luckily for us, there was a shop within 5 minutes walk, making it really easy to get in the essentials. A quick side note: I had no idea that nappies and baby wipes abroad could be so expensive. Not that I had enough room to pack a weeks’ worth of nappies in with the luggage, but I might have tried to squeeze in a few more had I known.
Self catering, also made it much easier with regards to getting out and about at night, expressing bottles and working with baby’s nap times. Going out for dinner was a great way to get to know the area and try lots of different meals, but be prepared (as at home really) for everyone to want to come and have a peek in the buggy whilst you’ve got a mouthful of your evening meal!
Spending an entire uninterrupted week together was magical. It enabled us to have some true bonding time, especially wonderful for my husband and son to have some ‘boy time’ together. Make sure you’ve got your camera handy to capture all those special moments forever.